Tom Murphy – Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy blogging about PR and other things since 2002…

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The truth teller

July 31st, 2014 · Marketing

If you follow social media – and this probably relates more to blogs and Twitter than the other channels – you know there’s a lot of opinions on marketing and PR out there. 

Now, on the whole, this is a good thing, but at the same time, there’s often a lack of good, honest discussion of some of these opinions and memes.

So when someone provides a contrarian view on one of the sacred cows, it’s always worth a listen.

Designer Stefan Sagmeister addresses the question of “storytelling”…

You are not a storyteller – Stefan Sagmeister @ FITC from FITC on Vimeo.

Source: Darren Barefoot.

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FIR766: Enterprise Social

July 29th, 2014 · Productivity

As a regular listener to For Immediate Release – hosted by Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz, I was listening to Monday’s episode which included an interesting discussion on Enterprise Social.  As a guy who works on the Microsoft Office PR team – which of course includes Yammer – this is a subject close to my heart.  I started writing a comment on their Google Plus community, but it was very long, so rather than annoy other members of the community I thought I’d paste the comment here and just provide a link.

Neville/Shel:

Interesting piece on Enterprise Social adoption (Disclaimer I work on the Microsoft Office PR team – which includes Yammer but I am also a long time FIR listener Smile). 

I’m not sure it’s a surprise that adoption rates of enterprise social are slower than ‘consumer social’ (or perhaps just social media?).  As you know the formal deployment of technology in a business is often slower for a multitude of reasons.

Enterprise social is often part of a broader company transformation – after all it enables people to work together in new ways. Telstra is an interesting example of that.

"It (Enterprise Social) has solicited a degree of honesty and openness. There’s occasionally a little bit of stuff that comes out, but I tell you I never jump in. It’s self-managing, because other people jump in.” David Thodey, CEO of Telstra. 

The majority of companies undertake initial pilots before taking the decision to deploy it more widely.  For example after an initial trial, UK retailer Tesco is now rolling out Enterprise Social to their 320,000 people.

Having said that, there is strong growth in the number of companies, teams and individuals using Enterprise Social. Although Yammer is only one of many enterprise social services, it is being used by over 500,000 organizations today. 

Shel’s point on the importance of app-based networks is a valid one, however I think you’ll find that most enterprise social providers already support apps so people can use them wherever they are – desktop, laptop, tablet and phone – and companies are putting serious effort into making it easier for employees to use it. Qantas is a good example:

As discussed on the show, greater integration of Enterprise Social with the tools people are using today will accelerate adoption and that’s why in Microsoft’s case (Ref: Disclaimer above) we’re integrating Yammer across Office 365, so you can use it with Outlook or collaborate on a document via Yammer etc.

Beyond the traditional benefits such as increased collaboration and productivity, the broad adoption of Enterprise Social enables a new set of intelligent tools and services that aid personal and group productivity.  Delve is a great example of this. It intelligently uses all the information and communications across your company to deliver the personalized information you need, where and when you need it.

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The real value of Enterprise Social is that it is helping people, teams and organizations to change how they work.  It’s something we call ‘’the ‘Responsive Org.  Adam Pisoni, co-founder of Yammer puts it well in this interview:

“Companies as they exist today were designed for the industrial revolution when most of the work was routine and repetitive …

“The world has become a giant network but companies have remained rigid hierarchies.”

“It’s not about the technology any more. There’s value in working differently. Tools like Yammer don’t work unless you change the way you work.”

Red Robin is just one company that has transformed its business using Enterprise Social:

Yummer is particularly remarkable because it gave a voice to the "silent" front-line workers at Red Robin. Prior to Yammer, these employees would pass information up the company management chain, but they rarely received feedback about what was done with the information.

The good news for Enterprise Social is that more and more companies are using it to transform how they work and many are seeing real, tangible, business outcomes. 

Finally I can’t finish without referencing FIR podcast network member Rachel Miller’s fantastic Yammertime resource.

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Great PR requires a little bravery

July 25th, 2014 · Public Relations

The explosion of data and analytics has created fantastic opportunities for marketers and PR pros to get better insights into the impact of their work.

While the benefits of measuring the results of an announcement or campaign are immediately obvious, the potential for data to inform future decision making has traditionally been more challenging.

The potential of data to provide insights and inform new approaches to communicating or engaging with people is pretty exciting.  Where before we based decisions exclusively on experience and perhaps a gut feeling, now you can test an idea, measure the impact and refine it – or never do it again Smile.

The potential to have quantifiable insight along with your experience and opinion is a powerful thing.  The downside is that to garner that insight you must try something new and in some cases that could be a calculated risk.  You may have to establish a baseline or measure impact, and that could potentially put you outside your comfort zone.

Of course personal and professional discomfort is one thing, the legions of online Monday morning quarterbacks just looking for the opportunity to dissect your work and question your professionalism and/or competence is another. 

However, these pundits rarely let knowledge or insight – into your objectives or even the actual results – get in the way of their opinion.  My advice is to ignore them.

The reality is that in today’s changing world we must trial and experiment new things.  Data gives us the potential to measure their effectiveness and thereby help us to be more successful in the future.

It may take a little bravery to take that first step, but if you do it thoughtfully, it can deliver real, tangible long term benefits.

I think it’s probably worth the risk and Albert Einstein would probably agree.

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Quick overview: Setting up OneNote

May 13th, 2014 · Productivity

Update: Stuart Bruce reminded me that OneNote is now available free of charge across all your devices.

Following the previous post about using OneNote to manage your digital life, I had a number of people ask how I actually structure OneNote, so here’s a quick overview that hopefully provides some food for thought.

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One of the great things about OneNote is that it’s completely adaptable to how you want to work. There isn’t one single structure or approach, rather you can fine tune it so that it best suits how you work or what you want to do. This flexibility came home to me recently when I was reviewing my OneNote archives going back to 2007 and it’s been interesting to see how the structure of my notebooks have changed over that period.

So for what it’s worth here’s how I use OneNote.

Start before you open OneNote

One of the great things about OneNote is that you can just dive in and start adding notes and thoughts, archiving emails, clipping web pages etc. However, I always advise people to invest some time thinking through how they want to use it, what are your work and personal priorities and responsibilities, what information will you put in OneNote etc.

One useful way to do this is what David Allen calls a mind sweep. This is a process of sitting down and pulling together everything you have going on in your work and personal life so that you have a good left to right view of your world from an urgent project to cleaning the yard.

The next step is outlining the priorities you have and using those priorities to drive the structure of your OneNote.

At this point you should also think about where you want to keep your OneNote notebooks stored. You can save them locally to your hard drive or you can use built in support for OneDrive and for work related content you can also use OneDrive for business.  For me using OneDrive is essential, it keeps all my notebooks synchronized across all my devices. So no matter where I am, I have the latest content.

Structuring OneNote

My OneNote notebooks have evolved over time, however the main structure has been consistent and works for me.

There are three active notebooks I use:

  • Personal (Web) – this is the default notebook that’s opened when you install OneNote – I’ll explain why it’s easiest to use this notebook later
  • 2014 Work notebook – my work notebook for the current financial year
  • Reference notebook – a general notebook

Personal (Web) Notebook

This is the notebook where I spend most of my working day. I’ve structured it based on my personal and professional priorities. It includes the following sections:

  • Quick Notes
  • Journal
  • Agendas
  • Projects Work
  • Personal Projects
  • Someday Work
  • Someday Personal

Quick Notes – this is the standard OneNote tab in the standard OneNote notebook when you install the app. I use it because it’s where OneNote stores any quick notes you create, and if you’re using the new OneNote services like web clippings or posting to OneNote via email (using me@onenote.com) this is where those notes go.

Quick Notes is my OneNote Inbox. It’s the default place I send information from emails, to meeting notes, ideas, articles, documents etc.

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I also have a shortcut to Quick Notes on the home screen of my Windows Phone so if I think of something I can quickly write or record the thought directly into OneNote.

(Note for Windows Phone 8.1 users: The other benefit of using this notebook, is that if you use Cortana this is the folder where any notes you dictate to her are sent).

The key here is that you capture everything in the Quick Notes section, then you process every item in there and file it as required. For example, review meeting notes for any actions or reminders. After reviewing them then I move them out of Quick Notes and into the relevant notebook or section. The aim is to empty out the Quick Notes section regularly. 

There are a number of other tabs in this folder:

Journal - I have over the past few years kept a journal. Though calling it a journal may be overstating it a little. I don’t necessarily write it up every day, but I do jot things down and capture any thoughts, ideas, or lessons I’ve learned. I’ve found it incredibly valuable in terms of keeping a record of what’s been going on. Because OneNote can handle any information I can pop photos, text, documents, links, screen captures etc in there, and it’s accessible from my PC, any web browser, tablet, phone etc.

Agendas - In here I have a page for everybody that I’m working with. I create the Agenda page for each person by sending their Outlook contact card to OneNote. Then on each contact’s page I jot down things I need to talk to them about next time I see them, I also link to the notes from previous 1:1 meetings so I can review those notes ahead of our next meeting if required.

Projects - I have a page for each active project I’m working on. How you set this up is down to personal preference. I have a page for each project that is set it up similarly to this mock-up:

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The fantastic thing about OneNote is you can then attach files, handwritten notes, links to resources on the web – and even better, links to other OneNote pages. This means that this one project page can aggregate all the information and references for a project. It’s an incredible time saver.

Personal Projects – Same as above but for Personal interests.

Someday – In this tab I have a general page that has future work related thoughts, ideas etc. Then I have an individual page for larger items or projects which I will need to do in the future but aren’t actionable right now. I review this tab every week and then migrate projects or ideas into the project tab when they are ready to go.

Someday Personal – Same as above but this is for personal projects. I also use this for capturing notes and lists such as books I want to read, movies or TV programs I want to see etc.

 

Work Notebook

This is for all the reference information you need as part of work life. Each year I’ll have a specific Work notebook, and when the year ends I retire it to my archives and create a new one. This keeps all the reference material, notes, emails, files, etc. for that year together and in context. I’ve over 10 gigabytes of OneNote notebooks that contain a lot of information and resources going back over the years.

So how do you structure it? Well there are probably a number of core focus areas or responsibilities for your job. For example things like Administration, Management, Planning, then specific clients, services or products – this will obviously be specific to your work life. I have a tab for each of these areas in my work notebook.

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Then when I have a relevant email, article, or meeting note I file it in the related area (and cross link them to my project pages) which creates an incredibly rich database of relevant work information.

Finally, I also have an archive tab. When a project is complete I put it in the archive folder which gives me a full inventory of projects completed through the year.

Note: Given it’s work-related information I host this notebook on OneDrive for Business – which comes with Office 365 and ensures sensitive company information is separate from your personal OneDrive.

 

Reference Notebook

Finally I have a reference notebook. Whereas the first two notebooks hold mostly date-specific information, this is a big old notebook that I use as a repository for evergreen information I may want to review or read again. How you structure this really depends on your interests, for me it has career related content, PR content, old manuals, interesting articles, quotes, resources, etc.

 

End of year

At the end of the calendar and work year, I archive the year specific content that I have in my Personal (Web) and Work notebooks into new notebooks for that particular year – one for personal and one for work. I keep any information that remains relevant for the new year.

 

Some additional OneNote Tips:

  • Hyperlinking: The best power tip is hyperlinking in OneNote. Not only can you link to web pages, but you can link to other notes. So for example in the Agendas section. I can link to previous meeting notes so I have a complete record of past conversations I can quickly review. From your project page you can add files and links to related notes.
  • Tags: OneNote has useful tagging capabilities which make it faster and easier to find information later. One absolutely killer feature is tag search. You can not only search all your notes and notebooks for tags but you can pull together tags onto a ‘summary page’ – this is a great feature.
  • Outlook Integration: When I build out my projects, I’ll have a list of next actions. Using ‘Ctrl-Shift-K’ I can create an Outlook task from that action and the two items are linked, this is a great focus tool. Also, when the Outlook task is completed the item is marked complete in your notebook automatically.
  • Using two OneNote windows: When you start using OneNote a lot, there may be times you want to have two OneNote windows open rather can clicking back and forth between pages (or using Alt-left or right arrow). Instead just hold down Control-M and a new OneNote window opens.
  • Office Lens: One of the best things about OneNote is that you can add practically any type of digital content from anywhere. This includes making non-digital information digital. Think about that printed brochure, that receipt, napkin, whiteboard or moleskin page. Office Lens is a fantastic little app that simplifies capturing that content with your phone and transfers it automatically into OneNote. It’s also smart, optimizing capture with different modes from Whiteboard to documents and photos. It’s currently available for Windows Phone.
  • Onetastic: Microsoft developer Omer Atay has created a set of great little tools and add-ins for OneNote including OneCalendar where you can view all your notes on a Calendar. It’s a free download and I recommend it.

 

The beauty of OneNote is it’s flexibility. You should play around and find a structure that works for you.

I’d love to hear how you’re using OneNote and if you’ve any tips or questions leave a comment or feel free to get in touch.

Additional notes:

  • OneNote is now available on Windows (both traditional desktop and as a modern app – which is really nice and worth a look if you haven’t already). Windows Phone, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android and on the web.
  • There’s also a host of new complimentary apps and services for OneNote from doxie to Feedly and IFTTT.

Related posts:

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Sometimes it’s better to not share your views..

February 25th, 2014 · Public Relations

Last week a friend passed along a post from a PR firm’s blog that had me rolling my eyes so hard and fast that I strained them.

You see, in the rush to publish a critique in a timely manner, the author didn’t allow ignorance or even the most rudimentary research get in the way of their opinion. It was like they had a pre-canned post and they were looking for an example they could use.  It resulted in a piece that was was not just inaccurate, it was ill conceived and simply untrue.

After reading this critique I did something that the author clearly had not done, namely a little bit of research.  The blog is from a firm that claims to provide ‘strategic counsel’ -  though in fairness the website didn’t specify what they provide strategic counsel on.  Reading the blog post, I’ll wager it isn’t strategic counsel on public relations.

There’s been a rise in this quick reflex PR ‘analysis’ – and in fairness it’s not something unique to PR -  you see it everywhere. People don’t stop to let facts get in the way of their published opinion.

But they should.

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Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with reasoned criticism or opinion. But that’s not what this was.  This was a post in search of a meme.

It’s a kind of professional trolling and while it’s not new it is on the increase.

When I see a crisis unfolding I feel empathy for the PR team involved. 

Having been on the inside of many issues, I know that the communications team will be working through tough decisions and there’s not always an easy or simple resolution.  In fact, the growth of social media has meant that issues today have far more phases, twists and turns than ever before.

Regrettably these days communicators are often not only dealing with the issue in question, but they’re dealing with the hurlers on the ditch who often pass judgment without any insight (or interest) into many of the complexities involved.

I have no problem with fair, reasoned criticism but the rush to jump on the bandwagon without any insight or rudimentary research isn’t something that should be encouraged.

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One(Note) productivity tool to rule them all..

February 20th, 2014 · Productivity

Somewhere along the way the true meaning of personal productivity got lost.

Instead of productivity being about doing more of the things – work and personal – that are important to us, it became about just doing more.

We’ve only a limited number of hours in a day, and if you want to perform at your best, you need to focus on getting your work life balance right and NOT just working longer hours or that ridiculous concept of being ‘always on’.

I’m always intrigued about how people stay organized, particularly in the marketing and PR world where we’re dealing with more sources, information and interruptions that ever before.

So here’s a brief overview of how I stay on top of my working day, keep focused on what’s important and get my inbox to zero practically every day.

I’ll start by giving you a rough outline of the process and then a bit more detail on the tools I use.

Tip: If you’re interested in some good, solid advice on personal productivity, I really recommend Getting Things Done. It’s a great introduction to putting some shape on all the information and commitments you’re managing every day and ensuring you’re focused on what’s important.

For me there’s four main things I focus on in terms of productivity:

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1. Capture everything

When I say capture everything, I really mean everything. Capture that thought you have getting out of the shower, capture notes from a meeting, emails, that interesting photo you took, the whiteboard chart from your last meeting. Whatever it is, capture it and put it in a central repository or system where it’ll be processed (see the next section).

For me everything I capture goes into OneNote where I know I’ll process it.

You might have multiple ‘inboxes’, from your email, to your physical desk inbox, an inbox at home for personal stuff, a notebook for ideas, a note app on your device. It doesn’t matter what your inboxes are, it matters that they are capturing everything and that you are then processing those inboxes.

2. Process your stuff

Once you have captured everything then you need to process it. This is where you have to make decisions about all the ‘stuff’ you’ve captured.

What does process mean?

Well take an email as an example. Is it actionable? Is there an immediate action for you, is it part of a project, is it something you need to delegate, or delete, is it something you need to file for later etc.

(Tip: Review this diagram from David Allen’s Getting Things Done as an illustration of this process).

The trick here is to only touch an item once – make a decision about it and move on. Through this process you can build out your projects and next actions, while making sure all the related information is together.

This is the secret to not having 12,000 emails in your inbox and not forgetting stuff.  When you process all this information you should have complete project lists, task lists, reference lists etc. Then you need to…

3. Do it

I think that’s pretty self-explanatory :). Allen’s guidance is that if there’s something in your inbox you can do in under two minutes you should do it. Carving out time in your day to do things is essential, especially given you probably have a lot of meetings and calls.

4. Review it

Once you have all these lists of actions, projects and reminders you need to review them to make sure you’re moving projects forward. I typically do a quick daily review where I look at my schedule for today and tomorrow and look at what I need to get done. Then once a week I do a more detailed review, which includes reviewing my schedule from the past week, my schedule for the next week, my projects, tasks list, objectives, priorities etc. The review process is key so I actually have blocked time each Friday.

So that’s the process in a nutshell. I’ve kept it high level on purpose as my experience is that everyone’s work style is different.  There’s a lot of additional detail in terms of how you organize and process all that information.  If you’re interested in learning more I recommend buying a copy of Getting Things Done, it has some great tips and advice.

 

Work tools

There’s a lot of different tools and apps I use each day but there’s two apps I use most of all.

First of all I use Microsoft Outlook for all my work and personal email, scheduling and tasks. It’s a great product that I’ve used since it was Schedule+.

However…
OneNote 2013
  If there was just one tool I could have for managing my work life and my personal life, it’s Microsoft OneNote.

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OneNote is one of the lesser known parts of Microsoft Office. In the most simple terms it’s an electronic notebook, but that doesn’t do it justice. (Tip: There’s a basic introductory video here).

You can take notes (keyboard or handwritten), but you do much more. You can insert files, archive emails, capture web pages, add photos, link different notes together, share your notebooks with others and edit them together in real time.  Effectively you can embed anything in OneNote, and once it’s in there the information is searchable, you can add tags and you can organize the information using the notebook metaphor in a way that best suits how you work.

The result is in effect a complete encyclopedia of your work and personal life.

I have multiple gigabytes of content stored in OneNote going back over eight years from meeting notes, to projects, journals, task lists and reading materials.

Here’s an incomplete list of things I capture in OneNote:

  • Capturing random thoughts or notes at my desk or on the go using the OneNote phone or desktop app
  • Meeting notes (you can auto-generate a meeting note from Outlook, with all the attendees etc. already populated)
  • Project planning including outlining
  • Project plans (including hyperlinks to other OneNote pages, attaching relevant files, photos etc)
  • Archiving relevant email (one click from Outlook)
  • Saved web pages, articles, RSS feeds
  • Cut and Pasted information from other apps or websites
  • Printing documents for review (once OneNote is installed you can print a document into OneNote as you would use a printer)
  • Sharing notebooks which I can collaborate on with colleagues
  • Capturing screenshots
  • Inserting pictures and photos
  • Capturing photos of whiteboard diagrams and incorporating them in my notes
  • Scans of paper documents and brochures
  • Capture handwritten notes – both directly with a stylus or from a notebook via the camera on my phone
  • Take audio and video recordings of meetings which OneNote indexes (with the agreement of participants)
  • And much more!

It’s completely mobile. If I’m away from my desk and have an idea I just open OneNote on my phone, type a note or record my thought with voice and then by the time I’m back at my desk the note is synchronized across all my devices and the web. If I need to find something I can also search those notebooks on my phone.

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That synchronization is thanks to OneDrive which keeps all my notes and notebooks available and synchronized on any my PCs, with Office Online in my browser, my tablet and my phone (I use Windows Phone, but OneNote is also available on iOS or Android).

OneNote has meant that I’m now nearly (98%) paperless. There are times I like paper and for that purpose I carry my trusty Field Notes notebook with me. It’s small, hardy and slips into my back pocket. If there’s something useful in the notebook I just take a photo and post it to OneNote.

Some additional resources on OneNote:

So beyond OneNote and Outlook what else do I use?

Communications

  • Microsoft Lync (for work calls, instant messaging, video calls, conference calls)
  • Skype (for personal instant messaging, and calls)
  • Yammer Notifier – keeps my on top of what’s going on with Yammer (and I use it with the Yammer web app)
  • Tweetdeck – my preferred Twitter desktop client from Twitter

Productivity

  • Microsoft Office 365 (including Outlook, Excel, Work, Powerpoint, OneNote, Access)
  • NextGen Reader – since the sad demise of syndicated feeds with my beloved FeedDemon I’ve turned to NextGen reader which syncs with Feedly. The new sharing capabilities inside NextGen make it a great tool for not only keeping up with news and content but sharing and keeping them for later.
  • Reading List – If you have Windows 8.1 the reading list app is a great way of keeping lists of sites you want to read in the future together
  • Stacks for Instapaper – Along with Reading List I’m a long time user of Instapaper. The Stacks app for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone is a great way of accessing deferred reading wherever you are.
  • Flipboard - I’ll just send you to Stuart Bruce’s review of Flipboard

Tying it all together

I use OneDrive to keep all my personal files, folders and information (and for Windows 8.1 my settings, browser tabs etc) in sync across all my devices from PCs to tablets and phones.

For work information and files I use OneDrive for Business – the business version of OneDrive.

Hardware

  • My primary PC is a Lenovo Carbon X1 – great machine, nice touch screen, thin, fast
  • Surface Pro – nice mix of a full Windows PC with tablet capabilities, great stylus support
  • Dell Venue Pro 8" – great 8" Windows 8.1 device runs all your Windows apps, with fantastic battery life
  • Nokia 920 – love my Windows phone, plan to upgrade to the Nokia 1020
  • Two 20" Monitors – can’t live without them
  • Polycomm Communicator brilliant device for conference calls where you’re out of the office
  • My Doxie scanner turns paper docs, sketches etc. into digital content for OneNote

 

Other related posts:

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Get your life balanced and productive

December 17th, 2013 · Marketing, Public Relations

You may have seen the story about Mita Diran, a young copywriter in Indonesia, who died soon after tweeting about how she had worked 30 hours straight.  Now I don’t know if there were complicating factors, but even if there were, it’s a timely and tragic reminder that we all need to take responsibility for our work-life balance.

It’s an understatement to say the world of work has changed since I started my first job back in the early 1990s. I did have a computer, but no email. I had a phone, but no voicemail. No mobile phones, no Skype, no text messages, no instant messaging, no blogs, no RSS feeds, no social media, no Internet, did I mention no social media?

On the downside researching a new business pitch back in the early 1990s meant driving to the local library with a bag of 10p coins to feed the photocopier.

Today by comparison we face a dizzying variety of channels, and the volume of information being pushed through those channels is incredible. That’s before you think about interruptions, calls, conference calls, meetings and unexpected distractions.  Load on the growing expectations of your clients and co-workers and the ability of technology to keep you connected wherever you are. Now try and balance all these competing demands while trying to find some time for family, friends and yourself.

I see two core issues here.

Firstly, we need a better way to manage all this ‘stuff’ while remaining sane. I’ll come back to that a little later in this post.

Secondly, we need a wakeup call on our priorities.

I’ve read a number of tweets and blog posts recently, where ‘being always on’ is some sort of badge of honor. Seriously. People not only brag about it, they claim it’s non-negotiable.

What a complete canard (and I’m not being bi-lingual here).

Let me tell you something. The quality of work you produce and how well you meet your commitments, is far more important than how many hours you spend online.

End of story.

Working in PR or marketing, I’m sure we’ve all had times where we have worked for weeks on end with no break – perhaps months. Actually Mira Diran’s story isn’t that shocking to many of us. But it should be.

But besides the physical impact of this effort, there’s something else you should remember. Long before you hit ‘the wall’ of exhaustion you can be sure that the quality of your work and your decision making has dropped.

That I can guarantee you.

Whenever I’ve talked with executives I’ve found they all share a common trait.  A clear understanding that they must balance hard work with rest, exercise, balance and productivity.

The reality is that if you want to be a creative, effective, productive, high achiever, then you need to ensure you’re getting mental and physical rest. You need to be looking after yourself, exercising, resting and giving your brain downtime. That’s how you perform effectively – and ultimately come up with your best work.

Many years ago I had personal experience of burn out. After overworking for months I had a serious fright. It made me re-assess my approach to work. It motivated me to explore best practices in terms of performance, productivity and work life balance. While my wife would readily point out I don’t always get the blend right, she’ll also admit I’m much better at balancing what’s important while still delivering great results at work than I was.

At work I have the great privilege of working with a high performing team. My job is simple, help these folks  do their best work while ensuring they are achieving balance. They’ll all happily tell you I bore them to death by telling them they’re no good to me if they’re burnt out :). We work hard, but I try and ensure we also have balance.

Take stock of how you’re working, learn how to get more productive (see below), make time for what’s important from your personal health to your personal life.

This is your responsibility not your employer’s. A smart employer will understand and support you getting this balance, because they’ll understand that’s how they get the best results.

If your employer doesn’t get it, then find one that does. I can assure you that not only is it a better place to work, but they are probably delivering better results.

You are (I’m sure) primarily measured on outputs and results not inputs or how "hard" you worked.

Ensure you can do your best work by getting the balance in your life right. What are your professional and personal priorities? How are you going to achieve them?

There’s no panacea, it’s an ongoing struggle. I don’t always get the balance right, but at least it’s something I am acutely aware of. There’s one thing I can tell you, it’s not about being ‘online’ all the time.

So.

How can you more effectively manage all the stuff you have to deal with, how can you keep a focus on the results that matter?

A couple of weeks ago I had an exchange on Twitter with Stephen Waddington, Sean Fleming, Sally Whittle, and Mark Pinsent that began about the evils of e-mail.

My view is that email is simply a tool. Used correctly it’s incredibly useful, but of course in reality many people abuse it.

So how do you manage not only your email but all the rest of the information hitting you on a daily basis while keeping on top of your commitments and deadlines?

A few years ago – after the fright I mentioned earlier – I quickly realized I was drowning in information and as I got clear on my personal and professional priorities, I also started looking at my own productivity.

How could I more effectively manage everything that was crossing my desk while staying focused on what’s important?

I quickly discovered there’s a lot of processes and systems for keeping yourself organized and focused on managing all the demands you have.  I also discovered that there’s no one size that fits everyone, it’s all taking some pointers from these systems and applying what works for you.

Probably the best known workflow is David Allen’s Getting Things Done. (You can find a huge amount of content around the web on GTD.)

In summary, Allen provides a framework for thinking about managing all the stuff in your life from emails, post, to bills, a thought, an article, a tweet, a project, a commitment or an objective. He argues that unless you capture and process all this different stuff (and process can mean creating a reminder, or a new project, or just deleting it) it creates distractions which ultimately waste time and make you less productive and less focused.

He provides a framework that can be summarized as:

  • Having a system you trust to capture everything in your world. This ranges from incoming emails, tweets, drive-by meetings, phone calls or ideas you’ve had in the shower.
  • Process all these items and make decisions about them. For example, you have an email from a colleague, is there an action you need to take? If no, then do you delete it, file it for later reference, or if you can’t do it now put it on a list? If yes, what is the action? Is it a new project? Do you need to delegate it? Can you do it in less than 2 minutes? Then do it.
  • Organizing all this information into a system you can trust and use.
  • Regularly reviewing your (personal and professional) lists, commitments, goals, objectives and schedules is key. It’s how you keep the system live and relevant.
  • Taking Action. The whole point is to actually get stuff done.

Of course, like Stephen Covey’s ‘Sharpen the Saw’ you need to stop and invest time to get your system up and running, but in my opinion it’s worth the investment.

Here’s a question for you: How often do you get your email inbox empty? Every day?

Why not grab a copy of Getting Things Done and give it a read.

As we wind down 2013, it’s a great time to take stock of where you are in your personal and professional life, think about where you can make changes in the year ahead and get the balance between those lives back in check.

Remember life really isn’t a dress rehearsal, so is checking tweets at 11.55pm really the best use of your time on the planet? Probably not.

Technology is part of the solution, but only when it’s combined with clarity on your priorities and a system that helps you be more productive.

I’d love to hear about how you manage.

Update:

If you’re interested in more information about how you can use technology to help with your productivity – once you’re clear on your priorities – here’s are some recent posts on the subject:

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You can be creative about anything…

November 15th, 2013 · Marketing

There are a number of things I love about this video. 

It is very smart, well shot, and it’s surprising, entertaining, and memorable.

The other thing is that it’s a really compelling and creative way to demonstrate a pretty mundane (to me) product feature. 

You may argue on the ROI of this video, but then neither of us have any idea of the objectives or the measures of success.

So instead, let’s just enjoy it. 

I first saw this on Thursday and it had 40,000 views, in less than a day that jumped to 8.7 million (and growing).

It’s so good, I even forgive them using Enya for the soundtrack.

My takeaway?

The steering on those Volvo trucks is – thankfully -  magnificent.

Thank goodness for that.

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Is the quality of our (PR) work judged by our standards?

August 27th, 2013 · Public Relations

I have always been a big believer in the important role that professional bodies play in the world of Public Relations.  Promoting a common set of standards across this reputation-challenged profession is a good thing. 

However, with no common enforced regulations, perhaps the quality of our work can by judged by the standards we set for ourselves?

There was recently a great guest post by Jean Valin and Daniel Tisch on the PR Conversations blog discussing the Melbourne Mandate (and this week For Immediate Release posted an interview with Jean and Daniel on the Mandate), which aims to define a set of roles, responsibilities and principles for PR practitioners.

From the website:

Today, unprecedented public access to communication presents new challenges and opportunities for organisations – and for global society. This presents a new mandate for public relations and communication management: a set of roles, responsibilities and principles hereby endorsed by delegates to the 2012 World Public Relations Forum in Melbourne, Australia.

The new mandate

Public relations and communication professionals have a mandate to:

  • define and maintain an organisation’s character and values;
  • build a culture of listening and engagement; and
  • instill responsible behaviours by individuals and organisations.

 

I’d strongly recommend you to take some time to review the Melbourne Mandate and see how it applies to the work you’re doing.

The Global Alliance for PR and Communication Management is behind the Melbourne Mandate. It’s an organization that represents many of the world’s largest PR professional bodies and is also involved in the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles, a set of proposed standards for measuring Public Relations.

Given the changes taking place in the world of communications this is a good thing.  As I’ve said before, as long as PR agencies are using proprietary measurement as a competitive differentiator we’re in trouble.

Bonus: Read Andy West of Hotwire PR on the importance of supporting the measurement debate

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A view of the changing face of journalism and PR from a motorsport perspective

August 16th, 2013 · Off-topic

I should preface this post by pointing out that I spent many of my childhood weekends surrounded by racing cars.  When I wasn’t watching my father trackside, I was watching the sport on TV.  While my brother has continued the family tradition, these days, besides the annual trip to Le Mans, my motorsport habit is mostly sustained through traditional and social media.

Maurice Hamilton is a veteran journalist who has been covering Formula 1 since the mid-seventies.  In the video below he talks about how he got started in journalism in the 1970s and how that world has radically changed over the intervening decades.

For anyone with an interest in motorsport it’s recommended, for others, well your mileage may vary Smile.

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