PreneurCast is a business podcast. Author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.
Given the boys are almost two years into the show, we thought we’d pull this one from the archives and take you back to where it all began.
In their first episode together, Pete Williams and Dom Goucher talk about their reasons for producing the show, and get straight into a chat about focus, flow and productivity, where Pete shares some of the books that have influenced him.
Pete and Dom talk about focus, flow and productivity
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The First Time…
Pete Williams: Hi. Welcome to the very first episode of PreneurCast with myself and my good buddy Dom. How are you, buddy?
Dom Goucher: Hey, Pete. I’m pretty good, mate. Pretty good.
Pete: So this is a bit of an idea we’ve been shuffling around for a while, just to jump on for 20 minutes to half an hour each week and just talk about random things that can hopefully help another entrepreneur succeed and get a little bit further to wherever goal they are trying to achieve, so…
Dom: That’s the plan anyway.
Pete: That is the plan. That’s about as much planning as we have done is the intro.
Dom: Hey, hey. We have a mind map.
Pete: True, we have a mind map. You’ve prepared; you’ve done some homework which I love; and we have a mind map that we will try and follow to be organized.
Dom: It will never last.
Pete: No, we can try though. We have big dreams.
Dom: Okay. So look, I mean I think before we start, Pete, we talked about us before, but I know who you are, you know who I am.
Pete: I am still trying to figure out who I am myself though, that is the problem.
Dom: I think pretty much we should take a couple of minutes and just explain why we’re doing this, why we think it was a good idea. A little bit about your background just to fill in people who might have come to this from, well, wherever they came from.
Pete: Sounds good. It’s always funny to talk about yourself. It’s always weird to sort of try and beam at yourself and things, but I guess I’ve got my hand in a few different pies. I have a telecommunications company here in Australia, bought a finger food company, a marketing company, and a few other e-commerce sites as well. So I’ve put my hand in quite a few different pies which seems to keep me very, very busy and I enjoy that. I wrote a couple of books; and some other people, I guess, think I’m half-decent because I won a few entrepreneurial awards over the last a couple of years. So I guess I’m doing something right to make someone stand up and notice me.
Dom: You managed to avoid it, but I’m not going to let you. You do have that little quote on various press releases and things: ‘Australia’s answer to Richard Branson.’
Pete: Yes, that is a tagline that the media has given me, which I am happy to embrace. It’s always weird saying it yourself, but I’m happy other people are saying it and I’ll definitely back it up and reinforce it. So, yeah. It’s been a great little tagline I’ve had for quite a few years now in Australia, which is pretty cool.
Dom: It’s awesome. For my part, I’m here as a kind of a bystander, the guy that kind of prompts you every now and then, really. We work together because I produce your media for all your various ventures. And this idea came about because you are, I would say, a serial entrepreneur. You love being involved in businesses and you love making things happen – taking an idea and making it real. And what interests me is the way that you use standard business theory, but you also use technology — the latest and greatest technology, or really some really old-fashion and ordinary stuff to make that stuff happen in the most efficient way.
Because if you look at the spread of all those things that you just listed, it’s quite amazing that you manage to… well, actually that you manage to make it to lunch, really. As you’ve done presentations and things and conferences and stuff, quite a few people comment on this – how amazing it is that you get all these stuff done. Really, what we thought was we would cover some of that stuff. How do you get all these stuff done? What drives you as well because that is interesting.
Dom: A lot of people wonder why you get out of bed at the morning, what makes you get out of bed. It could get a little bit random.
Pete: Which should be good.
Dom: Which will be very good.
Dom: We’ll always have our mind maps to bring us back.
Pete: Well, you’ll have your mind map that I’ll look at two minutes before the show. We’ll definitely gain through a lot of stuff. And I think the productivity is a big element. And everyone is sort of really loving the whole workflow conversations these days. There is a lot of blog posts and a heck a lot of conversations around workflows, definitely important. I’m a big believer in workflows but I think hopefully that we can take this beyond workflows; definitely mention the stuff that I’m doing it and how I’m doing what I’m doing and even how you are doing what you are doing, because there are definitely some stuff that you are doing that will help a lot of people.
But I also would like to talk about other things that are kind of just cropping out, that are happening on a week-to-week basis, whether it be looking at assessing a new business opportunity or whether it’s just books I’ve read recently, or thoughts and conversations I’ve had that might be really helpful to other people. They say that the best way to learn and reinforce yourself is to teach it. So I guess this is a great way for me to kind of try and communicate stuff out there which should not only help other people but to reinforce it for myself.
Dom: Yeah, I’m going to do it to you again, mate. Another one of those quotes that pops up is that you are a bit of a ‘Renaissance Guy.’ What a word, eh?
Pete: I’m not that old.
Dom: But one of the things again that I’ve noticed about you, having worked on the different projects that you work on, read some of the stuff you’ve produced, and been involved with you for a time, is that you do really have all these different influences and different things that you are interested in. And I’m really looking forward to you bringing some of that out in the talks rather than just, “Oh, yes, this week I have been using this methodology and this piece of software,” and stuff like that. I think it is far more interesting to be real about it.
Dom: So you’ve got a lot of breadth there. You mentioned that maybe you want to do workflow and look at information in books that you read in and things like that, and influences as well. One of the things I think people are interested in are influences – where you get your ideas from, where you got your start as well, how you moved on through. So that could be an interesting thing to cover.
Pete: We can definitely cover a lot of different stuff. So I think the hard part is going to be making sure that we can keep concise and keep to that half-hour purpose, which is a good point to aim at every episode so people can digest it quite easily.
Dom: Yeah, we talked about that in the brief planning that we did for this.
Pete: We’re really making this sound like it’s so professional, aren’t we?
Dom: Well, it will sound professional as long as nobody actually listens to it.
Dom: One of the things that you are big on is optimizing your time. And so one of the things we’re going to be big on is optimizing other people’s time including not taking off too much of it with this rambling on. So yeah, we are going to try and stick to that half an hour. I’ve got a close eye on the clock here. And I’m not sure what kind of noise I’m going to make to let you know we are close to half an hour, I’ll maybe surprise you every week.
Pete: I could use my menu bar countdown timer. That would have been pretty cool.
Pete: My latest fascination with apps. I’m loving the different apps at the moment. That’s my latest focus, a little random countdown timer that sits in my menu bar. So we could start at that, and it gives a little bit of a thing at the end once it countdowns to a pre-set time. So we could have used that. But I find that really handy actually just in terms of workflow stuff; just using that keeps you focused, with different periods of time. Like if I’m working with a particular project or an element of some other project of a different business. I could say, “Okay, I’m going to dedicate 25 minutes of this,” and start the countdown timer and just force myself to really stay focused for that time and just push out as much as I can in that 25 minutes.
Dom: So you said that you’d do 25 minutes. Now, here is one of those really big topics to start on. We will see if we can keep it small. You are a big fan of Pomodoros then?
Pete: The Pomodoro technique, absolutely. It’s a great little technique about doing stuff in 25 minutes and then you do a five-minute break. I think it’s four and that’s classic Pomodoro. So 25 minutes of focused time then a five-minute break doing whatever you want, be it Angry Birds or Twitter or 10 pushups. And then you repeat that four times, is it? And then you take a longer break?
Dom: Yeah, that’s kind of the official, as if you can call it ‘official,’ that is the official way. Do a maximum bunch of work for a maximum of two hours, I think, in 25 minutes with the break, and then take a longer break.
Pete: I think it’s not necessarily the Pomodoro technique that I’m fascinated with or that I believe in such. Although, that is a great framework, if you will, for someone who doesn’t have that diligence to sort their duties – just go and instate the Pomodoro technique and just put that framework in place for a little bit and adapt it. But it is more from, funnily enough, my marathon training. My coach has always trained me that it’s not about how far you run, it’s how long you run for, which is quite a different approach to my previous triathlon coach who was all about, “Okay, you’ve got to run 40Ks if you are doing marathon. But you’ve got to run 10Ks in this session, then you’ve got to go on a 20K run,” or whatever might be.
And it was very different when I was actually able to change to this new coach, not change my new coach, but the method my new coach is putting in place. It is about time. So whether I’m doing training for half marathon or full marathon, every single session has been about time. It’s not about how far I ran or how fast I ran. I just get there, do this for 25 minutes or go out there and do an hour run, or you’ve got a two-hour run on Saturday, whatever it might be. And the thing that I find really interesting about that is that it’s not about the actual work, it’s about just sitting down and being focused.
And I guess applying that to the business side of stuff, it’s not about, “Okay, I’m going to sit down and I’m going to force myself to write 20,000 words; or I’m going to write 5,000 words; or I’m going to reply to 50 emails; or I’m going to make 15 sales calls in this next block of time.” It’s, “I’m going to sit down for 25 minutes and make sales calls.” That’s one sales call or 10 sales calls, who cares? It is just 25 minutes of sales calls. And I think that takes a lot of pressure off mentally. It definitely does for me. And every piece is different. But for me, it’s been really freeing from a training perspective for the marathon, and also from the work perspective to say, “I’ll just do emails for 25 minutes.” And it’s an easy goal. Twenty-five minutes is not hard, it’s not tough, it’s not scary; it’s just 25 minutes.
And there are times when I hit 25 minutes, I go, “Okay. I’m going to keep going because I’m on a roll because I built that momentum up,” for my work perspective. But I found that to just be very freeing to not worry about how many words I’m writing, or how many calls I’m making, or how many emails I’m cleaning up, or whatever is the task that you are doing. It’s just about sitting down for 25 minutes and making that connection for 25 minutes, and just playing with that 25 minutes. It’s been really good, over the last 18 months, 24 months of applying that diligently. Coming out at that angle has been really freeing.
Dom: I totally understand what you are saying with that. Some of the things that I work on, because I do a lot of media production and things, 25 minutes is not really that long. But it is a very, very important point that you make, and I found this in the past. I pretty much would share with you that putting a block of time and just doing the task or addressing yourself to the task in a focused manner takes away the pressure.
You can take away the pressure of trying to achieve within that space. You are potentially of the quality. I found that if I give myself a period of time to do something and I say, “I really have to complete it in that time,” then you are actually putting massive stress on yourself which can affect your ability to achieve anything and can also affect the quality. Whereas, if you just block it out and say, “Look, I’m just doing it. I’m doing this thing.” Those help if it’s something that needs to be done but doesn’t have an absolute deadline, I find.
Dom: If you’ve got an absolute deadline, then I think you have to be a little bit more severe with yourself.
Pete: The important ones you have to sit down and get the work done.
Dom: Exactly. Here is an interesting side to that one, bringing it back to Pomodoro briefly. I’m a big person for focus. Once I’ve got focus, then that is it. I can keep going and not notice things for two to three hours at time. It’s the whole flow state thing, which is a completely separate conversation. But what I struggled with initially with the 25-on, 5-off or whatever, was what to do in those five minutes that was sufficiently pick up and put down-able – don’t make up a word, but sufficiently pick up and put down-able but sufficiently involving that your brain stop engaging in the previous task and disconnect it so you’ve got that rest.
Because initially, I would just kind of say, “Right. Okay, 25 minutes.” I’ve got my little timer that I use like you. And it would bing at me and say ‘time’s up’ and ring in the alarm clock. And I’d stand up and walk away from the desk and then before I know it, five minutes has gone but I don’t feel that I’ve disconnected. Do you have something that you do that works for you to do that?
Pete: Yeah, but I won’t put it on air. Different things. I think it’s a mixture of some push-ups and get some blood flow. I’ll walk out of the room and go get a glass of milk.
Dom: You’re trying to sound healthy, covering up for the past comment.
Pete: The way I try and do it, which I guess is a little bit different again is, I work out for the same task generally. If I’m going to get up at the 25-minute mark when the warning goes off, I’ll make a decision there in a split second. I’m on a roll, don’t fuck with this, keep moving.
Dom: Yeah. Again, a little bit technical, but you identified quite a few of what I would classify as granular tasks. Going through your e-mails or making sales calls. In my world, the one that might bleed over will be the creative one, the blog post for example. When you get in the flow of writing something, great if you can crank it out in less than 25 minutes, it becomes a granular task. And making notes on the job is a good thing to try and keep inside a timeframe. Just blasting a brainstorm of notes out with your world-famous mind map technique.
Pete: I was going to say that part of the whole ‘writing to a deadline’ thing comes from two influences, if we take your prompts from earlier about what influences me. The way I try to build this little process and this workflow is a mixture of two things. The theory of free writing, which was passed on to me from my friend Ed Dale who encouraged me to read a book called Accidental Genius from, I can’t remember the guy’s name who wrote it. But in there, it talks about free writing. The whole book’s about free writing where you basically sit down for certain period of time and just write freely about whatever topic you want to write about. No goal as to how many words you’re writing, no consciousness of it being absolutely correct. You just sit down and start writing.
And that, mixed with a very freeing thought or awakening, if you will, if you want to get a bit Zen about it, from Anne Lamont who wrote a book called Bird by Bird. It’s a book on writing and how to be creative, how to write stuff. In that book, the thing that I took away from that is a saying or a theory, or whatever you want to call it. You’ve got your first draft, which is your downdraft. And then you’ve got your updraft where you’re clean it up. So in that first 25 minutes, I’m going to sit down. I’m just going to get down and do my downdraft, just getting everything down on paper. No spell-check no review, no whatever. It’s just getting it down on paper.
And if I can’t think of the word, I’ll write ‘pink elephant’ or write something really bizarre so it’s going to stand out for me when I actually go and edit it. And then in another 25-minute session, maybe later that afternoon or the next day, is that session where I actually do the updraft, that’s when I clean it up. So you’ve got two drafts: your downdrafts and your updrafts, and then you’ve got your final. So it’s always three separate sessions, if you will, to write something. Trying to write and edit at the same time, it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried that and tried that and tried that. And for some people, it might work. But for people who have written a lot of books I’ve been reading, really engaged with over the last 12 months, for them, it’s this process. It’s just getting it down, it’s the downdraft.
The first draft is crappy. It’s a crappy downdraft. And then the second draft is the updraft. So you’re cleaning it up and you make yourself feel better about the content. And then you’ve got your final draft where you go and really polish it up. So I think trying to sit down and write a full blog post which you can publish at the end of a sitting is almost stupid because it’s not going to be anywhere near as good as it’s going to be. It’s going to take you much longer than it should and it’s just not going to be as good.
Dom: Yeah, that’s a great tip. And you know, I follow that stuff as well. By the way, Accidental Genius is by Mark Levy. And all these things, we’ll put those in the show notes so that people can follow along, put them in the show notes for the podcast. But yeah, I totally agree. I was guilty as everybody else of trying to do a perfect first go when I first started doing things like this.
I produce a fair amount of training material. And really, you can get really, really hung up on the detail in training material – when you’re trying to produce something for somebody that you may never meet. You’re trying to get it right and cover all the basics. And it really did help me. It really did help me to be able to just drop down, as you say, you call it the downdraft. It’s like, “Look, I want to cover this.” And I live for mind maps. If I haven’t discovered mind maps, I don’t think I would actually be employable right now. I discovered mind maps in university, and that’s definitely a topic for another podcast.
Pete: I was in high school.
Dom: Oh, wow, you lucky guy.
Pete: Yeah. My memory of this, my mum’s a teacher. And for whatever weird reason, I remember her dragging my butt when I was in Year 7 or Year 8, a junior, I was a 13, 14-year-old kid to an after-school session where someone came in and taught us how to do mind maps for an hour and a half after school.
Dom: While this is an audio podcast, covering in some way mind maps and general note-taking is definitely a topic that we should cover at some point. Because that, I think, having worked with you and being on the receiving end of that kind of output from you, I’ve seen your output increase massively – hey, I’m going for Buzz Word of the Week, by you leveraging techniques like mind maps really, really well. You can generate a phenomenal amount of content using the techniques that you’ve practiced over the years.
My two pennies for the week is if you know anybody at all that ever needs to take any kind of notes whatsoever, the younger they are, the better. Show them how to do mind maps if you know or read about it. Because if somebody had showed me when I was 13, 14 how to do mind maps, I think it would have changed my life even more when it did when I discovered them in my 20s.
Pete: Yeah, absolutely. They’re great for just getting stuff down. If you’re consuming informing information, be it a seminar or a general board meeting, or in a sales meeting, whatever it might be, if you’re trying to consume information, it’s just an awesome way to easily visually get the actual information down on paper that makes your retention rate go higher but as a note-taking device or a content-creation device, if you’re in that sort of game…
And even if you’re a salesperson trying to plan out a sales meeting, you can say, “Okay, these are the points I want to cover from an introduction perspective, a product perspective, a benefit perspective. Here’s my close.” And you can draw those first branches out and then you can drill into each of those branches. So even from a sales perspective, it works whether you’re doing that sort of content creation. Because creating in your mind a process that’s going to be in a face-to-face sales meeting is still content creation.
And I think when people hear the word ‘content creation,’ they think about, oh, it’s when you’re creating a book or you’re writing something. Yeah, that’s a big chunk of the pie. But whether you are an accountant trying to structure how you’re going to do a meeting with your very first client, you have a new client coming, go through the tax obligations and their income and their expenses, whatever it might be, you want to have a structure to that first meeting.
A mind map is a great way to get that down and really plan out the questions you’re going to ask that person to make you look more professional and more of an authority and more of, later on, someone to take advice from. And that’s really important because you want to solidify your business and grow it, and have something that’s measurable and manageable and leverageable.
Dom: That is a fantastic tip. That came right out left field, but absolutely – the whole idea of leadership, of being the guy at the front the people look to. Actually, you and I talk quite a lot about leadership because somebody asked you a series of questions about it a couple of weeks ago, and we really kind of drilled down into that. You don’t necessarily see yourself as a true leader. We discussed that.
But if you are going to be the guy at the front of the room, being able to put across what you’re trying to say in a logical manner that people can follow along with, that’s quite a challenging thing to do on the fly. And if you can’t hold their attention by being logical and showing that progression, it can cause difficulties. Even if people don’t even always notice it, sometimes you get some confused faces in the room and it’s obvious. But half the time, it kind of makes sense where you’re going in.
But if you can use some kind of a tool, as you say, the mind map is a fantastic tip. Before you go and make some kind of presentation or you just want to cover some points in a meeting, just dumping your ideas down and even maybe just shuffling them around, looking at the logic standing back from it. So that when you come to do it, you’ve sort it through even for two minutes.
Pete: Absolutely. This is the way, we come back to technology again, is where the iPad and the iPhone and stuff make it so easy to do this. Not only can you get it down onto a mind map, be it an electronic mind map, as you’ve said, you can then literally, just with your finger on the screen of your iPad, move the branches of the mind map around so you can easily change the structure of it and really mold the mind map so much easier on an iPad or an iPhone, or even on your Mac or your PC than you can on paper.
Paper is a great way to start. Once it’s there, you’ve got to rewrite it to adjust the words. With the digital stuff these days, it’s literally just, “I’m just going to move this here. I want to talk about that point second. Actually, I want to cover that point in that different section.” And it’s such an easy way to move stuff around. It’s just awesome.
Dom: Well, as I’ve said, either in the podcast talking about the kind of the logic behind mind maps, or we can maybe put a little video together especially on this topic of mind maps. They’re a big part of your business and a big part of your content creation, and they’re a massive part of my life. And I know you’ve got some real gold to share about how you can benefit from them just like that tip, as you say, planning out as a leader or a salesperson. I think that’s a fantastic tip.
Back to the content stuff in our last couple of minutes. However, you do it, whether you do it as a mind map or whether you do it as some bullet points, there are all kinds of technologies or paper and a pencil. But that idea of the downdraft and then walking away from it, I think that has made a big difference to a lot of people. Not the least of which because some people, like me for example, have a real problem working linearly.
And if you try and get something right starting at the beginning and working towards the end, if you’re not a naturally linear person, that’s quite difficult. Whereas, if you do that downdraft in whatever format in your next session, you can pick which bit you want to refine. You’ve got the framework and the structure. You just pick a bit up, work on it for a bit in your 25-minute window, and then you put it back down again. So it kind of makes a large and linear task into more granular tasks that’s easier to manage. That’s what I get from it.
Pete: Yeah, absolutely.
Dom: We’re getting close to time. This was our first half an hour. I think it went quite well. As I’ve said, the two books we made reference to as we went along, I’ll put those in the show notes. I think this is going to be good. I think you’ve got a lot to give from your experiences in business and well, to be honest, the different techniques you use to get by on any given day. Because that’s where some people are.
Some people are, “I don’t want to run multimillion-dollar businesses, I just want to get by.” So I don’t think you’ve got a lot to put into that. Hopefully, we’ll get some feedback in the comments. Because one of the things you’ve said to me is you want to talk about what people want to know about.
Pete: Absolutely. I can talk about a lot of different things. But I really want to make sure that it resonates with people and it really fits what they’re trying to do and where they are in their journey. Again, it sounds a bit of sort wonky and that sort of stuff, but it’s really what we’re trying to do.
Dom: And I think on that note, we’re definitely going to flag this as explicit because I just can’t go through and bleep all these out.
Pete: Does that mean we’re going to be featured as Podcast of the Week?
Dom: I don’t know, I don’t know. Who knows what Apple thinks?
Pete: We’ll run a test. We’ll test it.
Dom: Yeah, let’s… I think if we insert some of the more explicit words in the titles of the podcast, I don’t think we’d get away with that. Anyway, let’s do another one of your techniques. Let’s run a split-test.
Dom: Okay, Pete. Well, that’s pretty much half an hour. This has been a really good chat. I’m hoping that people are going to find this interesting and we’re going to keep it a part of our weekly routine.
Pete: Absolutely, mate. It’s in the diary. It’s going to happen.
Dom: There you go, you and your diary. Tell you what, if it’s in that diary…
Pete: If it’s in the diary, it gets done. If it’s not in the diary, it doesn’t get done. That’s the last takeaway tip.
Dom: Awesome tip to close with. Alright, buddy.
Pete: Speak to you next time.
Dom: Speak to you next week. Cheers, mate. Bye now.
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