Category Archives: business

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Improving and delegating more of my podcasting process

I’m interested in videocasting/podcasting as a richer and more interactive way to get stuff out of people’s heads and into other people’s heads. I’ve come to terms with the fact that most people don’t write anywhere near as much as I do, but that they know all sorts of things that they might not have realized yet. Talking to people seems to be a good way to help them share that, because many people find it easier to answer questions than to share on their own. Likewise, podcasts recorded live make it easier for me to bring in other people’s questions (bonus: I learn more in the process!). So, podcasting, even though actually talking to people is hard. Maybe if I do enough of it, I’ll get desensitized to the anxiety and I’ll get better.

2014-01-09 What do I find challenging with podcasting

Along those lines, I’ve been doing a weekly show for Google Helpouts providers. It’s a community of maybe a thousand people, which is a tiny niche in the Internet. I used to have co-hosts, but they’re on hiatus for various personal/business reasons. I did my first solo show the other week, and my second was last week. So far, I have managed to survive. I like it because Google Helpouts is a new platform and everyone’s still figuring things out. I’m fine with talking tech and maybe a little online marketing/customer service, but other people know so much more than I do about business and education, so interviews are a natural fit. I’m getting settled into a decent workflow involving Hangouts on Air, the Q&A module, MP3s, and even drawing sketchnotes while the conversation progresses.

Sketchnoting is oddly calming. I had done it from the very first show, when I had a co-host handle all the niceties of reaching out to people, introducing them on air, and asking questions. For a kick, I tried seeing if I could do it even when hosting solo, and it worked out fine. You’d think adding one more thing to do during the show would drive me crazy from multi-tasking, but actually, drawing keeps me not-stressed-out enough to listen well, ask follow-up questions (since I have my notes handy!), and help people follow along with the conversation or catch up afterwards. Besides, it’s a good excuse to swap out my webcam image for the screenshare, so I don’t have to be “on” all the time.

So the interview itself is fine, and it will get better as I pick up more experience.

Then there’s all the rest of the processes around that. I typically stay up about two hours after the end of the show. I chat with participants off-air for 30-45 minutes (this is usually the most fun segment!) and then handle all the post-work, since I like it when the resources are posted right away. That way, I don’t have to go back and work on it again. Although it’s certainly possible to just let the video be automatically posted on my YouTube channel and be done with it, I like putting together the video, my visual notes, an MP3 download (for the people who prefer to listen to the podcast while, say, doing chores or walking around), and eventually a transcript. If I’m going to do something, I might as well use it as an opportunity to explore what awesomeness look like. =)

That said, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to document my processes so that I can do them without worrying about missing a step, and so that other people could take care of making things happen? I’d love to worry less about identifying, inviting, and coordinating potential guests, too. Someday.

2014-01-17 How can I hack podcasting

Since many of the things I do involve my Google account, this probably means building trust carefully. I was thinking about what sequence of activities might make sense in terms of trust.

2014-01-17 Mapping a strategy for outsourcing podcast work

Come to think of it, I can improve my post-podcast process by parallelizing some of the tasks that take a long time to do. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to automate some of those tasks, like perhaps getting the ID3 information from a spreadsheet.2014-01-17 Planning my post-podcast process

Here’s a list that’s roughly in order of trust:

  • Typing
    1. If there are visual notes, type in the text of the images and send them to me.
    2. Create transcripts suitable for copying and pasting into the blog posts.
  • Tech
    1. Make sure the podcast shows up correctly in popular directories.
    2. Add the text from 1 and 2 above to the blog posts for greater searchability.
    3. Write the blog posts with the video, audio, images (if any), and additional resources; update the redirection in WordPress.
    4. Create the announcement in WordPress.
    5. Update the WordPress redirection information for the event.
    6. Download the video from YouTube and extract the MP3; add metadata and upload it to archive.org
    7. Create and share the Google+ event for the upcoming podcast.
    8. Copy the event to Google Calendar.
    9. Start and manage the Google Hangout. (Including starting the Q&A module, setting up the YouTube URL, etc).
  • Connecting
    1. Draft or send invitations to possible show guests. Coordinate acceptance and schedule.
    2. Do research on the scheduled guest. Compile a short report with their bio and possibly interesting questions to ask.
    3. Research and suggest potential guests, including reasons why.

The biggest risk, I guess, is that someone goes rogue with my Google Account. Goodness knows enough people have had that kind of problem with people breaking into their accounts. Working with assistants I pick myself (since I work with people who have a good reputation) and making an effort to be an excellent client could lower that risk. I’ve also separated my domain administration account from my regular e-mail account. At some point, I’ll just have to trust (and verify).

Becoming my own client; also, delegation

When I started this 5-year experiment with semi-retirement, I fully intended it to be a learning experience in entrepreneurship. I wanted to learn how to create value. I wanted to learn how to sell, how to build systems. Mission accomplished. I have the confidence that if I need to work, I can help people and earn money in return. I can deal with the paperwork required by the government. I can negotiate and make deals.

The more I learn about freedom and space and creating my own things, though, the more I think that this should be my real experiment, not freelancing or entrepreneurship. It is not difficult to freelance. Millions of people do it. There’s plenty of information about entrepreneurship too; no end to aspirational books encouraging people to break out of their cubicles and follow their dreams. But far fewer people have the space to simply create and share things for the sheer joy of it. Even the authors of those books on freedom work for their rewards.

It’s an interesting experiment to try. I could focus on working on my own things, going forward. I’ve been winding up my commitments and avoiding new ones. I still have a little bit of consulting to wrap up eventually. I’ve been telling myself that the money I earn increases my safety net so that I can take those future risks. Besides, I like the people I work with. I like the feeling that I am helping them out and making a difference. (And there, taking a step back, I can see that the desire for a clear sense of accomplishment may be distracting me from more difficult self-directed work.)

Really, nothing can buy time. Probably even if I stopped consulting now — or if I had stopped a while back, or never started — I could still spend an appreciable amount of time making things happen. Postponing this doesn’t make me live any longer. It doesn’t mean that I have more core time, those hours when I’m alert and creative and happy.

I hadn’t noticed for a long time because I had set too low standards for myself. I set trip-wires to trigger reflection: if I missed a commitment or started misplacing things, I knew I was overscheduled, and I cut back. The rest of the time, it was enough that family life was happy, blog posts were written, sketches shared. It was too easy to meet these conditions, so I didn’t notice.

2014-01-12 Being my own client - part 1 of 4

What would I work on? Visual guides to complex topics look like the most unique contribution I can make, and there have been quite a few updates for my blog (both technical and written) that I’ve been postponing for lack of attention.

2014-01-12 Being my own client part 2 - Projects

Details help me visualize what that might actually mean:

2014-01-12 Being my own client part 3 - Emacs, blog

I should treat myself as a client and as a contractor. If I were delegating this work to other people, would I be happy with vague specifications and without milestones? I wouldn’t hire someone to maybe possibly think about something that could help people learn. I would spend the time to come up with a clear vision and the steps to make it happen, and then I would make regular progress that I would report on. The high-energy hours I have are best used for this long-term work; everything else can go into the non-core hours.

So I’ll keep my existing consulting commitment to Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus whatever non-core time I can spare to help them get over this hump, and then we’ll see if we’ll continue or not. In the meantime, any consulting of mine will be with the commitment to replace all the hours I spend earning with at least the same amount of time in delegated work (plus whatever time I need to manage the delegation). The end result won’t be as awesome as having the same amount of core time (and to be fair, my consulting involves non-core time too), but it should:

  • build up a good library of procedures so that I can either delegate tasks to other people or work more consistently when I’m on my own (plus the benefits of process improvement and sharing)
  • help me learn how to take advantage of other people’s time — and better yet, how their skills and experiences differ from mine
  • allow me to support people as they build up their own businesses and the local economy

In fact, just for kicks, I’m going to backdate the experiment–to replace my original 5-year experiment with it instead of starting just from this point onwards. Since I don’t actually have a time machine, an easy way to make that commitment is to calculate all the time that I have spent earning so far. Fortunately, this is yet another question that time-tracking allows me to answer. The numbers in the sketches below are a little bit out of date now; the current ones are:

  • 1874.4 hours spent earning since 2012-02-19
  • 208.1 hours delegated through oDesk so far
  • 55.1 hours spent managing the delegation (including documenting processes, interviewing, etc.)

So my ratio is about 1 hour of management to 4 hours of other people’s work. A ratio of 1.3 hours should be enough to account for delegating the work, managing the delegation, delegating the time to cover my management, etc. That means that if I want to replace about 1874 hours, my goal is to delegate a total of 2437 hours. So far, I’ve delegated 208, so I have 2,229 to go. (Ignore the math in the sketch; this is the updated version.) That’s a little more than a full-time employee. I’m not quite at the point of having streamlined, documented processes that can take full-time assistance over a year (or enough faith in my hiring abilities!), but I’ll work up to it. (My first goal: delegate as much as I can of this podcasting process.)

2014-01-12 Being my own client part 4 - buying back time

It’s a little scary delegating so much, especially since I’m normally quite careful about costs – but I think it will be worth it. In fact, I’ve been giving some virtual assistants raises to challenge them to think of themselves as people who can earn that. It’s a little scary projecting the expenses, but if I commit to it and then focus on making the most of it, I’ll gain more than I would if I kept waffling on the commitment. The work can start by replacing the routine, but it would be interesting to use it to support new projects someday.

2014-01-17 How can I assign 30 hours of work a week

As always, it helps to keep the end in mind.2014-01-17 Thinking about delegation goals

I’ve been ramping up my delegation through oDesk, and I’ve also experimented with micro-task-outsourcing through Fiverr (with quite good results!). We’ll see how it goes.

2014-01-14 Ways to increase my delegation-fu

It would be great to share processes with other people. Timothy Kenny gave me a glimpse of his growing process library. I’ve posted a number of my processes at http://sachachua.com/business, but haven’t updated it in a while. I’ll share more as I hammer them out. I wonder what my end-state would look like. Maybe I’d just share this Google Drive folder, and people can copy from it into their own libraries.

Anyway, plenty of stuff to figure out. =)

Rock those meeting minutes

It boggles me when people don’t take minutes during a meeting. How do people make sure that all the important decisions and actions are captured? When people run from meeting to meeting or get buried in e-mail and calendar entries, it’s so easy to let things fall through the cracks.

In my consulting engagement, I’m the minute-taker because I’m the fastest typist in the room. (Also, it helps that I can type and participate in the meeting.) At higher-level meetings where the clackety clack of a laptop keyboard might be distracting, I’ll keep quick paper notes anyway.

Here are some tips for taking meeting minutes. (Click on the image for a larger version!)

2013-11-08 Note-taking tips for meeting minutes

Projecting the agenda/minutes (or sharing them shortly afterwards) helps keep everyone on the same page and catches many possible miscommunications. It’s good to remember that you can guide the flow of the conversation with questions. I often work with the meeting chair to make sure that we cover the agenda at a good pace, and that agenda items that need decisions or tasks are neatly wrapped up. You can create a lot of value by taking the minutes, so volunteer for this whenever you can.

Simplifying my event commitments; tips for people looking for event sketchnotes

Take better notes, and the world will beat a path to your door. Or something like that. =) As it turns out, sketchnotes are an excellent way to capture ideas from presentations and meetups. Eric asked me if I was interested in sketchnoting more of the Awesome Foundation Toronto pitch nights. (They give the awesomest project $1000 in a paper bag to help make things happen.) I did the sketchnotes for a while because I wanted to learn more about what makes projects awesome. The sketchnotes were faster to make and more engaging than video highlights, so people really liked them. But I’ve been inching away from sketching other people’s stuff so that I can focus on my own, so…

2013-03-04 Sketchnotes of events

2013-11-09 Thinking about the Awesome Foundation Toronto and sketchnoting

2013-11-12 Awesome Foundation Toronto part 2

Awesome Foundation is pretty cool and I like how they encourage people to come up with and share great ideas… but I’m keeping my event commitments to the minimum. Maybe it will be a good fit for someone else, though – local sketchnoters building their portfolio and their business, perhaps? It would be great to see different styles, too!

Anyway, since I’m moving a little bit away from doing events, I thought I’d put together some guides to help people who are looking for event sketches.

2013-11-11 What kind of visual records do you want for your event

2013-11-11 How to look for sketchnoters and graphic recorders

2013-11-11 How can you make the most of your event sketches

 

Hope that helps!

Making the most of Standard Time as the days grow shorter

The transition from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time is always a little shocking. Suddenly the sunlight’s gone by 5 PM. It always used to make me feel a little colder, a little odder. This year, I’m playing around with some mindset shifts that might do for Standard Time what renaming “winter” to “baking season” did in terms of my happiness. =)

(Click on the images for a larger version.)

2013-11-05 Standard Time - Winter Time

Since my consulting engagement has flexible hours, I can arrange my schedule so that I commute during off-peak hours, and I work from home three days of the week anyway. Sunlight is important to me, so I go for a quick walk at lunch. This means that on the days that I work on-site, I’m not too tired when I get home in the evenings, and on the days I work at home, I have time to go to the library or run other small errands.

That frees up the evening for writing, drawing, learning, coding, and all the other things that fill my discretionary time. Having a long evening means I can break it into several chunks of useful, focused work, while still taking care of chores. It feels pretty relaxed – almost freeing! Maybe this will become something that will help me look forward to shorter days.

2013-11-04 Revising my mornings

Mornings are worth playing around with, too. I thought about shifting more of my waking hours to the morning because it often comes up in productivity advice, but I like being able to sleep in a little. That said, I also like lining things up so that I can gain momentum in the morning, and the bright sunshine is nice to enjoy.

This mindset shift looks promising. It breaks down yet another one of those barriers to making the most of life year-round. How do you deal with shorter days? Any tips?

High energy and low energy activities

What kinds of activities need high energy, and what can you do when you feel more tired? Which activities energize you and which ones drain you? It’s good to think about these things so that:

  • You can keep low-energy activities out of your peak creative/energetic hours – save those for high-impact high-energy projects!
  • You can work on something productive even when you don’t feel like you’re at the top of your game – and you don’t waste time trying to think of something to do when you’re feeling blah.
  • You can identify your energy drainers and find ways around them, or limit their effect on the rest of your day.

It’s good to know how to take advantage of your high energy moments. It’s also good to know what moves you from one energy state to another. What do you do to relax or unwind? What do you do to recharge? What drains you, and what gives you more energy? What can you do when you feel tired, and what should you do when you feel at your peak? Don’t waste great energy on low-value or low-energy tasks. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t focus on high-energy tasks when you’re tired.

Here’s a list I made of the things I do when I have low, medium, or high energy. For the most part, things energize me. Some activities like e-mail, talking to people, shopping, or dealing with technical issues can be draining, so I try to avoid doing them before high-energy activities.

Low energy versus high energy

When I drew things out like this, I realized that drawing on paper was different for me compared to drawing on my computer. I find it easier to draw on paper at night because drawing on my computer often tempts me to stay up late. I started drawing more on paper in order to take advantage of those low-energy moments and expand the time I spend thinking visually, scanning the sketches in and using my phone or computer to organize the sketches afterwards.

If I’m alert and energetic, I know that I should focus on writing, coding, or other high-energy activities instead of spending time handling e-mail or getting distracted by watching a movie in the background.

What do you do when you have high energy? How about low energy? How do you energize yourself, and how do you deal with your drainers?