Bringing Humanity Back to Email

A more productive and engaged version of you.

While exchanging emails with Adam Walker, a fellow Atlanta entrepreneur and friend, I noticed a message on the footer of his emails.

Adam’s message circa 2017:

Having batched email communication for years, this seemed like a thoughtful solution to the fervent-mailers who expect a reply within hours or minutes. If nothing else, it properly sets expectations and outlines personal rules of engagement.

Continue reading “Bringing Humanity Back to Email”

Insights from Super Bowl to Investment Fund

I recently interviewed Ryan Nece. From the NFL Super Bowl to Investor, he dropped consistent value about being at the top of your game and working with a team.

Our team at New Story has been leading a social impact accelerator program: Founders Lab. The content has been filled with unique value and each session has been incredible. The Q/A with Ryan was no exception.

A few thoughts Ryan shared…

Performance Enhancing Elements

What Football has figured out, but business founders have to learn:

  • Scoreboard
    How do you know you are ‘winning’?
  • Coaches
    Who is helping you improve, constantly?
  • Accountability
    What oversight keeps you in-check?
  • Feedback
    What you’re doing right? What’s needs to change?
  • Structure / Rituals
    What are the habits and systems within the organization that lead to positive results?

“One of the hardest things to do in life is to show up consistently. The next hardest thing, to be remembered.”

Who are your starting 5?

  • 5 Favorite Team Members
  • 5 Favorite Customers
  • 5 Favorite Leaders
  • 5 Favorite Friends

What do these people have in common?

“Good people talk about themselves. Great people have others talk about them.”

– Walter Payton

For this information and more, checkout Founders Lab. Cohorts last a few weeks and kickoff every few months. Space is limited.

Borrowed Elements of Performance

Sports understand performance. Whether or not you follow a particular sport, we can learn something from how sports are structured.

These elements are common in games and competition. If we allow it, they carry into personal and business growth as well:

  • Scoreboard. How do you know you are ‘winning’?
  • Coaches. Who is helping you improve, constantly?
  • Accountability. What oversight keeps you in-check?
  • Feedback. What you’re doing right? What’s needs to change?
  • Rituals. What are the habits and systems within the organization that lead to positive results?

These are easy to overlook because they are not required. Setting them up is a choice.

Their presence can propel us toward success (however we choose to define it). Their absence can leave us feeling stuck.

Investing in Good Sleep

Getting up early is the single greatest commitment I’ve made to my personal and professional growth in the last decade. Sleeping well is a huge part of why that works.

Over the years, I’ve refined the behaviors that lead to consistently good sleep. I’ve found these modifications ensure I sleep well.

• No coffee (caffeine) after 3pm
• No water 1 hour before bed
• No food before bed (1-2 hours before bed)
• No alcohol before bed (1-2 hours before bed)
• No email or social media before bed (1-2 hours before bed)
• No phone in bed
• No TV in bedroom
• Set iPhone in ‘do not disturb’ before dinner (3-4 hours before bed)
• Pee before you get in bed, even if it’s not “pressing” 😉
• Pursue consistent bedtime (9:30pm for me)
• Pursue consistent wakeup
• Pursue darkness (shades, curtains, no ‘night lights’)
• Hydrate regularly (1L every 2-3 hours throughout the day)
• Sleep naked (Regulating body temperature with clothes and sheets it too complex while sleeping)
• Exercise Regularly (I define exercise as 120bpm for 30+ minutes, 5+ days per week)
• Minimize distractions (getting in bed the same time as partner is SO helpful. Our dog wondering around the house at night drives me nuts.)
• Stretch after Exercise (Tight muscles make you squirmy in bed)

One Crazy Giveaway : Nonprofit Donation System (with crowdfunding)

New Story is giving away our donation software to a few nonprofits. It’s FREE. No contracts, no annual commitments, and no string attached. It’s brand new and within a few weeks has helped us raise over $500k. We’re keeping a copy of the code and handing a version to others.

• No, there aren’t subscription costs.
• No, there are no transaction costs.
• No, you don’t owe us development fees.
• Yes, you’ll really own the code.
• Yes, it’s SLICK!
• Yes, it’s actually FREE!

Checkout the flow (and maybe support some local families while you’re at it): https://donate.newstorycharity.org/

Capabilities

  • One-time Donations
  • Recurring Donations
  • Campaign (Crowdfunding) Pages
  • Referral Code (to track shares and directed giving)
  • Admin Dashboard

Integrations

Operating Expenses

We are not charging for software development costs OR the costs of configuring for selected organizations. Organizations will be responsible of covering third-party costs associated with CRM, email marketing providers, hosting, etc.

There is plenty of flexibility here to reduce costs but New Story spends around $100/m for these associated expenses. We’ve found the value to greatly exceed the costs.

What Next?

If you, or someone you know is interested, I’d love to hear from you. Complete the form and a member of our team will be in touch soon:

https://share.hsforms.com/1R6RKh4xwQSC8oglPENYvUg44frs

Closing Out Your Work Day while Working Remote

Working from home provides tremendous flexibility. Unfortunately, it also begins to blur the lines between areas of life that were once separate. Because you’re working and living from the same space, it can feel like one flows seamlessly into the other. This can lead to depriving yourself of a true rest and separation from ‘always being on’.

I’ve found a few rituals to be specially useful in signaling to your mind that it’s time to switch gears. These work for me, but I’d love to hear other suggestions.

Put Your Pants On

When most interaction involves being on-screen, it’s tempting to only ‘prepare’ for what people see (ie nice shirt and jacket, no pants). Changing into a complete outfit for work (shoes too) and changing out of it when you’re done is powerful. It signals to your body/mind whether it’s go-time or not. Our physical world often drives our mental state. The ceremony behind ‘getting ready for work’ is about way more than how you look.

Exit Programs

Literally exit work programs on your computer (command + q on a mac). Because computers get used for work and recreation, you need to remove programs from sight.

Slack, email, calendar, asana, text editor (for software engineers), and more. Exit the program.

Segment ‘People’

If you use Chrome, use the ‘people’ function. Most people don’t notice it along the top menu. This allows you to isolate work and personal sessions and web history. Not only is it a great privacy feature, it’ll be especially useful if you’re a ‘tab-junky’.

Delete Work Apps on Phone

Remove email, slack, and other work related apps from your phone completely. You run the risk of being too digitally connected, not disconnected.

While you are at it, you can delete social media apps too. It probably won’t help transition away from work but could address anxiety issues or wasted time.

Schedule an Alarm

Schedule an alarm to start and end your day (and probably one for waking up, if that’s not typically your speed). Evergreen alarms are a great tool during normal work situation but especially when working from home. You set it, and forget it.

Pack Your Stuff

Load and unload your work equipment. Having kids is a great forcing function for this (but your don’t need to endure that amount of pain, frustration, and financial burden to gain these benefits).

  • Shut your laptop
  • Wrap up your charger
  • Place everything in your bag
  • Put your bag wherever you would normall when getting home from office.

10 Ideas for Inspiration : Churches and Congregations

Churches and Congregations are essentially event-based organizations. Many of these groups are likely experiencing availability due to events while also struggling to keep up with the needs in their community. Their day to day work looks drastically different.

I put together ideas for inspiration for churches and congregations. Hopefully it prompts some outside-the-box thinking and provides new ways to stay inspired.

  1. A “24/7 service” where pastors and community leaders jump online for 30-60 minute time blocks.
  2. Shorter, daily service each morning.
  3. A video stream of pastors reading books for children. Parents are overwhelmed and allowing their kids to see familiar faces could provide comfort (and free time).
  4. Send a daily list of positive, encouraging content for people to consume.
  5. Take content from your backlog, cut it to shorter length, and share in smaller chunks.
  6. Use your massive parking lot to host a drive-in and project a movie onto a large wall.
  7. Host virtual community groups / small groups using a tool like zoom.
  8. Use a tool like Calendly to allow congregation to schedule consistent, brief calls with pastors as needed.
  9. Coordinate live interviews/conversations with other church leaders.
  10. Connecting people:
    • Collect information (through online form) about people who have a surplus and those who have need. Match needs with surplus.
    • Pair members of congregation for virtual 1-1s with other for support and encouragement.
    • Connect your volunteers with other organizations in the community who need help.
    • Identify the business owners in your community and explore ways for the congregation to help them survive.

10 Ideas for Inspiration : Gyms and Personal Trainers

Local business is hit hardest during economic downturn. Combined with social distancing, gyms and personal trainers are especially impacted. As members consider cancelling, it’s important that these groups get creative about driving attention and sales to their business by providing unique value to their members. I’ve put together ideas for inspiration for gyms and personal trainers. It’s not much, but hopefully it prompts some level of outside-the-box thinking.

  1. SBA Disaster Loans. More information is emerging but I’m including this on every list of Ideas for inspiration because too many businesses still don’t know about it.
  2. Rent equipment. Charge a monthly fee for members to rent equipment and have it delivered to their home.
  3. Facilitate the buying/selling of members’ at home equipment. Allow them to sell, barter, or buy from each other.
  4. Charge more for exclusivity. Some members would likely pay 2-5x their monthly membership for the chance to workout in the facility without anyone else.
  5. Premium, In-home training. Higher cost to reduce the need for high volume.
  6. Remote Fitness Challenge. Host a virtual challenge for weight-loss (or some-other health metric)
  7. Publish daily checkins from members about how they’re staying healthy during isolation.
  8. Partner with local restaurants to coordinate healthier meals for your members.
  9. Create content for members:
    • Publish Workout of the Day.
    • At-home Workout Options.
    • Healthy eating
    • Mental Health during isolation
  10. Go virtual:
    • Virtual Fitness Classes.
    • Facilitate Virtual Connection. Setup video call each night where members can talk and connect.
    • Phone call coaching and check-ins

10 Ideas for Inspiration : Local Restaurants

Local business is hit hardest during economic downturn. Restaurants have a unique opportunity to get creative about driving attention and sales to their business. I’ve put together ideas for inspiration for Local Restaurants. It’s not much, but hopefully it prompts creativity.

  1. Increase Prices. I’d rather pay 20-30% more for a short period of time to support local businesses I enjoy as opposed to them closing down and serving no-one.
  2. Trade food for work. Rather than layoffs, offering team members food in exchange for volunteering could at least keep their families fed during an economic downturn.
  3. Sell goods straight from distributor. Grocery stores are slammed and people are already buying in bulk.
  4. SBA Disaster Loans. More information is emerging about this but there is creative financing available for restaurants.
  5. Host virtual cooking class that walks people through cooking restaurant favorites.
  6. Convert dining room into cooking space to increase kitchen capacity.
  7. Offer cook-it-yourself, pre organized meal options.
  8. Convert to curbside-pickup or drive-thru only.
  9. Adjust menu:
    • Reduce menu to simplest items. Streamline business around less effort higher throughput.
    • Reduce menu to highest margin items. Streamline business around fewer sales, better margins.
    • Reduce menus to fastest items. Streamline business around higher throughput, more sales.
    • Reduce menu to greatest surplus. Streamline business around reducing inventory and less waste.
    • Pick 2-3 above and combine them.
  10. Diversify your selling strategy:
    • Sell recipes. Leveraging expertise without needing to use the kitchen.
    • Sell ingredients, spices, and mixers separately.
    • Sell Gift Cards at 90% of their value, claimable at a future date.
    • Sell alcohol and beer like package store. (Disaster government restrictions makes this possible)
    • Sell high volume, freezable foods (10 gallons of soup, 10 pounds of smoked pork, etc)

two people happily in a meeting

Meeting Manifesto

Meetings can be an important part of work life. They bring people together. At their best, they facilitate meaningful interactions and fuel progress. The time and energy invests produces outsized returns.

Advocating for better meetings, the Meeting Manifesto serves as a litmus test. A few critical elements shape an effective meeting. By communicating and championing each expectation, meetings will improve.

  • Start on Time
  • End on Time
  • Schedule in Advance
  • Agenda is Clear and Communicated
  • Stay Focused
  • Meeting is Necessary
  • Everyone Contributes Meaningfully
  • Technology Functions Properly

Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, it’s the presence of only what (or who) is essential.

Start on Time

Was everyone present and ready to begin?

It’s not just about the clock or the people, it’s about preparedness. Attendees should be present and ready to begin. Starting a meeting at the agreed upon time shows respect for others’ time and primes attendees to take the meeting more seriously.

Starting late eliminates time for rapport building and can produces a feeling of hurry. Also, meetings that start late typically end late too.

End on Time

Was everything resolved before the scheduled end-time?

Much like starting on time, ending a meeting on time (or early) is a sign of respect for everyone involved. Meetings that end late create new problems for each attendee. They risk being late to their next meeting, cutting into planned activities, or jeopardize their other commitments.

Honoring the end-time is also a healthy constraint that ensures the intended purpose is accomplished. Electing a timekeeper is a great way to stay on track and finishing on time.

Schedule in Advance

Was the meeting schedule last minute or ‘day of’?

When meetings are scheduled far enough in advance, it’s more reasonable to assume that team members have considered if the meeting is necessary. They at least had the opportunity to plan their day around the meeting.

Last minute meetings disrupt schedules. By definition, they are reactionary and allow less time for attendees to come prepared.

A surplus of meetings scheduled last minute can cause a feel of “where did my day go?!” among team members. While everyone has the same number of hours in a day, I’d bet on the one with time to prepare.

Agenda is Clear & Communicated

What does success look like?

We’ve all been in meetings at seem to go nowhere. Undefined discussion or talking in circles. A clear agenda outlines the items to be discussed, the decisions to make, and a clear picture of success when the meeting is complete.

Using the ‘notes’ or ‘description’ section of a Calendar invite is a helpful way to distribute the agenda. Also, kicking off meetings with a brief review of the agenda is a great ritual that signals a meetings start. If the agenda takes more than 30 seconds to review, there is a chance you’re in for a long meeting or success isn’t well articulated.

Requiring an agenda is also a forcing function to ask, “Who is owning and running the meeting?” Having a clear owner empowers team members and increases focus.

Stay Focused

Was the conversation moving forward and in the right direction?

Focused meetings reduce circular conversations or detours. Focus helps all attendees stay engaged and makes sure the agenda is accomplished in the time allocated.

Running over the scheduled time, needing to book an additional meeting, or not accomplishing the purpose are all symptoms of a poorly focused meeting.

Meeting is Necessary

Could the meeting have just been an email?

Meetings are great for activities that involve collaboration and creativity. They’re an opportunity to connect and interact. When meetings become status updates or one way knowledge transfer, they can feel unnecessary and wasteful.

The most common symptom of an unnecessary meeting is when one person does most of the talking or when attendees drift off into other activities without the distraction being noticed.

Everyone Contributes Meaningfully

Is everyone in attendance necessary for success?

Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, it’s the presence of only what (or who) is essential. Keeping the number of attendees low ensures everyone has time and insight to make a valuable contribution.

Inviting too many people dampens discussion and risks people disconnecting. More often than not, the most generous act is excusing someone, or excusing yourself, when it becomes clear there time is better spent elsewhere.

Technology Functions Properly

Was the conferencing tool or other technology working like expected?

Technology should improve effectiveness. Unfortunately, situations arise where it becomes a frustration or a distraction. Investing more time earlier ensures the right tools are used and the barriers are reduced.

Time is wasted when slideshows won’t load, conferencing tools are glitchy, or “we don’t have a dongle for that computer”. When not promptly addressed, frustration begins to surface. Establishing organizational norms or enforcing preferred products can alleviate perpetual tensions.

Conclusion

Meetings are a tool. They are not the point. When meetings are thoughtfully constructed and consistently improved, organizations grow and thrive. These should accelerate our work, not impede it. Meetings conducted well leave attendees and team members feeling efficient, respected, and valued.

They might be inevitable, but they don’t have to be a source of tension. To help teams and leaders increase their awareness about meetings, we’ve built a simple tool to measure and improve meetings.

Meetings are expensive. With a greater emphasis on remote work, it’ll only become more important to save time and money while increasing results.

10 Ideas for Inspiration : Coffee Companies

As times get hard, businesses need to get creative about driving attention and sales to their business. I’ve put together ideas for inspiration for Coffee Companies. It’s not much, but hopefully it prompts creativity.

  1. Streamline all promote larger bags or bulk buying.
  2. Rent storage space. Inviting companies who are downsizing to utilize your storage space.
  3. Selling large, portable carafes of coffee and make local deliveries.
  4. Engage the artist community. Host a digital competition of creative artwork using coffee beans.
  5. Create a printable calendar with each month focusing on a type of coffee.
  6. Create playful/shareable gifs of your team
  7. Mobilize your team to brew larger quantities at their home and sell to their neighborhood (safely).
  8. Sell gift cards at reduced cost.
  9. Provide recipes for things you can do with coffee:
    • Breakfast recipes with coffee
    • Lunch recipes with coffee
    • Dessert recipes with coffee
  10. Send a short, simple, plain text email to all customers with a clear ask to subscribe.
  11. BONUS: Create unique video content to drive online sales:
    Much of it might exist, but not directed at your customers or produced by your team.
    • Different brewing techniques
    • A list of diets where coffee is still allowed
    • Reason for different styles of grind
    • Common coffee misconceptions
    • Educate people about where coffee originates
    • Share a story from each country your coffee originates
    • Record an interview with a coffee farmer
    • Record an interview with a coffee co-op
    • Interview your team members
    • Interview customers
    • Talk about why you got into coffee
    • Ask customers about their first memory of coffee
    • Interview each team member about their favorite type of coffee
    • Interview each team member about their morning cup of coffee
    • Alternatives to grinding coffee beans when your grinder breaks
    • Alternatives to brewing coffee beans when your brewer breaks
    • Caffeine alternatives if you run out of coffee.
    • Ways to extend the life of your coffee
    • Host an AMA with your founder about why they started the business.
    • Publish instructions for how to tie-dye a shirt using brewed coffee.