A New World
I’ve just finished reading Cal Newport’s Essentialism.
And it’s opened my eyes up to this whole concept of ‘Deep Work’.
I was actually recommended this book by a few people but never got around to reading it.
Today I want to talk a little bit about the revelations it has provided and how I’m continuing to take action as a consequence of it.
So ‘Deep work’ is this concept that work that pushes us to our cognitive limit is the kind of work in today’s digital and information economy that is most heavily rewarded.
Where we can muster our intellect and bring something new, that’s inherently difficult and therefore valued to the table – especially in an age where so much information, automation and ‘alternatives’ abound online.
However, our life is pervaded by cleverly disguised enhancers which are actually distractions which do nothing more than to destroy our focus, reduce our ability to truly contribute and leave us as minor contributors and massive consumers.
The easiest practical examples you’ll find of this are just by running a digital audit and taking a look at all of the ways in which you remain connected to the hum of the ‘connected world’.
How I Run My Agency
I’ve run a marketing agency for the past few years and have driven myself and my team to connect. There are several ways in which we do things which I consider to be unique and we’ve done well from it as a consequence.
e.g all of our communication happened on Whatsapp with our team as well as clients. Clients often loved it – they still do.
I’m pretty active on social media.
I’ve even written a blog post about what posting consistently on social media for 3-months has done for me – and it’s true the consistency of it has led to some benefits.
Outside of this, I have asked the team to respond to all client communications within an hour (sometimes less) and in general have made myself very available to anyone practically.
What is the work, however – that will really move the needle for your business?
Is it being on social media?
Is it being the front and centre person for your business?
Reading Atomic Habits, followed by Deep Work (and now moving onto Digital Minimalism) is causing me to rethink my entire approach to my personal and professional growth.
Too Much Noise?
How will you be able to scale your company to 7-figures and beyond if you (like me) spend 1-2 hours on social media – mindlessly scrolling through the newsfeed, being accessible, getting involved in various conversations and subscribing to the unspoken agreement you need to be ever present.
I see many many digital agency owner’s part of various social media groups and certainly – if you’re trying to connect with others in your community and grow your company there’s certainly clear and direct benefits from being in those platforms.
But again – as my broker and good friend Oliver reminded me – that in doing so we’re chasing pennies in the sacrifice of making £££.
If I compare the work I’ve won as a digital marketing agency owner from inbound leads as well as Upwork Versus the work I’ve won on Facebook – it’s <5%.
Yet I’ve sometimes spent up to 25% of my time on Facebook.
That makes Facebook an incredibly poor lever for growth.
As my agency growth coach Joshua Guiliani says – I need a predictable lead generation funnel – and the reality is – if I combine this with what Craig Campbell and Ross Tavendale remind me – is that I don’t want any of this to rely upon me.
So let’s go deeper than – what HAS happened in the last 3 years that has severely limited the growth of a seemingly successful digital marketing agency.
I mean bootstrapped – I’ve managed to take the agency to £45,000 a month and we’re entirely remote so it has been profitable and has helped me buy 3 properties in that time with 3 more pending.
But if we dig further the fundamental problems are clear, if I underline the things I HAVE done and STILL do that don’t make me any trackable income – but actually have been to probably feed my ego but NOT feed my pocket.
There’s been incredible wastage:
- I’ve been on over 50 podcasts/shows – how much trackable revenue has it generated? <$5,000
- I’ve got 500+ answers on Quora – what has it given me…nothing…
- I write this blog – it’s probably over 50,000 words – how much revenue has it generated (well £10,000 as of a couple of days ago as someone read my Forex blog and has joined the passive income gang)
However – all of the above does help my brand, does help my exposure – but what does being on social media give me?
What does the stream of messages I’ll get from people asking for favours, needing advice, wanting to chit chat – whilst I’m at work, trying to grow my business give me.
Furthermore, what do the random calls I receive, 75% of them irrelevant give me?
What about all of the useless requests I get for ‘white label SEO’, ‘blogger outreach’, ‘link-placement’ and other items that give me an inbox with 200+ emails per day give me?
And then equally – having a calendar that’s available online so people can book in whenever they want – how much of that leads to wasted calls, being pitched and it not going anywhere.
To return to Cal Newport’s book – he underlines the reality that many of us are engaged in ‘shallow work’ –
Shallow work is the world of ‘being busy without being productive’
This is definitely the case with myself, I’m supremely ‘productive’ but actually 50% of what I do is a waste of time.
And before I allow the ‘deep work’ in – I need to ‘cut the shallow work out’.
Things that will truly move the needle for Pearl Lemon are ultimately one thing – a predictable lead generation system.
SEO is predictable
(we generate sales from both platforms each month)
So, of course, I’m investing more into both areas.
But what about PPC?
What about cold email?
What about outsourced providers who run DFY lead generation services?
Focussing purely in these spaces and dropping everything else makes the most sense.
But Facebook, LinkedIn and non-essential and ultimately EASIER activities remain that don’t generate me any trackable results.
Furthermore, ‘Deep Work’ tends to be the type that involves complete focus, the blocking out of irrelevant noise, work without interruption – much like producing this content actually.
If you think of ‘deep work’ in those terms…
How much of it do you really do?
Where you’ll spend a hard four-hours setting up a remarketing campaign and then returning to other activities?
There may be many of you that already do do this – but I’m someone who has failed at many tasks because I’ve passed them over to others, or have chosen to focus on other types of work (Podcasts, Webinars, Facebook) – that DON’T trace a direct line towards revenue.
For me this has definitely been an education – which is what my last few blogs have been about – the level of changes I’m making continues to scale.
Just yesterday I also decided I wouldn’t take phone calls on Monday and Fridays and that on Tue, Wed & Thur the only calls I’ll take will be between 2pm and 5.30pm.
That sounds like very little but in fact that’s 10.5 hours a week open for calls with people that aren’t part of my team – it’s a significant amount.
Furthermore, I’ve pissed off two clients but telling them we’re coming off Whatsapp and moving onto email – they’re not happy and may well churn – but I no longer want to use a personal medium as a professional channel
My Learning Odyssey
The list continues including the suspension of ‘ongoing work’ until I complete this ‘learning odyssey’ I’m on.
✅ Atomic Habits
✅ Deep Work
❌ Digital Minimalism
❌ The Obstacle Is The Way
I’m going to get through all of these books before I really pick up the pace of work again to ENSURE that I do the type of work that Newport advises.
‘Deep Work’ – for I have spent thousands of hours being busy – without being productive.
I’m A Cheap Date
So if you’re a budding entrepreneur like me – I invite you to take a look at all of your time – and determine how you can claw back YOUR TIME – and not give it away like a cheap date as I have.
Protect it, nurture it – because it is the deep, focussed and intense work that you do that will make the difference.
In this last week that I’ve begun implementing the advice that I’m getting from these books – my business hasn’t come crashing down, and everything still moves along smoothly.
I’m discovering that I’m the biggest problem in my business – which is now something I’m correcting.
And now that I’ve given myself literally 3-4 more hours per day…
I’m reading to figure out how to effectively use it.
Just last night I played Elevate (a cognitive game on Android) followed up by Duolingo.
With Facebook I’ve now disabled the chat, blocked the newsfeed and in this way I can still post status updates – although I may now front load these into a Google document and allow Lydia to post them
Although part of me still asks ‘is that my vanity?’ – how much trackable revenue does that give me?
These questions I have I’ll let simmer whilst I continue reading (the answer is very little actually)
How times are changing.