Your biggest challenge – finding time

I asked three quick questions back in 2017 to my newsletter subscribers:

  • What is your biggest challenge right now?
  • What would you like to learn more about in life right now?
  • What are you interested in reading about in future emails from me?

The good news is that over forty people replied. The bad news is that I never looked at this in more detail. Until now.

I’m going to look at each question and the answers, one question at a time and on different blog posts.

So, question numero uno:

“What is your biggest challenge right now?”


The results were startling.

75% of people answered question 1 in a similar way.

They were struggling for time.

“Time is a challenge.”

“I need more time to focus on more meaningful work.”

“Help finding time to work on the business rather than in the business.”

“Quality time with the family.”

“Crying out for personal time!”.

Time to spend learning or trying something new.

Wishing for some time for a side project.

We all have 24 hours in the day. It’s what we decide to do with those hours which makes the difference.

There are countless articles and books on time management. Google “time management” and there are about 4,940,000,000 results. Gulp.

That’s a lot of reading.

Most of us are on auto-pilot a lot of the time. We spend our time by default without enough thought or planning.

Below are some of the things that have made a difference for me. I am far from perfect and have good days and bad days. Getting consistent with how you manage your time is key.

Also, make sure you use methods and systems that work for you. We are all different.

Getting up early

If I manage to do this, the day goes well.

How early is early I hear you ask?! Well, as early as you can. Yes, it’s hard in the winter when dark and cold, but if you can start your day at say 6 am or earlier, you are already ahead of most people.

Please note – I do this inconsistently. However, when I do, it works. Really well.

This time could be the only time you get in the day to think, calm your mind and ensure you are heading in the right direction.

Take time to reflect and plan

When you have this quiet time (I completely understand that everyone has different circumstances like commuting and family), use it wisely.

Try not to reach for that addictive, tempting, sweet new smartphone you bought. Take a deep breath and put it out of reach and sight!

I try and plan the day and make sure I have time for the things that matter (see blocking out time below).

The things that will enable me to get nearer to the long term goals.

I also reflect on what I’m grateful for. It’s very easy to miss the small things. When you list all the great things that you are grateful for, it makes you more appreciative and happier.

Phone lock down

Smartphones. Tech heaven or distraction hell?

You are possibly reading this on a smartphone of some description right now. After all, they are rather useful devices aren’t they?!

But man, they are addictive.

Have you got the reports switched on to show how you used your phone last week? These are available on both iOS and Android and can make shocking reading.

Being aware of how you use your smartphone and what apps are the time-killers is critical to make sure they are useful yet not overpowering.

I suggest setting timers on the apps that you spend too much time in – you know exactly the ones. For me, that’s Instagram.

Then turn off as many notifications as possible. They are BAD! Ping, look at me. Bong, check me now! Apps are designed in a way to make you use them and make you go back to them. It’s that simple.

Phone addiction is serious and more and more people are realising this. Deleting apps (or limiting their use) and ensuring you are not disturbed is a key strategy for making more time.

Recharging your battery

No, that is not a mistake. I did not mean to say recharging the iPhone battery.

Your battery is way more important.

Life is hectic. Life is stressful. Your life is full.

You need to make sure you look after the number one thing that everything revolves around.

That is your health, both physically and mentally.

Apart from the obvious nature of this, you will also be in a better position to make the right decisions about how you spend your time, plus making the most of that time.

What works for me?

  • Sleeping well
  • Eating well – I’ve been plant-based since October 2017 and never felt better
  • Meditating (not enough though)
  • Journaling every morning
  • Regular exercise – running and cycling

To make every minute count you’ve got to make every future minute count also. And that means living a life today that won’t leave you burnt out and broke in 5 or 10 years.

Shawn Blanc

Blocking out times in my diary

Protecting your time is key.

Remember that your inbox is a task list created by someone else.

Be aware that it can take 20 minutes to get into a deep flow of productive work.

By having specific slots in the week where you work on specific projects, you get more done. This applies to exercise too, family time, personal learning. Make yourself accountable. Not everything is important.

You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.

Greg McKeown


Batching or batch processing is a powerful way of improving getting things done quickly and efficiently. Doing the same things together in a set period of time works.

If you have to make calls, do them all at the same time.

If you need to do some accounting, do it in one go.

The same should apply to email. Try not to dip in and out of your email. Do it once in the morning. Check it at lunchtime, answer anything important. Then check one more time before finishing work for the day.

I use something called Sanebox which I’ve mentioned before. I cannot recommend it enough for saving time with email overload.

You may also need to train other people to understand your new way of working. This will avoid them wondering why you haven’t replied to the email they sent 1 minute ago.

Saying no

There is a famous post from Derek Sivers which sums this up better than I could ever do.

Hell yeah!

Saying yes to something can almost immediately trigger regret, fear, anxiety or that oh b*gger, why did I say that reaction!

People will respect you far more for saying no in a polite way than you saying yes and not being able to do it. This leads to people respecting your time.

It can also ensure that you have the time to focus on your bigger goals and objectives.

Brutal honesty required

Last but not least, you have got to get real. You have to be brutally honest with yourself.

After all, a decision to do one thing, inevitably means that you won’t do something else.

You and you alone decide.

You can do anything. You cannot do everything.

One of my goals this year is reading more. An hour on social media vs an hour of reading a really, really good book should be an easy decision.

Yet Facebook or Instagram often win the battle for your attention.

There are countless examples of this. Above all, making the right decision, the hard decision on how to spend your time right now can lead to dramatic improvements in the future.

If you’d like to get some regular useful content and links to interesting reading, then please sign up for my newsletter.

You’ll be the first to know when I write about the results from the other two questions.

Please share what you do for managing time and whether you agree with some of my thoughts here.

Photo by Seth Macey on Unsplash

Remembering my friend, Richard

It’s been a bloody tough weekend. We heard on Sunday morning that one of life’s good guys had been taken from us way too soon…

Richard Wanderman was a good friend. A really good friend.

We met via flickr back in 2007 on the Canon DSLR forums and we immediately hit it off. Same interests even with a difference in age. I was coming over to NY in the summer of 2007 and he kindly invited me to come and stay – he lives a couple of hours north of the city.

Richard and his wonderful wife Anne made me so welcome. We spent the days taking photos, geeking out and talking about tech and Apple.

We met again in 2014 when visiting NY again. Although we were thousands of miles apart, we were close. We emailed and FaceTimed a lot.

I always enjoyed our conversations. I looked forward to them.

He was kind, wise, generous, someone who I looked up to. Someone I had so much admiration and respect for.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumour in December and he has been in treatment since. Sadly he left us on Saturday.

I’m really going to miss him.

The ordinary ones

It’s not the most masculine, macho, or the ones with the biggest muscles who win. It’s those who look after each other, who remain cheerful in adversity, who are kind and persistent and positive. These are the characteristics that help you, not just to survive life but to enjoy it. And nothing to do with gender. The people who are successful are the ordinary ones that just go that little further, who give a little more than they are asked to, who live within that extra five percent.

Bear Grylls

Feeling uneasy about Revolut

Revolut is one of banking / fintech startups which have now morphed into companies with millions of customers. They say they offer a “Radically better account” and are focused on:

  • managing your money with an app
  • sending money with ease
  • better rates when travelling
  • better security
  • even a cryptocurrency exchange

There is a free account although they also offer a Premium and Metal account which you pay for. This gives extra perks like higher international ATM withdrawal limits, travel insurance, and unlimited foreign exchange. The Metal account goes further with a so-called concierge and also lounge access (see later).

It is important to note that although they have been granted a Banking License in Europe, it is not yet (as I understand it) operational in the UK. This is different to the likes of Monzo who have been a fully-fledged UK bank since inception.

Revolut Metal

(Sadly) Revolut saw me coming. I paid for a Metal card…

The card is very, very nice. A smooth, cold sheet of machined black, faintly green metal which is distinctive and I guess, luxurious. A metal card is not new though. Platinum and Centurion Amex have metal cards in the US (not the UK though). N26 re also offering a metal card too.

I was intially attracted to the tripe ATM withdrawal limits when abroad, the insurance and also the lounge access. This is where I started to notice a pattern of over-promise and under-deliver.

The lounge access was advertised in a very sly way… you only get one free visit.

Yep. Only one.

Then you pay each time and it’s been shown to be more costly than going direct in some cases. I’m convinced this was never highlighted in the initial marketing.

This was announced a few weeks ago and made a note that I probably wouldn’t want to renew the Metal plan. This has now been reinforced by three pieces of information that have been brought to light this week…

Cracks are starting to show

This Wired article, “Revolut insiders reveal the human cost of a fintech unicorn’s wild rise” has lifted the lid on what seems like a toxic work environment and culture.

She did a 30-minute job interview over Google Hangouts with the London-based head of business development, Andrius Biceika, and was immediately told she had passed to the next round, which would involve a small test. “The surprise came when I received the task and it asked me to get the company as many clients as possible, with each one depositing €10 into the app,” says Laura.

Wired Magazine

Eugh. Not exactly what you’d expect from an interview and application process is it?

Slack screengrab from CEO

There has also been this leaked screengrab of the CEO’s Slack message:

Toxic environment

You can see a bigger version here so you can read how toxic this is.

To finish a torrid week for them, this morning it has been announced that their CFO has resigned:

Having been at Revolut for almost three years, I am immensely proud to have taken the company from £1m revenue to £50m revenue during this time. However, as Revolut begins to scale globally and applies to become a bank in multiple jurisdictions, the time has come to pass the reigns over to someone who has global retail banking experience at this level. My time at Revolut has been invaluable and I’m so proud of what myself and the team have achieved. There is no doubt in my mind that Revolut will go on to build one of the largest and most trusted financial institutions in the world.

Peter O’Higgins

He makes no mention of the scandal which emerged only a few days ago when The Telegraph exposed that Revolut had been accused of violating banking rules by failing to block suspicious transactions on its platform.

Questions to be asked

Many people have lost confidence in banks and the banking sector over the past few years. Luckily, there is now a wealth of choice from the likes of Revolut, N26, Starling, Atom, Clear and of course Monzo.

So we have plenty of choice and we should look long and hard at how they do business, how they treat their staff and customers, as well as the features and services they offer.

It looks like Revolut and their CEO are taking that “at all costs” attitude to success and is the opposite to how business and organisations could and should conduct themselves.

Sadly, company ethics come from the top. If the founders and senior management allow bad practice and actually encourage it, then guess what? It will be endemic in the organisation. A tumour which spreads.

It seems like Revolut have been taking a note out of Uber’s playbook. Growth at all costs, a toxic environment, and a f*ck you attitude to anyone who won’t sign up for this way of working.

Someone needs to send Nikolay Storonsky a copy of “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” and quickly.


Nikolay has now just published a blog post saying they never breached financial regulations.