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.
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!
Today marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. Which means that today it will get darker one hour earlier than it did yesterday. According to my AcuRite SmartHUB weather station, today the sun will set on my backyard at 4:41pm Central Standard Time. If you have a Charlie Brown outlook, you might think this is the worst day of the year. But good grief people, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The Best Day
Today is absolutely the best day of the year. Why? Because if you have ever wanted to get more out of your day, and more out of your life, today is the day to make it happen. Today, Ladies and Gentlereaders, is the Unicorn of Days! The Once-In-A-Blue Moon Event! Today, is the needle in the haystack, and you have found it! Today is the 25-hour Day!
Your Chance To Do More
Today is like a bigger pair of jeans, which means that you can squeeze more in. I woke up today like a kid on Christmas morning. At 5am I was fully cooked and ready to get after this 25-hour day. I hope you are ready to make the most of it too. Because it’s go time!
Think Of The Possibilities
Today you can literally spend more time with family and friends (kids, notice how I literally used the word literally correctly). You can get to church or your place of worship (God knows we could all use it). You can find time for exercise without feeling like you are running behind. You can go for a hike, or a drive, and fall in love with fall. You can visit a museum. You can read and get inspired and learn something new.
You can trade in some fast food for slow food by cooking, baking or grilling yourself (I mean that you are doing the cooking yourself, not that you are literally cooking yourself). You can organize your closet, garage, basement or sock drawer, which will help you enjoy this day for many days to come.
If you like to draw, write, paint, sew, knit, build, photograph, or create any of a billion other things, do it. Do it now.
Today, you can even catch up on the sleep you never get enough of.
Plan Your Next Chapter
You can start planning your next vacation. Or that job or career change you wish you had more time to think about. You know that business idea that you think would be so exciting to launch, but never seem to have the time to focus on? Well, today is a great day to tap into your inner Richard Branson and sketch out a plan, even if you are an entrepreneurial virgin (see what I did right there?)
Time To Give Back
Today you can spend time thinking about how you can give more of yourself to others. You can think about giving of your time or money to worthy causes and charities. Or create a new worthy cause or charity to benefit others.
Today is a great day to put the electronic time wasters in a drawer, so that you can get the most out of this beautiful, rare 25-hour day. Go do more. Take time to recognize, embrace and wallow in the good that is all around you. If time is precious, and life is a gift, a 25-hour day is the most valuable present we will ever have. So be present. Be productive. And spin your extra time into gold.
*If you want to read about more great things consider subscribing to this blog.
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 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.
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.
Do you know why you are successful? I know why I am. Since you are reading this post, I expect you want to learn to be more successful too. So let’s get right to it, after this distraction. And another distraction. Wow, so many distractions before we get to the one thing! These distractions are ruining this blog post! Or maybe this is an important demonstration of the point of this post.
The common theme of my greatest successes comes down to one word: Focus.
When I have created the best work, come up with the greatest answers or had the most impact on my clients, I was able to focus completely on the challenge in front of me. The same holds true for personal successes and achievements.
Far too often we take on too many responsibilities concurrently, juggling and reordering them like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory. Focus is about concentrating your energy. Taking on too much dilutes your power, potential and performance.
FOCUS = Focus On Completely Until Solved
Focus means prioritizing. It means scheduling so that everything can be the star for a time. Sometimes that means we focus on projects exclusively for a month. Sometimes it means focusing on a challenge for a couple of days. Or a couple of hours.
Scheduling to eliminate distractions is key. As my friend and excellent business ideator Duane Nelson often says, ‘Multitasking is a myth.’ But it is such a popular idea it could win the Myth America Pageant (if there were such a thing). It’s really a matter of how hard we are able to focus. More focus means greater intensity of thought, deeper evaluation and more intelligent solutions.
When I have won major pieces of new business or created work that helped transform the way a brand behaves and spurred transformational growth, I have been able to clear my plate, my desk and my brainium to get the work done.
As we attack client challenges at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am always thinking about focus. I want to deploy the thinking power of each member of our team in a way that drives the greatest client results. That is why we schedule our work so that every project can play center stage for the appropriate amount of time.
It can be tempting to take on as much work as one human can shoulder to show how tough, capable or responsible you are. While seemingly helpful to your team and your employer, this load-it-until-the-axles-bend approach doesn’t lead to the superstar performances you will be most proud of. It may, however, lead to broken axles.
This isn’t just a work thing. Distractions are everywhere. Volunteering, attending events and getting roped into activities in your personal life can detract from your focus too.
Micro focus moves the needle micrometers. Macro focus can move it miles. So if you are looking for greater performance, greater ideas and greater results find a way to get greater focus on the project in front of you.
*This blog post has not been brought to you by the Ford Focus, a model of Performance & Efficiency. With available SYNC® 3 · Dual-Zone Temp Control · Smart-Charging USB Ports. It is designed to inspire | Ford.com “Car of the Year Award” – Autoguide.com
If you’ve read anything about technology trends lately, you know that R2D2, C-3PO and their posse are rolling into the workforce like the next generation of whippersnappers, ruining things for the old guard. This is really freaking people out. Most workers respond to all this robot-revolution talk with one of two standard reactions:
Robots can’t do MY job!
This is terrible!
These reactions are both wrong. Eventually almost every job will be improved, if not replaced, by robots. Seriously. Lawyers, real estate agents, actors, doctors, truck drivers and singers. Don’t believe me? Let’s try a little imagination.
A computer-brained robot can tap into a database, find and learn all of the relevant legal cases necessary to defend or prosecute a case. They can learn which arguments work most effectively, most often, by studying data. The robot’s facial recognition software will allow it to respond to witnesses and jurors. Thus, it can, and will adjust its delivery to the most impactful style, based on data. Best of all, the robot will actually listen to the human feedback, because it has been programmed to do so.
Your surgeon, who must perform incredibly precise maneuvers will be out-precisely maneuvered by Sparky the Surgical Robot, who isn’t impacted by an itchy nose, an aging body, and a crummy night of sleep. Oh, and this is alreay happening.
There will no longer be an interpretation gap between directors and actors. Or casting sessions. The precisly-programmed robot actors will generate the perfect emotion on take one. Cut. That’s a wrap.
So yes, all of our current jobs will be impacted. If you can’t imagine how your job or your industry could be handled by a robot, I encourage you to use my imagination. I will walk you through the possibilities.
But this is good news.
In the beginning of humanness there were only 2 jobs:
Hunter & Gatherer
We had to find a way to free some people up to do more important work. The key was agriculture. As soon as cave-men started cultivating crops, domesticating animals and wearing FFA-jackets, many more people were free to do non-essential work.
200 years ago, 90% of Americans lived on farms and grew their own food. In the year 1900, 40% of Americans worked in agriculture. Today, due to advances in technology, only 2% do.
Yet over the past 117 years we didn’t experiencing a rural apocalypse. Previously farm-bound Americans were freed to pursuit other interests. So they did. They went to college and created plastics and silicon and vacuum tubes. Then they created computers, rocket ships, microchips, smartphones and robots. Someone also created the Pet Rock. So it hasn’t all been useful.
At The Weaponry, we believe that the human mind is the most powerful weapon on Earth. Our minds will always reign supreme on this planet. We will continue to mechanize and automate the jobs that can be performed as well, or better, by machines. So that we can rise to an even higher standard of living, quality of life and take on even greater human challenges. We will never run out of things for humans to do. So don’t be scared. Be excited. The best is yet to come. Isn’t that right R2?