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Geoffrey Chaucer says in “The Merchant’s Tale,” “There n’is no werkman whatever he be/That may beth werken wel and hastily.”

When you are in a rush, slow down. Or, as the Roman Emperor Augustus says in the 1st century A.D., “Festina Lente.” (Make haste slowly).

I’m a fairly hyper guy. That’s not an uncommon state for any entrepreneurial salesman. The day I am not up to my ass in alligators is the exception. However, though it may be counter intuitive to the credo of most entrepreneurs, I’ve personally found a multitasking frenzy ain’t the answer to this conundrum.

Perhaps I’m just slow and a dullard, but what occurs when I rush to get everything done in the seemingly inadequate time frames I’m presented with, is that I pay a price. The personal price I pay for speed is sometimes accuracy, sometimes quality, sometimes verboseness, sometimes oversimplification–but there is always a diminution in quality, exactitude and in depth of communication. That loss of precision is particularly a negative in presenting a compelling sales tonality to a corporate leader. Casual mistakes can sink you with these folks.

Finding time not to speed through things is a question of prioritization and time allocation. Any important project, RFP, or business communication needs to marinate. I personally have to allow the space for this.

One of my concerns about our burgeoning social media is simply the time it sucks up. How many online miracles and digital wonderments can I absorb? I personally find an overabundance of data makes important things fuzzy and harder to find. It actually impedes good decision-making and my business intuition. For me information overload withers efficiency. So personally, if I have to eliminate my attentiveness to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et. al., that is a prioritization that creates time for me to find empathy, understanding, and subtlety in all my sales outreach. I simply decide not to speed through to cover everything our new media seems to demand I be up on. For me speed is the enemy of doing the core executive sales chores well.

The wisdom of the ages has cautions for the time-pressured entrepreneur. In the sixth century B.C. Confucius said, “Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly.” Or to quote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, “Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.”

So thank you Confucius, Chaucer, Augustus and Shakespeare.

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2704_825111_080514P_0208There is a reason to take vacations.  That reason is to simply stop.

This summer I took my first vacation in over two years.  It was not easy.  Taking a vacation is a very specific conundrum for the impassioned small businessman.  There is no good time to do it.  There is no time when it seems there is not a Sword of Damocles looming over our high-risk, very personal business creations.  There is no time when we do not need four times as many hours as there are in the work week.  It seems unimaginable to take a prolonged work intermission.  A true existential furlough from our labor.

Workaholism is a habit.  It is an addiction.  It needs to be fought each day with tools like meditation, prayer, yoga, and exercise.  But it also needs the occasional Big Break.

My friend Helanie Scott, CEO of Align4Profit in Dallas, writes an excellent newsletter on business leadership each week.  She points out that brain researchers have proven that habits create neural pathways in our brain and these paths are like ruts in the road that send you in a predetermined direction before you even have time to consider where you are going.  We need to break up these preordained ruts periodically.  She says, “That’s scary enough but it gets worse.  The longer you indulge in a bad habit, the stronger grows the pull of your neural pathways.”

Clayton_ChristensenNot taking a vacation is a bad habit.  It’s easy to get off—to get high—on the everyday frisson of business drama.  Harvard Business School professor Clayton Cristensen, in his bestseller How Will You Measure Your Life (Harper Collins, 5/15/12, with co-authors Karen Dillon and James Allworth), points out that the ROI of work is immediately apparent.  It offers instant gratification and feedback in the form of general approbation, ego inflation, contracts, and money.  Entrepreneurship can be a habit not too different from the high of cocaine, heroin, or sex.

Bart Lorang, CEO of FullContact, a contact management firm in Denver, warns of what he calls “misguided hero syndrome.”  (Stuart Varney, Fox News, 8/14/14)   Misguided hero syndrome is the belief that the world might stop spinning without our wonderful selves.  He actually pays his associates $7500 to take their vacations.  He only asks three simple things of them in exchange.:

1.  They actually go on vacation.
2.  They must disconnect from all technology.
3.  They can’t do any work on the vacation.

Personally, I was stopped in my tracks this year when I realized my recent divorce was partially caused by my bad work addiction.  I think I actually never wanted a real vacation, though I denied that to my wife.  My relationship with my daughter was also in danger.  She incessantly asked me to “take off my business face” and be with her.  (I noted that uber-entrepreneur Tesla’s Elon Musk is a twice divorced father of five, who has acknowledged taking only one vacation in four years.  Hmm.)

imgresWell, I took eight days out west with my daughter this summer.  I committed to only checking my email every other day during that time.  And no Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al.  That’s as close to going “cold turkey” as I can for now.  All was fine when I got home.

It’s ego-gratifying to believe our companies would collapse without us.  L’etat c’st moi!  The fear of vacation is partly that we might discover we are less important than we thought.  A vacation allows one to self-humblify.

In her novel Bel Canto (Perrenial Publishing, 2002), Ann Patchett intones through one of her characters.  “I don’t have any talent for vacations.”  Me either, Ann.  But I intend to practice more.

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There was an interesting article by Sue Shellenberger in the Wall Street Journal on November 13 about the increasing amount of work being performed in bed.  (Section D-1)  It’s titled More Work Goes Undercover.  It has a lot to say about several things, including the increasingly international nature of even small business, as well as physical health and  implications of omnipresent technology for personal relationships.

Ms. Shellenberger reports, “Researchers who study work habits say a new generation reared on mobile devices is increasingly accustomed to using them while propped against pillows, lying down, or in a fetal curl.”  For example, 500 workers out of a 1000 polled by Good Technology, a mobile-security software company, say they read and respond to business email from bed.  Another study of British workers discovered one in five employees spends between two and ten hours per week working from bed.  Or, annecdotally, take Laura Stack, a Denver productivity expert, who has seen a doubling of clients who work from the sleep space.

There are a number of reasons for this.  One prime reason is simply that we live in an increasingly “flat earth” world where business is a 24 hour a day proposition.  In such a world it is sometimes de rigueur to communicate at odd hours by conference call or email.  To fully service an international clientele with sensitivity and courtesy, it may mean conveniencing your client’s business hours, not your own.

Another reason is simply device addiction, an increasing phenomenon.  Dan Sieberg, a technology reporter and ABC News contributer, wrote a book last year called The Digital Diet (Crown Publishing Group, 2011) in which he discussed his compulsive use of email, handhelds, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, iPhones, BlackBerries, etc.  He wrote his book after finding himself taken over by technology in every aspect of his life.  He states, “My wife had a nickname for me, ‘Glowworm,’ because my face was constantly illuminated by some sort of screen in bed.”

The implication for relationships of this phenomenon is pretty obvious.  It’s not too sexy or conducive to any sort of intimate personal communication with whoever shares your bed.

But perhaps the most deleterious effect of pillow technology on the bedtime entrepreneur is its simple physical implications.  It’s damn uncomfortable and leads to all sorts of aches and pains.  Ergonomics experts particularly warn about the lumbar implications of multitasking for long periods of time in bed.

Finally, technology enabled bedtime work encourages insomnia.  Sue Shellenberger cites Russell Rosenberg of the National Sleep Foundation who says light from our screens suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin.

Yet, if you feel you still just have to bring your technology to bed with you, Ms. Shellenberger does offer some succor for bed workers by noting an increasing number of specialty products from customized beds to laptop lifters to detachable keyboards.  (See WSJ article cited above.)

My advice?  Work where you work and sleep where you sleep and n’er let the twain interface.  For, as William Shakespeare puts it in Macbeth:

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

Thanks, Will.

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Facebook had a disastrous IPO on May 22, 2012, fraught with greed, incompetence, and miscalculation.  But I wonder if what Facebook should really worry about is not its stock valuation, but its long-term efficacy.

In truth I think Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, its cousin Twitter) is mostly a monumental time waster.  To my mind, paraphrasing Gertrude Stein, “there is no there there.”  It would not surprise me to see Facebook do a slow fade over the next decade, despite its over 900 million user base.

That said, Facebook is cool.  Mark Zuckerberg in his hoody is cool.  He is even mentioned in the same breath with Steve Jobs.  For the life of me, I don’t understand why.  Despite last Tuesday’s $17 billion dollar windfall, Facebook seems to have little value in the real world.  Facebook produces no product, beyond its facilitation of sharing the most superficial and trivial aspects of its users lives.  It’s just a social media site.  I can easily see it being supplanted by an even cooler time-wasting social media sharing site, perhaps one less superficial, chimerical, and vaprous.  Unlike LinkedIn, Google, and even YouTube which have monetizable and clear business usages, Facebook seems silly.

That said, I do have a Facebook page.  (The last time I looked I had all of 11 “friends,” one of whom I do not know.  I never use it as an entrepreneur, though this blog does get reposted on it.)

Rich Lowry wrote an amusing piece about Facebook last week entitled The Time Wasting Network.  (National Review Online-5/18/12)  He says, “Facebook is the world’s foremost purveyor of information you shouldn’t care about.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is to uselessness what Henry Ford was to the automobile.”  Mean, but apt.  Lowry goes on to quote the T.S. Eliot line “distracted from distraction by distraction” as describing the addictive cultural appeal of social media in general and Facebook in particular.

So what does this cogitation on Facebook have to say to the practical entrepreneur?

Well, just this.  The greatest capital asset of the entrepreneur is simply his or her time.  Most of us cannot afford to be distracted by the transient, the onanistic, or the ROI inefficient.  While Facebook can facilitate and help organize social networking and various activities, do you really want to know about my great ham sandwich over lunch, see my cute dog taking a dump, or admire my daughter’s new pink braces?  I guess Facebook’s 900 million subscribers do.  But business decisions must be made by each of us about where to place our own precious human capital (ourselves.)

Time use is becoming a more and more crucial factor as technology expands exponentially and apps proliferate.  There is sometimes a lemming-like hunger to follow the crowd into each new (or old) genius app just so our firms can project a “cutting edge” image.  But what is cool and what is useful are not necessarily the same in my experience.

(If you want to read more on the subject of time management and business try scrolling back in Making Rain to March 20.)

Entrepreneur and inventor Benjamin Franklin said, “If time be of all things most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.”

Amen, Brother Ben.  Thank you.

Comments 11 Comments »

When you’re in a rush slow down.

I’m a fairly hyper guy. That’s not an uncommon state for any entrepreneurial salesman. The day I am not up to my ass in alligators is the exception. However, though it may be counter intuitive to the credo of most entrepreneurs. I’ve personally found a multitasking frenzy ain’t the answer to this conundrum.

Perhaps I’m just slow and a dullard, but what occurs when I rush to get everything done in the seemingly inadequate time frames I’m presented with, is that I pay a price. And this  is particularly true in the micro niche of my specialty, executive selling, where I find refinement, service and attention to detail especially important.

The personal price I pay for speed is sometimes accuracy, sometimes quality, sometimes verboseness, sometimes oversimplification–but there is always a diminution in quality, exactitude and in depth of communication. That loss of precision is particularly a negative in presenting a compelling sales tonality to a corporate leader. Casual mistakes can sink you with these folks.

Finding time not to speed through things is a question of prioritization and time allocation. Any important project, RFP, or business communication needs to marinate. I personally have to allow the space for this.

One of my concerns about our burgeoning social media is simply the time it sucks up. How many online miracles and digital wonderments can I absorb? I personally find an overabundance of data makes important things fuzzy and harder to find. It actually impedes good decision-making  and my business intuition. For me information overload withers efficiency. So personally, if I have to eliminate my attentiveness to Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, that is a prioritization that creates time for me to find empathy, understanding, and subtlety in all my sales outreach. I simply decide not to speed through to cover everything our new media seems to demand I be up on. For me speed is the enemy of doing the core executive sales chores well.

(I’d love to get feedback on this one.)

The wisdom of the ages has cautions for the time-pressured entrepreneur. In the sixth century B.C. Confucius said, “Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly.” Or take Chaucer, who says in The Merchant’s Tale, “Ther n’is no werkman whatever he be/That may beth werken wel and hastily.”  Or Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, “Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.”

Thank you Confucius, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.

Comments 6 Comments »

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