Empty your Brain into a Calendar

Desktop Calendar

Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress. – Charles Kettering

When I was in middle school, our administration mandated the use of weekly planners, forcing us to write down our assignments and keep track of appointments, etc. When I was in college, I was addicted to my Day-Timer. In my first job, I joined the electronic calendar world, complete with a color coded system so I could keep track of my clients, assignments, and personal appointments/tasks. Today I have a hybrid of both, I still keep iCal, but I’ve reentered the Day-Timer world with a “mom planner”. The name is a turn-off, but I do most of the cooking in our house, so I appreciate the extra space to plan meals each week.

As you may have guessed, I LOVE CALENDARS. They make me feel calm. Here is why:

  1. Calendars are visual. I love being able to visually map out what is coming next, separating work and personal tasks, while simultaneously being able to see how they fit together. At a glance, I can see open blocks of time in my day/week/month. I can see if I have too many things planned, or not enough planned. I think every marketing team should have at least one wall calendar in their workspace, so that every one is working toward the same key dates and deliverables.
  1. Calendars are forward looking. Nothing stops you from harping on the past like planning for the future. Terrible holiday with stressful travel? Map out what the rest of your vacations will look like this year and add in extra time. Overwhelmed because your boss just dumped 20 new projects on you? Take an hour to outline how and when you’ll tackle each step. When 60 minutes are up, you’ll at least have a game plan and you’ll know what to do next. Then, as you inch through the 20 projects, you can cross off tasks and appointments as you complete them. Ah… progress.
  1. Calendars get tasks/appointments/reminders out of your brain. Studies have shown that it takes energy and “brain space” (obviously not a technical term) to hold details in your mind. Fast Company recently did a great piece worth reading on this topic. Putting your tasks and appointments into a calendar literally frees up “thinking space.” We all need that.

I am fully aware that I don’t take full advantage of all of the new calendar and scheduling technology out there. What am I missing out on? Tweet me or leave a comment.

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Thank You for Practicing What You Preach, Ryan Holiday

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 10.38.55 AMIf you haven’t heard of Ryan Holiday and Growth Hacker Marketing yet, please allow me to be your first introduction. I just finished listening to his audio book and found it to be both concise and useful – two things not typically true of trendy marketing books.

According to Ryan, a growth hacker has thrown out the old marketing playbook (i.e. traditional PR and advertising) and replaced it with tools that are “testable, trackable, and scalable.” A growth hacker builds marketing directly into a product or business model, so that the business literally sells itself.

Growth hacking requires:

  • A product that is modifiable – so that it can be tweaked repeatedly to meet the exact needs of its target market
  • A market that wants the product/service/business model and has been primed for it (thought this may be a very tiny, specific group of people at first)
  • A built-in growth mechanism – some way that the product/service/business model can spread from customer to customer, without relying solely on traditional marketing tools

(Note: I’d avoid Wikipedia’s definition of Growth Hacking – at press time, I personally found it to be pretty convoluted)

Here is what I loved about Ryan’s book:

First, Ryan practices what he preaches. Not only does he clearly layout several case studies to illustrate how growth hacking has worked in various industries, he also uses the book itself as a case study. He takes time to explain how the book was developed and how he has modified it after its first publication to perfectly fit his audience. And then he ASKS FOR YOUR BUSINESS, giving you ways to both learn more and share what you’ve learned with your colleagues. This is not an afterthought or a pre-launch splash page developed by an agency… he thoughtfully (and unabashedly) puts growth hacking into practice. Talk about earning my respect. It makes me think of all the other marketing authors who preach about new marketing tactics and then launch their books using the traditional publishing model. How were we ever able to take them seriously?

Second, Ryan defines his terms almost to a fault. He clearly defines every single jargon-y word he uses throughout the book and then follows it up with a glossary at the end. I walked away thinking that if I was a 20-something marketing professional, I’d use the glossary as a cheat sheet to study for job interviews. Growth hacking is the future of marketing in many industries, and it is critical that we understand the vocabulary for the change.

Of all the industries and business models he touches on in the book, he doesn’t mention any of the really REALLY traditional ones like the airline, car, or beer industries. I’d love to hear his thoughts on how growth hacking could look in those spaces… if at all.

Are you familiar with Growth Hacking? Do you think it is here to stay, or just another trend?

Learn more:

Take Ryan’s course at http://learn.ryanholiday.net

https://twitter.com/RyanHoliday

https://twitter.com/growthhackertv

‘Lean In’ Hasn’t Gone Away Yet

Lean In LinkedIn Group

Before starting this blog, I used to write for a variety of other blogs. 90% of that was ghostwriting, so I won’t share much of it here, but 10% was under my own name. When it makes sense, I like to go back and revisit some of those old posts.

This is one of my favorites: Fortune Favors The Prepared Mentee. I don’t like to say that many business books are a “big deal”. Far too many are repetitive and would be better served as a podcast or really tightly produced NPR piece. But Lean In was a big deal. Sandberg had a point of view that felt both new and relevant to me, and perhaps most importantly, she put MEAT into that book. It wasn’t fluff – I feel like I can go back to it again and again for new nuggets of insight, even if I don’t agree with all of them.

That is why I felt called to write a post just about her one point on the mentor/mentee relationship. I won’t rehash the whole post here (read it instead), but I just reread it myself as a good reminder of how to approach other professionals to ask for help or advice. Very few of us have extra time in our day. We want to help others, but if we get a spare moment, it is perfectly reasonable that we use that spare moment to take a nap or read a novel for fun. That’s why it is so important that when we ask another professional to take some time to give us advice, we do so respectfully.

Sandberg has expanded on the success of her book (not surprisingly) to start an organization/online community: http://leanin.org. I haven’t spent a lot of time on the website yet, but I have been checking out their LinkedIn group and I’m finding some good content. Mostly posted by career coaches and leadership consultants, but there is content mixed in with the promotion. Another good resource to keep in your pocket when you need professional inspiration.

Curating the News

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Do you remember when there were only three ways to consume the news – the newspaper, the radio, and the TV?

Of course you don’t, no one does any more. I was recently explaining to someone how every evening my dad would always “shush” us during the PBS NewsHour, when it hit me… DVR’s didn’t exist then, so he couldn’t pause it or rewind to hear something he missed. WSJ had already published for the day and wouldn’t come out again until the next morning. He didn’t have the Internet. That television show was his only shot at hearing any business news until the next morning (critical information for an investor) and his loud kids made it hard for him to hear it.

Our experience is so radically different today. Now we curate our own news. My dad (still investing), my husband (also in finance), and myself (marketing) each have our own systems in place for consuming the news each day. The one thing we all have in common is that we weed out the news that isn’t important to us and we avoid the “consumption methods” that we do not find convenient.

Here is a rough picture of what my current informal system looks like:

Upon waking: Scan several apps on my phone NBC Chicago News, Instagram, Facebook, Feedly (to follow a mix of biz and non-biz blogs) and Hootsuite (also following a mix of biz-related and non-biz-related Twitter feeds).

During morning routine: Casually listen to/watch CBS This Morning (specifically chosen because they actually cover the news – Thank you, Gayle, Charlie, and Norah!).

Throughout the day: Listen to NPR via the NPR app on my phone – typically listening to the short Newscast updates, specific programs (I’m a fan of the TED Radio Hour), or catching up on global news via the BBC News broadcasts. I also love listening to audio books, particularly for Nonfiction/Marketing/Business/Leadership books, but that is another blog post.

End of the day: I might throw on the evening news while we are getting dinner ready, but that is typically just to listen for the weather and/or local news.

I’ll usually rotate through the apps on my phone a few times throughout the day before putting away my tech toys for the end of the night. That typically includes Pinterest as well, but more when I want to kill time or look up inspiration for something specific, etc. I find that Pinterest is almost replacing my magazine reading habit – I’m consuming the same types of information via Pinterest that I used to search for in women’s magazines (though the subscriptions are so cheap these days, I still receive a couple each month).

I’m sure I’m missing a lot of other fantastic news sources out there, but I find that with my system, I’m learning all of the important basics while avoiding the stuff I don’t care about. What does your system look like? How do your curate the information you consume each day?