How to Keep People Focused

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”  Steve Jobs

It occurred to me the other day how important strategy is to focus.

Time spent talking about the mid and long term is at the cost of doing things today right? Surely even having the conversations will cause people to lose focus in the short term?

In fact, the inverse is true.

Unless you spend the time having these conversations, there will always be confusion about what the priorities are at any time. And nothing hurts short-term execution more than that.

If you think about strategy as three buckets – short, mid and long term.

It’s not the case that projects get simply ordered by potential impact. In fact, often due to dependencies or the sheer size and complexity of high potential projects, they can end up sitting in mid or long term buckets.

Unless you have a conversation about strategy and agree which projects sit in each of the three buckets, the projects that need to sit in the mid and long term buckets will continue to distract from short term execution. The fact that they are juicy and high impact, just compounds the issue.

They will creep into conversations. People will start to question why they aren’t being started ASAP. How exactly will they be done? In the case where you have large teams, you might find people actually start to work on them instead of what actually needs to get done now.

Therefore, to be able to fully focus on short term priorities and execution, you have to get these conversations out the way and agree on what fits into the short, mid and long term.

Once you do this, you can forget about the stuff in the mid and long term, whilst you focus on the short term. It’s not that they are unimportant, it’s just that there is a time and a place for everything and you can only do so much at any one time.

Perhaps the most useful thing you can do as a leader is build strategy (collaboratively), get buy in (upwards and downwards) and ensure everyone is 100% clear on this and where projects fall into the mix.

You’ll still need to work hard at keeping everyone focused on the right priorities, but it will be a hell of a lot easier if you do the above well.


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Work Ethic and Success

I’ve been thinking about work ethic recently.

Why is it that some people seem to have a ridiculously high work ethic, yet others are content to move through life, just putting in a shift?

Is it possible to develop a very high work ethic if you don’t have one currently?

The other thing that’s been on my mind and is somewhat related, is the attitude of wanting to do a 15 / 10 job on something.

Let me explain that one a bit.

When you come to a project or perhaps just something you have to get done in life, you can choose a few different routes.

  • 3/10 – a crappy job. You either don’t care or are not capable of it.
  • 7/10 – you just get it done. No one is going to say ‘great job’, but also no one is going to say ‘crappy job’. You just did it. It’s ok. It’s average.
  • 10/10 – you do a good job. People will probably say thank you, great job etc. People will be pleased, but you won’t get a high five. It’ll be forgotten about in a day or two.
  • 15/10 – you smash the ball out of the park. You do it at an extraordinary level, you do it far quicker than people expected and you do extra things on top that make a significant difference to the outcome. You blow peoples socks off and make them sit back and say, ‘holy shit’. You get a high five and people will remember and talk about it for years to come.

So, we have work ethic and also your attitude for how well you plan to do something.

How well you plan to do something is a conscious decision you can make before you start something. And work ethic then gets it done. They tend to work together, as you are constantly making decisions about what is good enough and what it will take to get it done.

You shouldn’t underestimate the impact these two things have on your life.

It can literally be the difference between being at the top and the bottom. Wealthy or not wealthy. Having the opportunity to work on the best and biggest things or the stuff that just has to be done.

Both give you a significant competitive advantage over almost everyone else. And that’s because I’d argue that well under 5% of people actually approach things with a 15/10 attitude and have a tremendously high work ethic.

It’s literally so rare to see both of these things in people, that when a company recognises it, they do whatever they can to keep them (well, good companies do). They will give you the biggest and best things to do, the promotions and the raises. You will never need to ask for them, they just come your way. If you ever decide to start your own company, these two things will give you the edge over your competitors.

So, the big question.

Can you develop into a 15 /10 person with a high work ethic, if that’s not you at the moment?

I used to think no. You are either hard wired to be like that or not.

However, last year I noticed both of these things disappear for me. I worried I was becoming lazy and losing the ability to care about stuff. And then towards the end of the year it came back. Something inside of me changed.

And it got me thinking, why was that?

Firstly, I got into something that I truly believed in and was excited / passionate about (Rescover). All of a sudden, I really cared about stuff. I had an abundance of energy. I went about things with a 15 / 10 attitude and was willing to do whatever it took to do an outstanding job at whatever I was doing.

And the second thing was, as soon as I got started with working hard at something and doing it well, I got into a positive cycle. I did something well and felt good about that. I got feedback it was good and felt good about that. My confidence shot up and I was itching to get onto the next thing and do it again.

And it then became clear.

It all starts with being fundamentally excited and passionate about what you’re doing. Without that, it’ll always be a struggle to sustain a 15 / 10 approach and a high work ethic.

So, do whatever it takes to get that level of excitement and passion in your life for what you’re doing. You need to really care about what you’re doing. If you don’t have that, be bold and make a change to explore getting it.

Once you do have that, pick the first thing to do, and then do whatever it takes to get a 15 / 10 result. Your passion and excitement for what you’re doing will carry you through, trust me.

You’ll soon get into the positive cycle I mentioned above and it will start to become more natural to approach things in that way.

The only other thing that comes to mind, is you should surround yourself by people that are like this. The saying ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’ is a good one. If you have people around you that behave like this, it will inspire you to be more like them.

If you take one thing away from this, it should be that you need things in your life that you REALLY care about. Don’t stress and worry if you don’t have it. Just keep an eye out for it. And do stuff which will give you a better chance of stumbling across it.

Then, once you have that, make the conscious decision to do something at a 15 / 10 level and get people around you that are like that. Then, things kind take care of themselves.


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Update

Let’s get my November challenge out the way first. In short, it went pear shaped. I bailed about 10 days in :(

It was a mix of a lack of discipline and trying to do too much at the same time (I was trying to give something up and start something new, in a month which was very busy anyway). I also found it harder to start something, than give it up – mostly because of the lack of a trigger. I already know this is one of the most important things to do when trying to create a new habit, so it was a noob mistake on my part.

I’m going to pick something to give up in February and get back on track. Watch this space.

Rescover is going really well and we’re on track to launch in a couple of weeks (you can sign up to be notified of when we launch, follow us on twitter or like us on facebook). We’re really happy with how it’s come together and it’s been a blast building it. I’d forgotten just how much hard work and fun it was building something new. And I know the most fun and hard work is yet to come ;-)

We’re getting really good feedback from early beta testers and are quietly optimistic on how useful it is. But, you just never know how something will resonate for sure until you ship it, talk to users and see the numbers for yourself. So, we’re just keen to get it out ASAP and build from there.

Here are a few sneak pics in the mean time:

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I started doing a bit more coaching (business and personal) towards the end of 2014 and am really enjoying it. I got off to a bit of an odd start with it, if I’m honest. I had this idea stuck in my head of a coach needing to be very passive and non suggestive. Which on the whole is the standard approach to coaching.

The thing is, I’m a hands on, problem solving type of person. I like to get into the guts of things and figure them out. This kinda clashes with the typical coaching approach. I actually nearly came to the conclusion that I was simply a do’er, rather than a helper.

However, I kinda lightened up a bit and found a middle ground. At the end of the day, the desired outcome is to help someone achieve what they want, whatever that is. At times that is achieved through asking lots of questions and them having realisations through a conversation. Other times, it can involve offering advice, ideas or talking about my experiences.

Perhaps its more mentoring, than coaching – or a mixture of both. Who cares though. I am confident I add a lot of value (getting some good feedback) and am enjoying it – so that’s really all that matters.

It’s just great to still be involved in the challenges people and organisations have, even if it as as a coach / mentor rather than being in the trenches. I will always have the deepest respect for people who are in the thick of it. The easy bit is talking about things and figuring out what to do – the harder bit is getting the hard stuff done and executing well.

What else? I’ve been learning about investing. Mainly to avoid getting stitched by the banks super low interest rates.

A lot of reading, I went on this course (it was awesome) and have been getting some good advice from Mr Avraam. I experimented a bit towards the end of 2014 and have a good strategy that’s inline with the risk I want to take for 2015. More on that over the next few months.

Ok, that’s it for now. I will write more in 2015. Probably a bit more frequently, but with shorter posts. So, until then….


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A New Project: rescover

I haven’t written much in the last few months, mostly because I didn’t really have that much to say.

In fact, I’ve felt like this for a lot of the year and it’s linked to not having something juicy to work on. When you have something big and hard you are working on, you tend to notice and think more about interesting stuff. I’ve definitely missed that in 2014.

That changed about 6 weeks ago for me.

A good friend of mine and I have always been talking about our ideas and one day working on one of them together. We’ve worked with each other on a bunch of projects spanning close to 15 years, but never before on a project of our own. And now we’re doing just that.

We’re building an app called rescover.

The tag line is ‘Never miss something you’re looking forward to again.’

This is a problem that we were both having and wanted to solve. We obviously hope that many others have the same problem.

Personally, I would find myself either hearing of something coming out, but then forget about it and ultimately miss it. Sometimes I would catch up on it, other times I wouldn’t.

Or, something would come out and be out for a while, before I would even find out about it.

England football games, season 3 of Elementary, season 4 of Homeland, a new issue of KinFolk, a new John Grisham novel etc.

I’m not a particularly big consumer of media, so it took me a while to realise this was a problem for me (although now that I am using the functionality of our app daily, I’m amazed out how much stuff I am catching on the day of release and was previously missing entirely).

Jay on the other hand, is a more active consumer of media and was experiencing this pain much more obviously (he was always moaning about it ;-) ).

Throw in different formats, delivery platforms, retailer exclusives and geographical releases and it becomes even harder to know what’s coming out, how and when.

There are people who are trying to solve this problem, but we feel like we can do it 10x better.

Over the last 6 weeks, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to pull everything together. We’re going about this in quite an unusual and interesting way, which we think will make a big difference to how effective the app will be.

We’re on track to launch before Christmas to a small group of people – our friends, family, personal network and anyone who has expressed an interest in getting a hold of the first version.

Now, I’d like to ask a favour ;-)

If you read this blog regularly, I would love for you to be part of that first group of people who get to use rescover. Your early feedback will be immensely useful to us.

Please sign up at rescover.com and we’ll be in touch just before launch to let you know how to get a hold of rescover.

If you are on Twitter and Facebook, please also follow us. We are currently reminding people of new things coming out, and we’ll also be sharing progress updates through to launch.

I’ve been much happier since working on rescover. It’s amazing how having a big thing you are passionate and excited about in your life changes your mood. Of course, I have lots of great things in my life, but I was missing a big, juicy thing to work on, that I cared about and would allow me to have an impact on others.

I’m hoping to also get back to writing more frequently too!

Jay and I really appreciate you signing up and following us. We also hope you enjoy rescover when it lands!


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November Challenge: Two Litres of Water a Day

I finally decided what my November challenge will be.

I’m going to flip things and commit to doing something every day, instead of giving something up.

My water consumption is very inconsistent. I’ll go several days and drink very little water, but when I focus on it, I will drink a couple of litres a day. So, my November challenge is to drink two litres of water, every single day – starting today.

I’m going to just make sure I drink 3 x 750ml bottles of water every day. It’s that simple.

I’m also going to throw in another no alcohol challenge. I have a work project I’m working on at the moment and we’re launching in December. I want to be laser focused and productive during November and December.

So between now and December 30th, I am going to restrict myself to just 6 glasses of wine. Two glasses on my birthday and then four glasses over Christmas and Boxing day.

Bring it on :)

P.S I’m looking forward to sharing what I’m working on shortly!


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