How in the world do you schedule your time?

My daughter Ava wants to work at The Weaponry. She is 12. While a 12-year-old may not seem like a valuable asset to an ad agency, she is a really great writer and a very creative thinker. She has a blog, she has adapted a novel she read into a screenplay, and is currently writing a murder-mystery chapter book. Oh, and she has created a series on the new Instagram TV. But she rarely makes her bed. So there’s that.

She recently asked me when she can come to work with me and help out. I told her that I would have to check my schedule to see what might work. She responded with a very simple, but surprisingly profound question:

How do you determine your schedule?

 Good Question

This made me think more deeply about my schedule in an attempt to explain it. I told her that I start with deadlines. I look at all of the things that The Weaponry has to create and the due dates for each. Then I schedule my time to focus on those projects, in order of priority, from hottest to coolest.

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Your schedule starts as a blank slate. How much time do you put into thinking about how you fill it?   

But this begs the question, ‘If it weren’t for deadlines or due dates, what would your schedule look like?’ For entrepreneurs, there is always something more to do. But this is really true of every job, right? So, how do you add tasks to your schedule that don’t have deadlines?

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If you haven’t thought deeply about how you schedule your day, maybe you need a 12-year-old daughter.

How I Do It.

I have found there are 3 things that I incorporate into my schedule, despite the fact that they don’t have due dates.

Connecting:  I am a natural connector.  I think people are the most interesting machines on the planet. I highly value my relationships. More importantly, I maintain my relationships. And when I think of someone, or have a little bell that dings in the back of my head that lets me know it has been too long since we’ve last spoken, I reach out. This is an important part of my regular schedule, and should be part of yours too.

Closing Gaps: At The Weaponry we spend time exploring the gaps between where our organization is today, and our idealized, fully formed organization of the future. As a result, we often think about our shortcomings. Although I don’t think of them as shortcomings. I simply see things that we are not doing, or don’t have yet, that we will in our ideal state. This is about improving our processes, procedures, systems and infrastructure. Entrepreneurs call this working on your business. But I think everyone can benefit from more gap closing. Except maybe The Gap.

Things that excite me: I always leave room for things that interest me. Since we are an idea generating machine, there are always exciting ideas bouncing around our office. I try to find as much time to explore those ideas as possible. This could involve a new way to look at our clients’ challenges. It could be a new product idea, an additional service, or an idea that could transform our business. I often get excited about new ideas for t-shirts, buttons, stickers or hats for The Weaponry. I love thinking about new messaging for our walls too. Most businesses could benefit from more time exploring good ideas. I do it everyday. You should pencil in some Idea Time this week.

Key Takeaway

Our lives are full of deadline-driven must do’s. They become the studs around which we build our daily schedules. But the key to making each day great is the elective activities you work into your calendar. Whether you use the same approach I do (time for connecting, closing gaps and ideas that excite) or your own formula, make sure your daily schedule isn’t simply driven by email requests and meetings. As Steven R. Covey notes in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, engaging in important, non-urgent activities is a key determinant of success. Remember that as you schedule your week.

And Ava, this Friday looks like a good day for you to come to work with me. Make sure your pencils are sharp. (That’s just an old expression. I guess it means, make sure your laptop is fully charged.)

 

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The best way to find a career you love.

Our planet is full of scary things. The one that scares me the most is lack of planning. What, you’re not frightened? You’re not going to tell scary stories around the campfire about the man without a plan?

Let me explain.

I recently talked to a graduating college senior. I asked him what he planned to do next. He said, ‘Honestly, I have no idea. I’ll see what kind of opportunities come my way.’ To me this sounded like giving up on life. Or letting someone else write your story. Or signing up to become a pawn in someone else’s chess game (a pawn is a chess piece, and not another name for a shrimp, right?).

Reality Check

Without your own plan you will end up in a job that doesn’t fulfill you, in an industry you don’t care about. You will get tossed around like a plastic garbage bag in the wind, with no direction, like the opening scene from American Beauty (or was that the closing scene?). You have to push to find work you are passionate about dong. Even if the money isn’t great. Because not all rewards come in cash.

The Unhappy Drug Salesman

Had I not planned my career I would have ended up in pharmaceutical sales. I studied psychology and journalism at the University of Wisconsin. But before graduation I was approached by some pharma sales people who were recruiting college athletes, because apparently we are competitive people.

The money they offered me was twice what I would earn in an entry-level job in advertising. But I held out for a creative role. Because I had a plan. While pharmaceutical sales is a really great career choice for some people, it did not fit into my plan. Not even a little. Not on a train. Not in the rain. Not with a fox.

I stayed focused, and landed a good, but low paying job as a copywriter with a well-known advertising agency. Over the next 15 years I progressed from a writer to Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. Then, twenty years after I started my career I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. It was all part of the plan. And I love it when a plan comes together. #A-Team

Start Today

If you don’t have a career plan, or a life plan, start working on it today. Write down what you love to do. Write down what you are good at doing. Then find a way to get paid to do one of those things. Maybe you are already on that track. But maybe you are far away and heading in the wrong direction. You can turn around. But no one else can turn the wheel for you. That’s your job.

If you are a recent college grad, or just got out of the military, or are a career-minded alien who just landed on the planet, start your job search by thinking about your retirement. Plan your entire career with the end in mind. It’s the best way to ensure you’ll make the right decisions, introduce yourself to the right people, continue to properly educate yourself, and finish your career exactly where you wanted to be.

Key Takeaway.

You have to plan your own career. You have to find something that makes you happy. Your career will occupy 50% of your waking life. If you want to be happy in life, you have to be happy in your career. Make a plan and follow it. Don’t follow the money. Because if you love what you do, everything else, including the money, will take care of itself.

Today is the best day to declare your independence.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Even when it falls awkwardly on a Wednesday. Today I will hit two parades, watch fireworks, have a cookout, and tune in to watch a professional scarf down enough hot dogs to feed all the Pilgrims on the Mayflower for a week. #Murica

 

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Me and my family getting our 4th of July parade on. Notice the sign my daughter chalked in front of us.

The thing I love most.

As much as I love celebrating the 4th of July, I love what it symbolizes even more. Independence. It’s the not-so-secret ingredient that makes our country a powerful global magnet. Independence is what attracts those looking for a better life of their own making. I love that our country is powered by a population that left their native lands with the courage to say, ‘We think we can do this better on our own.’ That is so badass! Of course, Australia is built on a population of criminals. That’s pretty badass too, mate.

Career Independence

As we celebrate America’s independence I am also celebrating all the Founders who have declared their independence by taking charge of their careers. I admire the entrepreneurs who have the courage and confidence to do what our nation’s founding mothers and fathers did in establishing this country.

I am thankful for the inspirational stories and examples I’ve heard and read from Founders across the country. I love the consultants, freelancers and solopreneurs who have decided to bet on their own skills and abilities. It is the safest bet there is.

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Is it time for you to fly your own flag?

My Independence.

I declared my independence when I started by own advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry, two years ago. I always felt I had the ability to attract great clients and extremely talented creative thinkers and doers. I was willing to bet my financial wellbeing on that belief. Today, The Weaponry is thriving. Which makes every day feel like Independence Day (no, not the creepy alien movie).

Embrace your independence.

But you don’t have to start your own company to declare your independence. Because independence is a mindset. You must believe that you are a rock star at what you do, and that you could do it wherever you want. Just as Lebron James decided to take his talent to South Beach, then back to North Beach, and now to West Beach, you need to know that whether you are a business executive, a salesperson, teacher, professional creative, or burger flipper, you have the freedom to take your set of skillz anywhere that makes you happy. Even Cleveland.

Key Takeaway

Our foremothers and forefathers founded this country with the belief that they could design a better life for themselves and for all of their cute little red, white and blue-wearing offspring to come. By doing so, they have empowered you to design your own life in a way that makes you happiest. Never forget that. Recognize and take advantage of the great opportunities that come your way. Or create your own opportunities. You always have the freedom to choose what is best for you. Nothing is more American than that.

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Happy Independence Day!

How to think about meetings like a NASCAR team.

Most businesses have way too many meetings. They last too long. They have too many participants. And they are held in conference rooms with chairs that are too comfortable. Too often our days are defined by these meetings, rather than by the stretches of non-meetingness when the real work gets done.

NASCAR

If you want to solve this problem in your organization, watch more NASCAR. Scratch that. Find yourself a NASCAR Pit Crew Meeting Mentor. In a NASCAR race, the goal is to get to the finish line before anyone else. The more time a driver spends driving the car as fast as he or she can, the better. Calling the driver to a meeting during a race sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly what happens.

The Meetings

In every NASCAR race, the driver will pull into the pits, and a company meeting breaks out. Attendees typically include the driver, the Gas Man (#snickering), The Jack Man, A couple of Tire Jockeys, and maybe someone to extend some fresh beef jerky to the driver.  If you watch a full race you’ll pick up on a few key meeting tips that you can put to work in your place of business.


 5 Meeting Tips You Can Learn From A NASCAR Pit Crew.

  1. Go into each meeting with a clear, concise agenda. If you don’t have a clear agenda, clear the meeting off your schedule.
  2. Only invite critical team members. Which means Barney from accounting will be invited to as many meetings this year as he was invited to parties in college.
  3. Meet as quickly as possible and get out. Time your meetings with a stopwatch, not an hourglass.
  4. Meet as infrequently as possible.  The more time you spend working alone the better. Just like that business trip when you forgot your deodorant.
  5. The longest team meetings should be in the winner’s circle.  And everyone should be wearing confetti and a fizzy beverage.

Key Takeaway

Meetings are occasionally necessary. When they are, think like a pit crew. Plan the meeting ahead of time. Know how many people need to jump over the wall, and how many tires they should bring. Always make the meetings short and sweet. It’s the best way to ensure you and your team will accomplish more of your long-term goals.

What is it that makes hard work so hard?

High achievers constantly talk about the importance of  hard work. But hard work is hard to define. Because what is hard for one person is easy for another. Which means that we define hard work individually, relevant to our capacity for struggle, and tolerance for strain. Still, it is useful to have a universal way to think about hard work. Even if you only plan to think about it in a small corner of the universe.

Well, Well, Maxwell

I turn to pastor, author and leader of leadership, John C. Maxwell for his insight into hard work. This is what my man JCM has to say on the subject:

Hard work is the accumulation of easy things you didn’t do when you should have.

– John C Maxwell

I like Maxwell’s definition. But I have modified it for my own purposes. I say:

Hard work is the easy work you didn’t do when you had more time.

Time is not on your side.

The critical element that makes hard work hard is time constraint. Which means that hard work has to do with the density of work. Or written pseudo-mathematically:

Difficulty of Work = Amount of Work To Be Done, divided by Time To Do It.

Which means that if you start the work earlier, and spread it over a longer period of time, it really isn’t that hard. You feel the burden of work when you have to exert a high level of effort over a short amount of time.

Start Now.

To make any type of work easier, start earlier. Start working on that next big project now. Start studying earlier for the exam. Clean a little every day and it won’t feel like a colossal undertaking.

One of the things I have been pleasantly surprised by since launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, is the number of times that my work was made easier because I unknowingly did the work ahead of time. In fact, I spent the last several decades doing the hard work of entrepreneurship, well before I decided to become an entrepreneur. I did this by developing relationships, building trust, demonstrating real interest, and connecting dots.

Key Takeaway

Be proactive. Spend as much time on the important tasks as possible before they become urgent. The easiest way to build an ark is under blue skies. Because, eventually it will rain. And when it does, you’ll be happy you gave yourself a head start. Just ask Noah.

 

 

 

The best career move high school seniors should make right now.

Most high school seniors will graduate within the next 30 days. High school commencement is one of the most exciting events in a human’s life. And with good reason. The best, most interesting chapters of your story start after high school. Unless, of course, you were in an epic high school-based movie. In which case, it’s all down hill from here.  (You can check the 50 Greatest High School Movies of all time here to make sure you weren’t in one).

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An Open Letter to High School Seniors.

Dear Seniors,

Four to ten years from now, when you graduate from college, finish your military obligations, or give up on your Hollywood/Nashville/Lottery dream, you will start focusing on your real career. When you do, everyone will tell you that you need to start building your network.

But they are wrong. You need to start building your network now. So before you throw your binders in the trash, your graduation cap in the air, and carve your initials into he wood paneling of the senior lounge, you should start building your professional network.

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WTF Is A Professional Network?

Your professional network is a collection of the people you know that may be able to positively impact your professional career. The people in your network, or community, will be able to help with career advice, finding a job, and connecting you to other people and businesses that are important to your career advancement. You will also be expected to provide the same sort of help for others in your network. Because it takes a village to keep a child from moving back into their parents’ basement.

So Who Are My Connections?

Your connections are your friends, your family members and your teachers. Your connections are your friends’ parents. They are the adults you know from church, and the extra curricular activities you’ve participated in. They are the kids you competed both with, and against, in sports. They are the kids you know from camp (like that one quirky girl who played the flute).

Starting A Connection Collection.

The best career move high school seniors should make right now is to create a profile on  LinkedIn, and start collecting your connections. LinkedIn is an online social networking site for the business community. And right now, before you graduate, is the best time to start collecting your network. By starting now, you will collect the most connections. And the more connections you properly maintain, the stronger your network will be. It’s kinda like being popular in high school. Only this type of popularity can dramatically impact your salary (your salary is the adult version of an allowance).

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Grow As You Go

You will want to continue collecting your friends and acquaintances throughout college, trade school, military service, or your creative exploratory period. Every time you meet someone new, don’t just think about adding them to Snap or Insta.  Sure, do that too. But definitely add them to LinkedIn. Granted, the filters on LinkedIn aren’t as good as Snapchat. But having a good job makes you look better than any photographic editing or augmented reality can.

It’s All About The Network, (and the Benjamins)

Eventually everyone is going to tell you to network and build your network, and that it is all about your network. That’s just an adult way of saying:

Stay in touch with the people you know, because it will connect you to opportunities, advice and endorsements that will prove highly beneficial down the road.

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Why Start As A High School Senior?

You know a lot of people now that you are going to forget. Those kids you go to school with are going to do amazing things with remarkable organizations. And they are going to have opportunities for you, if you stay in touch. You are also going to have opportunities for them. Even better, in the real world, there are things called referral bonuses. Which means you can make extra money for helping your organization find good talent. #chaching

Monitoring Your Classmates

Adding your friends to LinkedIn is like putting a tracking device on them. It will allow you to collect intel on each person, like where they went to school, what they majored in, and where they worked after college.

It also puts a tracking device on you, so that others will remember your educational track, your career path and your special interests and activities. That way your connections will know when their opportunities cross paths with your skills, interests and abilities.

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The Adult Rock Stars Around You

Your neighbors, teachers and friends’ parents are more successful and connected than you know. Four or five years from now you could end up in a job interview with them. Or with their friends or relatives. When that happens, you will want every advantage you can get. Like a good endorsement from someone who knew you were always such a good kid. You were always such a good kid, right?

Trust Me. I Know.

I started my career in advertising as a copywriter. But I always envisioned becoming an entrepreneur and someday starting my own ad agency. Twenty years later, that’s exactly what I did. In 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

You know who my very first client was? My friend Dan Richards, whom I have known since 7th grade. Dan is the Founder and  CEO of a badass company called Global Rescue.  Which means that Dan and I went from high school classmates, and football and track teammates, to trusted business partners. We have helped each other launch companies, and have exchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of services.

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Key Takeaway

They say the best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago. And the second best day is today. The  same holds true for building your network. Start now by collecting your connections before you leave high school. But if you are already in college, serving your country, or in the workforce, and you haven’t been building your network, start today.

There are amazingly talented people all around you. So start collecting them today. It’s the very best way to assure an abundance of everything you will need later in your career. By doing so may help one of your high school classmates find their dream job. Or launch their own business. I know. Because it happened to me.

-Adam Albrecht

Founder & CEO of The Weaponry


*If you know a high school senior who is about to leave the nest, please share this post with them. If you are a teacher wondering how to keep your students’ attention over the last few days, consider sharing this with your class. And if you want to connect with me, I’d love that. But you might want to read this post I wrote about connecting on LinkedIn first.

 

 

 

Why Wheel Of Fortune is the perfect interview game.

I like watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s not because of Pat Sajak’s perma-tan, perfect hair or witty commentary. And it’s not because of Vanna White and her seemingly irreplaceable skills at touching lighted rectangles. Although 30 years ago that was a compelling draw.

The best part about Wheel of Fortune is trying to solve the puzzles. In case you hadn’t noticed, life is one big puzzle. As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly trying to solve client problems. That’s why I am hunting for world-class problem solvers the way Imelda Marcos hunted for footwear.

The Interview

Lately I’ve been thinking about introducing WOF into the interview process. Because the game show offers valuable insights into a candidate’s approach to solving real world puzzles. Not only is this kind of problem solving valuable in marketing, it translates to success in business, finance, medicine, auto repair, courtship and just about every career Sally Struthers might mention.

The 3 kinds of contestants on The Wheel of Fortune.

Early Solvers.

My WOF heroes are the people who solve the puzzle in the least amount of time with the  least amount of information. I’m always impressed by those who find the answer well before I do. They are the see-ers of the unseen. These people are clever, insightful and daring. You should hire as many of these types as you can get your hands on (in an HR appropriate way).

Middle Solvers

The majority of the puzzle solvers take a crack at the answer somewhere in the middle of the fill. They offer an answer once many letters are exposed, and the puzzle is relatively easy to solve. At this point the viewer at home either has the answer or has several of the words figured out, but still fails to see a couple of un-purchased vowels. These are your average people. If you fill your organization with these average people you can build an average company. I would rather go bankrupt.

The Reader

At the tail end of the spectrum are the readers. These are the people who don’t attempt to solve the puzzle until every letter is filled in, and they can literally read the entire answer. These are the types that only bet on a sure thing. They are the belt and suspenders types. But Wheel Of Fortune favors the bold.

Please don’t be the reader. When you wait until the answer is obvious you have lost all competitive advantage. Because when there is no risk there is no reward.

Key Takeaway

The further upstream you can solve a problem the move valuable you are. There is a significant market for those who can see the unseen, forecast a trend, or alert a team to an opportunity or catastrophe hiding in the shadows.

In business development, you can’t wait until the account you want goes into review and invites you and every Tom, Dick and Mary to pitch. To offer value you have to be able to solve a problem before the answer is flashing in the middle of Times Square. Or before Vanna has flipped her final consonant.