I love advertising. Some people find it is way too stressful. But for most of us who thrive in advertising and other high pressure jobs (like deep sea diving and Instapot cooking) we love the pressure. It brings out our best. We are motivated, excited and engaged when the heat is on. Like Glen Frey.
The Heat Is Off
But sometimes the heat isn’t hot. For heat seeking professionals it can be harder to be as productive on days when there aren’t looming deadlines, freaking clients and nail biting coworkers. On those days, I have a life hack that’s fun, motivating and really grabs your attention.
The Hook and Bladder
To maximize productivity on low pressure days, I challenge myself to get absolutely as much work done as possible before I visit the restroom. What I have found is that this self-imposed deadline turns my productivity into a game. It forces me to rapidly knock things off my to do list, and quickly look for the next task, project or chore.
The mounting bladder pressure creates a looming deadline. And a challenge. For people who like to prove how tough they are, the Bladder Beater Challenge pushes your can do attitude, while you think about what you could be doing at the can.
If your slow-day productivity could use a little kick in the pants, try the Bladder Beater productivity challenge. Try to get as much done as possible before you take a bathroom break. You will zip through that to do list faster than Game Of Thrones goes through leadership changes. Now if you don’t mind I really have to go…
In 2015 I started The Perfect Agency Project blog when I began planning the launch of my advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry. I wanted to share my experience, learnings and insights with others. Today I publish a new post 3 days a week. I enjoy writing this blog because I like sharing what I know. You name a topic and I can write about it. Because I have philosophies on everything. In fact, even my philosophies have philosophies. The wide range of topics I cover include:
Today is Father’s Day. So naturally I am thinking about my father, Robert Albrecht. He knows so much about so many subjects that he could easily write a great blog and share all of his accumulated wisdom with the word. But he won’t. That’s not his style.
My Dad is not a writer. He is not a philosopher, reflector or pontificator. He would never write a book of Roberts Rules of Order. Although that title sounds like it would be a hit.
My Dad didn’t tell me and my sisters how to be successful, productive or impactful. He showed us.
My Dad is my action hero. Because he is always in motion. He’s a doer. A maker. A baker. A builder. A griller A gardner. A fixer. A shower-upper (meaning he shows up, not that he shows you up). And he’s a see-things-througher. (meaning he completes things, not that he has X-Ray vision).
He is a Can-Do, Will-Do, Did-It, What’s-Next? kind of guy.
He is an early riser. He’s a frick’n workhorse. He makes the most of each day. And he’s really hard to keep up with. I love that about him.
Thank you Dad for being such a great example. You didn’t have to write a blog, a book or a manifesto to teach Heather, Alison, Donielle and I how to be great at life. You showed us. So we get up early. We put in the work. We make and we bake and we do and we don’t complain. We are people of action. Just like you taught us, through your actions, not your words.
I love you Dad. Happy Father’s Day. Thanks for stopping for a moment to read this post.
I love podcasts. I use them as part of my continuing education. Most of what I listen to is somehow related to business. One of the podcasts that I listen to always ends by asking guests what they think separates people who are successful in business from those who fail, or never get started.
Every time I hear this question I repeatedly shout out, ‘Action!’ as if I was an audience member on The Price Is Right. I believe that action is the most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success. In fact, I wrote about it in the post: The most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success.
Earlier this week, while writing a post called The one thing you need to have if you want to start a business, I started exploring the philosophies of Confucius. I quickly found out that he wasn’t as hilarious as I always thought he was. It seems that all those funny sayings the my crazy Uncle Jonny attributed to Confucius most likely came from my crazy Uncle Jonny himself.
Actual Confucius philosophy is smart, insightful, and deep. With almost no double entendres referring to your private parts. The Confucius saying that sticks out to me today is:
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. -Confucius
This is another great way to emphasize the importance of action. There will be times when your progress will feel snail-y, or turtle-y, or glacier-y. Sometimes that is just how the process works. But remember, that by simply moving forward a few inches every day a glacier can change the entire landscape.
There is a fine line between slow progress and no progress. But that line makes all the difference. Keep moving forward. Keep acting. Keep doing. And you will get a little closer to your goals every day.
If you know someone who could benefit from a little Confucius, please share this story with them.
The world is full of lazy people. You can find them in schools, government jobs, businesses, and superglued to couches. They are in every sector of society. And they are easy to spot. Because they don’t move very fast.
At the other end of the human spectrum you will find the Rise and Grind crowd, the Every Day I’m Hustling crowd and the I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead crowd. Most of us self-identify with these more aggressive, work-hard-play-hard types. But there is a surprising reality you should know. Sometimes lazy people outperform the hard chargers.
How could it be possible that the tree sloths sometimes outperform the workhorses? They do this by adhering to The Lazy Person’s Key To Success:
Do small things with large consequences.
The Fallacy of Activity
It is easy to keep busy without getting ahead. Have you ever watched a human doggy paddle in a pool or pond? It’s not pretty. By swimming doggy-style (#snickering), humans create a lot of motion, but very little progress. Don’t do this. It is a waste of time, energy and calories.
Instead, do the little things that create enormous impact. Remember that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. Which means that you can be both lazy AND successful by performing the small tasks that generate large results.
Make the right phone calls
Ask the right question
Ask for what you want
Know a guy
Read the directions
Create a top 10 list and post it to your blog for successful people to read
You don’t have to work hard to be successful. The quality of your actions far outweighs the quantity of your actions. By doing small things with large consequences you are using minimum force to create maximum results. Find the small activities in your world that make the greatest impact. Then perform them repeatedly. It’s not just lazy. It’s efficient and effective.
But remember, when the the Rise-and-Grinders also do the small things with large consequences, they eat lazy people for breakfast. (Gulp)
Pass the syrup.
If you know someone who could benefit from this little secret, please share it with them.
I love a good proverb. It offers a great way to summarize and remember a simple truth. I recently stumbled upon an interesting old Chinese proverb. By stumbling, I mean I found it by accident. Not that I tripped and fell on top of it.
Here it is:
‘A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop’ -Chinese Proverb
This proverb makes me laugh. It isn’t poetic. It lacks the thought-inspiring depth of Confucius. It’s what I would label a very niche-audience proverb. I don’t know if this was intended for the non-smiling crowd, or the maybe-I-will-open-a-shop crowd.
Smiling Is A Requirement
Regardless of how narrow and niche and blunt the proverb is, it is true. Businesses are about human interactions. If you don’t have a smiling face, you can’t show people you are happy to see them. Customers won’t feel welcomed, appreciated or valued. A person without a smiling face creates a poor customer experience. If you can take someone’s money, but can’t give them a smile in return, there will be no repeat business.
Make Them Feel Good
This proverb is a great reminder about the doors that open when we smile. Smiling makes you magnetic, pleasant and warm. Smiling make others feel good. And customers will pay a premium for that feeling. Customers and clients have a wide range of options to choose from. They will always go where they feel welcomed and appreciated. And a smile makes them feel both.
Smiling Is a Customer Magnet
When I was young I spent a few valuable Saturdays working at a concession booth at a stadium. I smiled the whole time. It was clear that by smiling I gave the crowd walking past the impression that I was happy to see them. Which made them more likely to approach the booth. I’ll never forget that lesson. As a result I sold a lot of foam fingers.
Be A Good Host
As a business owner you must always put the customer first. You must be a good host. By putting a smile on your face you attract customers and keep them coming back over and over again.
Resting Smile Face
Smiling is my default. I don’t put a lot of thought into it. Because I don’t have to. I am sure that my naturally smiley nature has been an important factor in my entrepreneurial success. I want to make my clients’ interactions with The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, the most enjoyable part of their day. And by the looks on their faces, it often is.
If you can’t put a smile on your face you can’t be an entrepreneur. Because if you can’t put a smile on your own face you certainly won’t be able to put one on anyone else’s. Customers have options. In the age of online commerce, one of the greatest reasons to enter a shop is to see a smiling face that is happy to help you. Offer a smiling face to every customer you see. And you are likely to see them over and over again.
If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
I am an idealist. Early in my advertising career I had a vision of what the perfect advertising agency looked like. The vision was so clear that on the eve of my 40th birthday I made a commitment to myself to start my own agency, and bring that vision to life. By the spring of 2016 I left my job, established The Weaponry as a legal entity, and I was on a vision quest, like Matthew Modine.
As I stared the business I also began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog. My goal was to chronicle the entire experience here. I wanted to share the challenges, learnings and progress along the way.
My hope was that readers could follow my story and gain insights, information and encouragement to start their own business, personal adventure, blog or Ponzi Scheme.
Sharing The Vision
Today, I re-share my vision for The Weaponry in a team meeting every Friday afternoon. We call it our Rocks Meeting. It is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that we use to run our business. The system is introduced in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. If your organization needs help gaining traction towards its goals, I highly recommend both the book and the system. I also recommend progress in general. Progress is good. It’s my favorite type of gress.
At the beginning of each of our Friday Rocks meetings I restate my vision of the fully- formed version of The Weaponry. This includes annual revenue, number of employees, number of offices, the type of work we do and the type of clients we work with. I then say that we are meeting today to help close the gap between the ideal, fully-formed version of The Weaponry and where we are today. I do this each week because I want our team to know exactly what we are trying to create together.
I Once Was Lost
I have been part of Whitesnake businesses, where I didn’t know where we were going (but I sure know where we’ve been). There was no shared vision. We didn’t go on a mission. We just went to work. Which meant that when new programs and policies were introduced, they didn’t feel like they were part of a larger purpose. Therefore, the team did not embrace them as if they were mission critical.
Last Friday something interesting happened as I restated the long term vision for The Weaponry. I was listing the numbers we were after, and I noticed one of the women on our team stating them right along with me. Like the way you mouth the words to a song that you know by heart. You can’t help but sing along because you know all the lyrics so well. #OhMickeyYoureSoFine
I knew in that moment that the vision of what we are working to create is being clearly shared, being heard and being internalized.
Using The Vision
When making a decision about a new hire, a policy update or an expense, I always look to the future. I ask myself WWTFFWD? Which of course means What Would The Fully Formed Weaponry Do? I encourage my team to bring challenges and requests viewed through the WWTFFWD lens. Whenever financially possible, we try to make decisions in line with our future state, rather than our current state. Because the best way to bring your vision to life is to act like you are already there.
If you want to start breaking records you have to sound like a broken record. Share your vision of the future early and often. Because when others can envision your ideal they can also help you create it. This is true of organizations, products, services and relationships. Others will help you get where you already know you are going. And you are sure to get there faster with a little help from your friends.
If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
When I was in college I had a great study routine. I went to the Helen C. White Library on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison every Monday through Thursday night. I headed straight to the quiet study section of the ‘brary, found a private study cube, and focused intensely for 45 to 60 minutes at a pop.
15 Minute Breaks
At the end of each period of intense focus I would leave the quiet study space and head to the non-stop party in the Group Study section of the library. There I would talk with friends, or flirt with the ladies for 15 minutes.
Then I would head right back to quiet section for another Total Focus study session. I would repeat this routine for several hours, until it was time to take the Drunk Bus home and get some sleep.
I loved this routine. In the quiet section there were no distractions. No laptop, mobile phone, or smart watch. Just papers, pens, and books. In that environment my brain soaked up knowledge like a sponge. I felt intensely productive. I felt on top of game. And my good grades indicated it was working.
Dealing With Distraction
Fast forward 2 decades, and I don’t feel intensely productive very often any more. Ever since I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, there are distractions everywhere. In fact, even my distractions have distractions. My ever-present iPhone is always trying to feed me news and alert me and ping me and generally mess with me like a digital Larry, Curly or Mo.
My laptop is like a 3-ring circus of emails, Slack notifications and calendar notices. All of them are vying for my attention all the time. Most of us deal with this digital sideshow. But as a business owner it is unrelenting. And it can feel as if staying on top of the pinging and dinging is how you stay on top of the business. But it is actually the death of productivity by a million beeps, blips and bites.
Going Back To College
That’s why I am going back to college. I’m not actually enrolling and going to class and keggers and the KK. But I AM going back to Helen C. White Library mode. I am getting back into my periods of Total Focus. Or ToFo as I like refer to it. As in, ‘Yo, Bro, I need some ToFo!’
I recognize that ToFo is my superpower. ToFo, not Budweiser Light, brings out my best.* ToFo helps me get the most accomplished. It helps me do my best thinking and creating. It makes me feel strong and capable. It unleashes the full power of mono-tasking. And I want more of this right now.
Scheduling The ToFo
I have at least an hour of ToFo in the morning when I write my blog. This focused, uninterrupted work helps me publish 3 new blog posts each week. I have also begun adding ToFo time into my work calendar. I am scheduling 60-minute periods of intensely focused work where I block out all interruptions and distractions.
I turn off the ringer on my phone, and the turn the phone over, so that I don’t hear or see any digital noise. I turn off Slack to avoid momentum killing Slack attacks. Then, for one hour, I am in ToFo mode. Just like I was back in the quiet study section at the library in Madison. I can literally feel the productivity and the progress at work as I am cranking through work and crossing things off on my daily to-do list.
ToFo For Everyone
I also want my team to be able to have more ToFo time for deep work. In the same way that we schedule meetings and lunch I want The Weapons to spend more time focused without interruption for longer periods of time. Which means scheduling time when they are not on a digital leash. It is good for my teammates. And it is good for business.
Find more time for ToFo. Silence your digital distractions. Be selfish. And mono-task for 45 to 90 minutes at a time. You can do this by scheduling time when you are totally available, and time when you are totally off limits to coworkers, clients and family. By scheduling this time the rest of your team knows when they can ask question and get feedback, and when the will have to wait. ToFo is your super power. You should use it every day.
*Click on this link to see some memorable beer commercials that treat beer as if it was Gatorade or Red Bull. I was totally inspired by these spots when I was a little kid. Go Beer!