It’s time to be more selfish with your time.

Today, millions of  people will be robbed by their co-workers. This thievery is the most under-reported crime in America. Your co-workers are not stealing your cash, or phones or heirloom quality Tupperware from the break room fridge. What they are stealing is far worse.

Time

Time is your most precious commodity. And people take it from you on a daily basis.  They stop by your desk to chat for too long. They cause meetings and phone calls to go longer than necessary. They are turning their lack of planning into your emergencies. The next thing you know, the whistle blows, Fred Flintstone is sliding down his dinosaur, and it’s time to go home. You spent eight hours of your life at work, but your most important work is still undone.

So McGruff The Time Dog is here to tell you that you have got to protect your time. If you want to make a valuable contribution to your organization, you need to use your precious time to execute. You can’t do that when someone stops by to complain that Lucy and Ethel are terrible at packing up the chocolates.

Time Makes The Difference

As a business owner, I look for spare time like spare change in my couch cushions. Because every time I find a few extra minutes, it enables me to spend time working on my business. I can use that valuable time to create new offerings, improve processes and find ways to deliver better work for our clients. But that all takes time.

It is easy to spend all of your time dealing with the needs of others. It may even feel like you are busy working. But you are not advancing your own projects. At the end of the year it is easy to look back and see that you did little to advance your department or your initiatives.

I Must Protect These Hours!

Protecting your time means finding and protecting hours of uninterrupted progress on your own work. That may mean working from home, or a coffee shop, or Chick-Fil-a (which is my secret work-away spot). It may mean blocking off large blocks of time on your calendar so that no one schedules you up. And it may mean putting a sign up in your office space that says you are working on something really important and can’t be interrupted. If that doesn’t work, tell people you have the Bird Flu. Actually, you may want to start with that.

Lock Down The Digital Entries

You will also want to turn off your email, Slack and phone. Because in the digital age, people try to get sneaky and steal your time digitally too. Once your time is fully protected, use it to crank away on your most important work, uninterrupted. Find time to do this every day and you’ll be amazed how much more you can accomplish each week when your are not be constantly chased by Smokey and The Time Bandits.

Key Takeaway

It’s great to be a team player. But you can’t let others take away your scoring opportunities. That’s exactly what happens when you sit in meetings too long, are regularly interrupted, or get sent on wild goose chases (no one ever chases the domesticated geese). Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your time. It’s the only way to advance the work that you are directly responsible for doing. It also keeps your work at work. And prevents you from having to steal time from your personal life to get your work finished.

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Sometimes the most important thing to work hard at is patience.

Hard work is important to almost every variety of success. Unless you aspire to be an outstanding subject in a sleep clinic, you have to put in a lot of effort to achieve your goals. That’s why it is so important to pursuit the things you are most passionate about. It is much easier to put in long days of work when you are genuinely excited about the work and the mission.

However…

While hard work is important, it is not the only contributor to business and personal success. Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have found that the most surprisingly important ingredient to our success has been patience.

Patience

There have been dozens of times over the past 2.5 years when putting in more hard work would have worked against us. That’s because our clients and customers, (and potential clients and customers) have their own timing that has nothing to do with us.

I have had exciting conversations about great opportunities that then took a long time to materialize. I am talking about gestational periods of a year or even 2 years. There are other opportunities that I still expect will materialize 3 years or more after our initial conversations.

That’s a long time to wait for a cake to bake. But there is nothing I, or any of my teammates can do to speed the process along. In fact, calling and asking and pressing the client, or potential client, would only hurt the opportunity.

Key Takeaway

Recognizing when you have done all the hard work you can to generate a new opportunity is an important skill that pays huge dividends over time. Because once you have reached a critical point, less is more. Let the timing that is out of your control take its course. But don’t give up. This is a hard perspective to master. Master it anyway.

*If you have a story to corroborate this need for patience instead of more work, please share.

**Also, this post had nothing to do with people in need of medical care. Thanks anyway spellcheck.

When you are great at what you do, no one cares what you wear.

Yesterday I had a bee and wasp specialist come to my house to handle a situation. A buzzillon yellow jackets found a small opening in my siding, and Goldilocks-ed their way into the just-right attic space above my garage, where they built a watermelon sized nest.

Dennis, aka The Bee Guy, (not to be confused with the Bee Man, Bee Boy or Bee Gees) walked up to the spot where the yellow jackets were throwing me a house swarming party, and calmly said he could take care of the problem. He said, ‘But first let’s look to see if there are any other areas of concern.’

Those Little Stingkers!

We walked around the house, and sure enough, he found another active area on the back side of the house that we hadn’t noticed. Then he got to work. He treated both of the nests, and soon it was clear that these Georgia Tech mascots were no longer active residents in my home.

The Kicker

Dennis never put on any protective gear. He never put on any netting, or armor or even bug spray. He did his work in jeans and a short sleeve shirt. And he did it really well. He talked me through each step. He even walked me through the proprietary equipment he used that he had invented and created himself. I could tell that Dennis knew his profession as well as anyone could (I bet he got all bees in school).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be fooled by clothing. It is easy to buy the right clothes to look the part. It is much harder to have the skills the part requires. There is no direct relationship between clothing and expertise. I have found over and over again that people who are truly experts don’t get caught up in looking the way you think they would or should or could. So focus on gaining knowledge and experience. Become great at what you do. The more value you offer others, the less value they will place on your appearance. Which is good news for a man who looks like me.

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.)

 

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.