Unfiltered adventures in life, business, and gingham

Do not disturb

do-not-disturb

Along with office work and Thursday meetings in 2015, I made another change that continues to impact my professional and personal life. Between the hours of 5:00pm and 9:30am, my phone is scheduled for ‘Do Not Disturb’, which means between those times it only rings when a select group of people try to reach me (family and close friends).
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Mistakes

mistakes

A mistake has been made.

Relavent Questions:

  • How can I fix the issue?
  • How can I repair the damage it caused?
  • How can I prevent it from happening again?

Irrelevant Questions:

  • Who do we blame?
  • Who is going to fix it for me?

Mistakes will happen.

Our response determines the impact of those mistakes.

Office Work

polarnotion-door

Along with transitioning to Thursday Meetings, we made another significant change in 2015; We moved into an office.

Since 2012, we worked from our home office’s, kitchen tables, and coffee shops. We stretched every dollar to sustain the business, grow, and stay flexible. Having a physical space of our own was always an interest, but never quite made sense.

As we added a new team member early in 2015, the simplicity of being nomads quickly diminished. The tension of environmental distractions, internet bandwidth, space constraints, and a myriad of other inefficiencies* begin to compile and affect productivity.

Weighing all of the potential factors, a few key questions emerged that seem fitting for any major business decision.

Does it allow us to:

  • serve our clients better?

  • be more productive?

  • focus more on the things we enjoy?

For us, in 2015, our decision to move into an office yielded a resounding ‘yes’ to each question.

So, we made the shift!

Polar Notion HQ
621 North Ave NE
Suite C30
Atlanta, GA 30308

 


*Other inefficiencies (referenced above):

  • Josh’s motorcycle got towed.
  • AT&T internet at my apartment began cutting out every 10-15 minutes.
  • Parents love to bring their screaming-crying children to coffee shops.
  • Josh’s heat wasn’t working for an entire winter.
  • Starbucks decreases their temperature during peak times (I assume to prevent people from squatting).
  • My dog started to develop a habit of wanting to play fetch, in the house, with Ben… all-day.
  • The roof in Josh’s home office started to leak water during a mid-day thunderstorm.
  • Working late required equal commitment from of wives since we were occupying the kitchen table/living space.
  • Since my apartment didn’t have guest parking, we had to walk downstairs so everyone could get their car in the gate.
  • Meeting clients at our house didn’t exactly scream ‘professional’.
  • We no longer had space to use our secondary monitors.
  • Our projects and belonging had to be picked-up and transported each day.

tapStory :: Storytime reimagined.

During a recent event at General Assembly, I met Owen, the founder of an iPad app called tapStory.

tapStory is an ipad app for interactive picture books. With simple gestures, children can immerse themselves in the story, interact with characters, or tell the story it in a slightly different way.

New books can be purchased in-app or new stories created using characters and scenes from other books.

Check it out on Product Hunt.

Thursday Meetings

calendar-photo

In 2015, we made a series of changes to improve the way we do business at Polar Notion. One of the most impactful changes involved meetings.

As a design and development team, meetings surround projects and projects pay the bills. So, when our workload increased tremendously in 2015, the number of meetings increased with it. As one might speculate, managing current workload with prospective projects became difficult. In September alone, roughly 50% of my time was spent:

  1. in meetings
  2. scheduling meetings
  3. planning for meetings
  4. following up from meetings
  5. traveling/transitioning to and from meetings.

If we were going to complete everything we were being hired for, something had to change. Realizing there was only so much we could do to to address item #1, we began to take a look at the remaining items. After some discussion, we realized that #4, traveling and transitioning to-from meetings, was one of the largest time wasters. Whether onsite, offsite, or conference call, physically and mentally transitioning takes time away from productivity.

So, after a few discussions, we arrived at a solution:

Thursdays are meeting days.

Moving all meetings to a single day created a number to short-term and longterm wins:

  • One day each week leaves the reset of the week wide open for actually getting the work done with few distractions.
  • We’re able to head into Thursdays with a different mindset. Our priority shifts from executing to listening and dialoguing.
  • Knowing we’ve cleared the time in our schedule allows us to be fully present, not worrying about the work that’s not getting done (this actually makes the meeting more productive).
  • Scheduling meetings takes less time. When we’re asked, “when can you meet?” we always have an answer.
  • The dead time between meetings can be used to recap/followup instead of postponing for a later distraction.
  • Scheduling back-to-back meetings is great accountability to stay on point and prevent a 30 minute phone call from stretching to 2 hours. (we’ve all been there)
  • Worst case scenario, a Thursday packed full of meetings still leaves us 80% of our week to get work done. (a vast improvement)

Here are some questions I wrestled with at first, or have heard from people when I mentioned the change.

What happens when Thursday is booked? There’s always next Thursday.

What if they need to meet sooner or at another time? Then we accommodate. (Though there are few things in life that can’t wait a week.)

Are clients willing to do that? It’s not something we communicate to everyone but by and large, more people appreciate the consistency than oppose it. For those that are aware, they know there is a dedicated time each week we’ve set aside for them. (people like it when you make time for them)

 

Building Blocks of Growth

Borrowed from Seth’s Blog, here are some spot-on fundamentals for building a business with integrity in today’s market.

  • The best marketing isn’t advertising, it’s a well-designed and remarkable product.
  • The best way to contact your users is by earning the privilege to contact them, over time.
  • Making products for your customers is far more efficient than finding customers for your products.
  • Horizontally spread ideas (person to person) are far more effective than top-down vertical advertising.
  • More data isn’t the point. Data to serve explicit promises is the point.
  • Commodity products can’t expect to easily build a profitable ‘brand’ with nothing but repetitive jingles and noise.

Adding Style to HTML emails

While trying to determine as set of best practices for styling HTML email templates, I came across an article on StackOver that provided some helpful advise.


 

  • Inline styles are you best friend. Absolutely don’t link style sheets and do not use a <style>tag (gmail, for example, strips that tag and all it’s contents).
  • Against your better judgement, use and abuse tables. <div>s just won’t cut it (especially in Outlook).
  • Don’t use background images, they’re spotty and will annoy you.
  • Remember that some email clients will automatically transform typed out hyperlinks into links (if you don’t anchor <a> them yourself). This can sometimes achieve negative effects (say if you’re putting a style on each of the hyperlinks to appear a different color).
  • Be careful hyperlinking an actual link with something different. For example, don’t type out http://www.google.com and then link it to https://gmail.com/. Some clients will flag the message as Spam or Junk.
  • Save your images in as few colors as possible to save on size.
  • If possible, embed your images in your email. The email won’t have to reach out to an external web server to download them and they won’t appear as attachments to the email.

And lastly, test, test, test! Each email client does things way differently than a browser would do.