Make A Plan For Your Day Before You Start It

Far too often, I begin my day by walking into my office, sitting down, signing in, and jumping straight into the fray. I need the reminder (read the quote and article below) that we greatly benefit from building a plan for our day before starting the material work.

There are times where I spend a few minutes filling out a 3×3 post-it note with the day’s tasks before digging in, and not surprisingly, those days always feel more fulfilling. There’s a greater sense of accomplishment when you say, “I’m going to do these 5 things today, come hell or high water,” and then check them off one by one as the day progresses.

Writer and consultant, Ron Friedman, Ph.D. suggests the following on a recent post for the Harvard Business Journal:

“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.

A better approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Bourdain envisions the perfect execution before starting his dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”

As Friedman points out, “the single most important ingredient of any dish is planning.” Get planning!

Read the full article, and hopefully you’ll find it a useful read. It’s quick. Two to three minutes, tops…

HBR: How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day

Enjoy.

Why Does Your Content Have A Gatekeeper?

Why do news websites like NYTimes.com, FinancialTimes.com, and ESPN.com continue posting articles on social media that require you to be a subscriber to view the entire article?

A recent exchange I had with @FTcare (Financial Times’ customer support Twitter account):

And their response, which to me offers an unintuitive and clunky experience:

Subscription gates make sense, but entice a little better

Of course, everyone is concerned with the bottom line. You need money to keep the doors open and the lights on. While subscription rates continue to decline for most major news publications, we’re beginning to see an increase of those news organizations keep their content behind a subscription gate, which makes perfect sense.

It’s an understood, and expected evolution. Digital subscriptions replace doorstep delivery. Display media replace print ads.

But you’re not going to convince me that I should pay you (sometimes a hefty sum) each month for your content, if each time you send me to an article, I have 100 words to judge the quality of your editorial. It’s just not going to happen. In fact, in many cases it will plant the seeds from which will grow a wall distancing the common user from their voice.

They just need to allow for easier access to shared stories, especially when the publication is the one doing the sharing. It’s the gateway drug. Let’s say there’re 1-5 articles a day that’re the cream of the crop. Share those, and make them free. You’ll have a much higher likelihood of converting the casual reader into a paying customer if you allow them to see the power of your editorial staff first.

Here are the options, as I see them

  • Allow all content to be freely accessed. Commence littering your site with ads, small and large, as well as bogging your videos down with pre-roll. Oh, and don’t forget the interstitials…
  • Ensure that all content shared out directly from the official social media accounts of the company / organization are able to be freely accessed. Cookie users and block their second page view, if needs be. Just don’t create the experience described above.
  • Make all content that’s shared by anyone free to view, again, putting up a subscription gate on the second page view. If you need to, put an interstitial. Forbes does this, and while I hate the interstitials, they are very easy to close out.
  • Let users access a limited number of articles per month, but require that they register. This is reasonable, but still the experience is prohibitive and unintuitive.
  • Screw everyone, and make your front page a login / register screen. I suggest painting subscribers on the company walls if you take this route, because there won’t be any new subscribers joining your ship. Also, all employees should take their vacation days and sell their stock. This vessel is going down.

Hell, what do I know?

What do you think is fair? What’s the best user experience? What helps conversion the most?

Discovering Your True North, Your Primary Purpose

It sounds so official, I know. But if you intend to live a life examined, it’s probably a good place to start. If you don’t intend to do so, please carry on.

“The unexamined life is not worth living. ―Socrates”

What is my primary purpose?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. And at different times in my life, there have been variations of the answer. At times, there have been two. Other times, none, if I’m being honest.

But since as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a father. My father was always there, and both of my grandfathers, too. I suppose it was their impact on my life that planted the seed. Who knows, maybe it was my nurturing mother who fostered it in me. All I know is that if you asked the five-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I smiled and said, “A dad. And, a baseball player.” And while I played high school and college baseball (and later competitively in adult leagues into my early thirties), it became clear that being a great father was really my primary purpose.

And since my late twenties, it became my true north.

For the better part of the last ten years, being a better father has been the focus of each and every day. I fail at times, as we all do, but always work towards raising my three wonderful children. And while I have a ton of interests, when everything shakes out, the number one purpose in my life is to raise my children well, graduating them through the stages of development with love, attention, and care, to the best of my ability.

Your primary purpose can be anything, but it should be something

Are you driven by the conviction that you’re going to be the one to cure cancer? Is being the best American bobsledder what drives you? Do you have your sights set on winning the student-voted award for the best teacher at the high school where you teach?

Do you just aim to be kind to everyone you meet? Or to do one thing nice for someone every single day, without getting caught? Or, are you aiming to become the richest person on Earth?

It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is finding your true north.

This seems kinda serious

It’s not. Well, it’s not any more serious than living a life where you feel challenged, alive, and contented.

More than anything, this is a reminder to pay attention to where you are right this very minute. Look at where you are. Is it where you want to be? If not, are you on your way (both literally and figuratively) to where you want to go? Are your shoes pointed in the right direction?

Don’t let your breath go wasted. We only get so many days. Don’t just occupy space and file to and from your work. Put your action where your heart is.

What’s your primary purpose? I’d love to hear from each of you what makes you tick. Cheers.

How To Find The Right Talent For Your Team

For years, I have relied on the various and sundry job boards to supply quality creative candidates. Whether it’s Krop.com, Coroflot, Behance, AIGA, Dribbble, AuthenticJobs, or any of the other competitive and viable job listing sites, that has always been the foundation of the candidate search.

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve turned that idea on its head, and to great effect.

Create the team you want

I’ve been doing the search myself. Instead of sitting back and waiting for quality candidates to reach out, HR sifting through applicants, HR forwarding potential candidates to Creative Services, weeding out the candidates we want to talk with, and then HR reaching out to set up phone interviews, now we go directly to the source. Aside from being much less time consuming, it is wildly more efficient.

For each open position, I create new (private, if possible) lists of designers and prospective talent on Dribbble.com and Behance, and keep a spreadsheet of potential talent to reach out to via LinkedIn. I send a lot of emails, which yes, is time consuming, but I try to keep them short, just introducing myself, our company and team, and expressing interest in a further conversation.

Much higher yield on time spent

I’d say the response rate is a bump over 50%, and we probably have constructive conversations with half of those people, roughly yielding a 25% candidate return. In addition, many of the designers that respond, but whom aren’t interested in a full-time position, often turn into freelancers that we reach out to when we’re overbooked on projects (which happens consistently for us all, right?). So, the time and effort we spend on this method of candidate development really is a quality investment in the overall future and health of our team.

Reinforce your efforts

My company still posts on job boards as one prong of the approach, as well as listing the position on our corporate site (the yield of which is a total crap shoot), but three of the last four people I’ve hired, I found myself (two on Dribbble, and one on LinkedIn). It becomes more of a safety net in the process, rather than the go-to approach for culling quality designers from the ether.

This process isn’t going to work for everyone, of course. And for others, it just isn’t realistic. But for me, as the Creative Director of DEFY Media‘s in-house agency, it’s what needs to be done. While our company is buzzing and in the news left and right, it’s hard for an in-house creative services team to have the same allure amidst all of the startups and name brand digital shops / agencies.

If you’re HUGE, Google, Big Spaceship, Facebook, F-I, Deutsch, etc., the talent seeks you out. And while we’re building towards that day, of course, this process will have to do, for now…

Please, share your tips and strategies for how you’re finding great talent.