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From always on to mostly off March 13, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in addiction, mobile, productivity, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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I can remember my first wireless mobile device. It was a BlackBerry. I got it even though officially my grade wasn’t high enough but because I had to deal with a range of clients and partners in the Wunderman network across Europe in person and across email and calls. A BlackBerry would help. And at the time I felt very smug and happy. Email on the go. Executive. Life was good. It was made better by the fact that the WPP email system at the time was bafflingly Lotus Notes; perhaps the most inefficient and incomprehensible email system ever. Inbox management using the BlackBerry was the only way to survive this terrible affliction. I only used Notes when sending or receiving attachments. So looking back, here’s where all the problems started. Thanks, Sir Martin.

You got used to managing your life on the go. Because it made your life better. And you felt important. Sitting in airport lounges in Köln for hours on end became sitting in Köln airport for hours on end reading and writing emails. We had to sit in Köln airport for hours on end because the agency agreement with the client was to fly super cheap so we had to get the 6am flight from LGW and then only ever the 9pm flight back. Even though the fortnightly meeting always finished just after lunch. Unless you wanted to brave GermanWings and then have the trauma of getting back from Stansted, by which time you’d be later than the original EasyJet flight home. Which was then another 2.5 hour drive home. So figure in a 3am start and typical 1130/midnight finish. There’s prudence… and then there’s madness.

I digress. You felt important though. And then there was that little red flashing light that told you there was a new email. It attracted you like a crying baby – you can’t ignore it.

And so fast forward some years and moving from BlackBerry to iPhones. The technology has changed but the problem remains. The flashing red light is now a fruit machine of notifications, noises and shouts for your attention.

Much has been made of the founders regret at causing anxiety in users needing the dopamine hit of instant gratification of their content and this Atlantic long-form read is fabulous.

But while acknowledging there is neediness built in, what can we do about it?

I flip-flop between addiction and abstinence but I’ve found the following tips/hacks/guidance work for me:

  1. Hard cover. I always thought these were crap. They got in the way of you looking your phone and then the cover flapped around when you were trying to make calls or take photos. But then I accidentally ran over my wife’s phone in our car one day (long story) and the phone survived. It was a heavy car at the time, a Ford Galaxy. Over gravel. Pretty impressive. So I ordered one. And then I realised that when you can’t see your screen, you stop looking at it. Stupidly simple.
  2. Turn off the sound. Beep! Bing! Or whatever alert sound there is, turn them off. I only have sounds activated for when the phone rings or text messages. Or vibrate on silent. Everything else is just a distraction.
  3. Turn off all notifications. All of them. Apart from calls and text. Yes, even WhatsApp; which continues to demand I turn notifications back on. Resist. In doing so you’ll also lose the tiny little number in a red circle that although elegantly designed, is designed to drag you back in.
  4. Airplane mode is not just for airplanes. Absolutely use at night. The only permissible function could be an alarm clock. And if you can’t trust yourself to not have a sneaky peak in the night, buy a damn alarm clock.
  5. Turn the screen to grayscale. It’s amazing how less exciting the world looks in black and white. You will spend less time surfing through social media and focussing on completing tasks. Intention trumps attention. It will also extend your battery life.
  6. Clean your screen top. Move everything into folders. Move all folders to at least the second page. Not seeing the glut of apps stops you. Adding friction to your experience makes it just that little more effort.
  7. Make eye contact with people, not pixels. If I had a Samsung phone, I’d be downloading this Thrive app.
  8. Break the habit. Stop looking at your phone first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Put it away. At least an hour before sleep.
  9. Delete apps. I killed Twitter in May 2017. Took a few days to stop looking at the cess pool but I don’t miss it all all. I managed to kill Facebook until we were trying to sell some old baby stuff. I only use Instagram to share micro-updates. I don’t follow anyone because otherwise I’d be looking at it all the time. Not following anyone avoids this temptation rather than some uber self importance statement. It may also be a short-term project.

What other tips do you have? Next time, let’s talk about email…

Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

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Tools of Titans or Follies of Fools? Today’s the day. January 31, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in best self, life coach, personal brand, productivity, Uncategorized.
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Today is the 31st January 2018. I’m two years into co-running my own business. It’s demanding but we have great clients and projects. I have a stable and demanding home life and a loving family. But I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Not so much that I can’t cope and need time out. But that I’m far too easily distracted. That I can’t focus. My mind flits everywhere all at once and I’m struggling to maintain focus and direction. Too much noise, not enough signal. I have plans but then don’t execute. I put off. Procrastinate. Write lists but get bored. I feel impatience rising. I can’t concentrate with general hub-bub.

Over the last year or so I’ve been listening and reading more and thinking, “that’s a great idea, I could try that.”

Sometimes I do and it works. Sometimes it stays in the Slack private message to myself or Evernote – the digital equivalents of the scraps of paper, overflowing drawers or scribbles in notebooks. I have those too. I’m currently carrying around three note books, a journal and a plastic wallet with stuff in. Because all have bits in that I need. Or I think I need. But haven’t sorted them out. My bag is like an old woman’s handbag in this respect.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for the last few months. I have a long drive, it helps. And I enjoy them. But then quickly forget.

And then last night I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ interview with Bozoma Saint-John – the new Chief Brand Officer at Uber. And it was interesting, very interesting. As 90% if Ferriss’ work is to me. But it wasn’t the stories about marketing but her experience of living on 10c bread rolls in New York City and the kindly Asian shopkeeper who took pity on her, giving out life advice and human warmth without expectation. And the thing that hit me was this:

 “Today’s the day!”

Everyday she would say this to Boz.

Relentless optimism in the face of adversity.

I’m drawn to the optimistic view. I was once knocked down in an appraisal because I see things through rose tinted glasses. It still smarts some 15 years later. I guess the point they were trying to make – badly – is that sometimes you need a balance but you know what? Forget that. I like being positive and optimistic. ‘Can do’ and ‘relentlessly optimistic’ are things I do. Things I like. I’m a positive, no. 3 type person. I struggle with any negativity or confrontation. Let’s make it happen.

“We spend far too much time complaining about the way things are and forget that we have the power to change anything and everything.” 
– Bozoma Saint John

Today’s the day.

So I decided that today would be the day. Why wait till February 1? Why wait for the start of the week?

Start today. Because today’s the day.

And try out these things. Make the changes. Try the things that started to work and the you stopped. Try new things.

So I took inspiration from some of Ferriss’ interviewees and those that appear in Tools Of Titans and Tribe of Mentors and started. Today.

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My first start was early. 5am early. Because early risers are more productive. Allegedly. Let’s try it. I’m pretty good at getting up. But then so are two of my three children. And this morning the smallest one beat me to the 5am alarm announcing that he’d wet his bed. 4.40am. At least I was awake. I was heading into London on the early train anyway.

I just don’t recall any of Ferriss’ interviewees or ‘titans’ having to deal with 4 year olds and wet mattresses. So instead of meditating or journaling, I was stripping sheets and loading washing machines and trying to get him to use his quiet voice. That’s why I’m going to call this series Tools Of Titans or Follies Of Fools?

For now, at least.

But today’s the day. So I get to London and I’ve achieved one thing.

My phone has been in airplane mode. All this time.

I get to Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue – my peaceful place in town – and while having a nice coffee I get my journal out. I’ve tried this before. But today’s the day. I like the premise. I bought the Best Self Journal. It’s lovely. Nice texture. Solid. Looks great. I struggle with a few things in it that I’m going to try and solve over the next weeks. More on that later but what I do enjoy is the focus on what are your top 3 things to achieve today – or as they say, “what will make today a win?”

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3 things written. 1 done, 1 in progress, 1 yet to start. Better than the to do list that just gnaws away.

And then and only then do I turn the phone on.

More thoughts on that another time.

And I started a new Instagram account to do micro updates on this experiment.

I have lots of things I’d like to do better and improve. I’ll be sharing them here. Feel free to share your experiences.

Today’s the day.

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Today was a good day Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

All others by me.

 

 

 

Distraction and the Internet April 17, 2014

Posted by nicholas gill in distraction, internet, productivity, social media, Uncategorized, website, webtrate.
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65% of us get distracted by the Internet. Distracted form doing stuff by doing more stuff like emails, general web surfing and of course, social media. 53% also admitted that the reduction in productivity caused them dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

I can empathise. I’m far too easily distracted at present. I need to switch off. And now you can with Webtrate. Despite the site looking like it’s come from the 90s – deliberate given the context of what they’re trying t do I hope – you sign up and get a number of options to turn off all these distractions and focus. Anything from a simple timer to a complete lock down. Splendid.

Image source.

i almost did it September 16, 2013

Posted by nicholas gill in productivity, social media.
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I’ve tried to switch off from email and social before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. After changing a few holidays around due to work commitments this year,  I was determined to switch off from work this time round. And that also meant an opportunity for no tweeting, facebooking, checking gmail etc.

It’s a lot harder than it seems. I turned off the work email and realised that my weakest time is putting the kids to bed. When they’re in the little period between shutting their eyes and then properly in the land of nod. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, more usually about 10 – 20. Usually time to attempt the inbox zero challenge and catch up on the social firehose.

Easiest to not look at was Twitter. I went the whole week. No desire to check it. Next was work email. Turning it off stops the easy lapse. I only weakened by need rather than choice as I needed to extend my break due to unforseen circumstances. So had to quickly do this on the Sunday. In and out. 90+ unread a pleasant surprise and quick eyeball meant no horror stories on the return. Switched off. I did plop a few Instagram photos out. Mainly during the kids sleep time when I got frustrated playing Minion Rush (damn, it’s hard. I must be getting old).

I only Facebook’d a few times. To share our boy’s birthday and first day at school pictures.

It’s quite surprising how the urge to take a photo, tweet or update your status is subconsciously gnawing away at you. All the time. I didn’t miss Twitter at all. I think if it had not been a birthday/back to school occasion I would not have felt the need to Facebook either. And after two days I didn’t feel the constant need to check work email either. I only looked at the home email as we’re trying to move house and lots happening there.

As a result, I’m trying not to be always-on. I’m trying to do it in bite-size chunks as I get distracted too easily. I don’t need to turn the phone on in the morning and check. I find it more relaxing. We had our son’s birthday party at the weekend and I kept my phone firmly in my pocket. No tweets, no pictures, no status updates. Just an enjoyable afternoon out.

Image source.

organised me May 28, 2013

Posted by nicholas gill in app, productivity.
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Lists. In my notebook. On my phone. On my desktop. In emails. In various notebooks at home. Failing to get to inbox zero. Trying to wade through gmail and work email to find crap. Or poorly organised folders on my desktop.
Stuff. Lots going on. Busy at work. Ideas bubbling over. Have just moved house. Have just had another child. Interrupted sleep. Lots to do. Getting lost. Not doing things. Missing things. Forgetting things. Losing track.

So I’m trying to be more organised. Like this:

iCloud: using our calendar for home stuff. So my iPhone tells me when stuff is happening. House viewings, when kids are at pre-school, their various clubs and activities, doctor and immunisation check ups etc. Less hassle of checking between emails, texts, scraps and home diary.

Notes on iPhone: useful for sharing to do’s and lists across iPhone, iPad and iMac that we can both update.

Evernote: I’ve had Evernote for a while but not really indulged properly. Reading up, it strikes me you have to commit. So I have. Links, a few documents, stuff I always forget, documents I want to grab easily. As a result, I now have 0 emails in my inbox. Gmail is also empty. I know I could do more. I need to read up. It’s quite liberating.

Easily Do: I’ve been looking up smart assistants for some time. Easily Do takes care of a lot of things automatically such as letting you schedule Happy Birthday posts on Facebook to be delivered on the day. I know, sounds really dim doesn’t it? But checking the Birthday notification has become a daily habit. It also brings you popular and important posts. I probably need to stay away from Facebook to see how valuable this is as I’ve seen most of them by the time it tells me about them. It sends a text when I’m on my way home. I just hit “Do It”. Easy. The receipt filing is sweet. It could be better integrated to Twitter though as that appears to do nothing right now. Same with Linked In. I tweeted them to ask if they were planning on developing a To Do list addition to the service. this would make it really useful to me. I haven’t heard back. If they could also incorporate a digest of Twitter feeds and incorporate some kind of Virtual Assistant into it then it really would be a great app. As is, I’m not so ingrained that I couldn’t swap – recommendations requested?

Any.Do: I’ve tried a few reminder/task apps recently and this one not only looks super cool but is really easy. I like the daily reminder to “take a few moments” to plan the day. The aesthetics and usability make it really easy to like and use. I disliked the way a few of the other apps appear suited to hardcore project manager types, I just want to try and get things done.

Magnetic shopping & meal planner: Bits of paper can work. This one especially. Left hand side, every day of the week with space to put meals in. On the right, a shopping lists with various sections. With a pencil holder (and pencil) and a magnetic stripe so it sticks to your fridge. It’s amazing. It makes shopping a breeze rather than a random list that means you criss-cross the shop and take forever. Yes, I know we could save time doing online shopping and for the best part of two years we have done that. But we live near a Waitrose now. And it’s quite nice to go in there. Even the kids prefer it to Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

I’m sure there’s more. I’ll keep this post updated. Do let me know any recommendations.

email étiquette – five sentences or fewer April 22, 2013

Posted by nicholas gill in email, productivity.
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Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?
A: http://five.sentenc.es

We all suffer from email overload. There’s been lots written about how it kills productivity and ruins holidays.

While zero inbox and zero tolerance policy is not for everyone, Five Sentences is a gentle introduction and a step on the rung to better email etiquette. It’s not a tool or a plug-in or anything; just a state of mind. A personal statement of intent to make email less hassle and more productive (all told in five sentences).

take 2 bottles into the shower? September 19, 2012

Posted by nicholas gill in apple, innergie, product review, productivity.
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Well… no bottles of shampoo. And no showers (one for another day). But chargers. The bane of a commuters life. I have many. I have to carry the bastards wherever I go. Every day. Because I know I will run out of juice when I really need it. Especially for my iPhone which I’m convinced has an inbuilt knowledge of when I will need it most and pack up at just the wrong moment. So I have chargers everywhere. And any iPhone user will know the cord is pathetically short. So unless you have a plug outlet on top of your desk, your phone resides on the floor as it charges and increases the likelihood of you stomping on it, rolling your chair on it, your colleagues doing the same, forgetting it completely and the rather stupid look of bending down to read and answer text messages or calls when it’s charging.

So I was overjoyed to get my hands on the Innergie Pocketcell. I can break free of plugs and if the “20% battery life left” red bar of death pops up, I know I’ll be ok. It looks neat. It won’t last that way in my backpack I’m sure. But the cool 3-in-1 Apple, micro USB and mini USB and a regular USB at the end charges pretty much any device you may have and flips back around to be stuck in a regular Apple plug or your laptop to recharge the Pocketcell when it needs it. Which presumably is not nearly enough as my iPhone which can be charged fully twice from the Pocketcell. I’m liking it already. One less thing to carry. It’s even convinced me to leave the Macbook plug at home as I seem to carry it like a security blanket. I have a plug at work. I could always take that if I need to go off site for any period of time.

Here’s a nice video of the Innergie products. It is ace.

Thank you to Jenny @ Adrenalin for supplying the product. I have not been paid to say any of this.

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