We have the whole team (except Shai! Love you Shai, and congrats on the new little angel!) in town for our second ever series of onsite strategy / hangout / bonding / decision making / planning sessions. 3 FULL days. Today was especially fantastic, and I think the whole team feels like a big weight’s been lifted and re-energized for the future!
Darren’s been taking photos all week, and he’s uploaded a whole bunch to Flickr.
It’s been an amazing week. The company has grown from 2 full-time at funding to 9 now, and that growth hadn’t really hit home until we sat down today at lunch. I looked around, just taking in all the conversations, laughs, insights, ideas and ENERGY… I sighed, and just realized how lucky I am to have such an incredible team. I’m sitting here grinning to myself (everyone around’s checking email) grinning for no reason.
In the absence of a “current openings” page on the TorCamp wiki (ahem @ Will), I figured it’d be useful to post some positions b5 either has open now or will very soon have open. If you or anyone you know is qualified and interested in working in a dynamic environment, please let me know. Packages will always be competitive. Location is open, though in most cases Toronto is preferred (that said, we’re a virtual company so we’re pretty open).
Here are those positions:
Advertising Sales Representative: We are looking to fill this position in late April, early May. We are looking for an experienced (2-3 years) ad sales rep who is looking for something more engaging, fun and fluid than working in the typical larger organization. Our packages for ad sales are more than competitive, so if you’re looking to push the boundaries of the ad industry, let us know. Ideal locations are (in this order): Toronto, NYC and San Francisco.
WordPress Developer: b5media is a major WordPress company. We’re (give or take) one of the top 10 WordPress installs in the world. We continue to push the boundaries of WordPress, and this year will see us making major strides in what WordPress can do, in contributing to the core, to the team and to the community and in pushing the boundaries of what blogging means. Our packages for this position are, again, more than competitive. So if you want to work in an environment where there are always 1000 things going on, where your input is critical in many day-to-day decisions and where you get to immerse yourself in WordPress development, let us know. Desired locations (though any is doable) are (in this order): Toronto, Baltimore, NYC and San Francisco. This is an immediate opening.
Operations Manager: We are seeking someone who is experienced in managing the operations of a technology company. The ability to speak “tech”, “dev” and “business” is critical. This is a Toronto-based position. You will be working with a fresh young team and will ultimately be responsible for most of the day-to-day activities of the company and will work closely with myself and Mark Evans. This is an immediate opening.
Affiliate Manager: This is another crossover position. 1/3 sales (not ad sales), 1/3 community development and 1/3 customer service/tech support. You will be the first person in a new business unit, growing the business aggressively. As such you’ll do “everything” at the start (though you’ll have access to internal dev/design/tech resources) and grow the team over the next year. We are effectively looking for an entrepreneur within our entrepreneurial organization. Experience in bizdev, technology, blogging and knowledge of the ad industry are all key qualifications. Ideally this would be a Toronto position, though we’re open. This can be a part-time, trasitiona position for the first 2-3 months. This position is vague on purpose, so apply if you’re interested in: growing a new business unit, selling ice to eskimos, having fun, developping community, and helping bloggers build and grow beyond where they’re at now. This is an immediate opening.
Music Phreak: This is an immediate opening. We are looking for someone truly passionate about music to run a new business unit. This is more than vague on purpose. This is a part-time position (for now), working from anywhere is fine. Core skills are a huge passion for music, a love of developing community, some technical skills and a desire to do “new stuff” (read that how you will).
Print Designer: This is a contract position. Immediate opening. Any location is fine. We are looking for a print designer to take some of our existing material and either repurpose it or create a half-dozen print items from scratch. Having a fantastic printing partner comfortable with die cutting, masked gloss overlays and other advanced print techniques such as foiling is critical.
How to Apply
Interested? Drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org! I’ll be in touch as soon as possible (might take a day or two) :)
If you’re anything like me, you naturally suck at keeping stuff organized. You try – in varying degrees at various times – to keep your life, time, mail, voicemail and inbox organized, but things press in and before you know it your efforts are overwhelmed and you’re behind on all kinds of little things.
I know that for me, my two biggest challenges are my email inbox and my physical mail. Physical mail will often pile up for a week or two before I have to sit down and deal with it. Email just comes so fast and furious that if I actually want to get stuff done, I often leave things sitting in my inbox for weeks at a time.
The reality is that time/life/task management is freaking hard! For most folk it goes against our nature. To us, it’s far more natural to DO than to ORGANIZE. And while we recognize that organizing makes doing easier, it’s often easier to just let piles get bigger and bigger until we either do a mass delete or we spend several days trying to get caught up.
Today is the first post in a series I’m writing on taking control. My hope is that together we can explore ways to take control of all of the information flying at us every day, that we can effectively filter out the junk and pure information from the useful information and stuff we will actually use. I truly hope that each day there are 1-2 key techniques, skills, thoughts that help you improve your life just a leetle bit ;-)
Goal for Today
The goal for today is to understand what makes time / life management hard and to look at a couple of simple thoughts and techniques that should help us to take a bit more control of our todo list and our email inbox. Today’s actual lesson will be fairly simple. Day 1 should always be easy to digest. It should still prove valuable though!
- Credit where credit is due
- The point of time management
- 3 phases of time management
- Taking control of your inbox
- Tweaking your todo list
Actual Lesson: The Basics of Time & Life Management
Before I get started, I want to make it abundantly clear that almost every idea in this series is not mine. Some of the smaller things are, the format of the series is, my notes are and the exercises and so forth by and large will be. But in spite of years of writing about time management and helping produce 3-4 separate courses on the subject and having delivered a dozen or so seminars on it, most of the core material is stuff I’ve picked up over the last decade or so of trying to make my life simpler, trying to overcome information overload and trying to be a productive member of society.
While dozens of people, books, courses and seminars have influenced my thinking, techniques and what I write about time and life management, I feel it is best to highlight the most influential of these: Marc Orchant. Marc’s been a long-time friend and introduced me to a whole new world of time management and personal productivity (especially using Outlook). It’s no exaggeration for me to say that Marc changed my world, and mostly in good ways ;-)
Marc’s a guru on this stuff, and he has a tonne of unique content of his own (including, hopefully, a new book in the next year or two!). If you’re interested, Marc wrote a FAN bloody TASTIC portion of More Space, a book for which I contributed a pithy fictional piece on corporate culture.
While Marc’s a genius at this stuff, he’d also freely admit to being influenced by a whole whack of people. Two of those people are on my list (I wouldn’t be surprised if Marc dropped by and shared his list as well): David Allen and Sally McGhee. David is the author of Getting Things Done, while Sally penned Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized.
Really, it was Getting Things Done, coupled with some of Sally’s thoughts on using Outlook specifically that led me to where I’m at today.
In addition, I’d like to note early influence by Stephen Covey.
Basically, if you find this series helpful at all, I’d highly recommend picking up books by any of the above folk!
The Point of Time Management
Personally, I see the point of time management as:
- Respecting yourself enough to take control of your life
- Respecting others enough to not add to their overload
- Respecting the information that comes at you enough to deal with it effectively
If you have a system that allows you to do these three things, then give yourself a big gold star, take 200$, proceed to GO and don’t wait on hold the next time you call your phone company with a problem. You’re doing better than 99.99% of the world! Oh, and while you’re welcome to read through this series, you probably don’t need it (though it rarely hurts) ;-)
Okay, that’s perhaps a little abstract, so here are some goals you can actually track to evaluate if your time management system is working. A successful time / life / information management system has the following key components:
- It gives you the information you need when and where you need it
- It allows you to know exactly what you need to do at a given time, in a given situation or location
- It allows you to feel like you’ve actually accomplished something at the end of a day or week
Each of these items gets to the core of why not having a time management system is such a bad thing. Without a time management system, you:
- Rarely have the information you need at your fingertips (specifically when your boss needs something like RIGHT NOW).
- You are often a slave to whoever yells the loudest. In addition, you often forget silly little regular things like taking out the garbage.
- It isn’t uncommon for you to stretch out at the end of the day and ask yourself where the day (or even week) went.
The Phases of Time Management
This would be one of those things that I’m happily stealing from someone or other. Probably David Allen in this case. I’m doing it because it highlights key weaknesses is poor systems or in not having a system at all. Also, it makes perfect sense.
The above diagram illustrates a few key things:
- This process doesn’t ever really end.
- Each step should be tackled individually.
- Effective management of your information, time and life isn’t as complex as some folk make it out to be.
There are basically 3 steps (or 6, depending on how you count it, but I prefer to count it as 3 so it seems less overwhelming, heh): Collect & Organize, Process& Prioritize and Do & Review. Heidi Renee from Redemption Junkie dropped me a line with how she processes physical mail, and it’s a perfect illustration of this:
I open every envelope that enters the house as it enters the house, unfold every important sheet of paper and throw away the envelope and the junk that comes with it. Staying on top of that makes bills, invoices & mail so much easier to manage and cuts the amount down to a 1/3 of the paperwork.
Since new information is always coming in, we never really stop processing, organizing, etc. We need a system that breaks the organizing, processing, prioritizing and taking action on information into manageable chunks!
That’s probably enough on this for now. It’s something we’ll refer back to often throughout this series. However it’s probably easy to imagine how this process might apply to creating todo lists, dealing with your inbox, etc! In fact, why don’t we take a quick look at a few tips and techniques to perhaps improve your inbox and todo list!
Quick Tips for Managing Your Inbox
Okay, if you’re anything like I was before I got into this stuff, your inbox is probably a mess. You probably can identify with at least 1 or 2 of these (if not all of them!):
- Have more items in your inbox than you can count (though the “items in this location” counter for your email app probably has at least 4 figures).
- You use your inbox as your “todo list”.
- You rarely file things properly.
- You always intend to get back to certain emails.
- Without using an advanced search tool (like gmail) you couldn’t find a specific email from a specific person about a specific issue in less than 1 minute if your life depended on it.
The harsh reality is that email sucks. As a communications medium, for filing purposes, in every way it absolutely blows. Sadly, for now, we’re stuck with it. A few new innovations are on the way down the pipes that will make email better and easier to manage, but for the next few years we’re basically stuck with a massive amount of email. So it’s no wonder that we’ve developed bad habits. After all, nobody ever taught us how to use it!
Later on in this series, I’ll be spending a whole day talking about email. For now, I want to share 3 quick thoughts on email that will hopefully help you make some quick headway:
- Most decent email programs will let you “transform” an email into something more useful. In Outlook, you can drag an email onto your calendar and it will automatically be transformed into an appointment. Just change the date and time and you’re set! No more keeping upcoming meetings in your inbox!
- Your inbox is just like your kitchen table. If your wife is anything like mine, she doesn’t appreciate having 15,323 pieces of mail on her kitchen table. And while some people think moving the file to a chair in the living room (ie: another folder) solves the issue, it actually just makes it worse when it comes time to fix things. So if you’re going to put things in a different folder, do it properly. 2 quick rules for folders: a) Put together a structure that makes sense for your whole life. 3 good top level folders include: Work Critical, Work Reference and Personal and b) whatever structure you use for email, mirror that structure in your “My Documents” (or wherever you store your stuff on your computer) on your computer AND in your filing system. This will ensure that if you know you received a “something” but don’t know if it was physical or virtual, that you can find it quickly.
- When you turn on the computer in the morning, doing “passes” through your inbox can often speed up your processing. I use 5 passes: a) delete junkmail, b) read short stuff that’s purely informational and then delete it (I know I probably won’t go back and read it later, but if I really want to I can file it under Work Reference), c) things I can reply to quickly (less than 2 minutes), I do, d) file away anything that doesn’t require you to DO SOMETHING and e) book appointments into my calendar. You don’t need to do it this way, or even do all of these steps. For me, this allows me to get through the 1000+ items in my inbox every morning in 10-15 minutes, often leaving me with just 5-10 “new” items since I last saw my inbox.
The truth is that managing your inbox is hard. Developing simple tools and techniques can have a huge effect on your overload. But the best tool for you is probably different than the best tool for someone else. I’ll try and leave 10-12 different tips for managing your inbox throughout the rest of this series so that you can hopefully find the right approach for you!
One quick note, implementing a new system like this does take some time. The first few days you’ll probably feel a little clunky. Personally, I have a 3-day test for any piece of software, time management technique or anything. It goes like this: if, after 3 days, I can’t either see a positive difference OR I don’t feel comfortable (ie: it’s started becoming a habit), I drop it. Most people would say it takes about 2 weeks to get used to a time / life / information management system. And it does. But with so many options, you don’t really have 2 weeks. If you spend 2 weeks evaluating something, you’ll probably spend so much time fighting with time management systems that you don’t end up saving any time!
Tweaking Your Todo List
I’ve decided to do this portion as a bit of a video. I’ve uploaded the video to YouTube for easy viewing, here’s the video (if you’re in a feed reader, you’ll need to click through to this post, sorry!):
The long and short of this video is that I’ve always felt a solid todo list was one of the best tools in the world. I know experts like Marc and David Allen have found better ways to manage tasks and such. And I’m a huge believer in those methods of doing things. For me, the todo list is still king, and I’ve found a few key ways to make my todo list work for me (your mileage may vary):
- Don’t just put big projects on your list, break them down into smaller chunks.
- Group larger tasks (especially tasks you’re dreading) with smaller, quicker, ones so you can feel like you’re getting stuff accomplished.
- Don’t be afraid to create a sense of balance in your list by adding personal items or things that keep you happy / healthy / whole.
- Schedule breaks to get refreshed.
Review of Key Takeaways
Okay, in spite of the simplicity of material, today’s lesson ended up being fairly long. Here is a far briefer synopsis:
- Lots of people are to blame for me having time management knowledge, none of them are to blame for my mistakes, foibles or silliness
- Marc Orchant
- David Allen
- Sally McGhee
- Steven Covey
- Point of Time Management
- Respect yourself
- Respect others
- Respect your information
- Points of a Good System
- Empowers you to know what you have to do
- Lets you prioritize effectively
- Helps you feel like you’ve “moved forward”
- Points of a Bad System
- Keeps you in the dark
- Gives up control of your life and schedule to others
- Makes you feel like your day flew by without accomplishing anything
- Phases of Time Management
- Collect & Organize
- Process & Prioritize
- Do & Review
- Process is natural, but often harder to implement electronically
- Tips for Managing Your Inbox
- Move items from your inbox to where they belong (calendar items, tasks, folders).
- File your items properly.
- When filing, mirror your email filing system everywhere you file stuff (filing cabinet, personal folder on computer, work folder) so you can find things quickly.
- Process email in “passes”: delete junk, read and organize/delete short informational things, reply to quick things quickly (no more than 2 minutes), file stuff that isn’t “actionable” away and book appointments as appointments
- How I Do Todo Lists
- Break bigger projects down into smaller chunks you’ll actually sit down and do
- Group larger tasks with smaller ones to keep yourself motivated.
- Add balance by putting in exercise, water, whatever to keep yourself going and feeling balanced
- Schedule breaks
As we close out today’s lesson, here are some Top 10 Tips on Time Management from a few other folk from around the web, with my personal favorites highlighted (click through to read all 10 from each source):
Linda Leigh Francis @ score.org:
- The key is not to prioritize what is on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
- Say “no” to the project, not the person. You cannot do everything everyone asks you to do.
- Learn how to effectively delegate. This means picking the right person, giving clear directions, setting benchmark and due dates, and then letting them do it.
- If you earn $10,000 a year, each minute is worth $.09. If you earn $30,000 a year, each minute is worth. $.26. Use these thoughts to help you prioritize your activities and to determine to whom you should be delegating. Any time you are doing work that someone at a lower wage could be doing, you are losing money.
- There are 1,440 minutes in a day and 29020 days in an 80 year lifetime. Take control of your time and make this year the year you do what you want .
Penelope Trunk @ Brazen Careerist:
- Check your email on a schedule.
- Know when you work best.
- Make it easy to get started.
- Organize your to-do list every day.
- Dare to be slow.
Greg Mankiw @ Greg Mankiw’s Blog:
- When I am involved in a big writing project, I keep to a very regular schedule.
- I like to attend seminars and take classes. It feels like goofing off at the time, but it often ends up productive.
- Travel is usually an inefficient use of time.
I hope today’s been useful. Please leave comments on anything, but specifically the following items:
- Was this post useful or not to you?
- How was the structure of the post? Suggestions to make it easier to both absorb EVERYTHING and to skim?
- Do you have tips or tricks you use?
- Do you disagree with anything I’ve said?
For the last few weeks I’ve been hoping this meme would die. I saw some commentary on some blog by Jeremy Liew (not surprised he turned it into a post). Now, Jeremy’s a wickedly smart guy and definitely knows his numbers. He’s also a VC at one of the VC firms I have nothing but respect for: Lightspeed Ventures.
Which is one of the reasons I wanted this to die. I basically hate disagreeing with wickedly smart, incredibly successful people who I have a huge amount of respect for (including Scoble, PageRankWhore, Screenwerk, Ross Dawson and Hillel).
But, now’s the time.
- Building a media business to scale is hard.
- “Scale” is defined in 50M$/year in revenue.
- Getting to 50M$/year in revenue is basically impossible.
Okay, Jeremy didn’t say impossible ;-) What he did say is:
- General audience stuff won’t get more than 1$RPM (revenue per thousand pages, including all display advertising). This would require 4 billion pages per month.
- Demographically specific stuff won’t get more than $5RPM. This would require 800 million pages per month.
- Huge, in-demand stuff won’t get more than 20$RPM. This would require 200 million pages per month.
First off, if you own a media company or site that isn’t able to break 2-3RPM on even the most general audience stuff, give me a shout. At b5media, we currently average between 2-5RPM on general audience traffic and far more on specific demo or high-mand content.
Which really brings up the issue. Jeremy’s figures are only true if you rely either entirely on Google AdSense or on generic deals from the big few ad networks. They don’t hold true if:
- You do more than 25M AdSense impressions per month (you get a better cut, exclusive deals, etc).
- You work with a boutique ad network (like Federated Media).
- Are able to get some remnant inventory providers (which can go from 0.50-2$/unit CPM, giving you an RPM of 1-4$ with just 2 units per page).
- You do any non-performance/metric advertising (like sponsorships).
- You do text links.
- You have any internal sales team at all (which’ll sell those 1$ units for 2-5$, giving you an RPM of 4-10$ on even the most generic traffic).
Basically, Jeremy’s figures won’t apply to any media company that has a serious execution strategy. The core of this is that the numbers Jeremy’s mentioned can very easily be translated to the following numbers, once a company passes about 10M pages/month in “real traffic” (ie: seen by humans):
- For generic traffic, expect a 3-5RPM. To get to 50M$/year in revenue would thus require 800 million pages per month.
- For demographically specific stuff, expect an RPM of 12-15. You’d need about 300M pages per month.
- Huge in-demand areas like cars and sports can net you an RPM of 40-50. You’d thus need about 100 million pages per month.
Now that’s not to say these numbers are easy. But a media company that balances the above 3 properly, does sponsorships, syndication deals, content licensing, text links, feed ads, etc could potentially achieve 50M$/year in revenue on about 200 million pages per month.
Again, not a small number, but neither is it impossible.
In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s not as hard as folk (like, y’know, the New York Times, for goodness sakes) would like to make everyone think.
Again, NOT EASY. But here are some thoughts (I haven’t built a 50M$/year business, so take this wiht a truckload of salt):
- If you’re at 10M$/year in revenue, you should be able to acquire a couple of companies per year in order to increase your growth rate by at least 2x.
- As you hit certain milestones (10M pages/month, 25M pages/month, 50M pages/month), entirely new advertising opportunities open up. Anyone have any idea what the RPM is for TechCrunch? Somewhere near 750$.
- As you build a major media company, you start to build infrastructure that you can license to others or that can be used to rep others. All of a sudden your core traffic doesn’t matter as much.
Anyways, core of this is: if your media business is actually in the ranges Jeremy’s talking about AND you’re generating tens or hundreds of millions of pages per month, give me a shout. There’s a whole hell of a lot more you could be doing.
Hell, if your site is generating 1M pages/month and you’re getting the kinds of numbers Jeremy’s talking about give me a shout. There’s STILL a whole hell of a lot more you could be doing!
Oh, and, Jeremy, if your portfolio companies are hitting these walls, feel free to give me a shout as well ;-)
Over the last few months, the b5media team has been growing. Fairly quickly. In fact, it’s been growing faster than we’d projected. Part of this is due to the cold hard reality that none of us has run a company this large before, so it was easy to forget about a position like an Office Manager/Bookkeeper (our newest hire). The other part is that our growth is above every projection we’ve set, so we have extra resources to bring in more team members.
As a team grows, it develops its own culture, its own strengths and its own weaknesses. One of the great things is that most of us at b5 struggle with some of the same issues, namely time management, information overload, email etiquette, etc. Seeing as how I’ve developed courses on these things, and nearly wrote a book with my good friend Marc Orchant (/me waves @ Marc!) I felt I could probably add something to the discussion.
Now, I’m very aware that I’m not the best at these things. This was only reinforced last night as I reviewed notes, courseware I’d previously developed, presentations I’d previously given, etc. It’s easy to fall into bad habits with anything, and time/life/information management is no exception.
So, no, I’m not perfect. But I’ve taught and learned enough that I thought it’d be great to write a series of posts on the subject. Originally I’d intended for this to be private. However I’ve decided to do this in public partially because then there’s no hiding something that’s valuable and partially because I’m sure I’ll muck stuff up, and I’d appreciate being corrected by folk who know more than I do! ;-)
What I’m Doing
I’ve outlined 11 posts I need to write. Since this is basically my own little course, this here’s the outline:
post 1: what I’m doing and why (this post, fyi) post 2: Time Management 101 post 3: Getting It Together – Collecting Your Sh*t post 4: No More Piles! – Organizing Your Life post 5: Combating Overload – Processing the Junk post 6: Email Sucks – Processing as it Relates to Email post 7: The Dirty Little Time Management Secret – Next Actions post 8: Being A Hero – Review Your Successes & Failures post 9: The Story of Joe post 10: Critical Components for Success (big ass review) post 11: Systems I’ve Used in the Past & How I Do It
In addition, if you’re at all curious about this stuff, a brief intro can be had here: my time management seminar. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start. It’s a few hours long, though, so feel free to just skim.
Want to Help?
If you’ve ever thought about this stuff, if you have your own little system, if you have experience with GTD and want to point out tips, drop me an email (email@example.com). I’d love to have a guest “sidebar” for each post.
What to Expect
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect perfection out of this. This is basically me developing a course using the blogging spirit. Fairly quick, fairly off the cuff and hopefully fairly valuable. I won’t have spent 100 hours on this (like I have previous courses). And I’m so out of practice that some bits’ll probably be out of whack.
However, for those who want to have a swing at this, here’s what you should expect. First, there’ll be about 3 posts per week, which makes this a 3-4 week course. I might do one a day, but I figure if I target 3/week I wont’ disappoint anyone (least of all myself!) ;-)
Second, I’m looking to incorporate the following elements and structure into each post (so you can skip, come back later, use the posts as reference material, and so forth):
- Goal for Today
- Key Takeaways (or: if you only hear 3 things, hear these)
- Actual Lesson
- Guest “Sidebar” / Testimonial
- Exercise to Reinforce Learning / Put it Into Practice (or: what’s the point of teaching spring cleaning if we don’t actually DO IT?!)
- Review of Key Takeaways / Lessons
- Customizing for You (or: everyone’s different, so here are some things you might want to switch up to make this work for you)
- Video / Audio / PowerPoint Component (not sure on exactly what I’ll do here, so this part might not happen, but I’d like to talk through perhaps just the key goals and takeaways, since audio/video can be a better reinforcer than just text)
Conclusion / Review
As I said at the start, this is primarily a tool for b5media, but one that I’m hoping will be useful to a few other folk who happen upon it. It won’t be perfect, but if it’s useful and not totally boring I’ll be happy :-)
Updates: Updated some broken links.