Did You Design It?

I’m a complete sucker for good design.

Whether it’s a car, coat, pen, keyboard or the kerning (letter-spacing) in a book: when something’s been designed well, it’s a joy to see or use.

The flipside of loving design, is that it’s almost painful when something’s designed badly.

That kitchen gadget that slips out of your hands when they’re wet, a black website with white text, or the way Mailchimp has designed its user interface:

Bad design is unpleasant and frustrating, and can easily lead to lost time.

So then why do we so often omit to design our work?

Procedures, routines, or even simply the way we plan our day: don’t things get better when they’re designed well, with intention, and with usability in mind?

Of course they do.

So if you ever find that your days are too short, or your work doesn’t progress the way you want it to, or you have trouble staying on task, maybe ask yourself:

Are you spending enough time each day, to organise, plan, and *design* your day?

If you’re not satisfied with the results of any given day… did you design the day beforehand?

Cheers,

Martin

Why Running a Business is Like Flying a Helicopter

It might look like others have it figured out, but I promise: almost nobody has.

We see the successful people, those who inspire us and cause us to aspire, and we think:

“Once I have what they have (either in place, or in possession), then things will be different! Easier! More profitable!

And yes, that might be true. But not because by then you’ll have ‘figured it out’.

Not in business, that’s not how it works.

The thing to remember is that a business is like a helicopter: inherently unstable.

The moment you take your hands off the controls, a helicopter will start to fall, rise, tilt, or list, or spin – that’s what you get with two rotors operating in different planes, each producing lift, thrust, and torque.

Business is exactly the same: inherently unstable.

Pick any business you like, one that seems like it’s unbeatable, and I’ll show you a comparable business that’s struggling, fighting competition, or is indeed out of business. Too big to fail? Hah.

Does this mean that building a business will always be a struggle?

Well no. Once you learn how to ‘fly’ that thing – once you become a skilled pilot – you’ll know which buttons to push, which valves to open or close and which levers to push or pull.

And most importantly, you’ll know to never, ever, take your hands off the controls.

The moment you do, unpredictability sets in, and you’ll start to lose control.

You want to have a stable business?

Then keep your hands on the controls, at all times.

Cheers,

Martin

Careful: Don’t Major in Minor Things

Whatever it is you want to achieve, improving your knowledge and skills are a great way to make it happen faster and with more ease.

But are you majoring in minor things?

Yes, it’s useful to learn the ins and outs of managing your website, but once a site is basic-ready, how much will it add to your bottom line to be a WordPress ninja?

Taking a course in how to use social media for your business: yes, totally. But spending days researching what hashtags to use… how much ROI will that bring you, given that social media isn’t a platform for selling, but for building visibility and audience?

It’s not that such things are unimportant, because they can be.

But are they so important, that it makes sense to reach expert level, whilst the skills that bring in sales remain underdeveloped?

You only have so many hours in a day, so it’s wise to consider what are the small things to improve, and what are the big things.

So far, so good.

But here’s where it’s easy to make a mistake:

To develop things at which we’re bad, or mediocre.

In many cases, it’s a lot better to leave them as is, and instead spend our time on things that we’re already pretty good at.

For example: I sing in a band, and I play rhythm guitar – and as far as the guitar goes, I’m somewhere between capable and reasonably good. Now I could spend a lot of time upping my guitar game, and it would be useful. But it would steal time from my vocal training, and I’ll never be as awesomely terrific as our lead guitarist. So becoming GOOD at playing the guitar would mean I’m majoring in something minor. Meanwhile, I’m the lead singer so I’d better be as good as I can at singing, and leave the guitar-y awesomeness to Phil.

It’s all about efficiency.

To go from zero or sub-par skills, to reasonable ability, can take a long time and a lot of hard work. And you’ll still be only reasonably skilled.

But to go from ‘pretty good at this’ to expert level is often a lot easier to achieve. AND you’ll end up being highly skilled in it, which beats ‘reasonably skilled’ any day of the week.

Besides, if your modus is to constantly develop skills you don’t have or suck at, you’ll end up what they call ‘a bag of highly developed shortcomings’.

Again, it’s not bad to learn things. By all means, please make learning and training part of your world.

The question is though: what is the one thing that you do fairly well, and that if you dedicate yourself to it, you could do terrifically well?

What major things should you major in?

Cheers,

Martin

Are You Torturing Your Future Self?

On any given 8-hour workday, how much is on your todo list? And, can you reasonably expect yourself to get it all done?

Before you answer, keep in mind the inevitable distractions: a phone call, an urgent email – and also, the human need to eat, rest, or sit back and reflect… that’s easily 2 to 3 hours out of your day, right? At best, you’ll be able to spend 5 to 6 hours doing actual work.

Now look at your usual pile of tasks again, and consider: to complete it all and do it right, how many of your work hours need to be spent in states of high-focus and high-productivity, in order to get your work done? And, can you actually work at that level for that many hours?

Unless you take your coffee intravenously, you probably can’t.

Most people can work for 8 hours, but we can only work at our highest level for 2 hours, maybe 4.

So here you have a workday that’s effectively 5 or so hours, with about 3 hours of deep work.

Now look at your todo list again: are you seriously expected to get all of that done, in what’s effectively a 3-hour day? Are you really that super-human?

Obviously neither you or I are super-human.

But here’s the trap: on a subconscious level, we think that our future self actually is like that.

Unstoppable. Driven. Radically committed, terrifically hard-working, able to concentrate and stay on task for hours on end.

In other words, we allow our now-self to create a massive problem for our future self. I, here, now, decide that X and Y and Z need to get done today – and that I that I’ll be in 1 and 3 and 7 hours from now, well he’s some sort of productivity demi-god, isn’t he? Give him another todo! He can handle it!

3 Hours later, your future self has exerted themselves, checked things off the list, happy to have done so much – but the list of task and chores is almost as long as when the day started… and still no end in sight.

This is how a lot of procrastination starts: saddling our future self with a job that is, if not impossible, highly unreasonable.

So if you tend to find yourself overwhelmed, and frustrated that there’s not enough time in your day, and annoyed that you didn’t get more done, maybe try to be a little more compassionate with your future self.

“Tomorrow, I’ll catch up on all the work I avoided last month!”

“This afternoon, I’ll write that proposal that normally requires 12 to 14 hours!”

“I’ll have cake today, because starting tomorrow, I’m going to be 100% on the strictest diet of my life”.

This will never work, because your future self isn’t a magical ninja-level fixer of everything that your past self hasn’t done yet.

Your future self is – surprisingly – exactly like you.

So why do we overload and torture our future self this way?

Because psychologically (and this can be measured in brain activity) our mind pretends that our future self is a different person, not us.

But once you realise that it’s the same person, you can decide to set tasks not for ‘that other dude called future self’, but for you, yourself.

Be nice to your future self. It’s the easiest way to getting things done.

Cheers,

Martin

Time-Spend and Done-Lists

It’s easy to work hard, but it’s even easier to create hard work for yourself.

Those days when you’ve been going at it, doing stuff, taking care of business… only to feel depleted at the end, without knowing exactly where all the time went…

“I know I worked hard – I can feel it – but what exactly did I work on?”

It’s an unpleasant experience that constantly keeps us in a state of mild anxiety and worry, because we know we’re exerting ourselves, but we don’t have the certainty that we’re working on the things that matter most.

It creates a feeling of not being in control, of running after the facts instead of being in charge of them.

But there’s an easy fix, in two parts.

First: plan your day in advance.

Identify the important tasks, the ones that drive growth, and block out time for it. Next, select the ‘taking care of business’ tasks, and plan time for that too.

Because if you don’t set out into your day with a clear intention for what must be achieved, you’ll end up reacting to whatever shows up in your todo list, your inbox, or your mind, instead of creating results according to an actual plan.

It’s a small difference in letters, but a big difference in outcome: create vs react.

The second part of the fix is tracking and reviewing, so that you’ll ‘know your numbers’.

That’s why I keep a ‘done-list’ – a record of my activities throughout the day.

It’s the opposite of a todo-list, and it’s a great way to stay on task – and to assess whether or not I did stay on task.

Each time I close for the day, I have a list of tasks executed, telling me exactly where my time went, and whether or not my planning ahead was accurate, or wether it needs adjusting for optimal results.

Todo lists are good – but if they don’t bring you the calm, clarity and control you need, try keeping a done-list for a few weeks, and update it religiously, each time you complete an action (which, yes, includes things like ‘phoned
mum’, ‘having fun on Facebook’ and ‘made&ate lunch’.

You might be surprised at how much time you allow to disappear into procrastination, or activities that *feel* like you’re working, but that actually are nothing more than busywork: maintenance-type tasks, the kind that don’t drive growth.

And once you have clarity and insight on where your time goes, you get to make intentional decisions on how to better spend that ultra-precious resource called ‘your time’.

It might be tempting to say ‘I’m not in control’ or ‘there’s not enough time in the day’, but you’ll find that there is control, and lost of time in the day, when you decide to take control.

Cheers,

Martin

Sales, Rapport, and Values

If you want to sell your work, it’s good – no, it’s crucial – to know who is most likely to buy from you.

Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of resources talking to the ‘wrong’ people, which is inefficient, frustrating, and costly.

And so, people talk about demographics, customer avatars, psychographics, ideal clients… and usually, it brings us nowhere.

How many kids or cars someone has, where they worked or where they live, their spending power or their hobbies and social circles… all that says something about them… but it says nothing about *the two of you*.

As in: are you a match? A good fit? Is there resonance, are you on the same page?

Put differently: will you and your new buyer have instant rapport, given that rapport is a requirement for creating a sale?

Demographics can’t predict that, and even psychographics only go so far.

But there’s one human identifier that you can use to reliably predict whether or not two people will hit if off: shared values.

Introducing: valuegraphics. (I was hoping I was to be the first to invent the word, but someone beat me to it.)

Still, shared values instantly put you on the same page with another person.

And, someone’s values are super-easy to glean, from just reading a few blog posts or checking out someone’s social profiles. Our values are always on display.

So if you start by looking for people who share values with you, you’ve effectively crossed the rapport-hurdle – the most important and tricky thing in the context of sales – long before you even reach out to a potential client.

And once you identify people with values similar to yours, it’s really easy to add in psychographic or demographic markers, to further niche down your outreach and marketing efforts.

Efficient? You bet.

Fun too, because once values become your north star, you keep meeting people who are just awesome to deal with – and it becomes a lot easier to enroll them in your work, as well.

So if you’re struggling to find buyers, start by looking for people with whom you have values in common, and talk to those people first and foremost.

Cheers,

Martin

Be the Prize

When it’s your mission to find a client, or enroll a prospect in working with you… what kind of position do you take?

If you’re like most people, you take the small role, the position and attitude of a supplicant.

“Please mrs. Buyer, would you please buy this thing from me?”

But wait a minute… how many potential clients are out there?

Probably thousands, right?

And how many of you are there?

One.

Which makes you into a super-scarce resource, with only 24 hours in your day.

And that means that your needing to win over the client is only half the story.

The other half, that’s the client winning you over. Getting your ok on working with them.

Because not every client is an ideal client, and you want to be deliberate and intentional with how you ‘spend’ your most precious resource.

If you work with someone who isn’t right (micro-manages, or drains you, or keeps changing the scope of the job), you’re in a bad situation: you have to put up with things you don’t like, AND you have less time to search for better, more fun clients.

This is why we need to ‘qualify’ clients, just as much as clients need to qualify us.

So if ever you feel like you need to win a clients’ approval, remember this:

There’s only one you.

You’re the prize.

Cheers,

Martin

Can Selling Be Fun?

Almost every day, someone tells me a different reason why they don’t like selling.

“Selling is stressful”.

“It’s frustrating that the process takes so long”.

“I wish I wouldn’t have to always look for new prospects”.

“It’s such a waste of time, to issue proposals and not get the sales”.

I get it. Building your business, marketing, having sales conversations, writing proposals… it’s work, of the kind that you simply can’t get around.

But it doesn’t have to be a slog.

In fact, for me it’s the opposite. I find the whole marketing and sales process fun – a ton of fun.

Why?

For one thing, because it’s like a puzzle: who is this for? How can I reach them? Who’s most likely to buy? What do they want to hear, or know, in order to want what I’ve got? Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle. Shifting pieces, figuring out what works, seeing a picture emerge… it’s endless discovery and learning.

Which brings me to the second reason I like sales so much:

Learning. Learning about myself, for one thing, but also: learning other people.

Every person is a world, and for that person to buy my work, means I need to learn that person.

What are their fears and frustrations… which wants and aspirations do they have…?

How committed are they, how can I help them, what can I do to help them get out of repetitive and dysfunctional thinking and operate from the heart?

What’s the key I need to turn, in order for them to see their own abilities, leadership, communication and sales skills?

Who, in other words, IS this person – and how do I need to show up so that they can relate to me?

You can see selling as a separate thing, something you just have to do if you’re in business – or you can see it as an integral part of being human.

Where ‘being human’ means you exist in relation to others, and at any moment you have the opportunity to connect with someone, share in an experience, and figure out how you can create resonance with that person.

Much like you would with relatives, a partner, or a friend.

Selling isn’t some terrible task: it’s what we do all day long anyway.

And once you internalise that, once you make the shift into selling as a normal, helpful human activity, suddenly it becomes fun.

You don’t need to ‘get over yourself’ or ‘suck it up’ or ‘just accept sales’.

All you need to do is discover your own innate curiosity for others, and make it your mission to learn.

It’s fun, and it’ll make selling a lot easier too.

Cheers,

Martin

Incompatible Currencies

Last week I told you how easy it is to spend ‘other people’s currency’, and today the story is about you spending your currency… but the other person doesn’t seem to want it?

This – incompatible currencies – is the cause of many, MANY misunderstandings and disagreements… and yes, lost sales.

Here’s an example:

A husband comes home to find his wife distressed and upset. Oops… something’s happened.

He sits down, listens to her troubles, and starts thinking of ways to help, to improve the situation, to fix things for her.

Useful, no? Girl’s got a problem, let’s help and fix it!

Except his wife grows increasingly upset. Frustrated, even. Until the whole conversation disintegrates: he feels frustrated because she doesn’t seem to want his help, and she’s upset because ‘he just never listens’ to her.

In such a situation, the ‘currency’ she’s hoping for, is someone who listens, who gives her space to vent, clear her head, get some clarity. She’s not looking for a solution, but someone to just be present.

He on the other hand, is trying to ‘pay’ currency, in the form of quality problem-solving, but that’s not what she wants – and so we end up with incompatible currencies.

The problem arises when we interpret the other person’s situation, conclude that we know what they want, and proceed to try and give it to them.

A client might say: “I want a website with custom branding and e-commerce built in”, and on the surface that seems straightforward enough.

But below the surface, they might want different things, like:

“A site that works, for a change, and that’s easy to manage and update”.

Or: “A site that enables me to earn more from the traffic I’m getting”.

Or: “An online presence that I’m proud of”.

You can’t know what’s behind the obvious, and even when you ask, you’ll only learn what they tell you, which may or may not be the complete picture.

So if you then go answer, and fulfill, the surface-level wishes, you likely speak to something that isn’t the real, true, deeper, desire… and you might lose the client.

Whenever you try to help someone, serve someone, or try and do something in order to solve a problem for someone… but they’re not having none of it?

Ask yourself: Are you trying to ‘pay’ in a ‘currency’ they don’t want?

Cheers,

Martin

Do You Spend Other People’s ‘Currency’? Might Want to Check…

I can’t be sure, but there’s a good chance you too spend other people’s currency.

It’s a human, social thing – but it’s wise to avoid, and if you don’t it will have consequences.

Here’s two recent examples of ‘spending other people’s currency’, so you know what I mean.

Two of my friends were meant to come over for dinner a while ago.

But the day before, one was wavering on their decision, so the other friend texted me to ask whether they should both come, or only one, or nobody.

Fair play, things change. But this text reached me right in the middle of deep work, pulled me out of my concentration, and had me thinking about an issue that wasn’t mine to resolve – it was something they needed to figure out, so asking my help or opinion really made little sense. No big deal of course, but an example of how I suddenly found myself spending ‘currency’ (in this case: thinking-time) because of something sent to me – and it was something I couldn’t do anything to resolve.

The other example: in my mastermind group, one of the guys once asked if we could move our weekly session, so that he could watch a football match.

Again: no big deal (though in my world, football ain’t nowhere near important enough to, well, change any appointment. I just don’t like football. Also: I am the king of euphemisms – can you tell? But anyway).

When my buddy asked, that meant two other people (me and our 3rd mastermind member) had to think about accommodating the change. Spending mental currency.

And to accommodate the request, in my case would have meant changing two appointments, which would have further implications for the people whose appointments would get changed – and the same thing would apply to the world of our 3rd mastermind member).

In other words: a small action on our part can have a lot of domino-type ramifications for other people, and not only the first-line people get affected. It affects their people as well.

Even something as small as the difference between an email that states a bunch of things and then just ends, compared to the same email, but ending it with a clear type of Call to Action or next steps, will make a big difference on the currency that the recipient will need to spend.

Email 1 turns your ‘problem’ into somebody else’s problem, because they now have to decide on what action to take next. Email 2 is far better, because it already suggests a next action for the reader, and they don’t have to also take the action of thinking about the next step. So none of their currency gets wasted.

Now, you might that these things don’t matter all that much. That I’m making a fuss over trifles.

But nope. This stuff really matters.

Because you and I and everyone, we know the people who spend other people’s currency.

They are the ones who always seem to need something, always seem to need help or guidance, always bring things into your world that aren’t yours to deal with but now suddenly you find yourself thinking about it, people who blindly delegate whatever they’re not in the mood for dealing with, to whoever happens to be in the line of fire…

They are the people that always cause a sigh or a grunt when they show up. Because they never arrive without a complication, or problem, or some sort of cost. For you to pay.

It’s not that these people are bad, don’t get me wrong.

But MAN is it annoying to have people spend your currency!!

Therefore, don’t be that guy or gal.

Don’t spend other people’s currency, don’t make your problems their problems.

I invite you to spend this week looking at your communications and decisions, to see in what way you might unwittingly spread around bother in the world of others – the bits that are small and subtle is what we’re trying to uncover here.

You just might find that paying attention to this will very fast, almost magically, improve your relationships… even those who are already quite healthy.

Have a look, see what you discover… and let me know how you go.

Cheers,

Martin

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