The Cornerstone of All Habits


Taking 15 minutes to quietly, consciously plan out your day.

It’s amazing the difference it makes to getting things done and feeling good at the end of the day.

When I don’t do it, I become easily distracted. I procrastinate alot. I tend to jump into things that give me instant gratification. I forget things I have to get done.

When I do it, I tend to work on the right things. I’m more likely to tackle difficult pieces of work and see them through. I have a better balance throughout the day. And more often than not, I feel pretty good about how the day went.

Over the last few years, I’ve dropped much of the longer term goal setting and planning I used to do. I still put a bit of time into thinking a few years out from time to time, but I mostly focus on what to do today – now.

Goal setting and organising yourself can feel overwhelming – particularly if you’re coming from a place of not practicing it. So here is a simple approach you might want to try:

Always maintain 2 lists – a personal and a work list.

They should contain all of the things you want to get done. How you structure your list is up to you. In it’s most basic form, it can be just a list of all the things you need to do. Throughout the day, when and as you come up with new things, jot them down on this list and forget about them.

When you wake in the morning, before you do anything, set aside 15 – 30 minutes. Take a step back and consider how you want to spend the day. What would a happy and productive day look like?

Refer to the two lists. Take a clear page in a notepad and start writing down things you want to get done today. Just a random list of stuff is fine. Try and remember these three things:

  • You only have a finite amount of time. Be realistic.
  • Aim for a balance. Get a good mix of both work and play into your day.
  • Do something active. Even if it’s just a walk or stretch.

So, now you have a list of stuff to do today.

Take another clear page and break it into AM, PM and EVENING. Work through the previous list you wrote and move the items to those three blocks.

If you find your list was too long, that’s fine (it happens to me quite a lot). Just make sure the three time blocks look reasonable. Move anything you have now decided not to do back onto the two main lists you maintain.

Remember to schedule some gaps. Being back to back all day sucks. You need a bit of time to think and take a breath, or you’ll feel completely drained by early afternoon.

Take one final look at it. Does it feel like the right things to focus on? Would it make you feel happy if you got to the end of the day and you got those things done? That’s the litmus test.

It sounds simple, but I would guess that less than 5% of people consciously think about what they want to get done each day and consider the structure of their day.

It’s an easy and very effective way to over perform at work, feel on top of your personal life and be happier. Try it.

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Reading in 2015

Last year was a pretty good year for reading. 33 books in all.

I’ve had a slow start to this year though, I need to change that. I want to hit 50 books. And I want to read more fiction this year. More Autobiographies too.

My favourite book of 2014 was easily The Martian by Andy Weir. Such a gripping read and I hated to put it down. I can’t wait for the movie later this year, starring Matt Damon (I’m following it on Rescover so I won’t miss it ;-) )

I’m currently reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I was inspired to read one of his books after watching an awesome commencement speech by him.

Here are the books waiting for me on my kindle at the moment:

Startup Mixology: Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success by Frank Gruber

Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Web Products by Randy J Hunt

The Zulu Principle: Making extraordinary profits from ordinary shares by Jim Slater

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes by Chris Hadfield

ADVFN Guide: 101 Ways to Pick Stock Market Winners by Clen Chambers

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work by Cal Newport

If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them. Particularly on the fiction and autobiography front.

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Rescover is here!


Wohoo! As of Tuesday, Rescover is now available in the App Store

If you don’t know already, Rescover lets you discover things you love, and reminds you when and where they come out.

You can follow TV Shows, Movies, Music, Games, Books etc. Rescover will then keep you in the loop with official release dates, descriptions, trailers and most importantly – remind you when it comes out.

We’re really happy with what we put together and we have lots of ideas for how to make it even better. We’re going to be working on those over the coming weeks.

Our main focuses now are 1/ get people to download it 2/ talk to them and get feedback 3/ make it better. Repeat ;-)

It’s starting to sink in that building the first version was the easy bit (well easier bit). Getting people to download it and like it is where the real work comes in!

On that note, I have a small favour to ask. I’d love it if you could give it a whirl and let me know what you think. And if you like it, please let others know in any way you can. Every little bit is a great help!

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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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