This week on the Boagworld Show we discuss staying motivated during the daily grind with Leigh Howells… not that I am implying Leigh Howells makes work a daily grind… um… perhaps I should record this.
We are also sponsored by FreeAgent, accounting software for small businesses and freelancers, recommended by 99.5% of its users, including me.
Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com the podcast— actually no I can’t be bothered.
Leigh: That was slightly lacklustre.
Paul: Yes, we doing a podcast on being motivated and as you so beautifully put it earlier Leigh when I invited you on the show, it’s like bleurgh.
Leigh: Oh I see, you are stealing my joke.
Paul: Yes, that’s how it works, did you not know?
Marcus: Paul is the boss, he can do what he likes.
Paul: Well I’m not the boss any more, I’m just the boss of me.
Marcus: You are the boss of the podcast.
Paul: Ohh, am I really? That’s good. I didn’t know that. So as you have gathered that we have got Leigh Howells on the show.
Paul: He was very much a backup option, let’s be honest.
Leigh: Yes, the full-back, stand in guy is here again.
Paul: Because I mean it was supposed to be Cameron Mole.
Leigh: Can you cheer up and sound more happy?
Paul: No. I am disappointed because Cameron is not here. And I got to settle for you.
Marcus: So all that stuff last time Leigh, about how you always going to be on the first show of every series because you are the most important… It’s all lies?
Paul: Of course it is. Surely he realises that when I said it?
Leigh: I don’t believe a word you say Paul, generally.
Marcus: Who does?
Paul: Hello, it’s good to have you back Leigh.
Leigh: Are you now lying better?
Paul: I was lying before when I was being unhappy. You see this week’s show, first of all dear listener, Cameron can’t be here. He has a personal thing he has to deal with which I think is code for, I don’t really want to go on the show and I’m going to see if I can put him off and avoid it. That’s what I think.
Marcus: Okay. Be best not go along that line any further.
Paul: Marcus obviously really believes that. No he’s only booked in, he’s booked in for episode eight, so we will get him on the show but he had stuffy had to do today. You know you get emergencies come up and you can’t get around them. So cameras not with us today but we have Leigh on instead which is much better. We’ve changed the topic of this show, because today it was supposed to be about craftsmanship and really
Marcus: That’s not you is it Leigh?
Paul: Leigh doesn’t know anything about that.
Marcus: It’s getting worse.
Paul: But I thought what does Leigh know about? And I thought well, out of everyone I know he’s probably the best procrastinator of anyone I’ve ever met.
Leigh: Ohh, that’s vicious.
Paul: And so I will share with him some of my top tips for staying motivated.
Leigh: Oh I see the angle now, you are going to motivate me on this show?
Paul: Yes. I think you need some motivation, is where I am going with this.
Leigh: I thought you wanted me to share my motivational tips. Which was a bit of a worry to be honest.
Paul: Well I thought the season is supposed to be about passion, is supposed to be about success and it’s supposed to be about motivation and we haven’t done much motivation yet. So I wanted to look at that and share some motivational ideas, talk about how we remain motivated as— let’s be honest—when you reach our age you stop caring. So we’ll talk about how you keep caring anyway.
But before we go onto that, I’ve got a problem. I am missing you guys. To be more specific, I am missing Chris. I need to come back to Headscape, it’s all gone horribly wrong.
Marcus: I don’t believe a word of it.
Leigh: Unless you spent all the money Paul. Is that what you’ve done?
Paul: Yes that’s pretty much played done.
Marcus: Oh I see.
Paul: So I went out spending today.
Marcus: But that normally makes you happy Paul?
Paul: I know, but I shouldn’t have. You know how you kind of talk yourself around to doing things?
Marcus: Well yes, always. ‘Needed for the business, testing’ and all things like that.
Paul: Exactly. So a little while ago I bought a DLSR and when I bought it I was torn between a DLSR to do all the video stuff I do— you know I do lots of video stuff— and also but then there was this really sexy little Sony job that wasn’t quite appropriate for the video work. So I bought the DLSR and I did the sensible thing and then I came back from Thailand, as it took the DLSR to Thailand, and it’s a brilliant and really good camera but it’s a bit heavy and bit awkward. When I got back I try to set it up again for the video work and it took me at least 20 minutes to get it back the way it was.
Marcus: That long? Wow.
Paul: Yes I know. So the only thing I can conclude is that I can’t be faffing around with this every time so I’m going to have to buy myself a little sexy Sony camera to.
Marcus: I did the same.
Leigh: Yes that’s justified beautifully.
Paul: So I just put it on the business because there isn’t Chris to stop me. And this is the problem.
Marcus: Ah yes, this is the problem. I love my little Fuji film camera that I bought myself because lugging around one of those great big DSLRs is just a pain.
Paul: It is. I’d like to think I’m the kind of photographer that would do that but to be frank, I’m just not that good.
Marcus: No me neither. Snap, snap, that’s all I need.
Paul: Yes. I bet you’ve got a DSLR, I bet Leigh carries a DSLR around?
Leigh: I have and I will continue because there’s something about looking through the viewfinder, I need to hide behind a camera.
Paul: Ahh, now that’s what I like about this little Sony one. It’s got a pop-up viewfinder.
Leigh: No it’s not big enough though, it just doesn’t hide you very well.
Paul: No it doesn’t, this is true. No certainly when I next go to a wedding I will be taking the DSLR.
Leigh: And you need to look like you are using a proper camera if you are going to sit behind the viewfinder otherwise you are looking like you are looking through a viewfinder on your phone which is a bit weird.
Marcus: My one looks like a proper camera with a viewfinder and it’s basically so when you are out in bright sunlight you can actually see what you are taking.
Paul: Yes viewfinder’s are very important. Also the other problem is that one advantage the DSLR’s do have over the little Sony camera is that you can buy ridiculously big lenses.
Marcus: Well yes, but then that just adds to the luggery, doesn’t it? That’s the problem. I got a bag with about four lenses and it weighs about a stone.
Paul: I know, but it compensates doesn’t it? Having a big lens like that.
Paul: Do I really need to spell it out Marcus?
Marcus: Is owning a Porsche the same thing? Do you think so? I think it just makes you look like a bigger nerd.
Paul: But I’ve been loving doing this video stuff. I finally got good at it now after months and months of producing terrible videos, they are quite good quality. Leigh, you commented on them recently.
Leigh: You’ve got it good with the DSLR because it actually adds some depth of field. Can you do that with the Sony? I know you’re not going to use the Sony for the video…
Paul: Yes the Sony can do depth of field. It’s F-stop goes down to 1.8 which is pretty good.
Leigh: But the actual physics of it can’t give you much depth of field? It’s too small.
Paul: I don’t know how it does it. Don’t ask complicated questions like that. But it’s working really well. The combination of doing nice depth of field, the colour balance is so much better than the old video camera that I used to have. All I’ve got is the DSLR, a couple of lights and a lapel mike that can plug into the DSLR which you can’t plug into the Sony, and you can produce really good quality videos.
Leigh: Although you are using the depth of field wrong way round Paul because you’re in focus and the background is out of focus. You just need to swap those to around think and we might be onto something.
Paul: It will be a lot better will it? You think people will watch a lot longer?
Leigh: Yes. Something interesting in the background…
Paul: Oh look, he’s got Star Wars figures on his desk.
Leigh: … A clock or something with a second-hand going round. Much more interesting.
Paul: Really I should just put up keynote slides instead see don’t have to see my face at all.
Leigh: You could be down in the corner couldn’t you.
Paul: It is true that I don’t have the face of video do I.
Paul: Yes, silence. Thanks a lot guys. You just run to my defence.
Marcus: You’re asking the wrong people Paul.
Paul: But my point is—there was a point here— that there is really no excuse now for people not to be doing video on their websites. You can produce really good simple video yourself. I even bought a little thing Amazon that you can put an iPad on and it turns it into a teleprompter. How cool is that?
Marcus: Is video always appropriate though?
Paul: No not always. Are you talking in my case specifically or just generally?
Paul: No obviously not. But my point is that, don’t you find that so many of our clients just churn out endless amounts of copy, when a nice little video in a presentation would be so good? And it’s not that difficult to learn, especially clients that run blogs. A bit of video would just mix it up, a few interviews, stuff like that.
Marcus: Yes that’s true. I think part of the problem here is that it’s not the camera, is not the lights, although those things are important, is about presentation and being interesting and being able to present. That takes a lot of skill and no amount of good quality kit will be able to make people present well.
Paul: I suppose so but on the other hand, when you are just talking about something like an interview, you don’t need to be a good presenter to do an interview do you?
Marcus: No I suppose not.
Paul: It’s good editing, that’s what you need.
Leigh: I think there’s a perception that it’s harder work than it probably is. There was so much to compare against that would make you feel inferior to other video that you see online. But if you compared your writing against other writers online you might appear inferior. But blogs were supposed to be short and snappy and I suppose video can be just as short and snappy and doesn’t need massive production. As you said it’s a variation.
Paul: Yes it’s really not that difficult. In answer to your question Marcus, as to what I use, to be honest you could use Screenflow or something like that. That would be adequate for putting video together as it does the job.
Marcus: That’s what I used to put my walk-throughs together.
Leigh: Those walk-throughs are a good example because if you had to write down the walk-through, it will take you forever. So is actually quicker to video some things. It’s quicker to talk things through than it is to write it all down. I guess Paul, that’s what you’ve got good at. It must be quick of you to talk. I mean you do dictate don’t you?
Paul: I do yes, and actually increasingly now with my videos I am writing it down and then reading off a teleprompter with the videos. But it still a lot quicker than doing a blog post, because you don’t edit it and all the rest of it.
Leigh: You don’t need to go through spelling mistakes.
Paul: You don’t need to worry about any of that.
Marcus: This is all very interesting but Paul, what else have you bought? Do you own an iPad pro for example?
Leigh: Of course he does.
Paul: I might do.
Marcus: See Leigh? Have you got all the different types of iPad up next to each other on the desk?
Paul: Yes absolutely. I like them of the testing purposes, you understand.
Leigh: You got a use case for every single device Apple make, haven’t you?
Paul: Yes. They’ve all got their place. I was trying to justify to my wife, she did draw a line in the sand when I said I needed to get an iMac and a MacBook and get rid of my MacBook Pro. Apparently that was a step too far.
Marcus: I’m not sure about those. I saw you mention the MacBook in the Slack channel the other day.
Marcus: I don’t understand, other than the fact that they got a retina screen, why you’d have one of those over the MacBook air?
Paul: Because it’s new?
Marcus: Sorry yes. Because it’s new. Silly me.
Leigh: Will I ever notice any difference between my MacBook 13 and my MacBook air? It’s a little bit thicker but I still carry it around in exactly the same way as I used to with my air. It’s only little bit heavier.
Marcus: The new MacBook is the little tiny one with no power or sockets.
Paul: I don’t think either of you are listening to me. It’s newer. I don’t understand what you’re not getting about this.
Leigh: I just worked out why you sound weird Paul. Because I’ve been hearing your voice at 0.8 speed on the podcast, so you sound really slow and depressed, you sound like Marvin, the Paranoid Android to me at the moment. Because I’m used you going much faster.
Paul: You mean you don’t cherish every word that we say, you listen to us sped up?
Leigh: Yes. Actually sound a little bit is that you had a stroke Paul. Are you all right? Does he sound alright to you Marcus?
Marcus: I don’t listen to podcasts so I don’t really know.
Paul: You don’t listen to me either.
Marcus: I do listen to you Paul.
Paul: Do I sound any different to normal?
Marcus: No. It’s just Leigh. There you go.
Paul: So it’s just Leigh. Thank you for your concern, Leigh.
Marcus: If you feel like you really are missing us Paul, and you wanted to come in whenever you want to buy something new, just come in and talk to Chris about it and even though it has nothing to do with him, he will still try and persuade you out of it because it’s just his nature.
Paul: That’s true. But no I’m not good to do that because I want to buy my new gadgets.
Anyway, talking of spending money, I need to talk about our sponsor’s as I need their money in order to buy my gadgets.
So I want to talk about DevBootCamp.com/Boagworld. So if you are thinking about becoming a software developer, you really should check out the guys at DevBootCamp.com especially if you are in the US. DevBootCamp.com if you haven’t come across them before and haven’t been listening to the previous podcasts, is a tailored software development programme that will take you from being an absolute beginner all the way through to being able to code in a full stack, web development, job ready, ready to go out to get a job tomorrow. I just want to say, and have warned people about this in the previous weeks, this isn’t for the fainthearted. This is a nine-week intensive course, on campus. You go into their campuses and they’ve got campuses in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle and Austin. And you will do between 60 and 80 hours a week. That’s like double what I work. That’s a lot of work isn’t it?
Marcus: That’s a hell of a lot of work actually.
Paul: Flip me.
Marcus: Do they work all night?
Paul: I don’t know. You can view it one of two ways. You can either go, ‘phoar, I’m not doing that amount of work’ or you can view it as getting value for money.
Marcus: That’s true.
Paul: It all depends on how you look at it. That’s what I like to think.
Leigh: It is a bootcamp, they are supposed to be tough aren’t they?
Paul: Ahh yes. They tailor the course to every student, as we all have different strengths and weaknesses so it’s not like signing up for ‘Team Treehouse’, good though Team Treehouse is, but everybody goes through the same process. This is like a tailored course to you and you are hands-on, in a campus. You’ve got lectures, you do pair programming, you do group work, even towards the end you pitch different ideas and then build a product. So it’s a really good interactive experience if you want to become a web developer, I’d highly recommend checking these guys out at DevBootCamp.com/Boagworld where you can learn more. And very exciting it will be too. They you go.
Discussion about staying motivated
Paul: So. Now we come on to what we are supposed to be talking about today, which is we are supposed to be talking about staying motivated. This is a little bit last minute, so it’s obviously professionally thought through.
Leigh: Motivators Paul, motivate us.
Marcus: You are quite good at motivating as of Paul. Because Leigh and I aren’t, we are a pair of lazy arses really.
Leigh: Oh, I’ve got better.
Marcus: Have you?
Paul: Are you just saying that?
Leigh: No, I could tell you about my new thing.
Paul: Go on then, tell us about your new thing.
Leigh: I’ve been using this habit tracking, or habit-forming software.
Paul: I know the kind of thing. If you miss a day you’ve got this big gap in the timeline.
Leigh: I got a bit obsessed with it. I’ve got a list of about 30 things I need to do a day. Is getting a bit mental, but just little things like each day I have to read a chapter of my novel and a chapter of a textbook and listen to a chapter of my audiobook and I am powering through things just by doing this little bit of different things today.
Paul: Does it mean your entire day is absolutely regimented?
Leigh: No. I do it whenever I have a break. If you work 50 minutes, have a 10-minute break but rather than staring into space or getting a cup of tea I might practice the guitar for 10 minutes. But all those little bits for me really work quite well. I don’t sit down and think I’m going to read this book today- it just never happens. But magical period of time is never there. But just reading a chapter, and some of those chapters can be quite short, just means that I do the thing that I wouldn’t do because it’s become a big impossible thing. So I’ve read about four or five books in the last month.
Paul: How long have you been doing this? For the last month?
Marcus: You did use the word ‘my novel’ then. Are you writing a book?
Leigh: The novel which I am reading. I’ve got to write 250 words a day as well though, which I have been doing for months as well on anything. I’ve written a couple of short stories in 250 words, so it’s just practising writing. Which again becomes a big impossible task if you are not writing all the time. So it’s just breaking things down. It’s working for me.
Marcus: Leigh, you’re writing. I like that. See now, I can ask you to write things.
Paul: See now you’re taking all the joy out of it by making him do it.
Leigh: If I have to do it than that would be different. Although this kind of listing does pressurise you a bit.
Marcus: What is it called? Because I could use something like this.
Leigh: There are loads of them. Just search for habit tasks or trainer.
Paul: I’ve got one that I haven’t opened, that I installed. It’s called Productive. And I’ve installed the app. I can sit on my screen but have never actually clicked on the icon. I’m not motivated enough. I just know that if I click on it is going to open a can of worms and before I know it I’m going to be doing yoga at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Leigh: You will have a list of 60 things.
Leigh: You are self-flagellating yourself.
Leigh: Well you are quite motivated to get through loads of stuff anyway aren’t you.
Paul: I do use tricks that help me. I’m not as motivated as people think I am. Let’s go through a few of the things. Leigh you must have done this, have you ever used the Pomodoro technique?
Leigh: Oh yes. And it really works when I have done it.
Paul: Yes, it’s brilliant. Marcus have you heard of it?
Marcus: It’s a tomato, isn’t it?
Paul: Yes you smear yourself with tomato Marcus. It works, give it a try.
Marcus: Yes I know what it is, you work for a specific amount of time and then stop, no matter whether you want to stop or not, you have to stop at that point. And then start again for another period of time.
Paul: So you work for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break. It works really well for a couple of reasons, I think it does. First of all, it works well because you become a little bit obsessed with how many Pomodoro splints you can do in a day. With me became a little bit of competition with myself of whether I could do more than yesterday etc. And the other reason I like it is that some days, you sit down at your desk and you go, oh I just can’t be bothered today. In fact, normally I don’t even make it as far as the desk. I’m sitting in bed…
Leigh: It’s your first waking moment.
Paul: As my eyes blink open, I think I don’t want to face that. I say to myself, I’m just going to do one Pomodoro sprint. All I got to do is one. 25 minutes worth and then we will reassess after that. But then of course once you get over the hurdle of starting, is then so much easier. Just the action of breaking down what you are doing into little blocks.
Leigh: That’s just what you said, getting started is always the problem isn’t it.
Paul: So Pomodoro is something you ought to check out if you’ve never come across it before. It essentially boils down to working 25 minutes and taking a five-minute break. There were various variations of it so after about four sprints you take a 15 minute break. But the key is over that 25 minute sprint you do nothing else other than work. You don’t pop to the loo, you don’t check email, you don’t do anything – you just work. The downside of it is if your family interrupts you mid Pomodoro sprint, you tend to go ballistic. Because it means you lose that sprint and you have to start it again.
Marcus: I am not that disciplined enough.
Paul: What? To work 25 minutes?
Marcus: No, no, no. To say to myself, if I was interrupted for a minute then that one doesn’t count I would just say, yes that’s all right, I didn’t really get interrupted for long. It still counts.
Paul: Okay so the Pomodoro technique is not for Marcus. I’m going to find one technique that will work for Marcus.
Marcus: See I start every day in a really ‘Yes! Let’s get on with it!’ Way. The normally by 10:30 I’m thinking ‘Hmm…’ I’m the complete opposite of Paul I suppose.
Paul: Yes it takes me time to get going.
Marcus: I get up earlier and earlier these days, I started work earlier and earlier because I find I get more and more done. But is usually by late morning that I’m thinking, what can I do now. I’ve normally finished a load of things, and this comes back to starting things. Safe I’ve got a big document that I am writing, if I finish the document at 10 AM it’s like what shall I do now? There are loads of things that I’ve got to do but is just starting. One of the things that I’ve always done because I write loads of documents, it’s a really major thing for me, is to just create the new document and give it a name. That thing then exists. That’s my way of starting, just to create a document. I might do that while I’m still working on something else because I know it’s coming up.
Paul: That reminds me of another good one that I’ve learnt, something someone taught me years and years ago and has actually been a really good one, which is that—and this is the problem is it wouldn’t work as well for you—but for me I find starting in the morning so difficult, I now try and end the day with something half finished. Because then when I come and sit down in the morning, you’re not having to start from scratch.
Marcus: That’s a very sensible idea and I think I probably do that without realising it. But I’m going to try and do exactly that and mean to do it. That’s a really good idea.
Paul: Yes, it works really well that one. The other one that you touched on which I think is an important one, I think it helps to understand your own natural bodily cycle if that makes sense? I know I am better in the evenings. You know that you are better in the morning. And not to fight that. That’s one of the best things about doing what we do, is that unless you are working in an office, you have some flexibility over your working times. Like you say, you start earlier and earlier, and I work later and later.
Marcus: I used to work really late when the kids were young because it was the only time that I had to myself. But I’ve gone completely the other way around now. I’m normally asLeighp by 10 o’clock every night.
Leigh: It does depend on the time of year. I can get up at five in the summer but I can’t do that in the winter, it just feels wrong.
Marcus: Yes I don’t like getting up in the dark, I give you that.
Leigh: It feels really miserable. But in the sum I love getting up early and then I am a morning person, and then in the winter I’m an evening person. So I am a mixture of you two!
Marcus: I also find— and this is going to sound really odd—that I really like working on the weekends. I don’t like working on the weekends but I find I get so much done. Two or three hours on a Saturday afternoon I will get as much done in a whole day as I would do during the week. I know why…
Leigh: No one is on slack.
Marcus: I’m not looking at slack, the phone doesn’t ring, there is no email. I think that’s another reason why I like to start early because all those things, those distractions aren’t there.
Paul: Why can’t you just close all those notifications down?
Marcus: Because I don’t want to.
Leigh: You might miss something.
Paul: That is such a big thing to do, isn’t it. How many times—I am sure it still happens Headscape because it used to, I say used to because obviously you’ve ceased to exist now I’m not there—but how many times would and email go around saying ‘I’m turning off everything, I’ve got to get stuff done’. And I think is just one of the best motivational tips that you could do. Just hide those distractions away from you.
Marcus: Yes, and I do do that on occasions but it would just be in my mind that I turned it all off, just generally. And then that wouldn’t just nag at me. If I have a very specific task with a short deadline, then yes I would tell everyone that I’m turning everything off, but that’s different to doing it all the time.
Leigh: That’s less motivation and more panic stations, isn’t it?
Marcus: Yes it is actually.
Paul: That is another good motivator. Committing yourself to a deadline.
Marcus: Absolutely. But here’s the question. When did you do your homework? If you had homework given to you on Friday when did you to your homework?
Paul: I did it Friday.
Leigh: The morning before it had to be handed in at 5 AM?
Marcus: You’re exactly the same as me then. On the way to school on Monday.
Paul: I would just worry about it. The whole weekend I would spend worrying about when I’m going to do the homework.
Paul: Yes it would ruin my whole weekend.
Leigh: I wouldn’t worry about it at all a possibility remember it existed until that morning. And now what am I doing? Lecturing my son on how it should be done on the Friday evening and don’t leave it to the last minute. Such a hypocrite.
Marcus: Yes exactly.
Paul: But the whole thing of making yourself accountable to deadlines, whether it be to a client or to a colleague – I think it makes a huge difference. You know I mentor various people, a big part of what I do is basically saying, okay what you can to do by the next time we talk? Just doing that, just them being accountable to someone else and going, oh crap Paul is going to tell me off if I haven’t done what I’m supposed to do by the next call, makes a huge difference. It really does.
Leigh: Yes I was thinking of going to guitar lessons, because I never had a proper guitar lesson but mainly because of that weekly, you got to do it because you’re going to go and be confronted with a teacher who’s going to expect you to have practised something. Because you can teach yourself many different ways but you need a bit of a driving force, someone being slightly disappointed at you.
Paul: I’m much more than slightly disappointed. I tut and everything.
So okay, here’s a question. Do you do the thing where you say, if I finish this then I get a Wispa?
Leigh: A whisper? Are we talking Chinese or chocolate?
Paul: Not specifically a Wispa, but you reward yourself with some food.
Leigh: Yes. I have Bacon Friday!
Paul: If it’s every Friday is not particularly motivational.
Leigh: I have to swim at least 4 miles. Because the bacon lives on islands and they are 4 miles apart and so I have to swim to the next island which has bacon on it to have the bacon but have any some 3 miles, the bacon goes off and have to start the next week a new bit of ocean with new Bacon Island.
Paul: That is possibly the weirdest yet coolest thing I’ve ever heard you say, Leigh.
Leigh: But it works. See how motivated I am?
Marcus: I am genuinely impressed Leigh, I really am.
Paul: It’s only because Marcus wants someone like him in the conversation, he wants an ally in you.
Marcus: No, but the bacon island thing with me it’s like saying again, when you got interrupted on the Pomodoro sprint I would say then that didn’t exist. The me if I was doing that and did three and half miles I would think that was good enough.
Leigh: No. Because you’re not on the island Marcus.
Marcus: The island doesn’t exist Leigh.
Leigh: It does. It does exist. It’s got bacon on it and everything.
Marcus: The problem I have with this, okay is that you are lying to yourself.
Paul: This is the fundamental flaw in Marcus’s personality.
Marcus: It’s not a floor. I am realistic.
Paul: See there was another one on this list which I know in theory should work really well view but in practice doesn’t. Which is, if I am really lacking and for me it is post-lunch, I get this post-lunch lull, I get over that by putting music on really loudly. But for you, music is just a distraction isn’t it?
Marcus: Yes I have found that. Dan always plays music in the office and I don’t tend to like much of what Dan plays so it’s okay and it doesn’t distract me. But as soon as he puts on something I like I am just listening to the music. It doesn’t work for me. Certain types of task, and I do them very rarely, work well with music but most of what I do is writing words so the two don’t go together for me.
Paul: But the thing is I play instrumental.
Leigh: Yes I can’t listen to any words.
Paul: I do find that mid-afternoon I’m beginning to struggle. If I whack on some high-powered, high energy music, then that picks me up and gets me going again.
Marcus: But I analyse music, I pull it apart.
Leigh: There is that.
Paul: I can understand that actually.
Marcus: I think, oh what is that? I could use that on something. So it is a distraction.
Leigh: I have that problem as well.
Marcus: That’s got nothing to do with lazy tendencies or anything like that it just doesn’t work for me.
Paul: I’ve got one that’s going to work for you. This one will definitely work. Take a break. Stop doing what you were doing and go and put your feet up for a bit.
Marcus: Yes, I do that every now and again.
Paul: See, yes I knew that would work. Just walk away from it. Because it’s true isn’t it, sometimes I get into this almost pseudo-masochistic thing, you’re feeling really knackered, you’re really done in and really motivated and tell yourself you must keep going – you must, you must. And I think sometimes is the worst thing you can do. Sometimes you just need to take a break, go off, do something else and then come back to it later.
Leigh: That’s often the case that isn’t it, you’re going to problem and it’s getting slower and slower and then you stop. And then the next morning you sort it out in five minutes. That’s just always been the way it goes.
Paul: There’s another one which is very close to that which I like as well, which is task switching. If I can’t take a break because I have too much on, then I just shift to another task for half an hour. Do that and then go back.
Leigh: That’s very much me.
Marcus: I do that all the time. But the problem with that is that you tend to avoid the most difficult one. And you end up on those most difficult ones at the end and there’s nothing else to do. Or there is, like making tea.
Leigh: Is making tea on this list by the way Paul?
Paul: No. That came under have a break.
Leigh: Have a high caffeinated sugary drink, in your case.
Paul: Yes. I shouldn’t admit this but when I came back from Thailand I was really struggling, so I resorted to caffeine pills. I didn’t even know these things existed, it’s just not good.
Leigh: What like ProPlus?
Marcus: They are hideous Paul. Bad, bad man.
Paul: An average cup of coffee has 80–100 mg of caffeine in and the caffeine pill only has mg.
Marcus: And with drinking cup of coffee whether it absorbs into you in the same way, I don’t know. Tea has more caffeine in it than coffee does but your body doesn’t absorb it in the same way.
Paul: I think there are a lot of excuses going on there.
Marcus: I’m sitting here puffing away on a fag so…
Paul: Yes so don’t election me about caffeine pills! Anyway, that’s not an answer to being motivated, kids.
Marcus: Cigarettes are brilliant for motivation.
Paul: Oh shut up, they aren’t.
Leigh: Yes you have to work hard to pay for them because they are so expensive. And life is going to be shorter so you have got to do it more quickly.
Marcus: Exactly Leigh.
Paul: So okay, Marcus, if you’ve got a big job like a proposal, do you mentally break it down into smaller tasks to make it feel more manageable? Do you say that today you’re just going to do an outline and tomorrow you’ll do a rough draft and the day after you are doing an edit? Do you do that kind of thing? Or do you see it as one big thing?
Marcus: A bit of both. But the majority of proposals are based on another proposal, so therefore you’ve already got quite a lot of the structure of the document there. So then you are filling in the bits that are relevant to this particular RFP that you are responding to.
Paul: All right then, what about a digital strategy or a website review? Do you tend to break them down?
Marcus: That always starts off with an outline, yes.
Paul: Because for me, that makes things seem so much bigger. If I am faced by a big thing like writing a digital strategy which could run into like 60 to 70 pages, it just feels so overwhelming that starting something like that is impossible unless you mentally say, all right am just to do this part of it or breaking it down into some tasks.
Marcus: The problem with doing that though, and I guess that this is the job of the editor which is usually Chris in my case, is that you can end up repeating yourself quite a lot. If you think or just going to write this bit and then two days later you write that bit, and then there’s a lot of repetition going on and it doesn’t flow very well as a document. That’s why was a bit unsure about it.
Paul: See I don’t break it down in that way, I don’t say I am just going to write this section, I do it in terms of fidelity with the document. So I’m going to do just a few bullet points, or I am just going to do the head sections and then I’m going to do bullet points in the section’s and then I’m going to write a rough draft and then I’m going to edit it and then I’m going to read it back to myself to make sure it’s okay. Something like that.
Marcus: Just to add to that, that goes back to what I was saying earlier about just create the document and give it a name. That is a really good thing to get you started but those steps of creating the headings and subheadings and bullet points does make it feel like you are getting somewhere. And is not this a normal weight.
Leigh: You are creating a plan, like you had to create essay plans before you wrote an essay. You got some to structure it on and that helps you think it through.
Paul: I think this one might be a dangerous one for Marcus, now we are learning a little bit more about how Marcus views the world, but this one works well for me. I will decide at the beginning of the day what I want to do for that day. And once I’m done with that, I stop. Irrespective of what time it is. That motivates me to keep going. But I think if you were allowed to do that then essentially you would only put two or three things on the list.
Marcus: That’s not true. You are reading me wrong Paul, it’s all just for comedic value. I’ve always got more my task list than I can do in a day.
Paul: Of course, we all have. But you pick what in that day, you are going to do.
Marcus: No. I don’t do that.
Leigh: I’ve had lots of people say that you have to write down the days tasks and that gets you started. I’ve never done that.
Marcus: I do tend, I am often restarting a list of tasks just to repeat or we prioritise them. I quite like the idea of giving yourself a bunch of stuff to do and then if you finish it you are finished. But I don’t do that. I am more conscientious than that.
Leigh: Don’t you make a list of Pomodoro is something?
Paul: Where you can do yes, depending on how seriously you take Pomodoros.
Leigh: That’s a lot of hard work though, that. Deciding what the whole day of Pomodoro is are going to be.
Paul: I don’t think I that committed to it. But what I do do is that I sit down at the beginning of each day—because I have a massive to do list—and I go through and flag the ones that I am going to do that day. And once I have done that, some days I do it by 3 o’clock, some days I’m going to 7 PM so it balances out roughly right. I just find that keeps me motivated.
Marcus: If my day consisted of just me doing stuff, then maybe that’s a workable thing. But Chris will call for an hour when I wasn’t expecting him…
Paul: Will that’s because Chris never shuts up.
Marcus: … for example, or I will suddenly think, oh I need to do that which means I need to talk to Emma or whoever and then that will turn into a meeting that wasn’t planned previously, and all this kind of thing.
Leigh: It’s being Agile Marcus, Agile.
Marcus: Which is fine. I’m not complaining about that, it just makes it, I worry about getting too in-depth on, I am planning to do this today and then thinking I haven’t done all the stuff because of the else happened.
Leigh: Then you’ve failed haven’t you?
Marcus: Yes I’ve failed.
Paul: But then the way I get round that is that I leave myself wiggle room in the day. I don’t necessarily plan eight hours’ worth of work; I plan six hours of work knowing that a couple will be wasted. If I get really lucky and don’t have any meetings or interruptions, then I get to knock off two hours earlier.
Marcus: You were just much more organised.
Paul: Conscientious, organised, a better human being?
Marcus: I was going the opposite really. Selfish, self-centred and only worried about yourself.
Leigh: Very autistic…
Paul: All of those, yes. Asperger’s, OCD, dysfunctional…
Marcus: I was always slightly jealous of the fact that you used to fill up your calendar with, this afternoon I am doing X and tomorrow morning I’m doing Y. To the point of I can’t therefore speak to you because I am doing X or Y. And I can’t do that. That’s just not me, I have more of an open door than that.
Paul: No, I am a miserable shit, as you well know.
Leigh: Do you have a to-do list item which says don’t be a miserable shit? Review your relationships with the world? Review marriage, review happiness. These are all tasks for you aren’t they Paul?
Paul: I do review my relationship with the world and I conclude that I’m quite happy with the way that it is.
Marcus: Be nice to my wife for 10 minutes.
Paul: Yes, that is one of my tasks. She only gets 10 minutes mind.
Paul: I am a busy guy, I have gadgets to buy. That takes up a lot of time. Can you imagine the number of times I have to answer the door to collect deliverables every day? Deliverables? Deliveries.
Hey another one. My most satisfying this that I have, oh God how to sad does that make me sound?
Leigh: You are a machine Paul, you are a machine.
Paul: One of my most satisfying lists are my completed tasks lists. Do you have one of those? So at the end of the day go I did this, this, this, and this.
Leigh: I do like ticking things off.
Paul: Yes, there you see.
Leigh: I add things just so that I can tick them off. Because it feels good.
Marcus: Once they have gone they have gone from my head.
Paul: Yes but then you don’t feel so you have achieved anything.
Leigh: I did momentarily.
Marcus: Yes it is momentarily. It’s like yes, brilliant, right move on.
Paul: I want to have little parties through the day and then a big party at the end of the day when I know how much have done.
Marcus: I’m not as— organised isn’t the right word, what is the word I’m looking for?
Marcus: Could be. Could be that. Is more of a, I can’t measure with data whether I have had a good day or a bad day. I can just say that was a good day.
Paul: You are instinctual.
Marcus: Or, I didn’t get much done today. And the same thing applies if I think, oh that’s been a good day. And that’s a good feeling. I’m just not so measured about it.
Paul: Another one, this one I don’t do but I have heard other people rave about it. I did try it once but didn’t really fit me, which is all of the tasks in your task list you associate with them an energy level. So this task takes a lot of energy, this task doesn’t take very much. Then depending on how you feel in the day, if you are lacking energy you can just bring up all those stupid little tasks that don’t require a lot of effort. While if you’re full of energy you can go, right give me something big to do. What you reckon of that?
Leigh: I thought you did do that to be honest.
Paul: I did try it.
Marcus: I think I do that without realising it to be honest.
Paul: Yes, you kind of do it instinctively don’t you really. Is quite an interesting one.
Marcus: I’ve just contradicted myself on the tasks that you really don’t want to do, I do tend to just avoid.
Paul: Exactly, but that’s the thing, that’s why it’s never worked for me. Because basically every time I sat down, it was like I haven’t got a lot of energy. A thing I ever said to myself, wow I am full of energy today, give me a really difficult task to do. Which kind of undermines the whole thing doesn’t it. So that one didn’t work for me.
Another one that didn’t work for me was being clear on what your goals should look like.
Leigh: I know what they should look like – an island with bacon on. Palm trees and a big frying pan with bacon in the middle with a nice bap alongside on a blue plate. Very clear.
Marcus: A blue plate?
Leigh: All my plates are blue.
Marcus: Plates should be white, Leigh.
Leigh: No, that’s all wrong Marcus, it’s all wrong.
Marcus: Food doesn’t look right on a blue plate.
Paul: So obviously Leigh does this, you visualise do you Leigh?
Leigh: Totally. A very visual person me.
Paul: They you go. So it works for you but it didn’t work for me.
Marcus: I don’t really understand that.
Paul: I don’t either. I think the idea is that if you visualise what the end product will look like it will motivate you to get towards it because it’s a good thing. Is not practical enough for me that one.
The other one that is a bit arty farty, fairy is identifying and addressing your obstacles. So if you get stuck and you can’t be arsed, sit down and say, why can’t I be asked? What is stopping me proceeding? And then addressing what that obstacle is. But surely if you can’t be arsed, then you can’t be asked to identify what your obstacles are and you certainly can’t be asked to address them.
Marcus: What if it’s sunny outside and I’d like to be out there instead of here?
Paul: Then addressing the obstacle would be to close the curtains.
Leigh: That would work.
Marcus: But then you’d still know it was sunny out.
Leigh: No read some articles about skin cancer.
Paul: Yes there you go, that’s a good one Leigh. I like that.
This brings me to the very last one, which goes back to your point of what you just said Marcus, change your work environment. Go and work outside in the sun.
Marcus: I tried that but I just felt uncomfortable. I got a really nice garden table with a big umbrella and I’ve got all the stuff I need apart from the big screen, pick up the laptop my phone and go sit out there but it just doesn’t feel right. The office I am in now, my home office, is just set up perfectly for working in. Whereas everything else isn’t. And therefore I don’t feel like it’s somewhere I want to work in as much as I do in here. So I tried that but I find it hard. I know other people think it’s great and they want to go down the coffee shop, and I’m like others loads of other people in their talking.
Leigh: Yes have never done that, I would just listen to all the conversations.
Paul: I do it, but the thing with me is that I will go down there, sitting the coffee shop for half an hour and go exactly what you just said Marcus, I would prefer to work at my own desk, and then I go home again but in the act of doing all that I’ve re-motivated myself just by going to get coffee. And to be honest sometimes that’s just what happens. It turned into the take a break one, but just changing that environment kick starts you sometimes.
Leigh: I do feel like a fraud in the design world because I’m never worked from a coffee shop successfully. I don’t think I have even tried lately to do so.
Paul: Then you are a failure.
Marcus: We’ve got a Costa down in the village and I don’t think I’d actually get a table. I did up in the pub. Now there’s a thought.
Paul: Now what’s the problem with that?
Marcus: There isn’t a problem with that…hmm…
Paul: Alcohol. Alcohol is not a good way of motivating you. Just to be clear.
Marcus: No. Or smoking, kids.
Paul: So that’s it. That’s my list of how many motivational ideas. I angered quickly run through them before we move on. So we had
the Pomodoro technique,
habit apps that Leigh added in,
finish the day on an uncompleted task,
decide upfront what you want to do today,
keep a completed task list, rate your task by energy levels,
break down big tasks into smaller next steps,
change your working environment,
work with your body’s rhythm,
put on some music,
commit yourself to a deadline,
be clear about what your end goal looks like,
identify and address your obstacles,
take a break,
close those notifications, kids.
So they you go. I think there is actually some solid good advice in there.
Marcus: Unbelievable isn’t it?
Paul: I know.
Paul: Right, let’s quickly do our second sponsor for the show and then we will wrap things up with Marcus’s joke.
Our second sponsor is Freeagent. I’ve said it once, I will say it again that I am a huge fan of Freeagent, I absolutely love it and use it every single day of my life. And yes kids that does include Christmas Day where I do like to go in and see how much money I have.
Leigh: Who are these kids? Are we now saying that everybody who listens are younger than us and are now kids?
Paul: Well probability suggests that yes they are younger than us.
Leigh: So depressing.
Paul: So one of the things that I love about Freeagent is that I love the way it manages invoices and payments. Such a slick process. You can create your own invoicing templates to be consistent with your brand because if you are designing you could care about that kind of thing, and you can easily put together invoices in just a few minutes. It’s so, so simple. Also it works out all the extra stuff you need like VAT and all that kind of thing. It will just add it on as it knows whether your contact is in the European Union, blah, blah, blah. It includes all of your payment details and also allows you to hook it up with online payment systems so people can pay directly via PayPal or a credit card online dead simple. You can also create re-occurring invoices which is really very useful if you manage to create ongoing revenue streams and you succeed in doing the holy grail of the freelancing world and get yourself onto some kind of retainer. All of that can be managed through Freeagent really easily and it will even automatically send out emails to chase late payments. So you can’t get much better than that. You can find out more about Freeagent, seriously if you are considering setting up a business and you are using Excel, or using some big tasks system like SAGE, get rid of it all and go Freeagent. I honestly can’t say you will regret it. So Boagworld.com/freeagent, check it out.
Marcus, joke please.
Marcus: This is my wife’s current favourite joke.
Wondering just how many sheep he currently has grazing in his field, the farmer asks his sheepdog to go out and count them. The dog runs into the field, counts them and then runs back to his master. So, asked the farmer, how many sheep are there?
Forty, replies the dog.
What? How can there be forty? I only bought 38.
I know said the dog, but I rounded them up.
Paul: Oh that is terrible.
Leigh: Oh I’ve got a joke. Can I tell a joke?
Paul: Go on then Leigh.
Marcus: Do a joke, do a joke.
Leigh: The inventor of the self-predictive text died this week. His funfair will be next monkey.
Marcus: Yes I saw that.
Paul: Do you remember what we were saying about some jokes being better written down?
Yes, very good.
Leigh: Give as a joke Paul, give us a joke.
Paul: I haven’t got any jokes written down this week.
Marcus: Paul failed last week and now he knows how I feel every week.
Paul: It was embarrassing. So in theory, next week we have Andy Budd joining us to talk about building a successful agency. I say in theory because he might not after this week.
Marcus: … He can’t be arsed.
Paul: Yes he can’t be arsed!
Leigh: Do I have to be on again next week?
Paul: You might well end up… No his all booked in. It’s all great, so next week we are talking about running a successful agency which I am sure will be a great show. Until then, thank you for listening and goodbye.