Productivity

BUSY ≠ SUCCESS: Beat the Hustle Porn trap, make the most of your time, and get real results.

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Bragging that you’re working a ton of hours is a very weird flex. Brick and mortar business owners, online entrepreneurs and traditional corporate professionals wear the amount of time they spend at work as a badge of honor. I’m not sure if it’s a play to garner sympathy or a way to demonstrate professional superiority over your peers/competitors but it is nonsense. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud of your hard work and the time it takes to produce something truly valuable. I’m just saying I don’t get why people define themselves and their success by the amount of time they spend “working”.

It’s the obsession with hustle porn that really gets me fired up. Or rather, people leaning on it instead of focusing on being effective. What’s hustle porn? Hustle porn is a term said to be coined by Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and he defines it as “the fetishization of people--particularly entrepreneurs or employees in the tech industry--overworking themselves.” (Here’s a whole Inc.com article about it if you want to see for yourself.)

Overworking yourself for the sake of showing how hard you’re working is bad enough but, what I think is really happening is that people are pretending to be overworked so they can share their flavor of hustle porn with the world. These are the millions of people trying to scoop up their piece of the social influencer pie. There’s a big difference between someone like Gary Vaynerchuk (who I’d consider the father of the modern hustle movement) who both works long hours and is super effective for the love of the game and your average hustle porn addict that claims to be on the grind hundreds of hours per week with little to know efficacy to show for it.

It’s a real problem! It’s a problem because these pretenders are giving advice, attempting inspire and sometimes, unfortunately, huck their products or services on the backs of their busy = success facade.

This long ranty introduction is to help me set the stage to give you a tool that will help you be more productive and effective. I want to help you make better decisions and be able to audit the work that you’re doing so you do more with the time that you do have so you can best match your ambitions for your business to the action you take every day. Best part, this isn’t some proprietary and untested advice from a guy writing on the internet - it’s a tool taken right from the management science of Six Sigma. Today we’re talking SIPOC.

SIPOC is a process mapping framework and it’s also an acronym. It’s an exercise you can really do at any time and it can do a few things. First, it can give you an overall and high level view of all the important bits of work that you do in your business. Secondly, it can expose each of the moving parts of each of the individual activities you’re doing everyday. Doing this will help you identify problems and find things that create waste or add little value in your business. Both of which will help make you more effective long term.

Here’s what SIPOC stands for:

Supplier - These are the providers of the inputs in a process. They can be people, things, sources of information, etc.

Inputs - These are the materials, information and other resources you need to get something done.

Process - This is the recipe for getting something done. What are each of the steps required to go from idea to outcome or result in an activity.

Outputs - These are the products, services, or outcomes as a result of following a process.

Customers - These are the people, businesses, audiences, etc that receive the outputs.

Now that you have the breakdown here’s how to use the framework via a cooking analogy… mostly because I’ve been binge watching Bon Appetit videos on YouTube.

Before we start you need a place to keep you organized. You can use a SIPOC template, a pretty good free one can be found here at goleansixsigma.com, or go freehand but you’re going to go topic by topic and brain dump as many parts of the activity in question (or business as a whole) as possible. It will look like a recipe when you’re done. I’m going to be moving fluidly between individual activities and looking at the business as a whole because this framework can and should be applied to both.

And away we go!

Start with Suppliers.

Before you can start cooking anything you need to go buy ingredients. The Supplier category are all the places you’d have to go to pick up the particular ingredients for your dish. Sometimes you luck out and have the ingredients on hand, sometimes they’re all common enough to be found in your local supermarket and sometimes you have to drive to specialty grocers or order from Amazon. Your Suppliers in your process are all the places you need to go for the stuff you need to get your activity done. They don’t have to be physical locations or goods either. Often times with service businesses you start with doing a bit of research for a client, where are the places you go to get your information - those are also your Suppliers.

Next we look at the Inputs.

These are your ingredients. In a single recipe it will be the specific ingredients and their proportions. The same goes for a specific activity in your business. If you’re looking at your whole business then you need to think a little bigger. Inputs here are the materials, people, roles, equipment, IT systems, software, information, etc that are the MOST important in you delivering value to your customers.

After that is the Process.

In our recipe these are literally the steps. Things like bringing the water to a boil, cooking pasta for 8 minutes, heating oil to a shimmer before adding the garlic are all specific things you need to do to prepare a dish. Do the same thing for whatever specific activity is on the chopping block in your business. If you’re auditing your social media posting process it can be the steps that start with the idea for a post, to opening the right app, to posting with the prewritten caption. The more granular here the better because it will force you to get real about the actions you’re really taking when you do something. Recipes are very specific for a reason because they want you to finish with a very specific dish at the end and plus, no one likes burnt garlic. In your business you’re looking to identify as many individual processes as possible and the granularity bits apply here too. If you gloss over or over generalize the work that you do every week how can you expect to identify which processes can be improved, eliminated or delegated to make you more effective with the time that you have committed for your business.

Next are the Outputs.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of over simplicity here. In a recipe the output is not just the food you’ve created at the end of the cooking process. It’s the dirty dishes, the plates you serve the food on, the utensils you need to get to eat, etc. It’s everything that comes after the cooking part. What are the outputs that your specific activity produces? If it’s a product you’ll have a pretty easy start but with a service you might have to get a little more creative with what gets delivered and all of the process adjacent things that come with the delivery of that service. For your business these can include all the paperwork, approvals, data, and tasks that are created after your business delivers what it promised it would to the end consumer.

Lastly we have the Customers.

These are the people that, in this case, will literally consume the fruits of your labor. These are the recipients of each output of your process. In the cooking example it’s all the smiling faces that get to try your recipe. For a specific activity it can be the person or people that will benefit from what you’ve produced. It can even be delivering value to an audience if we’re talking about a social media or content creation process. In most cases every output should have at least one category of customer. I mean someone has to be responsible for the dirty dishes or at the very least be in charge of loading a dishwasher. For the business as a whole your customers can be internal and external. Not every process will directly correspond to the customer but the outputs may serve as an input for the next process that gets you closer to delivering value. An example would be a creative team that’s working to create assets for your business. The content gets created, then approved, then shared. Each of those are individual process and only one of them ends with the external audience.

Ok so by now you’re probably a little hungry and have the basics of a process mapping tool ready to go. So what’s next?

I would recommend that you start by running this exercise on your business as a whole. This will help you get a really good idea about all the work your doing in your business. The trick is that you have to be brutally honest about the work, the time, and the resources that you put into growing your business. Then once you get a handle on the high level view of your business I would challenge you to try to trim the activities that aren’t serving you and go deeper on the ones that are by running the exercise again on the individual activities. Most importantly you HAVE TO BE HONEST.

By being honest you’ll be able to really see what’s going on and how you might be able to better deploy your time and energy. One of the other best bits here is that you can run this exercise over time to help you tighten up the work your doing in your business. I know that it’s easy to get and stay busy and I also know that scope creep is real when you’re in the early days of getting customers and squeezing every ounce of value out of every dollar you can in your business. All that intensity can sometimes lead you and your business away from the core values you had envisioned when you started the business. This is an opportunity to check in with yourself, as a CEO, and decide if the recent direction of the business is still in line with your values.

And finally, you’ll be able to worry less about the pressure that hustle porn hucksters put on you and more about doing the work that really matters in your business.


What is a Net Promoter Score? (And, why do I need it?)

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TL;DR: More Happy = More Growth

Big business ideas aren’t just for big businesses any more. There’s a very popular idea right now that big businesses are using to help guide the decisions they make, the markets they play in, and even how they treat their employees. That idea is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). In some corporate environments, they treat the wielders of their Net Promoter Scores with a cult leader like reverence. It gets pretty intense actually. I’m all for finding ways to measure the experience of the people you serve, and use that information to get better, but you should never put all your eggs in the one metric basket. That’s where this post comes in. I want to introduce you to the Net Promoter Score so you can add it to the toolbox of awesome things you’re keeping track of to make sure your business is growing sustainably over time. The extra great thing is that you don’t have to be a big business to implement NPS and there are FREE solutions that you can use right now to jump on the NPS bandwagon.

So, what exactly is a Net Promoter Score?

The NPS is a methodology that came out of Bain & Co. in the early 2000’s and it puts a process around identifying what keeps your customers and employees happy. The idea here is that happy customers and employees lead to organic growth over time. It might sound a little commonsensical but it’s a process you can use to measure not only how much people know/like/trust you but how likely they would be to refer your business to the people they care about. It’s a way to quantitatively measure very qualitative concepts like happiness, trust, and referability. You use the NPS consistently over time to collect feedback that will help you make better decisions when it comes to the future needs of all the people that rely on your business.

How do you calculate the Net Promoter Score?

The NPS is calculated using a survey. You ask a question and the takers of your survey respond or rate on a scale ranging 0 to 10. It could look something like, “How likely are you to refer this business to a friend or family member?” Then you rate 0 might be “Never in a million years and I hope you go out of business” and 10 might be “I already have and they’ve referred their family and friends”. Well it’s a little more nuanced than that but you get the idea. From the responses you collect you then divide them into three categories: Detractors, Passives, and Promoters.

Anyone that gives you a response with a score equal to or less than 6 are Detractors. Detractors weren’t typically thrilled by your value or service and aren’t likely to every refer or use you ever again. Unless they are especially motivated, like gave you a 0, they also aren’t likely to actively go out and lambaste you. You should keep track of where people fall when they are Detractors to see if their sentiments change over time. Can you turn a 3 into a 6? A 6 into a 7? Just because someone wasn’t thrilled with their experience in the first go-around doesn’t mean they are lost forever.

Passives are those that offer scores between 7 and 8. They were decently satisfied with their experience but would be open to switching to any competitor or substitute. Passives aren’t likely to actively refer you either but at least their experience was satisfactory. The challenge with receiving consistently Passive scores is that you aren’t memorable and your brand or business isn’t ever top of mind. It’s the professional equivalent of getting “meh’d”.

Promoters are your 9’s and 10’s. These are the people that absolutely love interacting with you. They loved their experiences so much they are likely to go out and tell people about it. They’ll actively refer to you, leave testimonials, and generally advocate for you. Promoters are those that land consistently way above the know/like/trust curve.

Ok so once you have all your scores you get to the Net Promoter Score by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage who are Promoters. When you do that you are going to end up with a score that will fall somewhere between -100 and 100. If everyone was a Detractor then you’d have a pure -100 score, meaning 100% of your responses to the survey yielded scores of 6 or under. A positive 100 comes from 100% of the responses being all Promoters, 9’s and 10’s.

NPS = %Promoters - %Detractors

What happens after I get my Net Promoter Score? And why should I care?

As a static metric the Net Promoter Score can tell you a few things. It’s a snapshot into the perception of your business. The more the negative the score the harder you might look into a particular issue or experience. It also shows you how your customers are self identifying after the engage with you. Your business probably won’t be all things to all people but are you doing the best you can for those people you do want to serve?

The real power of the NPS comes in running lots of the surveys over time. Over time you’ll be able to see how the decisions you make in your business impact the real experiences your customers are having.  It’s also used internally to help keep you and your staff honest when it comes to the work that you’re doing. Then there are the proportions and watching them over time. Are your customers moving between groups? Are they moving within groups? Being able to quantitatively watch behavior gives you real feedback about your policies, procedures, and even branding choices.

I mentioned that you can do this for lots of parts of your business. Sure it’s great to see if people are willing to refer you but you can ask lots of questions. You can ask to see the likelihood of working together again, using a venue, managing a project, willingness to use a product or service, likely to use a tool, etc. Think about all the sites, services, products, and experiences you have on any given day. Any time someone asks you to take a quick survey or submit a review they’re looking for your input and to rate them for their NPS score. You’ll notice it happens most often when something changes like new features, people, or even menu items at a restaurant.

To figure out why you should care let’s throw it back to Bain & Co., the firm that originally introduced this metric. According to Bain & Co.’s NPS dedicated site there’s a correlation between your business’s growth and your Net Promoter Score. Your NPS accounts for somewhere between 20% and 60% of your business’s organic growth rate. That’s a big deal. No matter how clever your marketing, how authentic your branding, and how well you position yourself how people feel about you can be responsible for more than half of your growth. The neat thing there is that this doesn’t only apply to people buying something from you. Think about all the free apps you use, the websites you visit, or free things you consume. As a customer, you being willing to tell someone about something you liked is a big deal. Attention in this regard is worth just as much as actual money in some cases. Again not to sound too commonsensical here but, your customers will buy more, stay with you longer, refer more, and provide more constructive feedback the higher your NPS climbs.

So you should absolutely care!

Now that you’re onboard it’s time to put your new found respect for the Net Promoter Score into action. I would recommend starting with something simple and FREE like Survey Monkey. The best part about using Survey Monkey is that they have an entire space dedicate to NPS which includes templates and tools to help you make sense of the data you’re collecting. They didn’t pay me to say any of this, I’ve always been a fan of Survey Monkey and their NPS stuff is great! Oh, and did I mention it’s a small business’s favorite price...Free! Here’s the link if you want to check it out - https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/net-promoter-score-survey-template/

After you set all that up you’ll need to figure out who to send this too. You can send out to your customers, your professional networks, and even your family and friends. Without diving too much into the magic of statistics I would just caution you about using sample sizes that are too small or too focused. Just because you send it to three people and they all give you a score of 6 doesn’t mean you should change everything you’re doing. Keep the data you’re collecting in context and you can always ask for additional feedback. Don’t forget that this is all because you’re trying to get better and sometimes that means coming to terms with the fact that people will have less than great experiences with you.

So, make sure you add a heartfelt message at the start sharing how important your audience’s feedback is and let them know that you’ll be sending these from time to time to help you be the best version of you possible. After that you’ll be on your way to collecting data, making decisions, using feedback, and growing sustainably like all the rest of the captains of industry.


How to Beat Procrastination

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Procrastination is an interesting thing to think about and it ties directly to how productive and efficient you are in your business. It can creep up on you, make things on your to-do list seem more complicated than they are and, be the muse to some of your best rationalizations. 

It doesn’t have to be scary though. 

In this Ted Talk, you’re going to see Tim Urban really break down what procrastination is, how it works and best of all - how to manage it. He’s going to give you permission to forgive yourself for procrastinating and some ideas on how to use it to your advantage. 

I think investing a few minutes in understanding how the amazing machines that are our brains work are worth way more than tinkering with any productivity tool you’re working in today. That tool will still be there when you’re done and you’ll have the added bonus of knowing how to outsmart your own procrastination monster. 

Oh and before you hit play on that Ted Talk, I wanted to encourage you not to procrastinate and check out the new Group Coaching program I’m offering. If you’ve been on the fence about starting a business or have been struggling to get any traction then it’s definitely worth a quick peek - after the Tim Urban video that is. 

Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn't make sense, but he's never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window -- and encourages us to think harder about what we're really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.

How To Be More Productive At Work

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If you’re serious about growing your business then I think you should consider playing more strategy video games. You heard (read) this correct. Whether you’re a Clash of Clans “Clasher”, a multiplayer online battle arena type League of Legends or Dota player, or someone who really likes the speed and variety of Hearthstone; I’m going to argue that all work and no play literally makes Jack a dull business building boy (or girl). In this post, I’m going to challenge you to reallocate the time you spend taking social media and online content consumption breaks during the day to playing more casually strategy type video games.

Really.

Let’s start by acknowledging that most people don’t dedicate every “working” moment of their day to adding to their own (or someone else’s) bottom line. There are lots of studies and frameworks that suggest getting the best productivity out of someone they actually shouldn’t be trying to be productive 100% of the time. There is, in fact, a diminishing marginal return type of effect when it comes to productivity. It’s from these studies that you see frameworks like Pareto, Eating Frogs, Personal Kanban, SMART methods, and the productivity hacking list literally goes on forever.

When it comes to time management and productivity there is no shortage of the ways in which you can organize your day. Regardless of how you organize your day though there is a constant and that constant is some kind of downtime or transitional time. This is where the fun begins.

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I want you to get more play time into your day by using your breaks strategically. Before we can do that though I want to cover why breaks are important in the first place.

Why is it important to take breaks?

1. Taking breaks during the workday help stave off boredom and keep us more focused. Keeping boredom at bay and staying focused is important because it directly impacts the return on the time you’re spending and the quality of the outputs regarding your given task.  Alejandro Lleras a psychology professor at the University of Illinois explains, “…Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”

2. Breaks also help to reevaluate goals. I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all had experiences where it feels like you’ve been working really hard and are throwing a ton of time into something only to find out you deviated from your original goal or intention by the end. Taking breaks along the way allow you to come back to tasks with a refreshed perspective on the work that you are doing.

3. Some of the best problem solving happens when you’re more relaxed. I mean I can’t be the only one that has his best ideas in the shower or when I’m on a 40-minute drive to and from a client site right?! When we are relaxed our brains can better free connect ideas and concepts because our imagination takes the wheel in our brains associative bits. Focused work actually creates cognitive barriers that can actually impede our natural problem-solving abilities.

4. Breaks also allow for the reduction of stress and the management of morale. When you take a break it allows you the opportunity to escape from the demands of the work at the moment. It allows you the opportunity to take some time for yourself and to engage in some self-care. It’s not uncommon for advice like go outside, get up and stretch, talk to someone, etc. These activities are encouraged because they are proven to drive morale up. When you’re happier at work, you’re more engaged and you feel better about getting through the rest of your to-do list. Not to mention all the quantitative benefits that can be gleaned from happier and healthy workers when you start to factor in things like the marginal product of revenue.

Ok so now that we’ve set the table on productivity and the importance of breaks let’s jump into why playing strategy video games is important.

Casual strategy video games afford the same kinds of benefits as the other, more traditionally,  recommended break time activities. You get all the benefits listed in the 4 points above so I won’t be repeating myself but here’s where the extra benefit comes in.

Video game play has been shown to reduce stress, increase cognitive function, increase resource allocation or management skills, and even help people reframe how they think about time management.

Let’s break each one of those points out briefly:

1. Reducing Stress. Building and growing a business is stressful. Giving yourself permission to stop when you can and schedule in some time for some levity, escapism, and adventure can be good for self-care. Allowing yourself to temporarily step away from deadlines, duties, and responsibilities can improve mood and help facilitate feelings of control which can combat the anxiety that entrepreneurs can experience doing the work to grow your business.

2. Increase cognitive function, resource management and problem-solving. Strategy games have been shown to increase cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility the ability to hold different ideas simultaneously or to be able to switch between concepts rapidly. When you’re building a business you’re often faced with having to make decisions in real time. The more practice you have with juggling different, possibly dissident, ideas the better you’ll be at charting your decision throughline to make better decisions consistently. These types of games also often have players manage resources and solve problems in real time which translate to better real-world planning skills and innovative thinking to move past challenges.

3. Time management. A study (link to study) from psychologists at the Plymouth University actually found that playing Tetris helped to improve self-control. Self-control is one of the biggest points of failure when it comes to trying to hold yourself accountable for your time management systems. In the last five minutes, I’ve checked my phone three times during a time that was supposed to be dedicated to creating this content. Ouchies.Circling back to the list of all the different productivity models will show that breaks are built into all of them. While the timing and durations vary the fact that you need a break to do your best work is a pretty consistent theme. Allowing yourself this structured play time can give your brain a dopamine hit to look forward to instead of incentivizing you to go out and find one during predetermined work periods.

Conclusion

I hope that by the end of this post I’ve challenged you to be a little more honest about how you spend your workday. It’s easy to dismiss the idea that playing games in the middle of the day are a wise use of your workday. It’s easy because there’s a stigma about what work should look like. How can you tell your boss, your client, spouse or to-do list that you’re being productive when someone walks in on you as your immersed in a fantasy-strategy world? Well, that same question can be asked of anyone caught mindlessly scrolling through their phone at work? The rub here is that predetermined work breaks that are designed to keep you engaged in your workday are always going to be better for you over the hundreds of times you’re checking your phone through the day. Especially, if it takes on average about 15 minutes to get back to your work after each break.

Moral of the story, play more games at work to do better work - because science.

You're welcome.

Manager Minutes Episode 1: How To Set Better Priorities

Welcome to the first episode of Manager Minutes! I've decided to take the leap and start learning my way through producing video content. On this journey it's my hope to continually up the production value and deliver content that you can put into action every day. Below each video I'll always do my best to also include a transcript or show notes for you too. 

Transcript: 

Hi everyone! I’m Nunzio and you’re watching Manager Minutes: Episode 1. In this series it’s my goal to help you close the gap between what you planned to do to grow your business and what you’re actually doing in the business.

For this first episode I want to call your time management skills out. Well, actually my goal for this video is to supercharge those skills by giving you one simple things to remember when you’re trying to decide what to do next in your business.

And that's priorities.

You need to  get to the heart of what's important in your business. Before that though you have to come to the realization that you’re never going to get everything on your To-Do list done...ever.

What you can do right now is decide on the most important 1 or 2 things that you need to get done each day and build the rest of your supporting tasks around those.

I already hear you asking, How do you decide on what's a priority when everything I do is important in my business??

Well person who abuses #hustle in all your social posts there are two questions you can ask if your tasks:

1 Is what I need to do directly impacting the value I'm delivering to my customers?

And.

2 Is what I need to do directly getting me closer to one of my goals?

A yes answer to either one of those questions means you have a priority on your hands and that you should probably be filling the rest of your To-Do list with supporting tasks for your new priority.

So figure out what matters most and get to doing the work that matters most in your business.

I’m Nunzio you’ve just finished The Manger Minute: Episode 1 and I’ll see you in the next one.