10 ways you can establish a healthy work/life balance

This week on the Boagworld Show we look at the stresses of being a digital professional and ask how we can improve things.

Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld Show we look at the stresses of being a digital professional and ask how we can improve things.

Add your own suggestions or view the links mentioned in this weeks show.

Hello and welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. I’m Paul and I’m joined as always by Marcus. Hello Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
In the same room.

Paul Boag:
In the same room; I can see you.

Marcus Lillington:
I can throw things at you.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I don’t feel like we’ve seen that much of each other today. We’ve been working hard.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’ve got sort of two big proposals that I need to get done in the next two weeks, along with all the usual bits and bobs.

Paul Boag:
And I went out for lunch.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, true. I’ve kind of started one of them, but yes I sort of need to – I can’t just dither about and I’ve taken Wednesday off as well for a – I was going to say reasons I won’t go into, but I’m going to because it’s kind of boring.

Paul Boag:
Are you having a tube put up your bottom?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
No? I couldn’t think – colonoscopy?

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s nothing embarrassing. It’s just it’ll be one of my long rambling stories.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Sorry about that then. Oh, I keep banging things today.

Marcus Lillington:
Not really. One of my friends who is also in the band with me the sort of – folky Mumford band.

Paul Boag:
Yeah go on.

Marcus Lillington:
He got talking with somebody when he was down in Devon who runs a festival on the Isle of Wight called the Old Gaffers Festival, and an Old Gaffer is a type of boat apparently, I didn’t know this. And they get about 20,000, 30,000 people a day going through it and it’s not – become a boats, food, beer and music festival over three days, the end of May in the Isle of Wight and basically long story short …

Paul Boag:
You’re going for a piss off – a piss off? A piss up.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve basically said – they said oh you sound like just the right sort of thing for us, send us a demo tape. Right, haven’t got a demo tape – we’ve got various stuff we’ve recorded over the years. But we haven’t actually done – people keep saying to us can you give us a CD, and we’re like no. So this Saturday we recorded three songs very quickly and I need to mix them – and make them presentable and if I don’t do it now, we won’t get the gig.

Paul Boag:
Oh, there you go. There is nothing like a deadline to force you into doing stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. But other – I have other deadlines, because of going on holiday.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I was going to say, get your priorities right. We don’t care about your holiday. Get your priorities right, business stuff comes first and you’ve got lots of proposals.

Marcus Lillington:
It does. And I’ve got – I’ve kind of said to myself to have Wednesday off, I must make great strides…

Paul Boag:
Today.

Marcus Lillington:
Today and tomorrow.

Paul Boag:
Okay, fair enough.

Marcus Lillington:
So yeah, but I’m recording a podcast with you.

Paul Boag:
But that is part of our marketing strategy, because everyone that listens to today’s podcast is now going to go out and give us work.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, okay. Yes, do that.

Paul Boag:
If somebody – if we win it…

Marcus Lillington:
Even if it’s just a little bit.

Paul Boag:
If we win a piece of work off of today’s show, then it will justify it. If not, we’re going to stop doing the podcast. There we go. Actually I’ve just written a post that will be hopefully should be live by the time – yes, it will be live by the time this goes out which is all about expert reviews and getting an outside opinion on your website. So there we go, that’s a perfect piece of work that you can give to us, link in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. Having to drink – not having to drink tea, I like tea, bit of a sore throat, Paul.

Paul Boag:
I don’t care.

Marcus Lillington:
My wife has got tonsillitis.

Paul Boag:
Perhaps you’ve got it too.

Marcus Lillington:
Well I haven’t got any tonsils, I think you can still sort of get it a bit, but I had my tonsils out when I was a little tiny kid. They don’t do that anymore.

Paul Boag:
Do they not?

Marcus Lillington:
No, because apparently it’s more likely to give you chest infections and stomach infections and that kind of thing. There is a reason for …

Paul Boag:
Tonsils do have a point.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly.

Paul Boag:
Well, it’s like everything. What was the appendix – they discovered that the appendix actually has a use.

Marcus Lillington:
Does it?

Paul Boag:
Don’t ask me what it was.

Marcus Lillington:
What was it, Paul?

Paul Boag:
I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
Or what is it, Paul?

Paul Boag:
I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
I still have one of those. So it’s helping me out.

Paul Boag:
It’s helping you in some undefined way.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Very true. Hey, we’ve got problem.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s very true. Sorry I’m sticking with this, it’s very true. But you don’t know why.

Paul Boag:
What? That it’s important? Yes, I don’t know. Okay, we will need to Google this now.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I haven’t got my glasses on and I can’t spell appendix. You Google it.

Marcus Lillington:
I will Google it. You carry on talking.

Paul Boag:
We’ve got a problem.

Marcus Lillington:
Really? We’ve always got problems.

Paul Boag:
Our problem is that we’ve talked quite long about how we’re the BBC of podcasts, because we have no advertising.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, that’s not true, we have done advertising in the past.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but not for a long time.

Marcus Lillington:
And we stopped doing it not really because of …

Paul Boag:
Just laziness.

Marcus Lillington:
… it was just pure laziness.

Paul Boag:
It was pure laziness.

Marcus Lillington:
And it was like sort of can’t be bothered, what’s the point? And then we kind of realized that there was a point.

Paul Boag:
It actually makes money, which is always a good point, we like money.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, enough money to make it worthwhile. I think at the time it was kind of like why are we doing this and then we looked into it again.

Paul Boag:
So we’re going to be doing some advertising, not this week, you’re okay. But we will be doing it in future and this is my warning. But we’re going to be very selective over who we allow to advertise, because not everybody’s money is good. We only want people that are going to pay us huge quantities of money; middling money is not good enough. That’s not how we’re judging. But if you’re interested in advertising on the Boagworld podcast, why would be my first question. Why would you why? Why?

Marcus Lillington:
Why would you why?

Paul Boag:
I’m sure there is better ways of making – promoting your product than advertising on our podcast, but who knows, people are strange. They might do. So if they want to, then they can email me. Have you found it out? I’ve been thinning.

Marcus Lillington:
In the past, the appendix was often routinely removed and discarded – hang on a minute, in this concept the function of the appendix appears to be to expose white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens or foreign substance present in the gastrointestinal tract.

Paul Boag:
I’m none the wiser now as to what it does?

Marcus Lillington:
It exposes white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens.

Paul Boag:
You can read it again and I will still be none the wiser.

Marcus Lillington:
It does something.

Paul Boag:
It does something. See I was right. I didn’t make it up.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
There we go. So that’s that. What are we doing this week? Oh yes, I remember. So this week is a bit of a different one because the moment there is going on a kind of mental health week. As soon as you say something like it’s a mental health week; it just doesn’t sound very interesting or appealing. But it’s kind of a week about work life balance and stress and all of those kinds of things. So you can listen to the Unfinished Business podcast. I think they’re doing some stuff on it. There is a conference whose name escapes me at the moment, that’s really bad.

Marcus Lillington:
The comfy conference.

Paul Boag:
That are going to cover it as well. Smashing Magazine are posting some articles including an article from me on the subject where I – basically it’s therapy for me. I let all of my hurt and pain out on the internet for all to see.

Marcus Lillington:
See, I reckon. Though this as I’ve already said this subject interests me. I think our industry is leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of industries that are out there. In that it even recognizes it as an issue. I’m right. I’m always right. You just note that, just note that.

Paul Boag:
I think a small fragment of our community is leaps and bounds ahead of it.

Marcus Lillington:
See you said you don’t like the word community. So don’t use it.

Paul Boag:
No, I didn’t say that. Andy Clarke said it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes you did you said that last week, yes you did. Anyway guess – really?

Paul Boag:
Yes, I think there are certain companies like ourselves and like that kind of breed of agency, but I think that there is equally – don’t forget a lot of people that listen to this may work in-house for organizations that are not particularly good at this kind of thing. I think there is a lot of larger more traditional agencies, I can think of one of our employees that has gone to one such agency. Don’t make that face.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m just desperately trying to think who it could be.

Paul Boag:
Well, I’ve got – that wouldn’t be as good, some larger agencies in Manchester for example are more draconian in the way they operate. I think also you’ve got to remember a lot of people that listen to this are U.S based and the U.S has a very different culture than we do.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, work, work work then you die.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
You can have Thanksgiving off, just the Friday obviously.

Paul Boag:
And then, I think then there is Silicon Valley which is an even worse example of it and they do things that really piss me off like …

Marcus Lillington:
The work is fun for them.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s the root of the bloody problem. They do things like yes; we’re so cool and funky. We’re not going to give you …

Marcus Lillington:
That was sarcasm by the way.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. We are not going to give you a holiday allowance, just take whatever holiday you want man. And of course what happens is, is nobody takes any holiday because they’re terrified of oh, I’ve taken more holiday than someone else.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but if you do it the other way round, then you end up like the French or something. Then what – the Americans aren’t ever going to go and follow the commy French way of doing it are they?

Paul Boag:
Well, I’m not saying that we need to be as lazy as the French. I’m saying there is a happy medium.

Marcus Lillington:
I will roll them out, you knock them over. I stand them up, you knock them over.

Paul Boag:
There’s a happy medium and it is the British way, our way is obviously the best way.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I don’t think so. I think the French have got it right and I think the Scandinavians have got it right.

Paul Boag:
Oh Scandinavians? I didn’t know they had a more laid back attitude.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I don’t know about their attitude to work, but their attitude towards looking after each other is very cool.

Paul Boag:
That’s very true. Also the Scandinavians …

Marcus Lillington:
And that’s not the British way.

Paul Boag:
No, no we don’t look after – well we have …

Marcus Lillington:
We are better than the Americans, but we don’t generally …

Paul Boag:
I don’t know whether we are actually. This is really

Marcus Lillington:
There’s this paranoia about sort of like oh, scroungers and things like that.

Paul Boag:
Well, actually – yes, and also we – because we have this kind of social service system that is very developed, we kind of just presume the government will look after people. So we don’t need to.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe a bit.

Paul Boag:
Because I think which is why I think America can be quite …

Marcus Lillington:
Not so sure about that. I know what you are saying that the American way is through charity and through …

Paul Boag:
Kind of looking after your neighbours, yes, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, which is kind of cool; that does exist I think in the UK. What – where I think …

Paul Boag:
None of this is anything to do with the topic of course.

Marcus Lillington:
No, but it’s quite interesting for once. I think that we’re similar with the Americans in the fact that we don’t like people who are a work shy and all that kind of – which is just paranoia. And it pisses me off, because – yes, there are the odd people, there are some …

Paul Boag:
There is always going to be somebody that abuses the system.

Marcus Lillington:
So what? Is always my – let them, I don’t care. I take that attitude, life becomes a much nicer place.

Paul Boag:
It does. But then, that’s your attitude towards life generally, I don’t care isn’t it? And I don’t – no that sounds terrible.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I just don’t care about anything or anyone.

Paul Boag:
I didn’t mean that. This is why I think the show is going to be quite interesting actually because we are very different characters when it comes to stress. You don’t really get or you don’t seem to get stressed.

Marcus Lillington:
Very rarely, very rarely.

Paul Boag:
I mean recently you had a moment, didn’t you? Where you sent a stressed email to me and Chris, and it was like …

Marcus Lillington:
It was only because I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and so you said …

Marcus Lillington:
It’s just beyond me.

Paul Boag:
So your answer was to send me and Chris an email and immediately as I read it, I thought the whole world is going to end. Marcus is stressed; therefore my stress levels must be through the roof, if I’m going to reflect, because you just don’t get stressed. How do you do it? Do you just not care?

Marcus Lillington:
You have to think the example I just gave, is a really good one. Let’s say, I don’t know you’re – you work for the council, we were talking about councils, and you – it’s your job to look after the parks and the trees and you do the flower beds and all that kind of thing. And you do a good job, you’re not paid that amount of money, so life is quite tough, because you don’t – it’s not a highly paid job. But you take a lot pride in your work and you find some of your stuff you’ve put a lot of effort into has been vandalized and you know who vandalized it. It’s a group of people that you disapprove; I’m going to this kind of paranoia about – that kind of thing. It’s very, very easy for that person to be angry.

Paul Boag:
To get wound up at the injustice.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes. Whereas I kind of try to always see the other side of it and think to yourself well, will I would be better off not stressing about this? Can I do anything about it? And if the answer is yes, yes or no in that case, but you’ve just got to think things through. That’s really the bottom line here. Think about it, can you do anything about it?

Paul Boag:
But that I think is my – see that scenario doesn’t work; I don’t care about the injustice of a situation. I can be – if someone disses me or ruins my – I really don’t care about that much.

Marcus Lillington:
I just want to give that as an example of somewhere people will get stressed and understandably so.

Paul Boag:
I think my stress comes from and I think probably I’m reflective of a lot of people – well no, there would be a big portion of people that are stressed by injustice, especially in-house people. Why can I never do what I do? My boss always takes the credit, all those kinds of things, so yes I can see how it’s useful for that but then there is another group of people which is the freelancers, the business owners, people like us and for me my stress comes from picturing scenarios that may never happen, I’m terrible for that. I think there is a famous quote – I’ve spent most of my life worrying about things that never happened. And that I do – you don’t do that.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve been telling my children since they were two years old; don’t worry about until it happens. Because that’s logical, Paul.

Paul Boag:
It is logical. I basically think – I think it depends …

Marcus Lillington:
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with weighing up the odds like there is a good chance this bad thing could happen, worry about it. Even if it might not happen, but if it’s something that you really can’t do anything about, don’t worry.

Paul Boag:
I think that’s the key, isn’t it? Is accepting that there are some things you can influence, and some things you can’t. I think probably my problem comes from my messiah complex.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, fair enough.

Paul Boag:
I think I pick up the responsibility for fixing everything whether or not I’m capable of doing it.

Marcus Lillington:
Or kind of – yeah same as that, I think – I don’t know, I was about to be very male chauvinist and say it’s a male trait, I don’t know that it is, but it’s kind of like – it’s kind of I think you’re – certainly men of our age are, it is your responsibility to make sure everythings.

Paul Boag:
Yes, the family are fed.

Marcus Lillington:
Just the way it should be. So I’m kind of – well I need to fix it, I need to fix it now, if there’s something family-oriented.

Paul Boag:
But then a lot of things can’t be fixed now, which just goes back to what you were saying about well what’s the point worrying about it. But then there are things like I’ve got a scenario in my head that I was struggling with recently where there was something and actually in the end the way I made myself feel better is making up a completely arbitrary thing which probably won’t fix a situation in any way whatsoever. But I feel like I’m doing something. I feel like and this can happen quite a lot with work as well – that if you’re struggling in your work for whatever reason, you end up keep hammering away at it, trying to make yourself feel better and actually I think sometimes you can just damage yourself more or make you less effective to do what you’re trying to do.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s a funny feeling.

Marcus Lillington:
But I also have to battle against being lazy.

Paul Boag:
Do you? Are you somebody that would be inherently lazy? Actually no I get bored too easy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, not complete slobby lazy, but just like sort of oh I’ll do something else …

Paul Boag:
But then that’s – I think that’s …

Marcus Lillington:
I always did my home work on Sunday evenings, always.

Paul Boag:
See this is where I think my Christian guilt kicks in. This perpetual sense that I must be doing something, otherwise I’m being lazy and I’m a bad human being. I don’t think it’s anything to do with Christian guilt I think it’s just…

Marcus Lillington:
Well that’s the Protestant work ethic isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
The Protestant work ethic, that’s the phrase I was looking for. I have that about me. And so, and then I worry that if I’m not doing anything, then – it is a very hard balance isn’t it? Because you don’t want to be constantly hammering at something, because that’s unhealthy and you don’t want to be – I want black-and-white rules I have to follow. How many hours a day do I need to work, how much time …

Marcus Lillington:
That varies from day to day surely.

Paul Boag:
I know, but that’s the trouble. It depends is not a good answer for my aspergers brain. I want to know the structure in which I am working that I can devolve myself of any responsibilities if it all goes tits up. That’s what I’m looking for, make it happen, Marcus. What should I do?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s all different for everyone else though.

Paul Boag:
But it’s quite – yes, and this is what’s quite interesting about this kind of conversation today.

Marcus Lillington:
If I ever do, finish something early. I’m a little bit lost. I don’t know what to do with myself, it’s like oh, right you were really trying hard, you were going to – like today and tomorrow, I’m not going to finish this either of these proposals, they’re both huge ones but I’ve said to myself, must make major progress or you can’t have Wednesday off. And if I do that, I know I’m going to sit here on Wednesday morning going umm… what will happen is I will make mediocre progress and I feel a bit guilty, I will take Wednesday off anyway and I will get that done knowing that I’ve still got a few more days anyway. That’s just the way it is. See that’s the price I pay for my apparent calmness. I’m always worrying, panicking.

Paul Boag:
Panic.

Marcus Lillington:
Panicking. Panicking about getting things done.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Rather than worrying about things I can’t do.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so that’s interesting because I don’t worry about not getting stuff done because my mind doesn’t let me ever get to that point. So I’m always pretty much on top of what I’ve got to do.

Marcus Lillington:
You know if I’ve got three days to do something that will take me two days, the first day will be spent not doing much of it.

Paul Boag:
Right. While I will compartmentalize …

Marcus Lillington:
And the final day I will spend doing a day and half’s work…

Paul Boag:
Well, I will break up that project into three days, so I know how much I’ve got to do each day. My problem is then am I doing the right thing? That’s the biggest thing I fret about actually is am I doing the most effective – that’s the downside of being a knowledge worker as they like to call us these days. These people that basically define their own job and do their own job, you’re perpetually worried am I doing the best thing I could be doing to get the most effective results which if you’re employed by someone else, perhaps you don’t give a shit.

Marcus Lillington:
There are some real advantages of someone else supplying you with work.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you just do what’s given you and you don’t have to think about it. I’m sure there is a load of people who are employees that are absolutely flipping their lids to us. No, it’s not like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it is. I’ve done it.

Paul Boag:
But that’s what makes this conversation so interesting this week – what we’re going to cover in this week’s show because essentially the answers to each of these things depends very much on who you’re, the type of person you’re. So Marcus, you have written half the list and I have written the other.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t remember what I’ve written, but I’m sure that …

Paul Boag:
It will come flooding back.

Marcus Lillington:
Flooding back, yes.

Paul Boag:
Right. So we’re going to work through – obviously because this is Season 10, we have to have 10 ways that you can establish a better work life balance and deal with stress and that kind of thing. So we’re going to work through them. Marcus will go first, and then we’ll alternate as we go.

Take time for generating ideas

Marcus Lillington:
The first one which was one of mine.

Paul Boag:
It is one of yours.

Marcus Lillington:
My wife is talking to me at the same time.

Paul Boag:
Is she Skypeing you?

Marcus Lillington:
She’s skyping me, yes.

Paul Boag:
Tell her to go away. Tell her you don’t love her anymore.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t do that. She has got tonsillitis, poor thing.

Paul Boag:
Oh yeah that’s true. Tell her to suck it up.

Marcus Lillington:
Recording podcast.

Paul Boag:
I think we have to restart this section. You’re going to keep it in, aren’t you? I know you.

Marcus Lillington:
Probably, it doesn’t matter. Anyway what did I say?

Paul Boag:
I don’t know, you said it.

Marcus Lillington:
What I said was – take time for generating ideas. And I can refer back to something I said last week which was I was talking about, I don’t listen to anything on my way to work. That’s my generate ideas time or one of my generating ideas time.

Paul Boag:
Okay. So how …

Marcus Lillington:
When I say generating – I don’t – I’m not thinking right, I’ve got to generate some ideas now. It’s just a time when I think about stuff and I come up with plans relating to stuff. And also if you do – if you just think in general then you will – you might come up with completely new stuff. It depends on what your role is I suppose, I haven’t got a particularly creative role. So I’m not …

Paul Boag:
You’re amazingly creative, all the lies you tell in our proposals is outrageously creative.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, Paul. Paul, Paul.

Paul Boag:
That’s not true.

Marcus Lillington:
So yes, what was it take – take time for generating ideas, basically what I’m saying is don’t just write your list of stuff and task one done, task two done, task three done, lunch, task four done, task five, take time to just sort of and if you’re like you, actually have, 3 o’clock is my ideas time.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes?

Paul Boag:
No, I’m not like that actually.

Marcus Lillington:
But or go for a walk at lunch time, because you’re more likely to come up with stuff.

Paul Boag:
You’re skipping ahead now. Yes you’ve got that as point five. So you see – out of your own list you’re just undermining your own list let alone mine.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. But do you agree? That you should…

Paul Boag:
I should totally – I totally agree. I think, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s good for you.

Paul Boag:
Now that was what I was going to get at, because I can totally see how it’s a valuable business strategy taking time – stepping out of the day to day work, looking at the bigger picture, allowing your mind to explore new areas, have new ideas, all that kind of stuff. Why do you feel that it’s good for you in terms of a like work life balance health thing?

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s more rewarding than just banging through tasks.

Paul Boag:
Slogging. Yes, you’re right.

Marcus Lillington:
I think. Maybe sometimes banging through tasks will get you what you’re trying to do, done more quickly, so you can go to the pub.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know. It just seems like …

Paul Boag:
And also I guess it allows – it allows opportunity for you to move beyond who you currently are. That sounds so pretentious. What I mean, it allows …

Marcus Lillington:
Shall I lie on the couch, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Well that’s partly what this episode’s about, but we don’t have a couch, not here anyway. So that’s – it’s an opportunity for you to explore other possibilities mentally. So am I still happy being here doing what I’m doing? Is there ways I could improve my job? Is there ways that I can make things more satisfying et cetera.

Marcus Lillington:
When I was talking with the drive to work thing, it’s not just talking about how can I make this proposal better, it is – it’s everything.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So and I think that is – yes, it’s …

Paul Boag:
It’s having the space.

Marcus Lillington:
Creative thinking but about everything you do, I think is healthy.

Paul Boag:
Yes. It’s having that space isn’t it? To kind of step back from the rat race, the mundane, everything needs to be done today, moving through tasks list to kind of – to look at the context in which you’re operating, because otherwise – and also I think if you don’t take time to sit back and look at the bigger picture to generate ideas…

Marcus Lillington:
I mean do you do this? Do you go for walks? I know that’s a different thing, but going for walks is another – there is another reason for doing that.

Paul Boag:
The car is another big one for me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, cars – that’s me, that’s my thinking place.

Paul Boag:
Another big one for me is when I sit and pray, because you’re almost having an internal monologue there anyway, so that tends to generate ideas. Shower, because there is nothing else you can do in a shower.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, bathroom in general.

Paul Boag:
The bathroom in general, yes, because there is very little you can do other than think and poop. Not in the shower by the way just …

Marcus Lillington:
I kind of quite like humming and singing a bit in the shower.

Paul Boag:
Yes, okay. Car driving, is the big one, isn’t it? Yes, which is probably why I got done for speeding to be honest.

Marcus Lillington:
And walking for me.

Paul Boag:
Walking, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
We will come on to that.

Paul Boag:
Well when I walk I’m often – I often walk with other people and people ruin everything, don’t they? They stop you thinking.

Marcus Lillington:
Can I add, which one – oh yes?

Paul Boag:
Don’t jump ahead.

Marcus Lillington:
Number five.

Paul Boag:
Yes, we’re not – do you want to make number five next?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
We’re going to see.

Paul Boag:
Let’s move to number two instead.

Marcus Lillington:
We need to have with dogs…

Paul Boag:
That’d be radical, oh with dogs, okay. Let’s move on to number two and actually do them in order for a change.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Have a system and stick to it

Paul Boag:
So next one – see this just sums up the difference …

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve just read this.

Paul Boag:
Yes. This sums up the difference between me and Marcus. Me and Marcus – Marcus is going, yes man, give yourself time to space out and think things through. My one is have a system and stick to it.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I’m just saying in your system that you need to have space in there to think.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Now that I agree with. No we do agree with that, but I’m a great believer. For me I get – again, it’s a different character thing, isn’t it? I get security from knowing things are – I’m a control freak basically, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I think I’m a bit as well in a different way.

Paul Boag:
Do you, really?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I like to be in charge, let’s put it that way. Is that the same thing, it’s not, is it?

Paul Boag:
No, that’s subtly different. I don’t think …

Marcus Lillington:
No, I like to get my own way. That’s the real truth of it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but you’re – but there is I think with you, there is very few things that you care about so deeply that you want your own way over it. I’m just thinking about the conversations right over the years between the three of us, the three directors. Chris will dig his heels in over something and he is a bulldog with it, and he won’t shift. I throw tantrums basically; you don’t do either of that.

Marcus Lillington:
I persuade you both you’re wrong.

Paul Boag:
You don’t mind.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I do. You just don’t realize.

Paul Boag:
I’m feeling manipulated now.

Marcus Lillington:
Not always, but …

Paul Boag:
See I would consider myself a control freak. You’re saying you’re a control freak, so how come the three of us can work together?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t think I’m a control freak. I just like to get my own way. We all do. All human beings like to get their own way. We may deal with it differently.

Paul Boag:
I guess, yes for me when I talk about being a control freak, I mean, I don’t like scenarios or situations where I don’t feel I have a handle on them. So your thing of – it goes back to what we were saying earlier, your thing of – well if there’s nothing you can do about it, hey whatever, see that kind of scenario, if there is nothing I can do about it scenario, then that makes me deeply uncomfortable. So that would be what I – well no it’s not entirely what I’m getting at. The other thing that I hate is things niggling at me the whole time. Oh, I must remember to do this or oh there is that to do or that …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s what lists are for.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and that’s what I’m kind of talking about here.

Marcus Lillington:
I have lists, I just kind of write them down, because I like doodling.

Paul Boag:
Yes and that’s fine.

Marcus Lillington:
And I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer a written list, because I like doodling and it’s weird, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t just doodle doodles; I doodle words around things as well. So it’s adding notes.

Paul Boag:
That’s the system as far as I’m concerned. I think what – the advice that I’m trying to give here is the sticking to it a bit. I think there is a lot of people that have different things all over the place. Oh I wrote stuff in a notebook back whenever and I haven’t written that down, I’m going to – I’m holding that random task in my head and I’ve got a telephone answerphone message that’s another task, and my inbox is full with all and there’s all this kind of stuff spread all over the place. And it’s that for me that creates anxiety and I accept not everybody is the same, but for me that increases my anxiety levels because I don’t feel in control of all these bits that are all over the place. While you don’t seem to care or do you – are you more organized than you appear from the outside?

Marcus Lillington:
I write lists.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Of stuff I have to do.

Paul Boag:
Right. And that’s all brought together, it’s not – when you talk about writing lists that into – in my head immediately conjures up lots of little lists of little things all over the place.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I have a big A4 notebook. And basically …

Paul Boag:
I should know this after 12 years.

Marcus Lillington:
… it’s made up of a list of to do’s usually with stuff all scribbled around it to the point you can’t read it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, well that’s fine.

Marcus Lillington:
Then a note – a page of notes from a call, three pages of notes for a meeting, a page of notes from a call and then that list again, different obviously because I’ve done some of it.

Paul Boag:
Right. Ah you see. Now that – yes, I wouldn’t like that personally, but then that’s fine, works for you doesn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. I do forget things though, because it’s not all connected to CRMs and diaries and all that kind of thing. But I don’t – but it’s rare. If I had them all – if I had a kind of job where I was having to sell three, four, five things a day, then that wouldn’t work.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
But when – if you have to sell, I don’t know, 12 things a year …

Paul Boag:
Yes, I hope you’re selling more than that, otherwise we’re stuffed, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
You know it probably does add up to about – of big projects …

Paul Boag:
Yes, big projects, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
… probably not even that, maybe 10. So if you can’t keep that in your head, then something is wrong with you.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s not – yes it’s …

Marcus Lillington:
So that it’s important – I need to get – somebody called me on Friday I need to get that done by Tuesday, I will actually write it down and I’ve used calendar invites and things like that.

Paul Boag:
And to be honest I kind of mean this in a broader sense as well, we’ve immediately gone into lists and GTD because we differ over. GTD being Getting Things Done by David Allen, it’s a book. I will put a link in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington:
It was far too much work to get that set up for me to ever consider it, seriously.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. I really don’t care about that. I don’t want to kind of get too hung up on that because I can get very opinionated. But it’s not just that, it’s even things like you’re process for operating as a company. Your process for building websites, have a system, have a – we have certain stages we always go through.

Marcus Lillington:
Couldn’t agree with that.

Paul Boag:
Because – you couldn’t agree?

Marcus Lillington:
I couldn’t agree more with that.

Paul Boag:
Oh right, fine, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Because I think that really it kind of – it takes the mental pressure of having to reinvent the wheel every time you do something. Now you have to be flexible enough to accept that you’re not going to do it exactly the same way every time as …

Marcus Lillington:
And that you can improve it.

Paul Boag:
Yes and it can be improved and should be improved as you go, but just having some kind of framework, a starting point and that applies on so many different levels, whether you’re talking about a framework or a starting point in how you organize projects, in how you organize your code, in how you approach design, in how you do user testing and all of these different areas of life. I think systems – having a system is a short cut. It’s a way of saying I don’t need to think too much about that and it – for me it takes the strain off.

Marcus Lillington:
And I think – I can’t argue with it. You’re absolutely right.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Let’s move on to number three then.

Vary your working location

Marcus Lillington:
This may be the longest show we’ve done for a long time.

Paul Boag:
That’s alright.

Marcus Lillington:
So we’re on number three and we’re all …

Paul Boag:
I will tell you something when me and Andy did Unfinished Business we did a show where we were talking about – we were talking a bit about stress and strain, one of the most popular shows he has ever done. I think people – there are a lot of people in our industry who are knackered basically, who find …

Marcus Lillington:
Wimps all of them.

Paul Boag:
Well that includes me then, you ignorant shit. Go on then.

Marcus Lillington:
Any opportunity for comedy, Paul, come on. Need to go with it.

Paul Boag:
This is a serious issue, we’re talking about mental health issues.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, okay. Yes.

Paul Boag:
I’m very tempted to turn around and say look people have committed suicide because they’ve struggled in this area.

Marcus Lillington:
In every industry on the planet.

Paul Boag:
I know.

Marcus Lillington:
Right. Here we go, number three.

Paul Boag:
Go on with the number three.

Marcus Lillington:
This is one of mine.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Vary your working location. I don’t just mean between your home office and your office. I also mean embrace opportunities to go and see clients and not necessarily – and that might be just to have a meeting with them, but it’s great to go and I guess to see new people as well is important here but I’ve used the location here. It’s I just – I can’t say why it’s good for you, but I think it is.

Paul Boag:
It is brilliant. It is so important – work down the coffee shop, in the summer go out and sit in the grass and work, move around. In fact I regularly, my wife takes the mickey out of me, because I regularly rearrange my office. Just to change the working environment.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t. Well I could, but it would be really hard.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s just like I’ve got so much stuff all like ground into one place. It’s like – I was actually thinking about this yesterday because I’ve got a curved desk you know one sort of wide at this end that goes down the side and I thought to myself do you know what I’d really like to sit and look straight out of the window, but at the moment I’m kind of like that. And that would mean I would have to get a new desk.

Paul Boag:
Yes. But my wife says to me things like what are you doing out here? You’ve got a really nice office, get back in there. It’s like I just want to sit somewhere else and I had such a long suffering boss at IBM. And I’m not kidding you I used to, sometimes I would sit and work on top of the cupboard, sometimes I would sit under the table and work. I’m too old for that now. But just to change your perspective to change your environment and I don’t know, it is really good. I think it – you can become very morose I think in a consistent environment or not – the idea of sitting at one desk all day, looking at a computer, five days a week it’s not good for you, is it? You’re mixing up. It’s so good.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I used to – excuse me, we used to work before we got the office in Southampton, we would work five days a week from home and – I would go out and see clients, but it just got to the point when I started to get a bit stir crazy and it’s great now, because I can do a bit of both. And I get to go and see clients as well.

Paul Boag:
I mean, I know I don’t come into this office very much, but I wouldn’t go a whole week sitting at home working. There is an air field up the road with a coffee shop, You can go and sit up there and watch the planes take off and land and work and of course we’ve got a motorhome so we go away in that and I will sit and work in that. And that’s the great thing now, we’ve all got mobile phones you could tether your data and as long as you find a place with a reasonable 3G, off you go.

Marcus Lillington:
But coming here is great. I love this place.

Paul Boag:
You do, don’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. I really like Winchester as well.

Paul Boag:
Well, Winchester is very nice.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not just the office; it’s just it’s a nice place to come.

Paul Boag:
It is.

Marcus Lillington:
Pain in the ass to park, you have to get in early, but other than that it’s – but I’m always out of the door by 5 because I’ve got in here for 8 so I don’t care, it’s fine.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. So yes varying your work location is very good I think for long-term kind of health and sanity really. And I feel sorry for people that are kind of expected to be in the office and sit at their desk everyday; I don’t think that is particularly …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I think it’s even worse if you’re at home on your own all day.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yes. Because …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the one that goes completely mad.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I think – again to some degree that depends on the kind of character you are. You’re an extrovert. You’re somebody that gains energy from being with other people. While I think despite the image I project I think I’m an introvert in the sense that – Sam Barnes was talking about this at a conference I was at recently. Actually the definition of introvert and extrovert is not what you think. An extrovert is somebody that gains energy from being around other people, an introvert is somebody who loses energy from being around other people. And I think I’m naturally an introvert. So in other words, I enjoy being with people, but I will always go away feeling tired from it. It was a tiring experience spending time with people. So from my point of view the sitting at home alone isn’t such a big deal, but the change of physical environment is I think.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. What’s next on the list, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Have friends outside the industry

Yes, this one is have friends outside the industry which …

Marcus Lillington:
I didn’t join the industry until I was about 35.

Paul Boag:
So you have no friends in the industry? Probably that isn’t far from the truth. You have work colleagues.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t have friends like – of my very closest friends, none of them are in this industry.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so the same would be true with me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And I think that is massively healthy. I think it’s healthy and I think it’s good for your business as well, because I look at – I know people that live in Web hotspots, places like Brighton or San Francisco whatever, and all of their friends are other geeks, other people in the industry, and not only does that mean you spend most of your time talking about …

Marcus Lillington:
Paul, let me stop just there. This will make you laugh.

Paul Boag:
Go on then.

Marcus Lillington:
Amongst my friends, I’m the geek.

Paul Boag:
Yes, no that doesn’t surprise me. That’s really quite funny mind. I love the thought of you being the geek.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, they asked me how to fix things.

Paul Boag:
Do you actually know how to answer them mind?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, just like give them any old shit.

Paul Boag:
They don’t know. Yes, so in these kind of tech hotspots they don’t have friends outside the industry and I think it’s damaging for a couple of reasons. One I think it’s damaging because you forget what real people are like. Do you know what I mean? And how – I mean if I think of some of the mates that I go down the pub with, they can barely use their iPhone. You know the device we say oh a toddler can pick it up and use it? Yeah a toddler can because it knows no different and has not got preconceptions and isn’t got past their learning peak. You give that to a middle aged man and they will struggle to use even an iPhone. So that I think is one thing. And then also I think there is this thing that you’re never not talking about worky stuff? You’re always talking about something geeky or we’re doing this cool hack day or whatever. Yes, it is cool, but there is a bigger world. There are other things and I can’t – I’m someone I don’t think there are many people that are more geeky and more nerdy than I am. You know I’m right up there. But even so, I think I want to step away from it and I think it’s healthy to step away from that world and to participate in the rest of the world and also to interact with people that aren’t like you, I think is a healthy rounded individual.

Marcus Lillington:
Definitely, people – the people who work in this company, sat out there now have this assumption about internet usage and things like that.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Nobody uses the internet like we do.

Paul Boag:
They just don’t know and not even …

Marcus Lillington:
For example, one example …

Paul Boag:
Because it’s not even just things that, it’s like everybody in the Web design industry are quite liberal. We tend to be a liberal leaning industry. I actually think it’s quite healthy to have some of those bigoted friends, bigoted right-wing friends …

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got a few of those.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so have I. And actually it can be hugely amusing, but also it can stretch your view of the world. It makes you get out of your little filter bubble.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, this goes back to my – I think even before we got on the points about – what was it about – what was the – I’ve interrupted you there Paul, and I’ve completely forgotten the point.

Paul Boag:
For no good reason whatsoever.

Marcus Lillington:
It will come back. It will come back.

Paul Boag:
And knowing people of different ages as well. That I’ve got friends that are 20 years younger than me who think I’m an old man, and equally I’ve got friends …

Marcus Lillington:
You are Paul.

Paul Boag:
… that are 20 – no, not quite 20 years, but 10 years plus older than me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Most of my friends are older than me. But not all of them.

Paul Boag:
Well, that’s why you’re the young geek then.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’ve a got a few that are actually, yes, suppose we’re all much of a muchness, it all averages out.

Paul Boag:
Yes,

Marcus Lillington:
But yes what was the point? It was about being able to see the other side of the argument. That’s what I was doing. I was talking about that, if you’re looking at something you need to be able to weigh things up. And knowing someone who is a bit of a fascist can kind of help you view things from a different view point.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. And it applies I think this is …

Marcus Lillington:
Good for having arguments with them, because you can bring up things – you can bring up some great things.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Your love for Red Ken and things like that.

Paul Boag:
Yes, yes and how immigrants have added a lot to the British society and …

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And your great great great grandfather was almost certainly an immigrant, that’s a great one, that one.

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly. Yes they like that. And it applies to any subculture. Whatever subculture you exist in, it’s healthy to have relationships with people outside of that subculture. So very good. Right. Finally, we get to Marcus’s point five.

Spend time outdoors

Marcus Lillington:
This was about spend time outdoors. Go and play on the climbing frame.

Paul Boag:
You go – go on.

Marcus Lillington:
And spend time outdoors with your dogs. I’ve …

Paul Boag:
Do we have to get dogs?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, you said – the reason with your dogs I’ve added that, because you said I often go out for walks with people and they just get in the way of…

Paul Boag:
Yes, they do.

Marcus Lillington:
… my thought process. Dogs, you talk to them.

Paul Boag:
Yes. It’s good.

Marcus Lillington:
And they just nod basically, absolutely.

Paul Boag:
It’s like me and my prayer life, talking to god, he just nods. You talk to dogs?

Marcus Lillington:
I do talk to dogs.

Paul Boag:
It’s all the same. And in fact I find it very interesting that god and dog are interchangeable words.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go.

Paul Boag:
I think there’s probably a deep message there somewhere.

Marcus Lillington:
No one has worked this out before.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
We have found the answer.

Paul Boag:
We are the first people to ever put it together.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
So the answer is, if you want some space, either talk to god or a dog.

Marcus Lillington:
Or a dog.

Paul Boag:
Interchangeable.

Marcus Lillington:
I took the dogs out this morning in the dark. That’s not good.

Paul Boag:
Yes that’s depressing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes Caroline’s not well.

Paul Boag:
See that’s my problem with taking dogs is that they have to be walked. So well it’s both a good thing and the bad thing, isn’t it? About …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a good thing.

Paul Boag:
… going for walks, because it makes you go for a walk.

Marcus Lillington:
Because if it was like – it doesn’t really matter whether they do or not, you wouldn’t walk them. Well lots of people wouldn’t.

Paul Boag:
So you wouldn’t have that time.

Marcus Lillington:
They’d just get walked on Sunday or…

Paul Boag:
So I mean I think the thing here, the reason we say this because we kind of all know yes, we should do exercise, we tell ourselves that, but none of us actually do it.

Marcus Lillington:
I take the dogs out. That’s my exercise.

Paul Boag:
Yes, even – that’s my point here is that even just going for a walk, that will do. It’s a starting point, it’s a new habit. And of course you get the fresh air and you’re getting the sunlight. Which especially at this time of the year as we go into the winter, is an important thing. So yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I mean last winter was hard work having dogs, because we had – it basically rained a huge thunderstorm every other day. And it was basically – we had a quagmire everywhere. But you still have to take them out.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I need to get dog. I would love a dog.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re great. How could you not have a dog? I wish Chris was – Chris doesn’t like dogs.

Paul Boag:
No, I don’t understand that.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve never gotten to the bottom of why.

Paul Boag:
I think some childhood trauma.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m certain of it.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
He really doesn’t like them

Paul Boag:
No, he doesn’t.

Marcus Lillington:
… doesn’t get the connection between humans and animals full stop. It’s like dogs were our companions to kind of guard the fort at night and …

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s a very primeval relationship between man and dogs.

Marcus Lillington:
He just doesn’t get it at all, he is an academic, that’s what it is.

Paul Boag:
My problem with dogs …

Marcus Lillington:
They smell?

Paul Boag:
No, I don’t – yes, that is …

Marcus Lillington:
I like that smell, but they …

Paul Boag:
That is part of it, if I’m honest. But then if you’re living with them, you – I imagine you stop smelling it.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course.

Paul Boag:
If that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington:
But I actually like smelling dogs.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Not old ones.

Paul Boag:
There’s an overheard tweet for someone. Please someone tweet that. Marcus 67 …

Marcus Lillington:
I think they smell great. I don’t know why.

Paul Boag:
That is peculiar.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. And they can smell like damp sheep if they’ve been out in the rain, but just in their sort of normal state, I think it’s a lovely smell.

Paul Boag:
It’s not that, no. It is – I’m just not responsible enough.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course you are, you’ve got a child for goodness sake.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but a child kind of – you get taken to prison, I suppose you can take into prison if you don’t look after a dog. Yes, I just don’t know – the thing with a child is that eventually it grows up and looks after itself, a dog never does really.

Marcus Lillington:
But the dog dies before it gets to the age that a child does that.

Paul Boag:
Oh, okay.

Marcus Lillington:
So if you look at from that point of view.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
And they grow up within about three months?

Paul Boag:
The other major problem, the more serious problem that prevents me, because I’ve always wanted a dog, is that my wife is highly allergic to them.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, that’s not fair then. You can’t do it.

Paul Boag:
No, I know.

Marcus Lillington:
Although there are less allergic dogs than others.

Paul Boag:
Yes. See I’m allergic to some dogs, but not like she is.

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t get a Labrador.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Much as they’re lovely. All of these new dogs like – I’ve got a Labradoodle.

Paul Boag:
This has got nothing to do with the show. Just for a moment I forgot we were doing a podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there you go. They’re the best ones. He – all of these dogs that are crossed with poodles are so they don’t molt, and they molt a little tiny bit, but it’s the hair that you’re allergic to.

Paul Boag:
It’s – the dog I’d want is a collie you see.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re pretty furry.

Paul Boag:
They’re pretty furry.

Marcus Lillington:
Like a Labrador, get fur everywhere. Golden Retriever is the worst of all. We’ve had a few of those.

Paul Boag:
So we’re saying spend time more outdoors, it’ll make you fitter, it’ll help your mental wellbeing and it’ll stop you being a saddo.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. And the whole – this whole thing is about stopping you being a saddo really.

Paul Boag:
And it goes back to your point. One about it’s a time to step away and generate ideas and think about things. Yes, it gives you the space you need. A lot of this is about space, isn’t it? A lot of it is giving yourself time to decompress and I think a lot of people gets stuck with this idea of – especially freelancers, right. Especially when the pressure is on, you’re worried about bringing in the money, you work and work and work and work and work and work and work. But actually the more hours you work the more inefficient you become, because you’re not giving yourself time to charge. So actually you can get into this vicious cycle and I know a lot of people that work ridiculously long hours, but actually aren’t achieving that much.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe they’re just a bit thick.

Paul Boag:
Could be. Could be. I was thinking about …

Marcus Lillington:
Or they just sit around a lot.

Paul Boag:
I was thinking about you actually Marcus. Right, let’s move on to number six, because this is taking way too long.

Control your communication channels

This is another boring sensible one, all of Marcus’ are airy fairy and all of mine are boringly practical. Control your communication channels. Don’t yawn?

Marcus Lillington:
Turn the phone off.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Turn the phone off. Only check e-mail a couple of days. Don’t have instant messengers.

Marcus Lillington:
Every couple of days?

Paul Boag:
No, couple of – twice a day I meant.

Marcus Lillington:
Alright.

Paul Boag:
Only – don’t have social networks open the whole time. This is kind of basic stuff, because I think …

Marcus Lillington:
I agree with the latter.

Paul Boag:
I mean, obviously for you it’s different. Your job is the phone and it is email. But if you’re going to call yourself …

Marcus Lillington:
I turn off slack when I’m really busy.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so do I.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I do it.

Paul Boag:
Yes. But if you’re any kind of designer or developer, you need chunks of time where you can focus and work. Every phone call, every email is an interruption. It breaks your flow. It will increase your stress levels. I think our whole culture has been ruined by notifications. I just like …

Marcus Lillington:
This is your right wing fascist friend. That’s the kind of thing they say. Mobile phones, ever since the mobile phone, it’s…

Paul Boag:
No, no. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that with any new technology, you need to learn how to use it properly. How to get – there is nothing wrong with the technology itself, it’s how you choose to use it. And you shouldn’t be sitting in bed at night trying to wind down reading a book and your mobile phone goes ping next to you every 30 seconds, because that will just – it will blow you. It will distract you, you’ll find yourself checking work emails at 10 o’clock at night, it’s got to stop. That’s what do not disturb is for on your phone, that’s what muting is for your phone. In fact, more and more I just turn off notifications full stop. I specially turn off those little red badges on the iPhone, because they drive me nuts. I have to get rid of the red badges.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t get rid of the red badge on Shazam. I don’t know – I’ve turned, I thought I’d turned off all notifications from Shazam. It’s just annoying, because it goes [beep] every morning.

Paul Boag:
Just delete it. Delete it.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t want to delete Shazam.

Paul Boag:
You can delete it, do you want to know why? Because you can just ask Siri now.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes you can ask Siri that’s true.

Paul Boag:
Got Shazam built in.

Marcus Lillington:
I will do that then.

Paul Boag:
Yes, good plan.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
But you’ve got to say this is sensible stuff. So whether you’re – when you’re at work, minimize them as much as you can. When you’re outside of work, you shouldn’t be listening to them at all.

Marcus Lillington:
This is part of your have a system and stick to it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, maybe.

Marcus Lillington:
Part of your system is to turn shit off.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but then you could include absolutely everything in the system comment, can you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Right, number seven, this is my favorite one out of your list, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Take regular holidays

Number seven, I had an extraordinarily long pause there. I was enjoying myself. Having a bit of a think. Taking time in between segments of the show.

Paul Boag:
And you took a whole holiday.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, take regular holidays.

Paul Boag:
Amen.

Marcus Lillington:
I mean, what I mean by that is obviously have holidays cost money, so some people might go oh I haven’t got enough money to go on holiday, if that’s the case then I guess go camping once a year.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it doesn’t need to be …

Marcus Lillington:
I’d rather die, but …

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. It doesn’t need to be kind of going to the Maldives. It means getting into a situation where you’re just not working and you’re not interrupted by work and work is out – preferably go somewhere with no mobile signal. I’m a great fan of that.

Marcus Lillington:
To be honest I’m not so bothered about that, my reason for adding this is to have something to look forward too.

Paul Boag:
See that was very different.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the reason in there for me, because one tends to book a holiday, the holiday that’s coming up now in two weeks time Paul, that one we booked pretty much a year-ago.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and you got a years’ worth of enjoyment, haven’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, going away and all this kind of stuff. Obviously the time away is great for recharging and all that kind of thing and nearly everyone comes back from a holiday feeling like oh, let’s get back into something whatever that is. But no, the reason I put it in this list is to have something to look forward to. I think that’s really important.

Paul Boag:
It is. You do and that kind of almost gets into another point which we haven’t really covered which is having some kind of reward system. Working …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, chocolate, cups of tea, that’s my reward system.

Paul Boag:
Yes, do you know my wife when she was doing her A levels, used to have a reward system of a Mars bar at the end of every week.

Marcus Lillington:
Every week?

Paul Boag:
I know I thought that was very controlled.

Marcus Lillington:
Blimey that’s a bit puritanical.

Paul Boag:
I know. One every day maybe.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I don’t know what – one every module of homework I’ve done, I don’t know what – yes, but I totally agree. You need something – you need a reward. This – work without reward is soulless. Even if it’s completely artificial, it doesn’t need to be a monetary reward.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, your holiday can be something that you spend your money that you work hard to get.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a big reward.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. But also I think – the other thing with holidays as you touched on it is that just time to recharge. And this I think a lot of people don’t get it’s like some of the guys here. They don’t take their holiday. And I really wish they would. To the point where I want them to go on holiday and be really frustrated, they’re not at work, right? Do you know what I mean? Because sometimes I’m like that on a holiday, get to a point. Get towards the end and it’s like I want to get back into it. I think that is a really healthy feeling. To get to that point where you’re missing work. I think people should be forced to take holiday.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m not currently at that point.

Paul Boag:
No, neither am I. But you haven’t been on holiday yet.

Marcus Lillington:
No, exactly. I’m going to be irritating in December. Look at the photos, we did this! Actually when Caroline Skyped me early, I have to keep it in now. It was something to do with us going on holiday. She is moaning that she is not allowed to wear shorts and vests to Angkor Wat, the temples.

Paul Boag:
Oh, right. Yes, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s – yes.

Paul Boag:
A Muslim temple.

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s not, is it?

Paul Boag:
No? What would it be?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s Buddhist I assume or something like that out there.

Paul Boag:
Dressing up with respect.

Marcus Lillington:
I know.

Paul Boag:
There you go.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly, that’s the kind of thing.

Paul Boag:
Yes, suck it up. Yes, I think taking regular holidays is a really good one.

Find people you can talk to

Okay, my next one is find people you can talk to.

Marcus Lillington:
It goes back to dogs and god. Come on.

Paul Boag:
No, it doesn’t.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it does.

Paul Boag:
We are not talking about dogs or god or god dogs. That’s Egyptian I’m sure. Or wasn’t it cats they fancied?

Marcus Lillington:
I think they had a bit of both.

Paul Boag:
Bit of both. They’d swing either way.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
No, what I’m talking about here – Marcus cover your ears a minute.

Marcus Lillington:
Am I going to laugh?

Paul Boag:
No, it’s for me …

Marcus Lillington:
What is the actual thing you said here?

Paul Boag:
Oh, did I not say? Find people you can talk to. I did say that.

Marcus Lillington:
Did you? Okay, I wasn’t listening.

Paul Boag:
For me I think if it hadn’t been for you and Chris, I wouldn’t – this would have gone years ago. I couldn’t – I need people that are in the same situation with the same struggles that I can talk to and unload on. So it’s great …

Marcus Lillington:
The people that run companies on their own, I think – that’s an impressive thing.

Paul Boag:
It is.

Marcus Lillington:
You have to be determined to the point of unpleasantness. I have used that in the past. There is that thing about success can often breed unpleasantness. I think it’s, yes, you have to almost like lie to yourself, in situations like that. So we’re very lucky.

Paul Boag:
We are very lucky. But even if – like I was meeting somebody earlier that works in a county council, right. She is the head of the web team in a county council. And she meets up with other heads of web teams in county councils, so she has got nobody like Marcus or Chris or me, but she has got people in other places that she can talk to that have similar experiences. So she is almost the flipside of what I was saying about having friends outside of the industry. I think you actually also want friends inside the industry. You need even – and I think that works on multiple levels, I think if you’re running your own business, it’s great. If you’ve got co-founders you can share with, I know that doesn’t always work out well, sometimes it can backfire. But we’ve been very lucky with that. But if you haven’t got that, then find yourself a mentor. Find yourself – not even a mentor, that sounds so pretentious.

Marcus Lillington:
You have a mentor, a muse.

Paul Boag:
Somebody you can share your experiences with, because the truth is – you can have people, you can have your friends outside of the industry that are as supportive as anything. But they’re not going to get it. And you might have friends that are employees or colleagues at work, but they’re not going to get it necessarily, because they’re not doing what you’re doing. So you need to find somebody in a similar position to you that you can talk to regularly. Right, number nine.

Keep your hours short, but work hard

Marcus Lillington:
Number nine apparently is one of mine.

Paul Boag:
It is.

Marcus Lillington:
But you’ve reworded it, because I did not write those words.

Paul Boag:
I have reworded it – what did you write? Let’s have a look at what you wrote and then we will compare to see how badly I reworded it.

Marcus Lillington:
I wrote …

Paul Boag:
Don’t pretend that drinking tea is working, which I thought was a shit. I can’t put that in the show notes. Go on, what did you mean by that?

Marcus Lillington:
Remember earlier on when I said that I persuade you to do things and it happens. What I want happens? And you don’t realize. That’s a good example of it.

Paul Boag:
But what’s your – I don’t – I’m not following this at all. Explain to me what you’re getting at?

Marcus Lillington:
I’m saying that you didn’t want me to say don’t pretend that [drinking] tea isn’t working, but I made – I said it anyway.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’m fine. Now it’s – no it’s not that I didn’t want you saying it. I just want you to explain what the hell you’re talking about.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, you translated that, as keep your hours short, but work hard. Not that I disagree with that, because I wish I could.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
On that front, what I kind of meant was – I meant exactly that, actually come to think of it. It’s …

Paul Boag:
So I was right all along.

Marcus Lillington:
You were right yes.

Paul Boag:
You can waste a lot of time faffing.

Marcus Lillington:
You can procrastinate can’t you and just go ner-ner and making tea is a bad example. But don’t pretend that researching websites is working, because when you’re just looking at Facebook it isn’t.

Paul Boag:
Because you can …

Marcus Lillington:
You’re wasting your time, basically is what I’m trying to say and that isn’t healthy.

Paul Boag:
Because you’d be better off, the way I interpret that is you can spend hours kind of going – faffing around. And you think I could have spent that time in the pub.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re throwing your life away. Exactly.

Paul Boag:
Which wouldn’t have been throwing my life away.

Marcus Lillington:
Or out talking to the dogs.

Paul Boag:
Or out walking the dogs or talking to the dogs or whatever it is we do with the dogs, and you’ve spend that time faffing around. Now I guess it’s – I can kind of understand it more if you’re an employee of a company and you have to sit at your desk for eight hours.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly. That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
If you must be here between 9 o’clock – to a certain extent I tend to do the same hours every day. I quite like that.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but that’s fine if you’re actually working those hours.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
See what I do …

Marcus Lillington:
Talking to myself here, because I’ve got a bad habit myself of like uhmmm…

Paul Boag:
Oh right.

Marcus Lillington:
20 minutes later – haven’t really done anything for 20 minutes.

Paul Boag:
If I get, I have …

Marcus Lillington:
And it annoys me and I wish I didn’t do it. That’s why it’s in the list.

Paul Boag:
I have periods of time or we all have periods of time when we kind of go up and down and sometimes we’re more productive and we sit down and just power through it and other times we don’t. On those times when I don’t, that’s where I use the Pomodoro Technique, working in 25 minute sprint. And I reward myself for doing that, because that’s a very intense way of working. By saying, alright I’m only going to do 12 sprints in a day which works out at six hours. So I do a shorter day, but it’s very intensive. And then the reward I get is two hours of playing Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and whatever I want that’s extra to that. So it is about – I’d prefer to get the work done, go and have fun than kind of faff around for a bit and maybe do it, because basically there is – if I’m going to waste time, there are lot more fun things I’d like to waste time on than looking at Facebook or Twitter.

Marcus Lillington:
I agree.

Paul Boag:
But it’s giving yourself permission to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’m telling myself that actually.

Paul Boag:
Where that one falls down other than the working from somebody else where you have to be there for eight hours, where that falls down is you go, you work really intensely and you just think and you do it to get more done. So you end up working longer hours and that destroys the whole principle, because then you just burn yourself out. You’ve got to work for a short length of time, then go and have fun. And that kind of brings us very nicely on to the last point.

Don’t expect to work like a machine

For me this is kind of all summed up by the post that I’ve written for Smashing Magazine, which is going to come out this week and I will put a link in the show notes, if it’s come out by the time this goes out, which is don’t expect – don’t treat yourself like a machine.

Marcus Lillington:
Even if your employer does.

Paul Boag:
Yes, even if your employer us, because the truth is that human beings don’t operate like machines. They don’t work consistently over a period of time and I’m talking at the kind of micro and macro level here. So even within a day we have – there is a special kind of rhythm, there is a name for it that escapes me, but anyway we work through this rhythm of hour and a half cycles of up and down, up and down through the day. So there’s that kind of level, but also there is the kind of lifestyle level that you do not work consistently. You will have and we were saying this on the Unfinished Business podcast, both me and Andy. Sometimes we have a couple of weeks of just nothing comes, nothing happens. It’s a pain to kind of go through that and to drag yourself through that. And sometimes yes, sure you have to power through it have to – something has to be done. But it’s also okay to cut yourself some slack and say it’s not happening at the moment, because I often think if you give in to it, and go it’s not happening at the moment, you recover and get back into your stream much quicker. I often think it with illness as well, right. If you get a cold, those people that will kind of soldier on through. I’m going to go into work anyway and spread my disease to everybody. But I think it takes them a lot longer to recover, because they’re pushing their body the whole time. And I think that applies mentally as well. I think if you go down, if you’re tired, then you’re better off taking a break for a while and then coming back to it rather than this thinking all the time, we must work in this very regimented manner.

Marcus Lillington:
Well that’s the very manly, macho way to do it.

Paul Boag:
I think it’s bollocks, because we’re not machines. I’m a big girl’s blouse. And I’m quite happy to admit that and I will go up and down, but I …

Marcus Lillington:
People will be saying oh, but that’s all very well for you. You can do that, but I can’t do that because I’m in a team of five people and I work for the big man.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. And I can kind of accept that and your big man is a twat, if he doesn’t realize that to be quite frank.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there’s lots of them out there.

Paul Boag:
Yes. And I would encourage you to go and find it. If your boss is really that draconian, you need to do one or two things. You need to either stand up to them, fight, or you need to go somewhere else, fly. And I can give you a specific instance of this with Mr. Andrew Linden-Staggs [ph] back in the day, when I eventually had to turn around to that guy and say if you treat me like that again, I’m going to leave.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s true. But you’re looking at the world in you’re very black-and-white, Paul, because someone might just be an arse about that but in many other ways they’re a superb person to work for.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. Yes, of course. But I do think it’s …

Marcus Lillington:
Or you might have – every aspect they might be an arse but they only dip into your life once in a blue moon.

Paul Boag:
Well, if they dipping in once in a blue moon, it’s not a problem, is it? Because you just have to be busy when they dip in. But it is – I think it’s a very valid thing. I think we have this expectation that we work at consistent rates and we just don’t. So that’s a very long podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
It is a very long podcast.

Paul Boag:
But a good podcast and I hope people found it useful.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Even lost ourselves there briefly, forgot what we were doing.

Paul Boag:
We forgot we were doing a podcast which is always a good thing. Podcast – a joke, even.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. I should apologize up front for this joke.

Paul Boag:
As soon as you have to apologize for one, then that’s a problem.

Marcus Lillington:
This is from Matt Early [ph], okay? Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked why he still hadn’t upgraded to Windows 8. He replied, I still love Vista baby.

Paul Boag:
I really shouldn’t laugh at that. But it was actually quite good. That’s Marcus and his joke. Thank you very much for listening to this week’s show. We will be back again next week where we will be doing some more waffle.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Talk to you then. Bye

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Links mentioned in the show

  • I may be slightly biased on the subject (my employees get unlimited PTO), but I don’t think that unlimited PTO has to create a culture of guilt or “work until you drop”. I feel that company culture drives whether unlimited PTO is healthy or hurtful, rather than the other way around.

    My team definitely takes fewer sick/vacation days than some of my friends at companies with accrued PTO, but this is more because they genuinely enjoy the work, rather than a feeling that they have to work. (Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan has been hugely inspirational to me on that point. Ironically, his company has accrued PTO.)

    My wife also has pointed out that working within a system of limited accrued PTO introduces stress about not having enough of it, especially since illness is rather difficult to plan, which is contrary to a healthy work-life balance.

  • Regarding changing your workstation, I think that is why a lot of companies have lots of stuff at their offices. They have desks and couches and rooms that employees could use to vary their workspace. I think it’s a great idea because you don’t have to go home and leave the office to change things up. It keeps culture going and you increase productivity. We are about to move offices (on monday actually) and I am excited for new workspace opportunities and bigger windows.

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