All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

4-Hour Work Week’s Not-To-Do List

I found myself taking a few hours to read the book 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It was an interesting book that maybe one day I’ll write a full review on. Suffice it to say, I found things I liked about it and some thing I didn’t quite like about it as well.

One thing I felt I wanted to add my own comments to is what is listed in the book as The Not-to-Do List: 9 Habits To Stop Now. In Ferriss’ mind, by eliminating these things you not only improve your efficiency but you reduce stress as well. I’m going to list his topic, then add my own opinion, if you don’t mind.

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. I adopted this one in full at the beginning of this year, but I’d actually started it for the most part late last year. I have two lines into my house, and for the last 3 or 4 years I never answer the personal line if I don’t know who it is; actually, I often don’t answer it if I do know who it is since it’s almost always for my wife. For the business line I didn’t answer if it was an 800-number of some kind but always answered other numbers, then realized that most of those are sales calls as well. Now I don’t answer any numbers I don’t recognize; my mind’s at peace with this policy; that’s why I pay extra for voice mail.

2. Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. This one I’m probably not going to change. In his book he talks about having to get used to losing some business for the sake of living the life you want to, and that you’ll find yourself enjoying your time more than what you might lose out on. Truthfully, I start every morning checking email since my hours are erratic, and I get all other work done during the day and love trying to get to the rest of my email in the evenings. I might work at some point to limiting late night email, since I’ve written some stupid stuff at 3AM, but my mornings are staying.

3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. Working for myself I have a great handle on this one, which eliminates almost all early morning meetings. I do have to get better at other meetings that I know won’t produce income or contracts, though.

4. Do not let people ramble. In his book, he offers up suggestions for how to help people get to the point such as telling them you only have a few minutes for them. This works well, and is a technique I’ve often used. I think we all have to gauge when to use this or any other techniques and when to let the other person just talk.

5. Do not check email constantly – “batch” and check at set times only. I had to break this habit, and I’d say that I’m about 80% there. I plan my days with free time built in and that’s when I get to emails and other stuff I want to do instead of have to do. Of course he’s only checking email for an hour a week; I don’t see that happening.

6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers. This one is hard when you have a finite number of customers, but I understand his point. He loves talking about the Pareto Principle of 80/20, and it makes a lot of sense. Eliminating those people who give you the most grief and turning your attention to those people that give you the most benefit is not only stress relieving, but sometimes you find you don’t have to deal with the folks left all that often because they were satisfied to begin with. Any assistance you give them makes them better, and thus all you usually end up with is improvement and satisfaction.

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelmingness – prioritize. No, that’s not a real word, but he used it. lol This fits in with the principle that says if you know something’s broken fix it so you don’t have to keep fixing it and can get on with other things.

8. Do not carry a cell phone or Crackberry 24/7. He’s not saying don’t have these things at all; just limit your usage of them. I don’t have smartphone, so I’m good thing. And very few people have my cell number so I’m good there as well. But there are a lot of people we all know who seem like they’ve forgotten how to interact with people they’re with because they’re constantly messaging someone or talking on their cell phones, no matter where they are.

9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should. Yes Virginia, there is a work/life issue, and I’m living proof of this. When I was an every day employee, I went until I was 37 without taking even a week’s vacation; the longest I ever took off was 2 days; isn’t that a shame. I only took a week off when I got married, then the next year on our 1st anniversary. It wasn’t until the middle of 2000 when I finally took 2 weeks off in a row and found how relaxing that was.

However, since I’ve worked for myself, I haven’t had a vacation or any time off. It’s harder when you work for yourself, but I’m going to be dealing with that issue this year in some fashion; more on that at a later time. The main concept here is that you need a personal life, and you should substitute your work life for it because work is just that, work.

Those are my thoughts; what are yours?

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ARRHH! How Can I Work With These Creative Graphic Designers? – Guest Post

Some of you might recognize Wes’ name. He’s a regular commenter on this blog, and some of his articles are on topics that are pretty cool to comment on as well. I don’t take a lot of guest articles on this blog, but he’s earned his way here and thus I’m pleased to offer him some time here. I’m even allowing the Australian spelling of words instead of changing them to the American version. 🙂 Please check out his blog as well.

It is not easy to start or run a business. You may have a long list of suppliers and customers you need to build relationships with. Among the people you will inevitably need to work with when starting a business is graphic designers. How on earth can you work with these creative, arty-farty types.

Your experience with graphic designers does not need to be as harrowing as you may think. In fact, not all graphic designers are ‘arty-farty’. However, I do understand the perception out there and have a few suggestions to make it easier and more enjoyable to deal with graphic designers. These include:

Create a rock-solid vision

Before approaching or hiring a graphic designer, it is best if you are clear in your own mind what your intended outcome is for any given project. It is a colossal waste of time to kick-off a graphic design project then change your mind when it’s almost complete. This can be quite costly as graphic designers will charge for modifications and authors corrections. I’m not suggesting you need to have a clear vision for the actual design or the look and feel but you need to be rock-solid in what your intended result is.

Communicate your vision clearly

Knowing exactly what you want and being able to convey this to your graphic designer can be difficult. It will help to write the vision down so you can communicate the brief clearly. It’s great to talk through the brief so it can be discussed however this can cause problems for graphic designers if that’s all you give them. It can be difficult determining what is clear direction and what is a passing thought or idea if you don’t write it down.
To make sure there is no communication gap, give your graphic designer samples of designs you like and dislike. This is a sure-fire way of speeding up the design process and being clear about what you are wanting. It can be difficult to describe in words what you are looking for visually. For example, if a colour was important to you, provide colour swatches or samples so you can communicate precisely what you are looking for.
If there are certain logos, graphics or images you want to be included in your project, prepare them before meeting with your graphic designer. This will save you both time and make the briefing easier.

Knowing your budget

You should know your budget limitations before starting a graphic design project. You may need to have an initial discussion with your graphic designer to get an idea of costings before you define your budget. If your graphic designers understand your budget restraints, they may be able to make recommendations so you get the best bang for your buck. For example if you wanted to produce a flyer that included photography, your graphic designer could suggest stock photography. Stock photography could save you quite a bit of money so you could then afford to print more flyers with the same budget. If you are not transparent and upfront with your graphic designer, you may miss these kind of opportunities.

Knowing your time-frame

This boils down to being clear in the communication process even during the primary stages of your project. Be honest, if it’s needed in a weeks time, don’t say you only have three days to give yourself ‘breathing room’. Your graphic designer may not be able to invest the time and energy into your short time frame that he/she would have with a little more time. If the deadline is critical, be really clear about that and trust your graphic designer to meet the deadline.

With the pace of business these days, we always tend to want things yesterday. For this reason we want our projects to be worked on immediately however, if this is going to impact on the quality of work being produced maybe you should reconsider your time-frame.


Wes Towers invites you to learn more about marketing, branding, graphic design and web design and how they can help in your business. Check out www.omnificdesign.com.au for more resources and free ebooks.

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Sunday Question – What’s Your Favorite Flavor?

After a week of long training posts and stuff that made you think really hard, I figured it was time to lob an easy one at you. However, once you read the rules for this one you might not think it’s all that easy.

What’s your favorite flavor? This is a much different question than what’s your favorite food, although sometimes it could come out as the same. For instance, I’ll tell you now that my favorite flavor is chocolate, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. My favorite food is hamburger, hands down. Chocolate could be considered a food, since you can buy chocolate bars, but overall chocolate is a flavor. You can have chocolate flavored ice cream, chocolate flavored pudding, etc. I’ve never heard of a hamburger flavored anything.

And that also knocks out certain types of foods. For instance Chinese, Mexican, and ethnic stuff gets disqualified because, well, it’s a type of food, not a flavor. At least I’ve never heard of Chinese or Mexican flavored pudding; yuck, that just sounds nasty! But you can obviously throw in fruit flavors without it being the fruit.

As for me, why chocolate? There are literally thousands of things that have a chocolate flavor version of themselves. I’ve found few I didn’t like. I didn’t like chocolate flavored Twizzlers, and though I’ve never seen it, I know there’s a chocolate flavored Coke out there somewhere, and that just sounds nasty. But almost everything else I can think of, if you add chocolate to it, makes it at least palatable, even if it’s the nastiest thing on the planet. For me, chocolate wins hands down.

Okay, now you have rules, and I hope this is easy; what’s your favorite flavor?

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How Far Would I Go?

Every once in awhile there crops up an issue that gets you thinking “if it were me how far would I go?” Sometimes it’s something that you do have to confront in some fashion and you have to ask yourself the same question.

What is it most of us want? We want to be happy; almost everything else you can mention ends up with you being happy. I want the same thing; I really want to be happy. Not that I’m in a bad mood right now, but I want to be happier.

What brings us happiness? Money is a good start. Yeah, I know the “lie” that money can’t buy you happiness. Money buys you peace of mind, or at least it does if you’re not one of those people who just can’t be satisfied with anything.

Love brings us happiness. Okay, the cynical part of me is going to say this; money helps in the love and happiness area. Don’t believe me? See how many couples that say they’re in love and get married when they don’t have money will stay happy when they realize that they need that money to sustain themselves. Add children and it’s even more overwhelming.

One more thing that brings us happiness is “stuff.” Ah, now there’s a good one. Truth be told, you don’t need a lot of money to buy stuff, as long as you’re not trying to buy too much stuff or stuff that’s too expensive for you. In my mind, a new Hyundai Santa Fe would make me as happy as a new Bentley, even though they’re thousands of dollars apart. A chocolate cake makes me as happy as having a meal at Ruth Chris Steakhouse but the difference in price is dramatic.

What’s even better than buying stuff? Getting free stuff! That costs no money at all, and often it’s unexpected. Sure, you might expect to get gifts for your birthday or for a holiday, but you don’t always know what gift you’re getting, and thus it’s a happy experience.

It’s also great when you know what you have a chance to get. Many of us play the lottery when we know how much money we have a shot at winning. In New York, we say “a dollar and a dream”. I don’t do it often, but when the money gets really high, I’m there with my “2 dollars” hoping for my dream.

How do you view contests? Well now, here’s a dilemma I’m facing at the moment. We all love winning contests if we get into them; after all, if you don’t want to win why get into it in the first place? If the thing you can win is nice enough, it’s always worth giving it a shot.

I’m in a short story contest at the moment. The story had to be 750 words or less, and I’m competing against 9 other stories. The rules were that we could ask people to vote for us if we’d like, but we all had to decide how fair it was or not.

Well, I thought about how I could ask some people without being all that overt about it. I wrote a few friends and asked them to check out the site, which story was mine, and to compare it to the other stories and if they liked my story to please vote for it. But I did say they could vote for other stories if they wanted to; after all, I wanted to be fair. Truthfully, though I like my story and think I should win, there’s another story there that I think is wonderful, and since you can vote “yes” or “no” on every story, I would always vote for that story as well as mine for the winner.

What else have I done? Well, I did mention it to a few other people, including my blogger group on Facebook. But I didn’t come right out and tell them which story was mine, though I alluded to it, and I also told them they could vote for other stories as well if they chose to do so.

A few days ago I got an email from the person running the contest; actually, all of us in the contest received the email. She was giving us a heads up as to where we might stand after half the money, since the contest runs through the end of the month. She listed the top 3 stories, and it seems I’m not in the top 3. What the hey? One of the stories in the top 3 didn’t even stay within the rules of the contest, as it’s not a complete story but only the beginning of one that’s more than 2,000 words.

So my quandary; how far would I go to try to win a gift, in this case a Kindle, which would be really cool even though I’ve never seen one in person? How much do I really want to win? How far would I go? Would I finally cross the line to selfishness and ask outright for you to go to the site and vote for my story, and tell you which story it is?

Actually, no, but not for the reason you might think. I had a post all set to, through my own version of subterfuge, ask people to go vote for me and help me win this bad boy. I wanted to take a shot; after all, if I wasn’t even in the top 3 I needed help. However, later that evening, I first got an email refunding my $3 entry fee; that was weird. Then I got an email saying that the contest was changing because one of the entrants had cheated. I knew it wasn’t me since I was really far behind so I asked the person running the contest on Twitter what was going on. She said one person was oddly so far ahead of everyone else that she knew it had to be technology that was pumping up the votes. Thus, she decided to cancel the contest as it was and ask 5 judges to make the selections instead. All votes were being thrown out, which meant I now had a legitimate shot once more; yay!!!

Whew; there you go. I didn’t have to think about crossing the boundaries, although it wouldn’t have been crossing them anyway since the rules stated we could do it. My mind is clear; I can go eat cookies now in peace, and hope the judges see my work of “art” in a different light Ah Kindle, you know you want to be here with me. 😉

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Keep Hope Alive

“I don’t believe it.”

“And that is why you fail.”

Luke Skywalker & Yoda, Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back

Well, those last two posts were really long, so it’s time to slow down just a little bit. You know, this has been an interesting week for me, one that immediately seemed like it wasn’t going to be all that good that blossomed into something much better. Those are great weeks, and I believe we all could use stuff like that.

On Monday, I had a guest post that I wrote show up on Rachel Lavern’s blog Fearfully ‘n Wonderfully Made titled Motivated To Get Things Done. In that post I talked about the different reasons, both positive and negative, that motivates people to do things, get things done, and determine what outcome they want. It’s kind of like being online; you can decide to use your talents to create spam and be loathe by everyone except other spammers, or you can use your talents to try to improve your lot and everyone else’s lot in a positive direction.

I was thinking about this concept of being motivated to do better things, and I happened to remember one of the best times I was ever motivated when I was a little younger. Back in 1988, Jesse Jackson was running for president of this country, and even though he didn’t win, he was the highlight of that entire political season, which culminated in his great speech at the Democratic National Convention.

What you see below is the last 8 minutes or so of that speech, which captured the imagination of everybody and had many of us looking for ways to affect the world positively the next day. Whether you like the man or not, you have to admit that this was inspiring in some fashion. Even if you decide you just can’t do it… well, it works for me. 🙂 Keep Hope Alive!

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