Mar 20, 2020
Career coach Kevin Reid advises people on how to manage their career and work life, but how does he organize his own time? He chats with Will Francis to explain.
[00:00:04] Will: Welcome to "The Modern Mindset," a podcast about soft skills brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute, exploring those personal skills that no one really teaches you which are vital to success in your marketing career and keeping you ahead of the game. I'm Will Francis and today I'm talking to Kevin Reid, an executive communications coach working internationally. Kevin helps people to fulfill their potential through applying better routines and practices among other things. And it's specifically the topics of time management and adaptability in the workplace that we'll be discussing today. Welcome to the podcast, Kevin.
[00:00:39] Kevin: Thank you, Will. It's good to be here.
[00:00:41] Will: So, just to kick off, give me an overview of your...how you manage your time, your day, your week, even your month and year.
[00:00:53] Kevin: Oh, good question. The first thing I do is I turn it around. So, I look at a year in advance and then I break that down into quarters, and then I break down into weeks and break that into days. So, I very much work on a quarterly basis. The things that I would do the training and coaching we do are quite seasonal. So, you won't work at all in August, you won't work in December and you won't work in January. No one wants to do, no one wants to engage with us so you have to channel all of your work activity into the rest of the year, right, and there's not much left. So, that's very much focused on the mind. And we have discussed it extensively but the big thing to do is have the overview. So, we can talk further about the overview, but I very much give myself an overview of what's happening in the entirety of the various businesses that I'm involved in.
[00:01:45] Will: So you have, from what I understand, you have a basically a map on a sheet of paper in your diary. You have a map of everything that you're working on and so you can see all the moving parts in your career at the moment, essentially.
[00:02:03] Kevin: Yeah. So, I utilize very much Tony Buzan's Mind Map process. And what I do is I have on my diary, it's a small mind map that is just a series of arrows and concentric circles that outline everything that I do. And at the moment, I'm involved in eight different collaborations on top of my coaching and training business. And what that does is just the name of each one, it gives me the overview. I have further detail written on the whiteboard in the office, which is on a floor to ceiling whiteboard. And that gives me the detail, but for that objective overview at the start of every day and the finish of every day, that's what I use as a mechanism to allow me to have a concise overview.
[00:02:43] Will: And how do you decide what you're going to do today?
[00:02:47] Kevin: You can't do everything, you can but you will have a heart attack.
[00:02:50] Will: You can definitely because you're working on a lot of different things.
[00:02:53] Kevin: I'm working a lot of things. So, for instance, when I'm here today interacting with yourself, I've two other tasks to do today. But I was able to banish all the other tasks, right? Because there's a big, big important rule in this is your brain is for thinking, not storage. And too many people overload their brains. My brain is pretty clear. I couldn't tell you what I'm doing tomorrow, I have to look it up. Because I free my brain which allows me to have strategic thinking, to be clear for the thinking not getting involved in the nitty-gritty.
[00:03:24] Will: So, do you start the day with the to-do list?
[00:03:26] Kevin: I start the day by lying in bed for 20 minutes and running it over in my head what I'm gonna do that day.
[00:03:33] Will: That's good, I like that.
[00:03:35] Kevin: So, Martina, my wife has stopped shouting, "Get up" because she knows what I'm doing. I'm actually lying in bed, talking to myself, working out the day.
[00:03:42] Will: That's nice. I like that, you're selling this system to me.
[00:03:46] Kevin: That's good. Then on top of that, you got to realize what you can actually do. So, lots of research has found that you can only actually start, work on, and complete three tasks a day.
[00:03:57] Will: Yes, I've heard quite a bit of talk about this in time management circles. So, okay, and how do you work out what three things to do? Is there a way to...do you have a system for kind of...?
[00:04:08] Kevin: Well, I have a system...well, it's whatever the priority prioritization system that you use, how that's measured, it could be what's important for my business, important for my clients' business, or a marrying of the two, all right? Simple thing I do, it's a letter and a number. So, I've got ABC, I've got a, 123, b, 123, and c, 123, everything gets a code. I even put color on top of that. So, the stuff must get done is in red, the stuff that should get done is in blue, the stuff, if I have time, is in black. So, at a glance, I can go down my to-do list, or I can go down my mind map because it's always in color. And at a glance from 10 feet away while running at the office thinking of something else, I can see what has to be done. It's the overview.
[00:04:54] Will: You sound like quite a visual person.
[00:04:57] Kevin: I'm very visual. I would be a visual storyteller for a lot of the process I use in my coaching as I would tell, like people stories and give people examples. So, a lot of anecdotes and people understand the direction that I'm coming from. So, when I look at something, it has to be visual. There's something I have to see, and that gives me a better overview. So, you could give me an app, it wouldn't work for me. Can work for other people, wouldn't work for me. And I need to go through the process which is slower and for that it's admirable of writing things out. So, it taps into my subconscious and I can think about it more. It slows things down because we're too fast.
[00:05:36] Will: Yes, so you're not only a fan of visual representations of information, but you also like, good old traditional pen and paper.
[00:05:47] Kevin: Yeah.
[00:05:47] Will: So, you're saying that by writing things down in analog form with pen and paper, that they sink into our subconscious more.
[00:05:56] Kevin: Because you will very easily make a voice recording and very easy tap something into your keyboard which take seconds or milliseconds, bang, it's in. But if you have to write down, meeting Will next Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m in London. And while you're doing that, it reminds you two or three other things at the same time. That's okay, it's triggering your subconscious, very powerful.
[00:06:19] Will: It is. No, you're absolutely right. And so, have you heard about the idea of swallowing the frog, which is...
[00:06:29] Kevin: Brian Tracy, I love him. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
[00:06:32] Will: And do you swallow the frog?
[00:06:33] Kevin: On a daily basis.
[00:06:34] Will: So, you basically tackle the nastiest, most the least attractive task first in your day.
[00:06:43] Kevin: Absolutely. And that could even be the least attractive phone call of the day. You know, and sometimes clients of mine have been known to go to the office really early in the morning and ringing the really difficult guy at quarter to five in the morning, "Sorry, I missed you, catch you again later." But they've prepared themselves for the conversation because they've listened to the person's voicemail and listened to their voice and acclimatized themselves to that person's voice. So when they ring later on, they can follow on the conversation so...
[00:07:15] Will: They've kind of licked the frog in preparation.
[00:07:18] Kevin: Yes, they've liked the frog, getting the bad stuff out of it because you feel good. You then if you get that task done, you wallow in the success. And we all motivate ourselves by thinking, what does success feels like? This is what success feels like. Isn't it great?
[00:07:32] Will: I can't say I feel the same way when I get to lunchtime and all I've done is browse social media.
[00:07:39] Kevin: Yeah, well, this is stuff you should be doing and the stuff you shouldn't. If your job is a social media browser, is that your job?
[00:07:47] Will: It could technically be part of my job but it's not really. It's not the frog.
[00:07:53] Kevin: If you were a Jamaican beach tester, you can have the same issues if you only tested four beaches by lunchtime.
[00:07:58] Will: I'd love that job. Okay, so do you use any digital tools?
[00:08:07] Kevin: I use Office 365 for people to interact with me. So, my clients and my staff would interact with me using Office 365. I keep the paper diary alongside that and duplicate it because it works for me. Everyone should pick a system that works for them.
[00:08:25] Will: And how do you delegate tasks? Does that happen through a task management system or do you do it directly?
[00:08:31] Kevin: What I usually do is I would spend the majority of my day training, on training courses, or on coaching. So, I'm not always available for people to interact with. So, we tend to use the taskmaster for that. And then what I would also do is, I'm available at quarter to one every day if you need to call me. So, I'm available at quarter to one and quarter to five. So, that's when I've made the gap in my day for people to have a conversation with me who would work with me who need to talk to me.
[00:09:00] Will: I like that. That's a great idea actually, yeah.
[00:09:03] Kevin: That's no matter what, I'm available.
[00:09:05] Will: Yeah, I like that. That's because we don't do enough of, I think spontaneous communication is starting to go out of the window. Certainly, in terms of phone calls, people don't like ringing unless is...no one has a call unless it's been put in the diary like a week in advance.
[00:09:24] Kevin: And think of how quickly it would be if a quick email, Will, can we have a conversation later on? Or instead of just picking up the phone and asking that that thing and we could be on and off the phone in 25 seconds. And I have the information I need and I've had the interaction with you.
[00:09:42] Will: Which is nice.
[00:09:44] Kevin: And too many people hide behind, like, did you call him? No, I sent him a very strongly worded email. So, you didn't call him? No. Call him, it will make it happen. It's a human interaction.
[00:09:56] Will: No, I get that. I mean, funny enough on the way there I was thinking about this, just thinking about the problem of trying to get, you know, trying to organize drinks with friends. And I was thinking, you know what I should do? I should go to the same pub every other Thursday at 7:00 for two hours, and just tell everyone that's where I'll be. And you never have to arrange a drink with me again, you'll know I'll be at that pub.
[00:10:19] Kevin: Absolutely. And there's no ambiguity, it's a certainty.
[00:10:23] Will: Yeah. So you're saying I should do it?
[00:10:24] Kevin: Depends on who's paying.
[00:10:26] Will: Well, exactly, yeah. And do you specifically help people then with time management, specifically time management systems and...
[00:10:34] Kevin: Yeah, so everyone has a prime time. And what your primetime is, is that period of the day when you are at your best. So, that's either to work out your strategy, do your big thinking, do difficult invoicing, whatever, it is the time when you are at your best. For me, it's 10:00 at night. Not many people want to interact with me at that time but that's the time when I write, or I research, or I strategize. When you find out when your primetime is, that's the period of the day that you do the tough stuff on.
[00:11:05] Will: See, I've got that problem and I think a lot...I suspect a lot of people have. I'm at my sharpest in the morning and in the evening and afternoons are kind of not so, so I try and put meetings in the afternoon. But I love working at night if I have to. But actually, I hate having to do it because I want to do more recreational things. How do I fix that?
[00:11:27] Kevin: But take a step back. Is the work you're doing like, you know, you find it hard working in the afternoon, so don't work in the afternoons. Now, I'm speaking being owning my own companies, that's different. But you might be better for your work-life balance and your time management to go off and do something that interests you in parallel with your work rather than sitting at your desk and endless meetings that are actually counterproductive.
[00:11:54] Will: Because there's something really...what was great about the evenings is two-fold. It's partly that my mind and I think a lot of people's minds switch on in this kind of very quite creative way. But it's also the fact that no one else is at work and there's something really nice about that. You know, and you know there's not gonna be any emails coming in, you know there's no waiting for anything and it's kind of stolen time...
[00:12:19] Kevin: It is, that sort of...you have defended your time, because enough of us don't defend our time. Even in the workplace where I walk up to you and go, "Will, do you have a minute?" I really mean 10 and I'm standing over and you're like, "Go away, I'm busy," is what you want to say but you don't.
[00:12:37] Will: How do we deal with time thieves, Kevin?
[00:12:40] Kevin: Very simple. You see me approaching your desk you go, "Oh, my God, here comes Kevin again," you stand up. By physically standing you appear impatient. And they could say to me, "Kevin, how can I assist you?" And then you can go while gesturing, "I have to get back to my work." So, it's a lot easier to do that than if you're sitting looking up at me and I'm standing over. So to display impatience, stand, which can be physically done and it also signals me from a good 20 meters away that you're busy. I might just turn around and walk away.
[00:13:11] So, another time stealer is email. So, email is a...think about what it's actually used for, people misuse it completely. It's actually used as a backup to verbal communication. So, it's used for sending technical details, that's what it should be used for. Of course, what people use it for these days is a paper trail. We have to be able to prove that we sent it. I'll just cc you and I just cc all the important people, and the organization gets swamped in the email.
[00:13:39] If you wanna be good at email, you've got to train the people who you interact with to know how you use email and when you respond to email. So, I look at my own email at quarter to nine, quarter to one, and quarter to five. If it's urgent, call me. And all my clients know that and everyone's fine with it. But the person who's sitting working on this, the bing, the bing, the bing or the thing popping up on screen says, you've got mail. And the biggest danger that, back to Brian Tracy, is multitasking. We cannot multitask. He's worked out that you will actually suffer a 500% drop in productivity if you try multitasking. [inaudible 00:14:21] and it's not actually possible.
[00:14:24] You and I had a chat before about someone passing by your desk. So, Brian Tracy again has done research where the same person passing your desk every day, you recognize their foot fall, you'll recognize the way that they move. And even though you know it's them, you watch them walk by. And if you added that altogether, there's minutes of your day watching colleagues walk past you. What a waste of bloody time.
[00:14:46] Will: Yeah, it really is.
[00:14:49] Kevin: Totally saps the productivity. The best way to have productivity is to batch your tasks. So, all the difficult things you do early in the morning, gives you a great sense of success for the day. And then you batch together all your emails, all your difficult phone calls, all your meetings, collect them together. Because what happens is your one good email and one...leads into the next good email, or one good meeting leads into the next good meeting. If you're going email, meeting, phone call, you're all over the place.
[00:15:15] Will: But that's why I like email because it's asynchronous. You know, it's not like an instant messaging thing where you're having a conversation. You can say what you wanna say in the way you want to say, you can batch all your replies so you can spend half an hour just replying, replying, replying. Go through the inbox, clear out, and then move on. And that's why I think email's great value is.
[00:15:40] Kevin: It is, but you've got to be careful in the terms of the speed that you use it and the written word that you use. Are you typing as you speak? Which is not good. Because culturally in some organizations, we prefer a good morning, good afternoon, good evening, rather than a hi, or just starting with a name or maybe starting with no name. I think that's very dispassionate. So, sometimes a better communication is to take the time to say good afternoon, Will. Hi, Will, morning, Will. Little things but it's very easy to play very quickly through a lot of emails, to bang them out. Very, very powerful, very, very powerful.
[00:16:16] Will: Absolutely. And so, you talk about batching your tasks, finding the times of day when it's better to do that. I mean, is everyone, I mean, I know your answer is probably that everyone's different but there must be common trends in when the best time...what the best time of day is to do certain things?
[00:16:39] Kevin: Well, I've a pal who is a heart surgeon, and he likes Friday afternoons. But no one ever wants to get their chest cavity opened on a Friday afternoon. For him it's always Monday morning, he hates Monday mornings.
[00:16:50] Will: Yeah, it doesn't sound good Friday afternoon, you imagine and they've all been [inaudible 00:16:54].
[00:16:54] Kevin: That's where he, is he loves Friday after...he does his best work on a Friday afternoon. Not everyone, you know, and some people do their best work in traffic jams, on hands-free, or recording memos, or whatever it may be.
[00:17:14] Will: I've actually through talking to people about this kind of stuff in London, it was only...relatively recently I realized that a lot of us find the tube or really pre...or trains a very, very productive place. Because when you get on the tube or an overground or what have you, you've probably got maybe 20, 30 minutes. It's a very short window of time, but you've just started your day and you've got this kind of certain energy and you know you've just got to do something. And the amount of work that I've done in some those pockets is amazing.
[00:17:46] Kevin: And you know you have a set time...
[00:17:48] Will: So finite.
[00:17:49] Kevin: 20 minutes bang, bang, bang. In the same way when you're sitting at your desk for many people, they get a hell of a lot of work done between half four and five because at 5:00 I go home, bang, bang, bang, bang, so productive. What are we doing the rest of the day?
[00:18:03] Will: And, you know, there's so many systems that try to kind of fabricate that. So, there's things like the, you know, the Pomodoro method and timeboxing methods of various sorts. Which can be hard for a lot of people because they kind-of know that ultimately, yes, there's an app that's counting down 20 minutes, but it's not... it will never be as hard and finite a deadline as having to get off the train or needed to go home at 5:00. You know, what's your, I mean, what's the most successful timeboxing technique or tool you've encountered?
[00:18:38] Kevin: The gratification. I will give myself X if I do this now.
[00:18:43] Will: Wow, I like that.
[00:18:44] Kevin: Yeah, so I will go for a ride on my motorcycle the moment I have this finished but I will do it to the level of my expectation. So, I will write this training course in its entirety. The lesson plan, the PowerPoint, and when I have it finished perfectly, I'll allow myself to go for a spin on my motorbike. Gratification.
[00:19:02] Will: That's nice.
[00:19:03] Kevin: And we always remember gratification as a child. If you're a good boy, I'll give you a sweet. It's the same thing.
[00:19:08] Will: I'm gonna need to start parenting myself. But it's very good, I like that, I'm gonna take that.
[00:19:15] Kevin: That's another thing. Not enough of us in our time management actually allow time for play.
[00:19:22] Will: I agree.
[00:19:24] Kevin: Now, you're a parent, I'm not a parent, but I do allow time for play. I allow time for me to go and enjoy myself. And I am selfish. I will defend my time for spins on my motorcycle, walks on the beach, whatever it may be. It's time to defend to relax.
[00:19:39] Will: I really do agree with that. I'm self-employed and I've been for years. And I've gotten into that more and more over the years and I understand that, you know, because it's that walk on the beach that, you know, where you're going to think of the thing you're working on this morning in just different ways. There's lots of obvious reasons why that walk on the beach is important.
[00:20:05] Kevin: And 10 steps into that walk, your head is in a different place, 10 steps guaranteed. And if you really wanna improve upon that experience, take your shoes and socks off. Different way to think completely, I would do it in the Phoenix Park and Dublin, do a lot of barefoot coaching where someone just has to talk it out. We walk around barefoot on an area called the 17 acres. Completely clears the head because it's a different way of doing the same thing we do every day, which is walking but it's barefoot. So, what people do is they start to rationalize and compartmentalize. And so many ideas flow, and they talk to the opener and they talk to me all at the same time.
[00:20:39] Will: Wow, that's interesting.
[00:20:41] Kevin: We can all do that just by walking.
[00:20:42] Will: It's very true. I do agree with that. Something quite special about that. And it's a shame, isn't it? That people are employees of companies probably aren't given the license to do that. We're penned in for eight hours, I don't know how we kind of...
[00:21:02] Kevin: Some companies do, some companies don't. The company I work with in Northern Ireland, they have blue sky thinking rooms, where they have a narrow corridor with black walls and in that corridor is a reclining chair. And the door was a curtain and the back wall of the room is a window, and the window runs from the floor, up to the roof, and across the ceiling. And that is if you need to go and think about something, you go in there and you look at the sky and you have a think, it's a blue sky thinking room. And no one ever uses it by having a snooze. So, they're able to go in and just clear their head and to allow people to become more productive and be happier at their work. At lunchtime everyday in the canteen, at four corners of the canteen are all the senior management team, and they're there to serve the employees during lunchtime. What do you need to know about your medical? What do you need to know about your pension, about things that are upcoming at work? And I'll sit here at lunchtime to serve you.
[00:21:55] Will: That's cool.
[00:21:56] Kevin: That's good time, that's very good time management.
[00:21:59] Will: Do you think that, just to sort of cap-off time management, do you think that time management is harder now than it was five years ago?
[00:22:09] Kevin: Yes and no. What time management should be is allowing yourself to have an objective overview. That's what it should be so you can make decisions. But instead, we've got this technology that gives us super choice, gives other people access to our diaries, and is always on. And that's the difficulty. So, if you ask me what I'm doing tomorrow, I'll have to go and if I have my laptop, I'll look at the Office 365, that's fine or I might look up my diary. And too many people have it in their pocket. So, instead of having an objective think about should you respond to the email or go to the meeting tomorrow, they're responding straight away, responding straight away. And the difficulty with that is you set a very high expectation. I sent you an email. Yeah, but you sent it at last night at Sunday night at 7:00, you didn't respond to me because you responded to everything else. So, you set a precedent for response, which means people expect to hear from you all the time.
[00:23:06] Will: Yeah. So technology is broadly making...it's forcing as...we're seeing a backlash against this definitely. It is forcing us to be more disciplined and make the technology work for all of them. I was working for the...
[00:23:24] Kevin: Totally like, look, they brought in new rules in France where you cannot send business emails for employees after a certain time at night. You cannot do it, and I will never, people I work with, I will never contact you on the weekend, and I will never contact you outside of office hours unless it is a dire emergency. I just won't.
[00:23:41] Will: That's great. I respect that. That's great. Okay, so moving on to adaptability, something you think and know lots about. Why is adaptability important in people's work lives?
[00:23:58] Kevin: Well, what it does is it allows you, again, sort of harking back a little bit, but allows you to have the overview. It allows you to see by being adaptable, to see what you should focus your attention on, what you should focus your energy on. Because if you're not adaptable, you could end up doing the wrong thing. Following something completely down, let's call it a rabbit hole, and is the wrong direction entirely. So, being adaptive, being able to see what has to be done or see what doesn't have to be done. And because we're humans, we usually go for the easy route first rather than the hard stuff. That's sometimes difficult.
[00:24:33] Will: And more broadly, how must we...how are we pushed...how are your clients being pushed to adapt in, you know, in today's working world?
[00:24:46] Kevin: Well, what we just spoke about was that to be always on. So, sometimes my clients have to train their clients that I'm not always available. I will come back to you but it won't always be straight away. And when I come back to you, it'll be a reasoned response and a well-researched response. So, it's that interaction, I think maybe that's answering your question.
[00:25:07] Will: Yeah, I suppose. It is more kind of, you know, the world seems like it's more in flux, in a state of constant change more than ever before. I think, you know, when I think about my parents' careers, things remained pretty static during their careers. The conditions in which they worked didn't change at such a pace. I mean, they were changing and this was in the 60s perhaps. So, you know, there was cultural change taking place but it was a snail's pace compared to the way that things change today. And, you know, you can be accused of being a dinosaur for being only, you know, weeks out of step with how technology has changed or what people are doing or have new working practices. What sorry, you're not using Slack? You know, all this kind of stuff. So, you know, there's certainly more pressure on people in work to be adaptable and move with this fast rate of change. You know, do your clients struggle with that?
[00:26:13] Kevin: They do because, and here's where I'm perhaps a little bit contentious, they do because they think that's what they have to do to be good in business. And what I am striving to coach them through again and again and again is slow down, work less, have the overview, be objective. Because you can be as busy as you want and get nothing achieved unless you know what you should be doing. Even ask yourself for every task you approach, every meeting or every interaction, what is your end in mind? What do you wanna get out of this? What do you wanna see as the last thing that happens, the end in mind? Most people haven't thought that way at all. They just do it, it's almost a habit. So, not enough time is actually spent taking a step back and having a strategic look, responding all the time and working towards everything and every interaction has to be responded to.
[00:26:59] Will: The thing about adaptability. I think the reason that people do that is because they feel that it's a fast-moving game. And, you know, the more that you can have your finger on the pulse or fingers on lots of pulses, the more that you can be ready for any kind of changes and adapt to them and capitalize on opportunities and avoid risks. So thinking, you know, in the context of marketing, adaptability, you know, when people deploy marketing campaigns, for instance, I think people understand increasingly that you can't just sort of set a campaign live and then wait for the results to come in two months later. That you might have to kind of change that campaign and alter what you thought, you know, alter what you're doing, because what you thought was gonna happen didn't quite happen or it played out slightly differently. And you then kind of move and change. And I think that adaptability, particularly in marketing, is becoming increasingly important.
[00:28:02] But I suppose I'd be interested to know if you see people struggling with that? You encounter people that just like to say, "Here's the plan, this is what we're gonna do, and I don't want to change it. I want to execute the plan. I want to know what it all looks like in one go, what the endpoint is and what the steps are, and we're just gonna go there as planned, no one change anything along the way."
[00:28:27] Kevin: So that's a company that goes out of business quite quickly. So, if you cannot adapt to everything that comes along, and you may...you can, something comes along, you don't necessarily have to change. But at least you can be aware and making yourself aware, having lots of input, lots of information is great. What that should do is improve your decision making ability, not make you become inactive. So, to be always on is great. Like if you see you're watching TV or you hear something in the office, you can instantly check it out because we can access it through our devices.
[00:29:00] Now, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to instantly action it. You can tie in without a certain amount of objectivity, let's just pause. Let's have the overview, let's focus on is this what I should be doing or not. So, this change has happened in the business regime or the taxation system, whatever, should I do nothing? Maybe that's the reason there is no response. Too many, well, I have to jump, we have to jump in, we jump around the place. So, I'm advocating a slightly slower method of response but with a lot more weight in that actual response.
[00:29:36] Will: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. We definitely do like to jump and jump too much...
[00:29:41] Kevin: And be seen to, oh, I'm very adaptable but I get nothing done. And then the other thing is, if you're so adaptable, you try to do everything. Your personal credibility really suffers because you can't actually get nothing done.
[00:29:53] Will: Yes. And that's not a good look.
[00:29:59] Kevin: No, you don't wanna be a yes man who can actually do nothing.
[00:30:03] Will: Are there certain types of people that you see struggling to adapt?
[00:30:08] Kevin: People who come from very regimented regimes. So, if you are a teacher who starts to work in a commercial entity, and you get very tired every day because you're working after half four. I've seen it recently. You know, a chap I was coaching with was absolutely exhausted about half 5 every day because he spent 20 years as a teacher. He was suffering. So there are different cultures, different regimes, and big thing is different time zones. So, if we're headquartered in Dublin like so many large technical firms and they're trying to have an interaction all around the world. And while I might be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed here in Dublin in the morning, I could be very late in the afternoon or night somewhere else and you have to make allowances for is now a good time to talk? So, the amount the number of good conversations I've had when I said is this a good time to talk and people go actually thanks for asking that, no, it's not. Great. When is? Could get their thoughts together, they can adapt to a better situation.
[00:31:21] Will: Yes, that's a good good thing to ask at the beginning, of course, isn't it? Sure, is it a good time? And do you think that adaptability is an innate quality or can it be learned, can it be developed?
[00:31:36] Kevin: We all have to learn to adapt, right? So, we all had to learn to walk, then we all had to learn to do certain skills. So, driving a car is a good example. So, the first time you get into a car, you put on your seatbelt and then you put the key in the ignition. And then you put your foot on the clutch, having made sure the car is out of gear and the handbrake is on. And then you turn the ignition, you give it a little bit of gas, and you make sure the clutch is in and then you engage the first gear and you lean on the accelerator and let a little bit of clutch out and let off the handbrake and away you go on. Oh, and I want you to look at three mirrors at the same time. What?
[00:32:09] Now, the first time you come across an obstacle, you're unsure of yourself, your foot slips off the clutch and you stall the car on the road. Because you're not adaptable to the rising situation. Then you reach expert stage, unconscious competence. And something moves, jumps out in front of you in the road, quick as a flash, you glance in your right mirror, you indicate, your drop a gear, and you accelerate around the thing. That's adopting yourself. So, it's getting yourself involved in your situation and realizing what you can and cannot do. Developing a skill set in that particular area.
[00:32:42] Will: Yeah, that's a very good...that's a beautifully illustrated example actually. Do you have an example of where adaptability has actually been the key to a client's success?
[00:32:55] Kevin: I have a very good client who hates me because I've made her successful. So, she is a PR lady specializes in medical PR. And went from a very small entity to now having several employees, three employees now, three interns, and having the biggest clients you could possibly imagine. And people clamoring at her to do podcasts and various aspects of PR, clamoring at her because of me giving her a process and a system to have adaptability. So, just last week, she sent me a text going, "Look at where I am today, it's all your fault, thank you very much," because she found herself standing somewhere in a large company and they were fawning about her. Which I thought was very nice.
[00:33:42] Will: That's very nice.
[00:33:43] Kevin: So, I gave her the...I allowed her to have the overview, and to learn to delegate and to learn to look outward. And everything we did was to have the bigger picture. So, it wasn't just about getting this client. It's if you get that client, what would that allow you to do that you can't do today? Well, that's an interesting question, and come out from there.
[00:34:04] Will: So, there's a recurring theme here isn't it with what you do. It's a zooming out that we're all, you know, the human scale, the scale that we evolved to operate on is by nature, it's actually very small, it's very zoomed in. It's, you know, hunter-gatherer type thoughts of, oh, there's an animal, let's kill it and eat it and there's a bush, let's pick some berries and what have you. And we're not probably wired to...we've no real reason to think about the bigger picture. We've not evolved in that way, so it's not natural to us. And it's clear that without having kind of artificially learned about that, or I've been coached around that, that we, you know, we really need to be because otherwise, we're not effective. We're just being kind of busy idiots, essentially, you know.
[00:34:58] Kevin: Yeah, and we tend to fall into silos which are of our own making and are just habits. Sometimes people do accuse me of harping on and on and on about taking a step back, taking the overview, pausing in the moment, closing your eyes, having a think about it, going having a cup of tea, walking around the car park, come back, make a decision. It's giving yourself that time because if you don't, you're always on and you're likely to make a wrong decision. And if you're lucky, it's not that bad but sometimes you're not that lucky, you know. Too much speed. Yes, we can be fully informed but let's just slow down the response. Credible, you know, the good example you send an email where you're really, "I'm sending this sort of email" and then you don't send it and you go and have a cup of coffee and come back and look at and go, "Oh, my God, I'm glad I didn't send that." Same sort of thing. Slow down, pause.
[00:35:57] Will: Yeah, I think we've all sent those emails.
[00:36:02] Kevin: No, we all haven't sent them.
[00:36:04] Will: Yeah, we've all been to that coffee as well and come back [inaudible 00:36:06]. Great. That's been really fascinating. Just to wrap up, what I'd love you to tell me is tomorrow morning, when I wake out of my slumber, what are three things that I can do tomorrow to improve based on the fact you know nothing about my current time management setup? But what are three things I can do that will almost certainly improve the use of my time?
[00:36:41] Kevin: Obviously, give yourself the overview.
[00:36:44] Will: So, number one, give myself literally a drawn overview of all the things I'm working on and how they are linked.
[00:36:53] Kevin: A mind map, a paper...hand-drawn paper mind map or a whiteboard or whatever it may be to put down the overview. Because what typically happens if someone says to me, I'm coaching says I'm working on three things, then we do that process they go, "Oh my God, is 13." So, I didn't know I'm working on 13 things.
[00:37:12] Will: Think a lot of us are guilty of that. So, we map that out, we take a look at it and then what we say...so that's number one and I'm gonna do that tomorrow morning. Number two, do I then ask myself, what are the most urgent things on that?
[00:37:26] Kevin: Well, what are your priorities, because it's urgent versus important.
[00:37:30] Will: Thank you.
[00:37:30] Kevin: Right. So, it is important for me to pay my rent or my mortgage, it only becomes urgent when I don't have the systems in place to make that happen.
[00:37:40] Will: Thank you.
[00:37:41] Kevin: So, to be able to distinguish between urgent and important, which allows you to prioritize. Then when you do prioritize what has to be done, what doesn't have to be done, what I can delegate, that's a little complex. But it does allow you to be good with your time.
[00:37:53] Will: It's true because, you know, I often think about that with clients' emails. They are urgent and they're always important. You know, I mean, I love my clients, but emails and when general can seem very urgent, but do they move the needle on the things that you want to progress that day?
[00:38:11] Kevin: My answer is they probably don't. And then the one that ties in the most is batch all the tasks.
[00:38:16] Will: So, thirdly, batch my tasks.
[00:38:19] Kevin: Batch your tasks. So, we've already...I'm taking it as a given that you're not looking at your emails every time one pops in, you're looking at it morning, just before lunch, just before you finish for the day. That's when you're looking at your email and then you're batching all your tasks together. And you may find when you have to put together particularly difficult email, maybe it's best done while walking down to the shops for your lunch and using a voice recorder in your phone. Now, so be clever about it. You talked about working on the tube, working on the train. Be clever about where you have those out loud thinking moments that are very effective. Make difficult phone calls first in the day, do all your writing tasks together, and then make time for play. Make time for calling over to have a cup of coffee with someone or having a conversation about anything other than work. Free your mind.
[00:39:06] Will: Yes. Well, I think we all need to do that more often. Thank you. I'm gonna do all those things tomorrow. Promise, I really am. And that's been a very interesting chat with full of insight about time management and adaptability. Thank you so much, Kevin, for taking the time to talk to us.
[00:39:22] Kevin: Delighted to help, thank you.
[00:39:23] Kevin: It's been a pleasure. Thanks. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about developing your own soft skills in marketing, head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.
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