4 Changes To Get Out Of Your Rut

It doesn’t rain often in Phoenix – the city I call home. The remnants of a Pacific hurricane made its way to our city. And it rained. The kind of cloudy, drizzle that kicks off Fall and makes you want to curl up with a good book – not work. That particular day, I found myself working on a tight deadline. The weather was so distracting that I found myself looking out the window more that I worked on my project.
I began to search for ways I could improve my focus and productivity even while staring distraction in the face.
While my mind wondered, I thought about a conference I went to several years ago where Erik Wahl, an artist, and motivational speaker spoke. In this particular presentation, he mentioned he practices something he calls “Crazy Daddy Day” with his children. The idea was that when their life got in a rut, he would unexpectedly put Crazy Daddy Day into effect. The only rule for the day is that everything happens backward including eating. Dessert first, then working their way into the spaghetti and meatballs and finishing with the salad and soup.
Last week, Aleksander Olic published a post entitled A Different Kind of a Productivity Hack suggesting something similar. The post recommends doing things differently when you need a boost in your productivity.
The concept behind both of these is change. By doing things differently – mixing things up -makes it easier and faster to accomplish your task.
Here are some ways I use to get motivated. I share them to help inspire your creativity and get you out of a rut.
1. Go for a walk – or have walking meetings

Nilofer Merchant’s TED talk made a strong case for this type of one-on-one meeting style. Meetings taken out of the office have been shown to increase employees’ creativity and focus. Why?
Perhaps just getting out of the office takes you out of the box, creating the environment for out-of-the-box thinking. It may be just getting the blood flowing to the brain or the change of scenery, but it does work.
Merchant points out that we now sit for 9.3 hours each day which is more than the 7.7 hours we sleep each day. This sedentary lifestyle has been shown to cause blood clots and linked to some types of cancer and heart disease.

2. Implement No Meeting Days

Taking a day off from meeting gives everyone a guilt-free opportunity to get their actual work done, the ability to focus, and encouragement to start more ambitious projects. Just knowing that your day will not be interrupted by a meeting provides more mental focus. And, when your mind knows that the day will not be broken up, it naturally wants to focus on more daunting and challenging projects that require mental concentration and focus.
Your agency won’t be alone if you implement this practice. You will be joining Facebook, Asana, and Kiva all of which have no meeting days in effect and have experienced a significant productivity boost.

3. Mix up your Mix

Sometimes, just changing the type of music you are listening to will change your way of thinking. When you hit the afternoon “I need a nap” frame of mind, pick up the beat. Higher beats per minute will increase your energy level. Also, classical music has been proven to increase brain function and improve performance. Another study showed that playing nature sounds in an office environment could improve your thinking skills and mood. Mix them all together and you end up with something I’m coining ‘Classirapture’! Or, better known as noise!

4. Lego of Stress

We all love to play with stuff, so why not bring the stuff into the workplace. Lego is the perfect addition for any office because it is a low-cost creativity booster. There are those who may think Lego’s are childish and have no place in the work environment. Adding them to the environment has proven to help with problem solving and searching to solve problems.
They are fun and inexpensive and can help with storytelling or to describe problems. These little blocks can deflect a lot of pressure and move your brain back to a more playful state. Creating physical models help people visually think about problem-solving. It is safe to say Lego itself is more stimulating and creative than a PowerPoint presentation or a spreadsheet.

We often associate change with slowing us down due to learning curves and getting used to new processes or places. It is interesting that sometimes change can make us more creative and productive!
We all have our secrets and tips that work for us.
What works for you?

5 Simple Changes to Improve Communications

Remember when the BlackBerry was such a hot item? So much so, it earned the nickname “CrackBerry”. The company’s stock peaked in 2007 at $236 per share. It has started this week at less than $ 7.50 per share.
The reason for its loss of value was not because mobile phones or devices were a passing fad. In fact, there are 7 BILLION smartphones in use today across the globe. That is one per living person in the world! This number contrasts sharply with only 122.3 million in 2007 when BlackBerry hit its highest stock price.

So what caused this once behemoth to fall from being the pioneer and leader of its industry and losing 95% of its value in less than a decade?

The answer: ineffective communication.

Ironically, leaders at Research In Motion (RIM) – BlackBerry’s parent company – could not sustain open and honest lines of communication with their internal teams. The employees did not raise any red flags as deadlines were repeatedly missed. This lack of information prevented the powers that be from solving the problem – let alone even knowing of the issue.
painters-houseIt is like the old sayings: “The painter’s house is never painted” and “The cobbler’s son never has shoes.” We are in the communications industry – as much if not more than BlackBerry – and yet we are the worst communicators. If you find that your agency could improve communications, here are five easy ways to improve your communication skills.

  1. Have a ‘Stand-Up Meeting’ every morning. This meeting should be no more than 10 – 15 minutes and no one sits down to ensure its brevity. Use this time with your team to talk about what is on their plate for the day. It is a great opportunity for everyone to get on the same page and identify any issues with deadlines or workload problems. It is also a way to keep everyone accountable for their commitments.
  2. Document communications. Do not document to “CYA” (cover your assets), but it serves as a reminder to everyone,the discussion that took place. How many times have you committed to something when you pass someone in the hall? Then, by the time you get back to your desk, you have already forgotten it. Having a centralized place everyone can access to record these commitments not only reminds you of your obligation but also keeps everyone in the loop.
  3. Assess your current communication methods. While email and messaging have their place, they may not always be the best means of communication. For one thing, this opposes # 2 on this list in documenting the conversation. Also, some personalities are not prone to read a lot of emails – and those personalities tend to dominate the creative industry. Additionally, they are not accessible to everyone who may need access to that information. It is imperative to implement a tool that allows you to communicate easily with each other, document those communications, organize the communications in a logical and easy to understand way, and allows easy access to the communication history.
  4. Do not attempt to have your systems replace all communications. The biggest reason for the failure of implementing systems that I have observed is when the shop tries to replace face-to-face communications with a system. A system is a tool. Use the tools to help you communicate and to document those communications. Continuing to discuss one-on-one allows the sharing of the emotions and tone of the conversation.personality-type
  5. Know your personality types. This industry consists of every possible personality type. Add to that the stressors we face each day, and you have a time bomb just waiting to explode. Knowing what personality you are communicating with makes it easier to understand how to connect with them. Assessments such as the DISC Personality Profile are tools that can help your team better understand how to communicate and work together more effectively. If you are interested in having the DISC Personality Profile conducted for your team, Agency ADvisor can help.

Most important is that your shop doesn’t lose its core value and the culture that makes it unique. There are many tools out there which can help with communication. Excellent communication is a quality that successful businesses have. It is worth the time and effort spent improving communication to keep the great talent that makes your shop who and what you are. I promise – this is an investment you cannot afford to pass up!

Thank You for the Past 14 Years

This week Agency ADvisor celebrates our 14th year of being in business. I am not one who typically gets overly excited about birthdays or anniversaries. It seems like they happen way too often and too quickly anymore. Especially birthdays. However, this one is different. I guess it is because I am more excited than ever on the direction and future of Agency ADvisor.

As I reflect back over the past 14 years, I first wonder where the time went. Then I reflect and am humbled by all of the great clients and wonderful people I have had the privilege to meet and work with over that time. I have walked through the doors of over 650 agencies in the United States and Canada during the past 14 years and have met thousands of wonderful people. Many I consider family. We have been lucky enough to have clients in every state, except for Rhode Island. I have survived countless canceled flights and delays. I have been snowed in a handful of times (some of you know I do not drive in the snow).

I think I can name every Marriott property in every major city. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked out of my hotel in the morning and not remember the color or make/model of the rental car I am driving. I am so grateful for whoever invented GPS and made it so easy on my iPhone. I no longer have to have printed MapQuest pages from the airport to hotel, to client, back to a hotel, back to rental car center. Texting while driving is a dangerous act. However, trying to read a printed map while driving in an unknown environment is near suicidal!

I am most grateful for our clients that have gone paperless, the 200 + that we have helped implement Workamajig, 150+ Advantage and other software products. Moreover, the countless agencies that are successfully growing from our partnership. One of the biggest rewards I receive is seeing the eyes light up when I make a return visit to a client, and they start telling me how much more profitable and streamlined they are from our collaboration.
In closing, I just want to say Thank You! Thank you for the support you have provided us over the past 14 years. The majority of our business comes from referrals, which is the biggest compliment we can receive. We could not have done it without each and every one of you!