The 4 Subtle Changes That Unlock Time and Ideas
BY Ed Zitron
How to challenge yourself, be more efficient, and improve your brainstorms.
Don't call it a resolution.
Though I'm all for new beginnings and building a better life, I also don't believe that unrealistic aspirations or over-dramatic life changes amount to much more than disappointment. If you really want to win back time and get better at your job, here are four subtle, powerful strategies that don't require the purchase of any gym equipment.
Read Beyond Your RSS Feed (And Comfort Zone)
It's very easy to lurk only within your industry, but a clear understanding of the business ecosystem comes only from a wider view. What that means: Begin reading books and blogs with no immediate tie to your daily work. Here are two excellent business books outside my area of expertise that changed my perspective on my work in 2013:
Alexis Ohanian, investor and founder of Reddit, released Without Their Permission, which contains great insight into how young, socially networked people are redefining business. It's a strange and exhilarating pop-culture history of startups, and how they're changing the world that's educational even to those of us who've lived through the last 10 years of technology and turmoil.
Similarly, veteran USAToday columnist Steve Strauss’ Planet Entrepreneur is a textbook on entrepreneurism -- profitability, growth and structure -- that reaches far beyond hackers and coders. It might seem irrelevant to "Internet Company X" with its million-dollar rounds, however the astute executive will learn a ton about business in general here.
I'd also recommend the Q&A forum Quora as a great place to share and read. It showed me the great divides within the PR industry, and consistently challenges what I believe in the industry. Every time I think that my answer or thought will be consistent with the norm, I find I'm either completely wrong or completely different. It hurts, but it makes me think daily about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.
Stop Being Positive
Inc. Columnist Jeff Haden provesrepeatedly that the negative is powerful - the things that you don't do, or never want are things that you have to know. It's easy to broadcast only the good things and the best events, but in 2014 I encourage you to sit down and tear at yourself. Where is your weakness? Where must you improve in order to grow?
If your colleagues or clients have a suggestion you don't like, say so and say why -- put as much effort into a negative proposal as you would into a positive one. Find the potential holes in a press release or product, and talk about them openly.
Many in PR will consider you a naysayer or equate you with the can't do culture that Ben Horowitz just decried. The truth is that if you can weigh the negatives against the positives intelligently and critically, you can become far more powerful than you would be using smiles alone.
Share More Documents. Cancel More Brainstorms
Brainstorms are poison. Ironically, they sap brain power, as groups of people sit around sharing ideas that might work or could do something. In many cases they're a chance for egos to be fluffed -- oh, look at how intelligent everybody is! Look at how everyone has a say, and everyone has an idea!
Meetings, phone calls and 'chats' have become a great way for people to not do work. Instead of having a 'catchup call' where you’ll list your achievements or progress for the week, send a bulleted email. Take 15 minutes to write that email, hit send, and then breathe a sigh of relief.
If someone wants to brainstorm, create a Google document and ask them to dump their ideas in there. If there's a large group of people you want to 'brainstorm' with, have them join the document, too.
Force Your Clients To Talk Less
Every client wants to talk. As a PR professional, I find that some of these clients will, unheeded, leech your time (and their own time) without end. Allot just 15 to 30 minutes for these ideas-and-questions calls -- and hold them to it with a stopwatch. Warn them in advance that you've got a hard stop. And when it does, tell them that they can finish the question or line or thought (or you can) and then you're done.
Some clients may hate you for it. The key is to make it clear what you're doing: That back-and-forth Q&A session you're having with them is taking up time when you could be doing something for them. If they can't understand that, they aren't getting good value for their money.
If they need more time, require them to book it a week or two in advance. Your time is important -- and you have to establish that to keep the world sane.
ED ZITRON is the founder of EZ-PR, a PR and media relations company based in New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also of the author of This Is How You Pitch: How to Kick Ass in Your First Years of PR. He has worked with Target and the Nature Publishing Group, as well as smaller startups and tech figureheads. He covered the technology and video games industry for seven years for Future Publishing and Eurogamer. @edzitron