On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Steve Glaveski, Author of Time Rich: Do your Best Work, Live Your Best Life. Steve Glaveski and I talk about the power of time management and what individuals and organizations can do to become smarter and more productive. Let’s get started.
Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger, founder of insideoutside.io, a provider of research, events, and consulting services that help innovators and entrepreneurs build better products, launch new ideas, and compete in a world of change and disruption each week. We’ll give you a front row seat to the latest thinking, tools, tactics, and trends in collaborative innovation.
Interview Transcript with Steve Glaveski
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger and as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Steve Glaveski. He’s the author of the new book Time Rich: Do your Best Work, Live Your Best Life. You may have seen and heard of Steve. He’s been on the show before. He came out to the IO Summit a couple of years ago. And so we’re super excited to have him back. All the way from down under, welcome back Steve Glaveski.
Steve Glaveski: It’s an absolute pleasure to be back on the program, Brian.
Brian Ardinger: Well, we’re excited to have you back. You have become a prolific writer since last we’ve spoken. I think you’ve come out with a couple different books. Today we wanted to highlight the new one that you’ve got coming out called Time Rich. Before we get started, why don’t you give the audience a little bit of background of what you’ve been doing the last couple of years, from starting Collective Campus and Division Accelerator, and now author of a couple different books.
Steve Glaveski: I think that’s been somewhat part of the catalyst for writing this particular book, is that I did establish Collective Campus. That was about five years ago now. And we’ve gone on to incubate over a 100 startups that collectively raised about $30 million in that time. I’ve spun off a kid’s entrepreneurship program called Lemonade Stand, which was initially a two-day workshop.
It is now a SAAS platform. So we’ve got clients in Singapore, in Honduras, Australia obviously, all over the world. And during the pandemic actually spun out a company called No Filter Media, which is effectively a podcast network, but also has articles and all that sort of stuff. I keep busy, but despite the fact that I have so many things going on, I tend to work maybe five to six hours a day, tops on average.
Now there are days where you go beyond that, but then there are also days where it might just be two or three hours. And given all the time that I’ve spent in the corporate world, working with large organizations, as well as entrepreneurs and startups, I did see a disconnect between how they were going about making decisions, how they were going about using their time, and the way I was doing things.
I figured that there was a book in this because the article I wrote for Harvard Business Review called the Case for the Six Hour Workday a couple of years ago, just absolutely blew up. And then my publisher came knocking as well and said, Hey, is there a book in this?
Brian Ardinger: That’s a good place to start. There’s plenty of books out there about time management. And why do you think people are still getting tripped up when it comes to managing their time effectively?
Steve Glaveski: I think a lot of it goes back to evolutionary biases, Brian. As human beings, we’ve basically evolved to conserve energy. At least our brains have, because tens of thousands of years ago on the African Savannah, you don’t know when you’re going to eat.
It was all about the three F’s, you know, fight, flee, fornication. And you needed to conserve energy and that helped us back then, but now the way it shows up is actually detrimental to our work because we might sit down to our desks in the morning, and it’s so much easier for us to do the easiest thing, which is jump onto LinkedIn, check out comments, get onto Twitter, check out email.
Get to inbox zero. Do anything on everything except the hard work, you know, commit to another meeting. What happens is you can fill your entire day, your entire week, your entire month with non-consequential activities, which make you feel quote unquote busy, but come the end of the day, you didn’t really have anything to show for it.
So a big part of it is not the fact that people don’t have access to tools. It’s more so it starts with us and overriding some of that evolutionary programming. And the other side of the coin is really, the organizations that we work for. Because we can control certain things. But then there are certain things that we’re bound to that we perhaps can only try and influence, and that can get in the way between us and our best selves.
Brian Ardinger: Well, it’s an interesting world we’re living in, obviously with COVID and everything else. Overnight organizations had to adapt to the brand new world of remote work and things like that. I’d love to get your take on some of the trends that you’re seeing or what you saw maybe six months ago, versus what you’re seeing now and how organizations have maybe adapted a new thought process on time and work management.
Steve Glaveski: Yeah, definitely. I think the pandemic, obviously as difficult as it has been for a lot of people has also been a reset switch, and it’s forced us to reflect on our personal lives in ways we perhaps didn’t previously, as well as our professional lives. When the pandemic hit and organizations of all shapes and sizes went remote, it seemed to be a matter of just taking what we did in the office and trying to replicate that online.
So instead of 50 to 60 physical interruptions a day. It was 50 to 60 interruptions on Slack, if not more, or Microsoft teams. And instead of having back to back meetings all day, it was back-to-back zoom calls. So we were effectively at what Matt Mullenweg call’s level two in his five levels of remote work, just recreating the office online.
Whereas now I think the more progressive forward thinking late is out there and starting to actually think about how can we use this medium to our advantage, to get the most out of people and to also help the organization move forward. They’re realizing that if we do move away from organizations built around real-time communication, towards more asynchronous communication, well, that has all sorts of benefits.
Like if our organization is about responding, when it suits us, providing it in a timely basis, that then frees people up to cultivate more time for flow, because they’re not constantly whacking moles all day, responding to Microsoft Teams messages in an instant emails within five minutes and all that sorts of stuff.
That also means that because they can cultivate more flow state, they can also design days as it best suits them, which helps them in terms of their work-life balance. Some people might have young kids, some people might have other things they want to commit to during the day, and they can do that with an asynchronous shift.
And the third piece is also that when you run that type of environment, you can tap into the global talent pool. In a way that perhaps you wouldn’t have been able to previously, because you’re not bound by everybody being online at the same time. You’re bound by an effective way of work that optimizes for outcomes, as opposed to presence and hours, which is a throwback back to the industrial revolution and the way a lot of organizations have run up until very recently.
Brian Ardinger: Yeah. It’s interesting to point to that, the ability to work everywhere and even existing organizations. So my company, as Director of Innovation at Nelnet. We took 6,000 people on to remote work pretty much overnight at the beginning of March. And we have different offices in Denver and Madison and Nebraska and such, and it created different ways for the employees to work together.
And it was interesting just to see the leveling of the playing field, because we are all remote, versus like here’s the headquarters working with the people in a conference room and having two people on the remote screen. When everybody was on the remote screen, it changed the dynamic and change the opportunity for everybody to participate in a equal playing field. And the same thing would hold true you would think as we move to whether you’re living and working in India or Australia or someplace else, as long as you have access to that team and access to the ability to contribute. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Steve Glaveski: Definitely. And, and that’s been one of the concerns with remote work, where you have some people working remotely on a large contingent working onsite. And the fear is then that the people who are participating in that face to face contact on a daily basis develop deeper relationships and therefore tap into the growth opportunity as a promotion opportunities that perhaps people working remotely don’t. But when you do have that level playing field, that kind of takes away that fear as well.
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Brian Ardinger: Let’s dig into the book a little bit. I know the book covers a lot about the psychology of work. Talk a little bit about the modern workforce and that. What do you expect the reader is supposed to get out of this particular book that’s different maybe than other financial books they’ve seen out there.
Steve Glaveski: In terms of what leaders can do at organizations. That’s something that I really try to double click on in this book, because many time management books out there will talk about, you know, certain types of techniques and then the Pomodoro technique, automate and outsource, which I do, you know, cover in the book as well. But more so from an organizational perspective.
Like, I wrote an article recently, which I wrote ingest, most companies run like crap. Or why most companies run like crap. And that was effectively a visual mnemonic, which empowered me to use the Poo emoji, Brian. But effectively what CRAP stood for was consensus, aching, hyper-responsiveness, hyper-availability, and process paralysis. So it doesn’t matter how on top of getting into the flow state I am. If I need to see consensus for decisions great and small, that’s obviously going to slow things down too. A snail pace and we’re not going to be able to get things done.
And what happens then is you have these really long feedback loops or nothing gets done. That then feeds back into my motivation to show up, because I’m not fulfilled. And if I am hiring people, if I’m paying people, say six figures to do a job, I’m paying them to think. I’m not paying them to sit there and be a cog in a machine, particularly in today’s environment where it’s all about cognitive capital. It’s not about putting widgets into boxes.
So that consensus seeking piece is something that Jeff Bezos has obviously talked about quite strongly with his Type One B Type Two decision-making. Where he warns that as an organization gets larger and larger tends to treat all decisions as type one decisions, which are big, hairy, audacious, irreversible costly decisions, but most decisions are type two decisions. Reversible, not very costly, in fact it’s worth…there is utility to making those decisions and being wrong because you learn something from them.
So the faster you do that, the faster you learn, the faster you get to where you need to go. R the hyper-responsiveness pace. We’ve already touched on that. A hyper availability. Saying yes to all sorts of requests and your time. That’s something that we double-click on in the book and backside two millennia, to the Roman Statesman Seneca, who said that people are frugal when it comes to guarding their personal property, their money. But not so when it comes their time, which is perhaps the one thing it’s right to be stingy with.
And so if we are hyper available, we say yes to all sorts of nonsensical requests on our time, then we quickly find that our day is empty and at what is full but empty for what we need to get done. On this particular point, Dominic Price, who is the Head Work Futurist at Atlassian, basically came out and said that he was doing the same thing. He fell into these traps of anchoring to the past and just attending meetings all day long, because we tend to conflate that with work and being busy and productive, but he started to push back.
He said, look, I’m going to run an experiment. I’m going to start saying no to all these meeting invites. And what he found was that the meetings were either boomerangs or sticks. So he would say, no, they would come back. And that would be a boomerang or they wouldn’t come back and that would effectively be a stick. He threw it, it didn’t come back. Now he found that two thirds of those meeting invites, we;re sticks, not boomerangs. And just by saying no, he freed up about 15 hours a week of time that he could invest into high value activities.
And then the final piece in that is the process paralysis, which I suppose dovetails off consensus seeking to a degree, but we have certain processes and policies and our organizations such as say, delegations of authority. For example, if it’s a choice around where to deploy a thousand dollars worth of capital, I mean, does that really require two or three signatures or can that be one person? And if that’s the case, then people can make those types of decisions, whether it’s a financial decision or not, much faster, and keep moving much further as a result of that.
So. There is an entire section of the book that looks at how organizations inhibit our productivity and how to get around that. But then there is also because one of the questions I’ve been getting on these podcasts tour is well, what do you suggest people start with? And I always say delineate between what you can and can’t control to start with, you know, make like a stoic and focus on the stuff that you can control to start with and then try and influence the organizational policies and procedures that effectively slow things down.
Brian Ardinger: And so from that personal perspective, how can a person become time rich, individually? Are there particular techniques that you found helpful or examples that you can talk to that. Again, you can start that process or people can start using and get minutes or hours every week.
Steve Glaveski: Aside from the obvious, nowadays there’s no excuse not to be say automating or outsourcing rudimentary process oriented tasks. Whether it’s marketing sales, customer support, administrative tasks, like most things can be done for under $20 a month. There are so many tools out there and sometimes people will push back and say, well, I haven’t got time or money for that, but firstly, if you haven’t got time for it, that’s kind of ironic because if you do that stuff, it frees up time.
And secondly, if you haven’t got money for it, but you say your hourly rate is $100 an hour and you can get someone to do these tasks for you for 10, $15 an hour. Then you’re effectively losing money every time you invest time doing those things yourself. But aside from that, another mnemonic I came up with just to make it easy for people to remember is that when all carrying around “spare tyres” that slow down our productivity, that it put a lid on our productivity. And tyres essentially stands for a task switching, being every time we switch tasks, it can take us up to 23 minutes to get back into the zone. Now, the reason why this is important, Brian is because we can only really get into the flow state for about four hours a day.
And when we’re into that space of flow, deep work, where we’re totally immersed in one task in the rest of the world seems to just fade away. You know, we can find that writing an article. We can find that surfing a wave, we can find that on the Cornhusker Football field. We can find it anyway, but because we, are checking email for about three hours the day on average, the average executive checks email 72 times a day. Once every six minutes on average. Gets interrupted 50 to 60 times a day, spends about four hours a day, looking at their phone, which is equivalent to about eight weeks a year and has about 46 notifications pop up either on their phone or on their desktop. We are unable to cultivate that flow state for five minutes.
So we’re constantly in that shallow level workspace. So doing away with task switching and cultivating the ability to focus on one thing for extended periods of time, I think is key. Now that is challenging for a lot of people. One way around that is to use momentum. So if I need to write a 1000 word article like that, staring at that blank page seems like a Herculean effort, but just commuting to say 50 words of poor quality, right. Once I’ve done that. It’s so much easier to keep going.
And this goes back to a Isaac Newton’s first law of motion that an object in motion stays in motion. So the amount of energy required to keep going is much less than what is required to get started in the first place. And sometimes that energy is purely cognitive. So it’s kind of like you’re in lockdown and you’ve got nothing else to do. You’ve probably watched a lot of Netflix, but maybe you should read a book, but books seems like, Oh man, I read a book. I’ll just watch Tiger King or something. But just commit to one page and reading the rest of the chapter so much easier.
The other thing task switching is also environment design. So if you find yourself switching tasks all day long, close those browser windows, you know, put your phone away, turn off those notifications, focus on the one thing in front of you. And initially this can be difficult, but like any habit, the more you do it, you know, start with 10 minutes. Build your way up to maybe 30 or 40 or minutes or an hour of, of deep work where you’re uninterrupted and the more you cultivate the ability to start your day doing that day after day after day, the compounding effect is absolutely huge.
The Y in spare tyre is effectively saying yes to everything. So we’ve already touched on that, but one thing I would just highlight there is that people say, Oh, but it’s good to say yes to things. You create space for serendipity. And I believe that is true to a certain degree, but after a while, you know, it’s intuition, you kind of have a feel for what’s worth saying yes to, because there might be something there. It’s important not to get into the trap of saying yes to everything, because you might be saying yes to that one thing, but by virtue of you saying yes to that, you’re saying no to everything else.
And that could include your priorities, your goals, your objectives. So if you find yourself saying yes to everything, For an extended period of time, but not getting any closer to your own goals, time to stop and reflect as Mark Twain would have wanted us to do
Brian Ardinger: From that perspective, you might actually be able to time box that yes capabilities. Like for the next two weeks, I’ll say yes to encourage that serendipity and then go back down into my more hunkered down mode. But there’s definite ways to manage that opportunity as well, create it as an opportunity and treat it as such.
Steve Glaveski: I mean, you can obviously, timebox say I might be two or three hours in your week, every week for those yes opportunities so that they don’t get out of hand. So you’ve put a cap on them as any good financial investor will tell, you cap the downside. Don’t go beyond what you are willing to lose. So you definitely can do that. And you can use tools like Calendly as well to help you with that, especially when it comes to meetings and just having people’s schedules say 15 minutes in your calendar.
Now, perhaps in the afternoon, if you find yourself doing your best work in the morning, So the R in the spare tyre, Brian refers to the residual work. I mentioned the Cornhuskers earlier. I’m reminded of Forrest Gump. When he’s running on the football field, he’s trying to score a touchdown. He gets there, he gets to the end zone, but he just keeps on running right into the change rooms.
And I think he takes out one of the band members on his way there. So this is like us working on a sales presentation. We might put it together in four hours, but that evolutionary programming kicks in. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar, and we’ll spend another four or five hours kind of just waking it instead of moving on to start another task. Because like I said, an object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. It’s much harder to start on that new task, but high-performers have a really good relationship with that point of diminishing return. So when they get to the end zone, they spike the ball and they get back into position.
Right. That’s effectively what we need to be getting better at doing when it comes to our own work. And this can show up in myriad ways across the entire value chain of tasks, and then E is that path of least effort that we alluded to earlier and cultivating the ability to not take the path of least effort, but to, as they say, eat that green frog first thing in the morning.
If you are a morning person, one thing I unpacked in my book is that about 50% of the population are actually night owls. Which means they are more productive 10 hours after waking up. And they actually saw from a form of social jet lag. If you try to get them to the office at 9:00 AM and over extended periods of time, this can predispose them to anxiety, to depression, to all sorts of things, which again is why asynchronous communication and building organizational cultures around that can effectively help to free the night owls, if you will, and help them perform their best without compromising their mental health.
Brian Ardinger: What are you seeing from a standpoint of the world has kind of changed, obviously there’s a lot of new things going on out there. Are there new trends, new tools, new tactics that you’re seeing that have changed based on the fact that we’re living in this new world.
Steve Glaveski: Obviously he does all of the online collaboration, I think is experiencing a bit of a peak. Putting aside the obvious, you know, Zoom and Teams and things like that. I think there is a tendency to seek out collaboration tools like your Assanas of the world, but now people are moving slowly towards tools like P2 as well, which is something that automatic put together.
And the thing about automatic is they’ve got 3,100 employees across 75 countries, no central office. And they’ve got this remote work thing down pat. They’re worth over a billion dollars, they power over 30% of the internet. But what they find is with certain collaboration tools, it’s easy to get lost, particularly with things like Slack. Like if you miss a day of Slack, like you’ve missed like 90% of the communication. Whereas with P2, what you find is neested communication, which just makes it easier to stay on top of things. Even if you’re out of the office for a week, you come back, you can kind of do a quick scan and be on top of things.
So we’re seeing more focus on those collaboration tools that can help people to operate asynchronously. Because if I want to know how you’re doing with that task, Brian, it’s not a matter of emailing you or messaging you. I can just jump into that tool and I can see your Kanban. I can see where you’re at. It’s moved from backlog to doing. I see that happened yesterday and you’ve got an ETA that it will be done in two days. I don’t need to bother you. You can continue to do your work. But if I notice that deadline is two days overdue, then I can reach out. So that’s the kind of thing that those tools really support.
And I think that’s more important than any of these sorts of quote unquote, hacks that you can apply. There’s benefit in say the Freedom App and blocking certain apps and whatnot, if they are distracting to you. But collectively I think you can do all these things, but if you, one thing that really comes back to you is overriding those evolutionary biases that hold us back, not just when it comes to our work, but to all thoughts of pursuits in our lives. And I think getting on top of that in terms of getting comfortable, being uncomfortable is really what it all comes back to.
More Information about Time Rich & Steve Glaveski
Brian Ardinger: In your title Time Rich, making sure that, you know, as an individual, like my time is important and paying attention to that. And knowing that that’s where my end other things come from. Your time is so valuable. So I appreciate you coming on and talking, it’s always a pleasure to have you, and we’re excited for the next book I’m sure that you’ll eventually write whatever that topic may be, but look forward to continuing the conversation. If they want to find out more about yourself or the book. What’s the best way to do that Steve Glaveski?
Steve Glaveski: Sure. So it’s been an absolute pleasure to be back on the program, Brian. People can find the book at timerichbook.com. They can download the first chapter for free there as well as the 30 page PDF on all sorts of time rich tools. And if they want to learn more about me and my work, they can do so over at Steve Glavesky, G L A V E S K i.com.
Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Steve Glaveski, appreciate you being on Inside Outside Innovation again. Look forward to continuing the conversation.
Steve Glaveski: Thank you, Brian. All the best.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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