Productivity

A 24-post collection

Episode 10 of Lost and Founder — Time Management

We've reached the considerable milestone of episode 10 of Lost and Founder — thank you, dear listener!

In this episode, I talk through what I have learned about time management — from how I’ve been using my calendar instead of a to-do list, to the importance of making time for reflection each week.

I hope you enjoy the show — even if I say so myself, I felt like this was a good one.

“The secret to doing good research is to always be a little underemployed; you waste years by not being able to waste hours.” — Amos Tversky

Actions and take aways

  • Take time each week to reflect, and map your time. Book in 15 minutes this week.
  • Try using a calendar instead of your to-do list to plan your tasks.
  • Keep meetings to fixed days in the week — like Mondays and Tuesdays, to free up your other days for deeper work.
  • Wrap up meetings with 5-minute breaks in between to refresh and re-energise.
  • Close your email and only open it at fixed times in the day.
  • Enable "Do Not Disturb" on your devices.
  • Don’t be afraid to pause, and make time for you. You can’t spend every waking hour being productive — you will eventually crash.
  • We each have different limits — so try to find what works best for you.

Thanks, and see you next time!

Music: Jakarta by Bonsaye. Podcast hosting: Transistor.

Episode 9 of Lost and Founder — Finding Focus, Writing, and Habits

In episode 9 of the Lost and Founder podcast, I share why it's so hard to find and regain focus in a business and how I'm working to address it.

I also explain how writing helps me break down complex topics, and revisit some of the habits I've been working on over the last few weeks.

Focus

  • It's really hard to gain once you lose it as a business.
  • Loss aversion can hold you back from making the right decisions.
  • You often lose focus for good reasons — regaining it can cause people to be short-term frustrated. Difficult transition, but the long-term benefits are almost always worthwhile.
  • Not everyone will be happy in the short-term, and that’s OK — as long as you take their feedback onboard, understand it and address it as best you can.
  • Focus is hard!

Writing to learn

  • How Ulysses (a writing app) has helped me achieve my goal of writing 200 words a day.
  • Writing helps me understand topics better.
  • Writing forces me to learn — if I want to teach and share with others I need to understand the subject better.

Habits

  • Skipping — not done enough in the last few weeks, despite feeling great when I was doing it. My goal is now to aim to do a shorter time skipping and bake it into my routine.
  • Writing — going well. Writing 200 words a day, thanks to encouragement from Ulysses.
  • Blocking time in my calendar, instead of using a to-do list — has changed a lot about my approach to time management.

Actions / take aways

  • Focus is about saying no to really good ideas.
  • Be clear on what you want, and what your priorities are — so spend time on those.
  • Don’t be afraid to take time out to get clear on what is important to you.
  • Challenging topic you're struggling to understand? Try to write it down. Scribble it, type it, and you’ll likely find it helps you clarify your thinking.
  • Try breaking down your habits into the smallest possible activity. Don’t give up.

Thanks, and see you next time!

Music: Jakarta by Bonsaye Podcast hosting: Transistor

Should you use a todo list?

My todo list today.

I’ve lived my life with a daily todo list for over 10 years.

In fact, I put a video together to help you get started with Things for managing your todo list.

I get a small dopamine hit whenever I check an item off my list. I have built into my muscle memory the keyboard shortcuts to record anything anyone mentions to me that I’ll need to action in the future.

But every day I still finish with items unchecked. It gets me down and it stresses me out.

Earlier this week, several people sent me this post on how a CEO manages their time and it made me question my obsessive todo list usage. Is it really helping me? Is it contributing to me feeling down? Is it actually holding me back from focusing my time on what I need to do?

For the last few days I experimented with deliberately blocking my time on my calendar for the important work I needed to focus on. I have dabbled with this approach in the past but kept one foot in the “todo list” camp and it didn’t stick.

What I found from a few days last week was eye-opening:

  • I was more conscious of the tasks I put into my calendar (everyone on the team can see my calendar if they want to view it)
  • I blocked time to focus – and this time was protected from meetings. People couldn’t book / invite me to anything that clashed.
  • It drove my awareness of how much time I need to spend on certain important projects – time I wasn’t dedicating before.
  • It made me realise I go into every day, and every week, with an overly optimistic assessment of what I can achieve, that ultimately leaves me feeling like I haven’t achieved enough by the end.

I intend to keep this approach up. I am not ready to drop my usage of Things yet – especially not for my personal life todos.

I’m interested to find out after another few weeks of using my calendar more deliberately if I can learn about the following:

  • How much important work can I do? Not just the urgent work.
  • Can I get better at communicating with others around me what I can / cannot achieve by certain dates?
  • Can I feel better at the end of each day knowing I've focused my time in the right places, and achieved more with my time?

The clearer I can be with myself, the clearer I can be with everyone around me, and the more I can help people achieve their own tasks and projects.

Let’s find out!


Update: in episode 10 of Lost and Founder I share what I've learnt from using my calendar instead of a todo list over the 3-4 weeks since writing this post. TL;DR: it's helping.

Episode 7 of Lost and Founder – Ask Me Anything (AMA) Special

In this special episode of the Lost and Founder podcast I share my answers to three questions I received when doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the Software as a Service community on Reddit this week.

It's hard to scale down an hour long conversation, followed by an evening of written Q&A on Reddit into a 20 minute show, but I tried.

In this episode I have experimented with a different format – with three questions from the AMA, and a summary of my answers. I hope you enjoy the episode!

I share my answers to these three questions:

  • How has working with the team changed over the years?
  • How have we managed to get publicity for GoSquared over the years?
  • What advice would I give to my 20 year old self?

Actions / take aways

As I have been doing for a few weeks, I want this podcast to be increasingly valuable for listeners, so I tried to boil down the show into a few actionable takeaways:

  • As a CEO, a lot of your job is to: give direction, unblock, and communicate with your team.
  • Don't purely focus on the marketing that is measurable – take risks, experiment, be bold. Do things that are impossible to measure.
  • With your marketing – make time for responding and reacting to news-worthy events in your industry. Newsjacking is a thing!
  • Be clear with what you want from life, from your business, from your team. It will make a lot of things easier.
  • Find a coach to help you make time for yourself and clarify your thoughts. You'll be glad you did.

A few links to what I mentioned in this episode of Lost and Founder:

Thanks, and see you next time!

Finding time and making time

People often say “I don’t have time”.

  • I don’t have time to write a blog post.
  • I don’t have time to learn to draw.
  • I don't have time to play a masterpiece on the piano.
  • I don’t have time to start a business.
  • I don’t have time to cook.

We all have the time. We’re all given the same 24 hours in every day, and 7 days in every week.

It’s not the time that’s the issue.

Our circumstances, attitudes, environments, goals, and clarity – those are the things that vary.

If your goals are clear, if your environment encourages you to achieve those goals, if your circumstances can be adjusted to allow you time and space to work on your goals – then time… time is made.

  • You make time for writing a blog post – one sentence a day.
  • You make time for drawing – with an open sketchbook, and a pencil at the ready, one 5 minute drawing at a time.
  • You make time for that masterpiece by time-boxing 10 minutes at the piano each morning.
  • You make time to start that business by sharing the idea with one person tomorrow and getting their feedback.
  • You make time to cook by drawing up a meal plan tonight.

Next time you hear yourself saying “I wish I had time to do that” ask yourself how much you wish you had the time. If you want the time enough then it’s really the motivation, clarity, focus, environment, and other factors you’re lacking – the time will be made.

The 2x Preparation Rule: How to turn Good Meetings into Great Meetings

A general rule of meetings I’ve found to hold true through the years: however long your proposed meeting is, you need to prepare for at least twice that amount of time in order for the meeting to run optimally.

That may sound like overkill, but I hope you can hear me out...

As with any rule, there are always exceptions. I have always found if I prepare for twice the duration time of the meeting then the outcome of the meeting itself is dramatically better. For example, if I have a 30 minute meeting to discuss a topic with three other team members, with the goal of getting to an outcome, I know that I should ideally prepare for at least an hour for it.

The seemingly excessive time I spend is recouped by saving even more from the attendees of the meeting.

This likely doesn’t need to apply for every one-on-one or regular meetings you’ve really got into a groove with, but for new meetings, and especially for meetings with 5+ people, the time one person spends preparing is often recouped several times over by being more efficient with the time of the attendees.

A while ago I wrote about how we do silent meetings – these are a great example of how the preparation beforehand is so critical, and can lead to a far better outcome for a meeting.

The expense and value of meetings

Meetings are expensive – the more people and the more time given, the more expensive they become. But they're also valuable moments where team members get to collaborate, bond, and integrate with each other.

Through lockdown and working remotely, I sense that many people enjoy a meeting to get together with their colleagues. It’s not surprising we all crave social contact and want to hear how each other is doing.

Trying to find the balance between social and “work” focus in a meeting will vary by team and culture, but it’s possible to find a sweet spot, and preparation before a meeting will help get clearer on what is needed from a meeting, and help you ascertain just how much time to spend on catching up on your weekend plans at the start of a Zoom call!

Try this out and let me know how it goes

For the next meeting you’re in charge of, book out twice the time of the meeting beforehand to prepare for it. And then assess:

  • Did the meeting run better?
  • Did you get better or clearer outcomes?
  • Did the attendees feel more energised at the end of the meeting?
  • Was the meeting shorter thanks to the preparation?
  • Did the meeting even need to happen once you did the prep?

Good luck!

Episode 6 of Lost and Founder – Planning and Habits

Another week, another episode of Lost and Founder. Really trying to keep this habit up!

Speaking of habits...

In episode six, I share my distaste for planning and how I have been reframing planning in my head to encourage me to do more of it. Setting a deadline, and making myself accountable for what I am planning has been useful for showing an outcome to my thinking and planning in the last week.

I've also been reading a helpful and practical book called Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It's all about improving your life by adopting positive, healthy habits, and trying to eliminate your bad habits.

I'm still reading it, but a rule I've already been finding helpful is the two minute rule – try adopting a new habit by breaking it down into the smallest possible task, something that can be done in just two minutes. If you can master that then you're laying the ground work for bigger things. We'll check in next week to see how we're doing – if you try it out, be sure to let me know!

Actions and take aways

  • Set a deadline, a format, and find someone to hold you accountable to your planning.
  • Try the 2 minute rule with habits – let me know what you can achieve and I’ll give a shout out next week to anyone who successfully starts adopting a new habit.

Thanks, and see you next time!

Lost and Founder episodes 3, 4, and 5

I was a little forgetful in posting about each of these episodes, so here's a batch update of my Lost and Founder podcast and a little update.

Episode 3: Anxiety vs Exercise, Bad Decisions vs No Decisions, and Goals

In episode three I talk (very) openly about how I'm working through some business challenges, discuss the value of transparency, the importance of goals, and why I benefit so much from a healthy routine.

Episode 4: Vision vs Profit, Realism vs Optimism, and How to be More Helpful

A few things on my mind in this episode: is it OK to be unclear on the vision of your business? Why are startups so hard?(!) How do you balance realism vs optimism? And how can you be more helpful with your team?

Episode 5: Working On vs In the Business

In the week before recording this episode I spent too much time "in" the business – actioning urgent tasks, contributing on design, writing, and making small, quick decisions.

Instead, I should have been spending it "on" the business. So what am I doing about it? Listen in to find out!


I hope you're enjoying the show!

Thanks to everyone who's subscribed, downloaded, listened, and given me feedback on Lost and Founder so far. I'm so thrilled to hear from listeners who are finding these stories helpful.

A key reason for starting the podcast was to help myself – to voice what was on my mind, with the hope that it would be useful to others. Having heard stories and feedback from so many people, I'm so glad I started.

Remember: no matter where you are on your journey, you are not alone!

If you haven't already, please subscribe, and tell me what you think of the show – if you have feedback, or suggestions for future topics, I want to hear from you.

Launching is like inviting your friends over

For the last year, very few of us have had the chance to have anyone over to our homes, but I was recently casting my mind back to those happier times, and I made a connection in my mind.

I am not sure about you, but in our house, whenever we invite someone over, it’s always a deadline – a fixed point in time to get our house presentable.

I am not saying my house is a mess, but when people come over I want to present the best version of myself and my house to my guests. And when we don’t have guests, sometimes those standards can slip a little. The handful of cups on the kitchen counter. The stack of 5 letters on the kitchen table. The extra pair of shoes left out in the hall.

Having people over pushes me to tidy all these little things up – to wash the cups, to sort the letters, to hide the shoes.

In my mind, that’s exactly what launching / shipping does: you may not be ready, but you have to get your product or feature presentable – ready for others to experience it. It focuses you.

Who care where the shoes go, or whether the cups are in the dishwasher or hidden in the sink. What matters is the place looks good and feels warm and welcoming.

When shipping – who cares if the extra settings option can’t make the cut, or the secondary heading on that alert modal isn’t precisely following the style guide. What matters more than anything is you hit the launch date and ship.

Having a deadline (like knowing a friend is coming to visit) forces you to tidy, focuses you, and restricts you from tackling anything too ambitious. External judgement and validation can be a powerful motivator to prioritise.

How to run a remote meeting

Do you and your team enjoy remote meetings?

tumbleweed...

If you're anything like us at GoSquared, during lockdown you've been having too many meetings, most of them have been ending without a clear conclusion, and often waste a lot of attendee's time.

Don't worry, you're not alone.

Having run hundreds of meetings over the years, many of them during lockdown and fully remote, we've picked up a bunch of key techniques and simple methods for ensuring meetings run well every time.

I just shared a new video on YouTube (it's part of my goal for this year to get better at video as a medium!) – it's all about how to run a remote meeting.

My goal with this video is to give you the best chance of upping your game with remote meetings and a framework for running meetings on time, with a clear agenda, and with solid outcomes.

In this video you'll (hopefully) learn:

  • How to prepare ahead of time to set your team up for success.
  • What makes a good meeting agenda.
  • Why you need a meeting owner.
  • How to follow up after a meeting to ensure everyone's on the same page.

I truly hope this helps you out, and if you have other suggestions for running good remote meetings, I want to hear them!

If you find this post and video helpful, you might also want to read about how we do silent meetings – they're not for everyone, but I highly recommend giving them a go as an experiment!

Creating OKRs in Notion

Set up OKRs in 5 mins with Notion

It’s the end of 2020 (finally), and I wanted to post one last time before we head into a hopefully bright new year.

My most recent YouTube video covers the basics of creating an OKR (Objective and Key Result) system in Notion.

Hopefully you find this helpful as we head into the new year.

You can find more about how we use Notion at GoSquared, along with a bunch of free templates you can use in your own Notion setup – these are the templates we use every day to help the company run smoothly.

In this video, we’ll cover:

  • What are OKRs?
  • Why do OKRs help?
  • Why use Notion for OKRs?
  • How do you set up OKRs in Notion?

Hope this helps you kick off 2021 with your team in a neat and organised way. Heck, you can even use this system for your personal goals too.

If you give it a try, let me know how you get on – I’d love to follow up with answers to any questions.

See you on the other side!

A beginner’s guide to Things for Mac

A beginner's guide to Things for Mac

One of my favourite apps on the Mac (and on iOS) is Things, by Cultured Code.

It's a beautiful, easy-to-use, yet powerful to-do list app, and it helps me stay productive, and keep on top of the messiness of daily life.

This weekend I decide to put together a basic video – I just wanted to share the basics to help you be more productive:

  • What is Things?
  • How do you add tasks?
  • What is the "Inbox" vs "Today" vs other options?
  • And how can you add tasks to Things when you think of them?

I hope you find this video helpful – it's my first adventure into YouTube movie making, and I know I have a lot to learn!

But if you find this even vaguely helpful – either for yourself or your friends, then please let me know – I'd love to share more about the tools I use every day with the aim of helping others get more from their day.

Move fast

“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

I shared the above quote in my last piece on Silent Meetings, but it continues to be at the forefront of my mind.

I’m in the last year of my twenties, and I’ve been thinking a lot about time – it’s a rather limited resource.

The longer I’m on this planet, the more I realise that the time it takes to achieve things is very often an attitude or a viewpoint, rather than an immovable fact.

Somewhat proving this point is this list of “examples of people quickly accomplishing ambitious things together” from Patrick Collison of Stripe.

Patrick’s list includes the first version of Amazon Prime (six weeks), the first iPod (approximately 290 days), and Disneyland (366 days).

This weekend I also read a profile on Elon Musk in Rolling Stone – this quote stood out to me (emphasis mine):

Beyond all this, most maddening or exciting for Musk’s employees, depending on which one you ask, is the time scale on which he often expects work to be done.
For example, one Friday when I was visiting, a few SpaceX staff members were frantically rushing back and forth from the office to the parking lot across the street. It turns out that during a meeting, he asked them how long it would take to remove staff cars from the lot and start digging the first hole for the Boring Company tunnel. The answer: two weeks.
Musk asked why, and when he gathered the necessary information, he concluded: “Let’s get started today and see what’s the biggest hole we can dig between now and Sunday afternoon, running 24 hours a day.”
Within three hours, the cars were gone and there was a hole in the ground.

Not everyone is comfortable moving fast, but I don’t think there’s any option when running an internet business: you have to move fast or you die.

When someone says something will take two weeks, you can either take them at their word, or you can challenge them to think: what would it take to achieve this in two days? What needs to change?

The folks at Basecamp made this point better than I ever could in this short chapter of their original book Getting Real – keep time and budget fixed, be flexible on scope.

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time. —Fred Brooks, software engineer and computer scientist

Speed isn’t the only thing that matters when running a business, but it’s often treated as optional, and it’s easily lost one hour at a time.

Hours add up to days. Days cause weeks to slip. Weeks drag out into quarters. Quarters impact entire years. And we don’t have many years to waste.

Silent Meetings

Since remote working became default, we've all been trying different ways of working – from those adopting Slack or Teams for the first time, to doing one-on-ones over Zoom.

There's never been a better excuse to try radical changes to team collaboration.

The weekly kickoff

Every Monday morning we start the week with a kickoff.

We have a Notion doc that everyone has access to, with a clear agenda and structure.

The person who owns each “department” of the business outlines how they're doing against their objective for the quarter, and their action plan for the week to get closer to achieving it.

We used to do these kickoffs in person in our office. And then one of the team moved to Scotland (who can blame them!), so we started do do our kickoffs with one person on a video call and the rest of us in the office.

And then 2020 hit and we were forced to all join our Scottish colleague and communicate via Zoom in these Monday morning meetings.

Lack of engagement and no lack of chaos

We started to notice a few trends in these meetings:

  • Some people would speak for more than they needed, while others would speak less.
  • We saved questions to the end and found many of the team would not have the opportunity to ask what they needed.
  • Regardless of Zoom it was often hard to digest numbers and explanations on the spot when spoken aloud.

Most of all, we started to question the very purpose of these meetings – what's the point of us all getting together at the same time on a call if we aren't going to interact? If we are just going to speak at each other?

Meetings are expensive.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

Take an hour for the meeting (assuming it starts on time and finishes on time), plus the hour before to prepare, plus the 30 mins after to fully get back into your flow, multiplied by the number of people in the meeting.

Add all this up and you quickly realise you're taking 15+ hours of the team’s time.

Every member of the team is incredibly skilled, ambitious, and driven. One resource that is impossible to replace is their time – once it’s spent they’re not getting it back. So I try to be extremely cautious of any time we take from anyone on the team. In that time, does every member of the team feel like it was valuable to help them grow, perform better, and achieve their goals? Or do they feel like that meeting just robbed them of an hour of their life?

15 hours is a lot of collective team time, and when you also consider that everyone is being paid to be there, a lot of money being spent too.

Efficient, well run meetings not only matter morally but they make financial sense too for

Trying out Ulysses

Screenshot of Ulysses on Mac
Screenshot of Ulysses on Mac

I came across Ulysses after asking on Twitter if there was a better way to write blog posts on my iPhone or iPad, instead of relying on the Ghost web interface.

It appears there is – it’s called Ulysses and it’s what I can only describe as a delightful native app for iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS.

It’s so great, the (rather talented) developers would rather you paid for a subscription.

Subscribe to an app for writing? Really?! It’s a very reasonable subscription (£5 / month), but it still feels weird to pay a monthly fee for an app to write when so many free options exist.

I took the plunge and I am going to see how it performs – if I write more because of Ulysses then it’s easily worth the 2 coffees a month for the experience.

I’m writing this in Ulysses right now and the writing experience on both iOS and on my Mac is just delightful. I love Markdown and I love the balance they've found between complexity and simplicity to make an overall experience that is easy to get started with, but advanced enough to cater to every need I've had so far.

Sticking to a routine

Since the start of the year, I’ve been sticking to a simple routine every day.

I've written about my morning routine before – and it's evolved (and become simpler) since then.

Each morning, I have a checklist of a handful of items I try to complete before the rest of my day starts.

They are:

  1. Drink a glass of water
  2. Have a shower
  3. Do 20 press-ups
  4. Write up what happened the day before

Each item is intended to be inexcusably simple to complete.

After three months, it’s becoming a habit.

I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful for starting my day well, and giving me structure at a time where most of normality has evaporated.

I have particularly enjoyed writing daily – to myself. My only wish is I had started this earlier.

I long for the future where I can read my diary entries from this time and be grateful it’s over.

Remote possibility

I'm not sure what the future holds, and I very much hope we can get through the Coronavirus pandemic as quickly as possible. I long for the world to return to normal soon.

As with many companies, we are transitioning to remote working at GoSquared from this week onwards.

When we first started working on GoSquared, we were all at school. We used to design and code away from our homes, communicating primarily through Google Chat.

We used to catch up at school, but while building interfaces, writing code, and inventing copy, we'd each be at home, focused obsessively on building something great.

It was only when we started to "grow up" that we moved to London and got together in an office. It felt like the proper thing to do – what big company doesn't have a head office? We were excited.

And things stayed that way – we've been based in London with one central location for almost a decade.

We've hired remote team members, and built experience of working with people all over the world.

But now, it's all changing – we're all going remote.

It's going to be different. It's going to be new. Some things are going to break. But I am excited for what will be better.

I’m intrigued about a few areas where my life will be different – one area in particular that excites me is getting two hours of my day back.

My commute

My normal commute is approximately an hour door-to-door.

What can I do with an extra two hours in my day? I can use this for work, for pleasure, for fitness, or for something totally new.

A few ways I'm contemplating making use of my extra two hours a day:

  • Running – will a run to start my day transform my energy levels? Will a run at the end of the day be a perfect way to separate my working day from my evening?
  • Sleeping – will an extra 30-60 minutes in bed change my focus and energy throughout the day?
  • Eating properly – more time to cook, to use fresh ingredients, to plan my meals.
  • Writing – distraction free time to focus on writing.
  • Drawing – time to draw and sketch at the end of the day.
  • Reading – an opportunity to read an extra chapter, or consume another blog post at the start of my day.

The next few weeks and months are going to be challenging for everyone – but I hope there are many positives we can take from the ordeal we face.

Create better. Consume better.

Last year, my goal was to create more, and consume less.

Every year, the pressure to outline dramatic resolutions mounts as January looms.

But every year I grow older, and hopefully a little wiser, and this time I’m not throwing out my previous resolutions, I’m just evolving them.

Consume better

I feel extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can choose what to buy and where I buy it from.

In the last few years I’ve grown increasingly aware that I can vote with my wallet and choose to actively seek out the shops I want to support, the products I want to buy, and to actively choose to avoid the businesses I don’t agree with.

This year, I intend to focus on this further – rather than just consuming less – less meat, less alcohol, less plastic, less electricity – I also want to ensure the meat, alcohol, products, and energy I consume are better.

Better for me, better for the environment, better for everyone involved.

Create better

Last year I tried creating more.

Creating more certainly helps you build habits, and it helps you maintain your craft.

But I couldn’t bring myself to meet the schedule I set to myself – I found myself creating just to hit a self-prescribed goal. Perhaps I aimed to aggressively – trying to write something new on a daily basis for a few weeks.

I’m done with creating in quantity for now. I want to focus more on quality – on deeper thought, on more unique writing, art, and design.

This year I want to create more, but not too much more. What I really want to do is create better.

Strengths and weaknesses

Do you know what your strengths are?

Do you know what you're weak at?

If you can be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, then you can start to act on them.

You don't necessarily need to improve where you're weak – just admitting that you're weak in a specific area can help you to decide if you should get better there, or find another solution.

For example, if you're running a business and you're weak on financial knowledge – you can choose to improve there, or you can choose to give that role to someone else. The only option you can't pick is to continue to be weak in that role and hope something changes by luck or magic.

The only caveat to improving all your weaknesses is you end up in the age-old situation of being a jack of all trades and a master of none. In the early days of any business, this is not necessarily a problem. But as soon as you have a team – of even, say, five people – it's time to start thinking about what you want to be a master of.

Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? If not, don't be afraid to ask those around you. People are often very nice, so it's likely they won't be forthcoming with your weaknesses. So make it easier for them – if there's an area you feel isn't your strength, simple ask those around you "Others have told me I could improve in X area – would you agree?"

Once you're clear on your own strengths and weaknesses, and you know where you want to improve, then it becomes a lot easier to worry less about your weaknesses and shortcomings.

Time boxing

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying hard to box out my time each day of the week.

One of the challenges I struggle with, and from speaking to many other people – both founders and anyone working in a small team – is it’s hard to switch between the hundred different tasks you have each day.

It’s widely understood that constant task switching destroys your productivity, but it’s so hard to escape when there’s a constant torrent of new tasks to be accomplished and decisions to be made.

But escaping the torrent and becoming productive requires you to be in charge. You need to take control of your time.

Control your time

If you can control how you spend your time you can do so much more.

I was always sceptical of this, but since putting a concerted effort into boxing out my time during the week, I’ve become dramatically more productive, less stressed, and I’m able to spend my energy on the most important work – not just the most urgent.

How can you start to take more control of your time?

One simple change I’ve made is to book in my calendar the time I would normally leave as empty with an event – perhaps it’s titled “Map out our plan for Q4” or “Deep creative work”.

It doesn’t matter too much what tasks you put in – what matters is you treat your “free” time in the work week as protected time.

If a meeting deserves to get a fixture in your calendar, why the hell doesn’t the most important work you do get to feature there too?

A chance to reflect

As a bonus – it’s one thing to map out your week ahead of time, but it’s another to reflect on where your time went.

During the week, stuff comes up. Priorities change. "Urgent" tasks – even when we try our hardest to avoid them – tend to take priority.

I’ve been trying to keep track of my time throughout the day retrospectively by adjusting my calendar events based on what actually happened.

None of this is highly scientific. None of this is necessarily “industry standard”. And none of this requires any fancy tools or software. It just requires a calendar and a mindset change.

Do you feel in control of your schedule? If you do, I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to accomplish such an achievement.

What is your top priority?

It’s important to know what you’re going to do today. It's important to know what you’re going to do next.

It’s also important to know what you’re not going to do today, this week, this month, or ever.

But establishing your set of your priorities doesn’t happen by chance or by accident. If it does, then they’re not priorities, it's just a list of things to do.

To be clear on your priorities you also need to think about what’s most important in your business, in your social life, in your family, in your relationship, and to you personally.

Is figuring out your priorities a priority right now? Maybe it’s time to make it one.

For the record

Meetings changed recently at GoSquared.

They got quicker.

They got clearer.

They started more promptly.

The need to be in every meeting reduced.

And the amount of “he said she said” reduced to zero.

What happened?


We started recording meetings.

At first, it was an alarming change – it felt weird.

Was it a step towards overbearing surveillance? Could this be used against me in the future? We all had concerns when starting out.

But a few months in, and the results have been undeniable.

The inspiration came from learning of Ray Dalio’s approach to running Bridgewater Associates. At Bridgewater every meeting is recorded, and direct, clear, honest feedback is strongly encouraged.

As with Bridgewater, recording meetings is part of a wider understanding across the team that we want to grow as individuals and as a team, and if we don’t hold each other to a high standard then we’re letting everyone down.

Now every individual in a meeting is aware that anyone else in the business has the opportunity to listen at a later date. It encourages everyone to bring their best to every meeting.

Why do we do it?

The key reasons we started to record meetings:

  • If someone can’t be present and wants extra detail on why a decision was made or how an idea came to be, there’s a place to understand that.
  • So anyone in the meeting can reflect on their own performance – just as a sports team reviews their performance after a game, it gives us a chance to review our own performance.

How do we record meetings?

There’s nothing complex:

  1. Start the meeting.
  2. Remind everyone the meeting is about to be recorded. If someone isn’t OK with it they can veto the recording any time. Consent is required.
  3. Open the Voice Memos app on your phone.
  4. Hit Record.
  5. Remember to hit Stop at the end of the meeting.

To be clear, we don’t record absolutely every internal meeting – private one-to-one catchup conversations with the team and similar situations where discretion is critical are not recorded.

Customer conversations are a different ballgame entirely. There's a huge benefit to recording conversations with customers and potential customers. The emphasis on consent is even greater here, and is a topic for another day.

It’s worth noting that we’ve evolved how meetings are run at GoSquared a heck of a lot over the years. Those learnings are also for another post – stay tuned.

I hope this is helpful, and reach out to me on Twitter if you have questions about our approach.

You might also like...

Create more. Consume less.

The start of the new year always provides time to think deeply about what you’ve achieved (or failed to achieve) in the last year, and where you can do better.

Life can be short – when a new year comes along it reminds me of everything I still want to achieve.

For me, at this point, it comes down to two areas: create more, and consume less.

Create more:

  • Art. Draw more.
  • Writing.
  • Photography.
  • Time for exercise.
  • Good habits for money management.
  • Happy memories.


Consume less:

  • Social media.
  • News.
  • TV.
  • Plastic.
  • Poorly made, short-life products.
  • Meat.

Best of luck with your own goals for 2019.

My morning routine

I would not describe myself as “a morning person”.

I love a lie in. At the weekends I’ve always enjoyed lying in bed – perhaps with a cup of tea – and making the most of relaxing.

But during the week it’s hard to justify spending your morning under the covers – there’s a job to do, a business to build.

Needless to say, there are articles galore out there about building a good morning routine, to the point where the mere mention of the topic induces an audible sigh from those in the same room.

Despite the extreme cliché of the subject, I’ve been trying to figure out the right routine for me, and I thought it might be worthwhile sharing my learnings so far.

What I have learnt so far seems to suggest that waking up earlier – and happier, with more energy – requires more than just a loud alarm.

Goals for the morning

I have a few goals for my mornings:

  • Wake up early (to give me time before any scheduled events in my calendar).
  • Get myself showered, and feeling fresh.
  • Wake up with energy to start making decisions and acting on things.
  • To arrive at the office with a clear plan for my day.
  • To arrive at the office in a good mood, ready to crack on with the day.
  • To ensure I have enough energy to keep on form for the entire day – especially after lunch.

With all these desires for my mornings, I realised I clearly need to avoid any situations where I wake up late, rush to the office, and feel like I’m playing catch-up from the moment I’m in. I also need to avoid situations where I'm in a total grump and a pain for the team to work with.

My current routine

My routine so far goes something like this:

  • Set my alarm for 6am.
  • Actually wake up and get out of bed at 6am.
  • Get the kettle on.
  • Jump straight in the shower – no questions asked.
  • Leave the shower, shave, dry hair, get dressed.
  • Make tea (kettle now boiled!), eat a bowl of cereal.
  • Catch up on more casual / personal tasks like reading the news and messaging any friends who are waiting on me to get back to them.
  • Run through my tasks, emails, and other items and get them prioritised. I've started using Superhuman to manage my email workflow which has been a massive help here.
  • Leave the house for a leisurely stroll into the office, mulling over my first tasks for when I get in.

The morning routine starts the night before

Getting up at 6am has been painful for a long time. I'm only just getting used to it, and I still have my days of failure.

Even before I started reading "Why we sleep", I was vaguely aware of the importance of a healthy night of sleep. But waking at 6am simply can't happen (for me at least) if I'm getting to bed at