MonthOctober 2015

Work Smart

Working hard is a great way to move forward and get ahead. But working hard does not mean working non-stop, using every second to ‘be productive’. If you want to truly be productive you need to work smart.

I recently read an article titled ‘The 7 Rules of Personal Productivity’. It offers some interesting opinions, however it is a select few of those 7 that I focus on – rules 2, 6 and 7. Why these? Because they tell you not to work [all the time].

Rule 2 – Know yourself

Knowing your working limits. Not everyone can work 12 hours a day, others can work more. Understand where your limits are now and work to it and just beyond.

Imagine you wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t jump straight in and go. You’d train,  starting small and building up. But also, know when to rest. If you had a particularly hard training session one day, your body might need to rest the next. The same is true for your mind – if one day you have a particularly taxing day mentally, take time to recover and restore your mental capacity. Over time it will build up and you will be able to go for longer and longer, but be patient, nothing happens overnight!

Rule 6 – Work when you have to, not when you don’t

“As long as you work hard when you have to and when it counts, you can take time off and screw around when it doesn’t.”

You don’t have to spend every second of every day working. Add other things to your day for variety and for enjoyment. It is important to make sure you still do the things that make you happy. Support a local football team? Go and support them every week! Like to cook? Make sure you have enough spare time to cook proper meals for yourself.

This doesn’t mean doing the bare minimum amount of work. It means finding the amount you need to do the best you can do! If time spent on a task and peak performance were plotted on a diagram, it would be curved – find the optimum.

Rule 7: Take Care of Yourself

You need food and rest. You need a balance.

To be productive you need to prepare you mind and body to work hard. That means fuelling it properly, recovering properly and switching off when needed. Eat food with family without talking about work, go to the gym and listen to music. Find something that switches your mind off from work, then when it’s time to get going again you will be raring to go!!

If you don’t feel happy and healthy you can’t work to your best. Push yourself and find where your limits are. Be patient and respect what your body and mind tells you. It takes time to be able to run a marathon.

The Other Side of the Table

This year I am Vice-President of the Entrepreneurs Society at University and this week we have been recruiting new exec members.

All society exec members are voted into their position by the society members, however being such a large society, we naturally receive lots of applications for multiple roles. For that reason we also hold interviews. One, to see if the person is suitable for the society and secondly to see which role would suit them best.

This has given me the opportunity to run interviews, effectively being on the other side of the table for the first time. So what was I looking for when interviewing people?

1 – Passion

If I couldn’t feel a person’s excitement for the opportunity, I didn’t get excited by them – it rubs off. This is true for whenever I talk to anyone. I look for what sparks passion within.

I believed it was important to understand that they were applying because they genuinely cared about the position and were thoroughly determined to do well and that they weren’t just applying to have something to put on their CV.

2 – Eager to Learn

I didn’t care if people had no or little startup experience. Mainly because I had none when I joined the society. It was their eagerness to jump straight in that I wanted to see. If people spoke about wanting to go to events, try out ideas or speak to people with experience, I was pleased.

3 – Pauses

When people pause, they’re usually thinking. I wanted to see this for two reasons; it showed they weren’t reciting a practiced answer and it showed they were putting some effort into their answer.

Of course, sometimes these pauses were followed by a short answer if the person just didn’t know, however if they’ve taken the time to consider it, that was fine.

4 – Ideas

Finally, I wanted to hear ideas. Event ideas, business ideas, ideas for promotional material – I didn’t care what. I just want to know that the person had thought about what they could do from day one to get the ball rolling. They had taken the time to consider what was missing and tried to find a way to correct that.

 

Ultimately, it came down to who the person was, not what they were doing.

Doing the Simple Things Well

How do you get ahead?

In sport, school, business –is there a secret formula? Is it about thinking outside of the box? Is it about thinking ahead and ‘predicting’ the future? Do you need the ability to think differently to out-think your opponent, develop a new theory or invent a new product?

Whether the above are secrets to success, I don’t know. What I do know (or at least, think I do) is that they are not the only ways to success. There’s one quote that nicely sums up my current thoughts on the topics.

“Success is doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well” – Jim Rohn

To try and add context to this. Here are my thoughts on how this can be applied in three areas – sport, school and business.

Sport

messi-goal-2-vs-getafe-b

Dribbling is a basic element of football, yet when Messi does the above her looks extraordinary. He isn’t doing something unique, he is doing the basics extremely well.

In racket sports, people often focus on the movements of the racket to judge a player’s skills. If someone pulls off a trick shot, they are hailed. However it is often said by top racket sport athletes that footwork is the most important part of the game. It is the building block of their ability. Again it is a basic thing, however they can’t hope to compete at the very top if they don’t do it better than most.

School

Is school a test of knowledge or memory? Neither.

People often argue that school tests your memory, if you can learn everything the night before an exam you’ll be fine. But in reality that is a poor method for success in education. As for knowledge, whilst it helps, success in school isn’t completely limited to only those ‘born smart’.

School tests habits.

If you want to succeed in education, do the simple things well. Go to all classes, listen and learn. You don’t have to be a genius, you need to do what you’re expected to do and do it well!

Business

apple invention

Here’s a business truth. Most ‘inventions’ were not the first design of that product. Often a ‘new’ product is an improvement on a previous invention from elsewhere that didn’t gain traction for one reason or another.

Google glasses, were not the first of their kind. Apple didn’t invent the iPod. So when you think that to have the next big idea you need to invent something, you’re instantly limiting yourself. Look around for what already exists but is flawed and improve on it. Those things may seem ordinary, but if you execute them perfectly, they will seem extraordinary.

 

Keeps things simple and do it well.

Being Seen Online

It seems every company now has to have a website, social media presence, blogs and maybe even a periscope account. It all takes work and sometimes for very little reward. When it comes to having an online presence, it isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.

Improving your visibility online are lessons I am still learning, everything from SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), PPC (Pay Per Click) and everything to do with social media posts – optimal times, content, images etc.

I have been applying some of these tools to this very blog, with mixed results…

SEO

SEO is essentially working to get your website noticed through Google, Bing etc. This means meeting the search engines criteria with your content. This criteria changes every week!!!

One week I tested my blog on Bing. I searched ‘Can you find motivation’ – to my amazement, my blog Motivation Isn’t Hard to Find was the NUMBER 1 result! However at the time of writing this, I’m not on page one or two, and as the joke goes; The best place to hide a dead body is on page two of google! If you aren’t page one, you aren’t there.

[As far as I know] there are two levels to SEO. SEO built into the backbone of a page and SEO built into content. I won’t even pretend that I know much about the first, however the latter is something I am continually trying to improve in my own posts. To get good SEO within a post requires good use of a target keyword, setting up post URLs and Meta Descriptions, these enhance that keyword, improving the chances of a post appearing in a search engine when that word is searched.

It also helps a lot if your post is shared, mentioned and linked as it shows popularity.

Social Media

Everyone jumps to social media as the go to place to promote themselves or their business. For me, it’s a little over-rated!

I find that people are bored of seeing promotions on their social media…. Think about it – firstly when was the last time you looked through all your posts of Facebook or Twitter and when was the last time a generic “Hey, we’re close to 500 followers, why not give us a share?” actually got you to share. Ok one or two may do, but it is nothing compared to thousands of shares when the content is attractive.

To win at social media, you have to be clever and fast! Speed is everything.

Social media is now less about planning good content and more about reacting to the world. Twitter ‘Moments’ are the future and you need to be ready for them. If you run a sport related company, you MUST have the capacity to tweet within 5 minutes if there is a sudden news story in the sporting world. People want to use social media to stay up to date with the world and if you are the first to provide that information, you will attract the crowds you seek.

 

It is difficult and time consuming and that’s why large corporations have specific teams to manage it all. However if you are small company, startup or even on your own it can be a challenge.

A friend of mine has his own digital marketing agency to aid companies with all the above online tools. If you ever have a question or want support, check him out. If you say I sent you, I’m sure he will be extra nice 🙂

 

Five Tips for Your First Year at University

Last June I posted a blog about my first year at university and what it taught me. The post was very well received and so now I’m back for my second year, I thought I’d follow up – what advice would I give to a first year?

1 – Talk to everyone!

This is especially relevant in fresher’s week. This week is very unique, it is potentially the only time that you will be somewhere, where everyone is in the exact same boat – not knowing many people and wanting to meet lots of new people. Going up to random people and saying “Hi” is not only normal, but invited.

This is the perfect time to find the people you want to meet to help you have the best year possible, don’t waste that chance!

2 – Go for it!

The opportunities at University are endless. You will be bombarded by societies, clubs, programs, online services, taster sessions etc.

Some are a waste of time, some are completely irrelevant to you and some will be a definite ‘yes’ from you. It is the ones that are a ‘maybe’ that you need to go to!

If you are debating whether or not to apply for an exec position on a society, join a sports team or even try and start one – do it! Getting involved is the best thing you can do in your first year.

3 – Don’t worry!

Living away from home, not knowing anyone – it’s easy to be scared or worried when first going to University. Lots of people go into their shell and when everyone around them can see that, the atmosphere can go down.

Your first year is a year to have fun! Whilst the whole experience can be daunting, try and embrace it! And always remember there are people at University ready to help if it’s all getting to be a bit too much.

4 – Do something new!

For me, this was squash. I had only played a couple times before heading to University. I decided to try out for the squash team, somehow I managed to get a spot in the development squad (apparently badminton shots work it squash!), played every week and loved it!

Whether it’s a new sport, learning a new language or trying your hand at acting, University is the place to try! If you’re rubbish, who cares?

5 – Work as hard as you like!

It’s true, first year doesn’t count. But if you want to get a top grade, go for it! As long as you pass first year, I think you can work as much or as little as you want. Ultimately it is about achieving your personal goal, whatever that may be.

© 2018 Adam Ian Stewart

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