Management Productivity Starting a Business

Here’s the 1 Vital Lesson You Can Learn from Jim Gavin, Aidan O’Brien and Willie Mullins


Are you running a business?

Do you manage people?

There is one thing that Jim Gavin, the Dublin football manager, Aidan O’Brien and Willie Mullins, the racehorse trainers never fail to do.

Let me explain.

Aidan O’Brien

Last week, I was, as usual, watching the racing on Channel 4.

Aidan O’Brien’s horse, The Ghurka, had just won a group race.

In the after race interview O’Brien did what he always, without fail, does: he name checked all his stable staff who look after the horse on a daily basis.

Not a generic thanks to “all the staff” but along these lines: “Mary looks after the horse every day, and Jimmy rides him out, and Timmy, Susan, Aidan, and Shane-they all look after him and love the horse and said he was in great form, so we couldn’t have been happier with him…”

O’Brien name checks, and recognises, individual stable staff after big (and all) successes as a matter of course.

If he had named the local postman as being instrumental in the horse’s performance and rude good health I would not have batted an eyelid.

He always thanks “the team”, and deflects individual glory as if it to say, “this is not about me, it’s about my team, I’m very lucky…”

Can you imagine the pride these employees, and their families, take from their daily work being recognised by the boss from the parade ring at Royal Ascot or Epsom in front of millions watching live on television?

Do you imagine it would engender some loyalty from those staff?

Some serious commitment?

Would they take pride in their work?

Would they really look after the horse in their care, even when nobody was watching?

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins, the national hunt champion trainer, does the same thing in virtually every interview. Listen to him closely on television at Cheltenham or Leopardstown or Punchestown, or anywhere else, for that matter.

He name checks the individual member of staff who rides out or mucks out on a daily basis, or travels with the horse, or makes any contribution.


It would be easy for O’Brien and Mullins, champions of their sport and geniuses of their profession, to take all the credit.

Nobody would quibble, as their brilliance is rightly recognised, spoken about and written about in the media.

Yet they take every opportunity to thank and recognise each worker involved, no matter what their rank or position in the organisational structure.

Jim Gavin, Dublin Football Manager

Last weekend the Irish Times trumpeted the fact that they had an interview in the paper with Jim Gavin. They described it as his first “one on one interview”.

They told us this was unusual because Gavin had not, since taking over as manager of Dublin, given interviews to anyone.

Here’s what the Irish Times said:

But you must understand something. Jim Gavin has been the manager of the best team in the country’s biggest sport since late 2012 and this is the first time he’s sat down alone with a newspaper reporter. We’ve asked countless times and the answer has always been polite and always been no.

This is in sharp contrast to many managers who cannot resist a microphone or reporter’s note pad and pencil.

So, I was intrigued because I thought to myself, “why now?”, why is he giving this interview?

When I read it it soon became clear: the prime purpose was to promote the Bray air show which was on the same weekend, and which Gavin is involved in as a pilot and safety officer with the Irish Aviation Authority.

And the reason for not doing interviews before this one was set out very clearly by Gavin:

“I’ve always steered away from one-on-ones,” he says. “Because it genuinely is not about me. It’s about the team.”

And this one philosophy was the only football related comment Gavin made in the interview. The rest was about flying, his life as a pilot, how it all started etc.

But it’s an important one, especially if you are managing people in any capacity.


From these 3 masters of their sport/profession you can see the one common philosophy and dogma: it’s all about the team.

Is this the case in your business or organisation?

If it’s not, I invite you to reconsider and learn from Gavin, O’Brien, and Mullins.


6 Steps to Achieve Extreme Productivity and Overcome the Limitations of Your To Do List

increase productivity



It happens all of us, at one time or another.

You have so much to do that you don’t know where to start, or what to do next.

Do you use a “to do” list in an effort to organise yourself and ensure some productivity?

A “to do” list is a help, but isn’t enough.

It’s a blunt instrument because it doesn’t take into account two vital factors:

  1. the importance or priority of a specific task on your list, and
  2. the timing or urgency of the task.

I have recently begun to use a method of productivity which reduces stress and procrastination, helps me prioritize the tasks to be executed, and ensures that I am extracting the maximum return from my time.

I will explain exactly how I do it.

Sounds good?

How to Become Seriously Productive

  1. List everything you do

The first thing you need is a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. then, list everything you do in your job or business on a  regular basis. This is a list of all the tasks you need to carry out routinely on a daily or weekly basis.

This list should also all the things you would like to do, if you were not in a regular state of firefighting.

    2. Time frames

Secondly, you need to divide this list into 3 time periods:

  1. career/business aims (5+ years)
  2. objectives (3-24 months)
  3. targets (<1 week); Targets are “action steps”, things you will do routinely on a weekly basis.

Then, check that each of your objectives has one or two associated targets, that is, a step to advance that objective.

If you have an objective that does not have a target you need to think about the next step you can take to advance your objective, and add this to your list of targets.

Next, you need to put aside your career goals and turn your attention on your objectives and targets.

    3.  Rank your objectives

The third step in this process is to rank your objectives in terms of importance. But before you do that you need to think about your objectives being in three categories:

  • what you want to do (supply)
  • what you are good at (supply)
  • what the world needs from you (demand).

Broadly, you should rank your objectives in accordance with the list above, by giving a higher ranking to those things you want to do and are good at-the supply side-but you will need to be mindful of your obligations to your employer or business (the demand side).

You, therefore, need to exercise smart judgment in how high or low you rank your objectives. This is a tough exercise requiring qualitative judgment, but an exercise that is well worth doing if you want to be more productive and stress less about your massive to do list.

Because it will ensure you have great clarity in relation to your objectives and you will be matching your time spent on tasks in proportion to the importance of the objective it advances, rather than reacting to less important things.

Once you have thought about your objectives rank this list in order of importance from 10 to 1, with 10 being the most important one.

These objectives can be reviewed on an annual basis.

      4. Rank your targets

The fourth step is to rank your targets, that is, the action steps you will take on a daily/weekly basis. First, though, you need to recognise that there are two categories of targets:

  1. enabling targets-these advance your objectives
  2. assigned targets-these must be done, for example filing tax returns or putting out the bin.

Then list your enabling targets and rank them in order of importance with 10 being the most important down to 1, the least important.

This ranking will be based on how important the associated objective is and how well the target advances the objective.

Assigned targets are generally low priority, and you should not be expending too much time on them, and delegate where you can.

      5. See how you actually spend your time

The fifth step is to see how you actually spend your time at the moment.

Questions you should be looking at are what are the 3 things you mostly spend your time on and how many hours each week do you spend filling out reports, responding to emails etc.

Now compare the time you spend with your ranked list of targets and objectives.

    6. Allocate your time based on your priorities

The sixth and final step is to allocate your time based on your priorities, and to fix the mismatch identified when you look at the time your are currently spending on tasks.

Essentially you are going to spend your time in proportion to the importance of the task and objective.

The McKinsey consulting firm has found that the vast majority of professionals only spend 50% of their time on the most important priorities. The mismatch between time spent on the most important priority items and other stuff arises because of the failure to allocate time properly after properly identifying objectives and targets.

What they spend a lot of time doing is reacting to crises.

You won’t have that problem, though, if you follow the steps we have discussed above.

To assist with your time allocation you need to make a list of your objectives and tasks in order of priority. This should be a dynamic list, though, which you review every week to allow for new objectives, projects, and tasks.

You may also drop less important tasks or delegate them, if that is possible.

In a nutshell this method of extreme productivity focuses on prioritising your tasks and objectives and allocating the time you spend at work in order of priority of those tasks and objectives.

Remember a task is what you do on a daily or weekly basis, and it should advance an objective. If it does not, then you should consider why you are doing it or get someone else to do it (delegate).

Productivity Retailing Starting a Business

A Simple, Inexpensive Way to Take Credit Card Payments in Your Business

aking credit card payments

Are you a small business owner or start up who would like to be able to take credit card payments from customers/clients?

This used to involve a fair degree of expense because you would have to pay an ongoing fee for a dedicated phone line, for the credit card machine itself, perhaps for installation, and your ongoing transaction fees.

Well, that’s not necessary anymore as I discovered recently.

I wanted to be able to take credit card payments in my solicitor’s practice in Enfield as a service to my clients. However, I was concerned about the cost of providing this service and, therefore, did a little shopping around.

I came across a solution from an Irish start up: sum up.

The tiny card reader I needed to buy from them cost 79 euros and this was a one off payment. The only ongoing fee I would incur would be the commission fee per transaction.

I had to download an app to my phone or iPad. Once I did this, and setting up was easy, I could simply enter the amount I wanted to charge on my phone, insert the client’s credit card into the little card reader, ensure bluetooth was enabled on my phone to allow it to connect to the reader, insert the card in the reader, give it to the client who entered his pin, and the job was a good one.

So far, after about 3 weeks, I have had no problems whatsoever with it and would strongly recommend it as an excellent cost-effective option for taking credit cards.

You can check out sum up here.


How to Easily Monitor What Others are Saying About You or Your Business-for Free

There’s no need to be paranoid about it.


But it is useful to know what others are saying about you and your business.

The “others” might include competitors or your customers/clients.

Well, there’s a way of doing this for free. And have a notice of the mentions sent directly to your email inbox. It’s  a great time saver, will increase your efficiency, and there are some other important uses for which you can use it too (eg job searches).

It’s a free tool provided by Google called “Google Alerts”.

Google Alerts

You can simply set up an alert or alerts for particular words or phrases. For example, you might choose your name or the name of your business and create an alert for that phrase. Google will then send you an email every time your chosen phrase(s) appears in Google with a link to the article or source of the mention of your phrase.

You can choose to have these alerts sent to you as they happen, once a day or once a week and there are other filters you can use also.

Google Alerts uses

There are many uses to which you can put this free service. For example you can monitor all mentions of your own business or your industry or your competitors.

It can be a great way to monitor breaking news in your industry or about your favourite band or sports team.

The great thing about it is that you can filter everything that appears on the internet in news, blogs, video and discussions and have all these references fed directly to your email.

Great way to research

You can also use this service to carry out research about your industry, a new product or an idea you may have to start your own business.

The options are endless and you can set up as many alerts as you like.

This is an incredibly efficient and free way to get only the information that you need fed to your inbox and will reduce the amount of time you waste on the internet “surfing” if you use it properly and with discipline.

Here’s the link again to Google Alerts.


5 Free Online Tools to Increase Your Productivity and Save Your Valuable Time

As a small business owner your time is scarce, and probably getting scarcer and scarcer with ever increasing demands on it.


And being productive can be a struggle because of the increasing distractions you face.

But there are some tools, and all in this article are free, which will be of great help to you in helping you become more productive and save a lot of your valuable time.

The 1st one is “Last Pass”. It promises to simplify your life and allows you to use your computer and manage the passwords for all your social media sites and other sites you visit on the internet.

1. LastPass password service

LastPass is claimed to be the last password saver you will ever need and it is a fantastic free service.

It stores all your passwords in one place and there is an extension for the different browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and all the major browsers. This then allows you to use any computer, log into your LastPass account and autofill your password for whatever site you are visiting.

The only password you will need to remember is your password for LastPass. It does the rest and safely stores all your passwords for all the sites you visit so you don’t have to.

This is fantastic for your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and you can also, when setting up your account make a huge, impossible to remember password and not have to remember it, as LastPass will do that for you.

So, don’t waste your time trying to remember passwords, and don’t use the same password for all the sites you visit.

2. Hootsuite

Hootsuite allows you to schedule all your social media activity on all the major social media sites. This allows you to sit down at a time that you choose and “load up” and plan all your tweets and social media activity for the following week.

This means that you are not spending a silly amount of time every day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

You can of course spend some time responding or replying as you wish and as you find you have some spare time during the day.

But Hootsuite allows you to lay down a foundation of good material for sharing on autopilot during the week and ensures that your followers or fans are hearing from you regularly with good links and information.

And you can set this up at your leisure at the weekend or in the evening when you have spare time and just set and forget each week.

There is a free version and a paid one; the free version allows you to share unlimited material to 3 social media sites.

This is enough for me and I use it to share to Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

What I would share on LinkedIn would not be automated as I take the time to go through all the groups I wish to share a link with; and I would also take the time to share more than just links on Google Plus as I feel that Google Plus is a much underrated social media site that can do your blog or website a lot of good in Google Search Results.

 3. AddThis

AddThis allows you to bookmark or share your content on a wide range of social media and bookmarking sites.

It’s an extension that you can get for free for most browsers and will allow you to quickly and easily navigate to the top social media sites on the internet and share links or great content you have found and which your followers/fans will find useful.

This can be a great way to get your site’s/blog’s content indexed once you submit to top sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

 4. Dropbox

Dropbox allows you to store files online in a safe, secure environment and provides you with free storage to get you started.

The great thing about this service is that your important files, provided you have uploaded them to Dropbox, can be accessible from anywhere so whether you are at home, in the office or on the move your files are always accessible as you can have your files synced each time you add to them or make a change.

You can even access your files on your mobile phone.

What I love about Dropbox is even if I am away from the office my files are always synced and accessible.

Google Drive also offers the same service.

5. Google Calendar

Google Calendar is free and is a super tool to organise your time, appointments, tasks to do, etc. It is also accessible anywhere once you log in and you can access it from your mobile phone, too.

Only last week I was walking into Court in Navan when I got a call from a man looking for an appointment for this week. I could glance at my phone, see what was available, and give him an appointment, and log it in the calendar there and then.

Not having to try to remember to do these things after a few hours is a huge comfort.

Google calendar also allows you to operate multiple calendars on the same page. I operate 2:

  1. One for appointments which I colour code red and
  2. One for tasks that I have to do which I colour code yellow.

I can see at a glance what’s on my calendar and whether it is an appointment or a job that I must carry out.

I also set up reminders for all my appointments and “to do” tasks which are emailed to my inbox.

And at the beginning of every day, at 6 am, it sends me an email with my “agenda” for the day.

I find Google calendar invaluable, and the best part? It’s free, as all the tools on this page are.

I have come to rely hugely on Google Calendar, Last Pass, and Dropbox-so much so that I cannot imagine trying to work productively and efficiently on a daily basis without them.

I think they can help you too.

Let me know of any good ones you use.


How to Avoid Distractions and Manage Your Time Effectively With the Pomodoro Technique

Do you find yourself getting more distracted lately?

Use your time efficiently with the Pomodoro technique

Do you find the combination of your mobile phone, computer, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. shortening your attention span and interrupting you on a more frequent basis?

The Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is a time management technique that I have begun to use quite a lot lately. The reason is that I have found myself getting increasingly distracted in my work.

Let me explain.

Most of my work day is spent at my computer and this is absolutely essential, but because a lot of my business initially comes through email enquiries I would always have my email account open. I use Gmail.

I also use social media quite heavily to promote my business and build my platform.

But the distractions from my email notifications, new email messages, Google calendar reminders, comments on some stuff that I may have shared on LinkedIn or elsewhere, text messages, mobile phone calls, landline calls, faxes, Twitter notifications on my phone, etc. make it increasingly hard to concentrate on any one thing for a period of time.

I strongly believe this is dangerous and is breeding a mind that is a little bit on the “grasshopper” side-jumping from one thing to another with a short attention span.

So, I have been using the Pomodoro technique and, I must say, have found it really useful and effective.

It was developed in the 1980s by an Italian man, Francesco Cirillo, and it works like this: you work in sessions of 25 minutes and take a break of 5 minutes between the 25 minute sessions. “Pomodoro” in Italian means “tomato” and the tomato shaped kitchen timer used by Cirillo gives this time management technique its name.

I find it works really well because when you sit down for a session you know you only have to work solidly and with concentration for 25 minutes; then you get a break.

Maybe it is the break and the knowledge that you are only working for 25 minutes which makes working in a concentrated fashion easier but I guess it is a little like the answer to the question of how do you eat an elephant:“one bite at a time”.

It is easier to work in intervals of 25 minutes rather than thinking about a day of 8 or 10 hours stretching out in front of you.

It is critical that you set a timer and stick to the 25 minutes sessions. You can get a physical timer, or use your phone, or there are many browser extensions and online timers which you can download to your computer and which will alarm when the 25 minutes are up. Here’s the one I use with the Google Chrome browser.

When you have 4 sessions done you can take a longer break of, say, 15-30 minutes. And you can be flexible with your breaks but the important thing, I think, is that you are focused for the 25 minutes once the session starts.

Apparently there is benefit to the task of winding up a physical timer, hearing the ticking during the session, and the alarm at the end signifying the break.

Regardless of the psychological reasons for the effectiveness of the Pomodoro technique, I find it really useful to switch on the timer and commit fully to something for a relatively short, but substantial, block of time.

It works for me.

If you find yourself getting more distracted in your daily work, try the Pomodoro technique. You have nothing to lose but some distractions that you can probably manage perfectly well without.