Gini Dietrich

Four Ways to Unplug and Focus

By: Gini Dietrich | September 21, 2011 | 
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Last week I was on the west coast speaking with a group of senior leaders who are interested in using the web to grow their businesses. The topic was generating leads through inbound PR and marketing.

As I do, I was showing real-time analytics for Arment Dietrich, Spin Sucks, and some of our clients. I am, after all, a business owner who wants to see how all of our online efforts contribute to the growth of both the traditional PR firm and the online business, Spin Sucks Pro.

About halfway through the three hour workshop, a gentleman raised his hand and said, “How do you do all of this? When do you find the time and run two businesses?”

I jokingly responded that I have a whole team of people who do the work and I’m just the shallow figurehead. But he wasn’t going to have that. He could tell, through my examples, that I’m intimately involved in running these campaigns, both from strategy and measurement perspectives.

So it got me thinking.

I’m double type A. I also have a problem saying no. I work really long hours, yet I have time for cycling, writing a book, seeing movies, spending time with family, and thinking about business growth.

I was “raised” in a global PR firm where, if you didn’t work past 9 p.m. and on weekends, you didn’t get promoted. So I learned very early that was the kind of work ethic that was needed to get ahead.

And then I burned out. About 18 months ago.

A few weeks ago, we talked here about working on your business, not just in it. And that’s part of what I do (I reserve Fridays for this). But I also have stopped working weekends. Sure, I might check email here and there or play a little bit on the social networks or read some blog posts. But I don’t do any business-related work on the weekends. It’s made me more focused and effective during the week than I could have imagined.

While unplugging and focusing on other priorities is a good start, it’s not going to enable you to do everything you need to do.

Following are four things you also should be doing.

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I don’t know if this is more difficult for women than men, but all of my female friends who lead organizations have this issue. We think we have to do it all…and we try to do it all. Say no to administrative tasks. Stop taking meetings that don’t drive business value. Delegate everything you can without breaking your talent. Open your days for thinking and for strategy.
  2. Create thinking time. My best ideas come in the shower and on my bike. It’s because those are the two times in my day I can’t multi-task. On my bike, if I multi-task, I’m dead. So I think. I write blog posts in my head, I solve a client’s recent issue, or I think about a new business prospect that needs some attention. Find uninterrupted time that doesn’t have distractions where you can spend time thinking. Every day.
  3. Develop your vision and repeat it. Over and over and over again. If the vision isn’t moving throughout your organization, revise it so people are on board with it. If someone else can’t articulate what it is, it either needs to be revised or you’re not discussing it often enough. Everything we do is tied to our vision. If we are asked to participate in a new business pitch or write content or do a media interview that doesn’t move our vision forward, we don’t do it. A clear vision makes it much easier to say no.
  4. Reflect and adjust. Failure is the big F word no one wants to discuss in business. But it’s only failure if you allow it to paralyze you. Learn from the mistakes you make. Reflect on what’s working and what’s not working. At least once a week. And adjust your vision, your strategy, or your communication to improve your efforts.

And, of course, always remember what’s really important in life. Unfortunately you won’t be remembered, after you’re gone, for how many hours you worked or the fact that you could do it all.

This first ran on Friday in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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75 Comments on "Four Ways to Unplug and Focus"

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KenMueller
4 years 8 months ago

As hard as it is for me to deal with, the last sentence says it all. Especially since I work from home. That’s where I need to focus. I might steal that sometime.

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 8 months ago

@KenMueller Amen brother.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@KenMueller Steal away!

HowieSPM
4 years 8 months ago

@ginidietrich@KenMueller@glenn_ferrell as danperezfilms says I am a cynic. Well fact is we will be lucky just to be remembered after we pass on….for like one generation never mind two or three.

Which maybe why being a film maker is a wise profession. Film credits last forever 8)

HowieSPM
4 years 8 months ago
Really solid tips @ginidietrich . Does Adage not read this blog? =P Many of the tips are personality driven. I am not a micromanager. So delegating is often easy. But when people drop the ball it hurts…a lot. Vision is easy to develop…easy to get lost in the commotion of activity. Thinking time everyone should have….just sit outside and look at the stars…go to a pub by yourself and sit a corner watching the guinness stout bubbles…go people watch at the mall. I know people watch too much TV. Very sad. Reflecting and Adjusting is key. It goes with everything.… Read more »
Krista
4 years 8 months ago

I can’t believe there was a time when you did more than you already do, Gini! These are great tips and take into consideration an individual’s goals and personal expectations. Often, we are our own biggest critics.

Cision
4 years 8 months ago

These are great tips @ginidietrich ! I have a hard time delegating too…it’s gotten easier now that I’m the only one on my team 😛

Mightybytes
Mightybytes
4 years 8 months ago

Gini,

I especially like #2 and #3. Many times it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of executing that I forget to take time to just think about stuff.

Great job as usual. Although, that blog image makes my head hurt 🙂

– Kyle Akerman

Mightybytes
Mightybytes
4 years 8 months ago

Gini,

I especially like #2 and #3. Many times it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of executing that I forget to take time to just think about stuff.

Great job as usual. Although, that blog image makes my head hurt 🙂

– Kyle Akerman

Erin F.
4 years 8 months ago
I really, really like today’s post because I tend to work similarly. If I’m not working on something, something is wrong. I start to feel panicky and guilty. I’ve been trying to stop working all the time and to circumvent the guilty feelings. I, too, do as little business-related work as possible on the weekends. I’ve decided that that’s my time. I shouldn’t have to be at the beck and call of my clients just because they can’t seem to email during typical business hours. The final three tips are wonderful. The first one’s a little hard since it’s just… Read more »
Erin F.
4 years 8 months ago
I really, really like today’s post because I tend to work similarly. If I’m not working on something, something is wrong. I start to feel panicky and guilty. I’ve been trying to stop working all the time and to circumvent the guilty feelings. I, too, do as little business-related work as possible on the weekends. I’ve decided that that’s my time. I shouldn’t have to be at the beck and call of my clients just because they can’t seem to email during typical business hours. The final three tips are wonderful. The first one’s a little hard since it’s just… Read more »
John_Trader1
John_Trader1
4 years 8 months ago

Very applicable post for me GD, I struggle at times to unplug and remember the vision. As for working on weekends, it sometimes seems like light years away before I get to that point. Just wanted to share a tidbit I heard on a tweet chat last night that relates to #4 and the “F” word. Someone said that you should rejoice in failure, learn from your mistakes and thus learn to practice “failing forward.” Thought that was rather prolific.

Tinu
4 years 8 months ago
Delegating was a serious hurdle for me. At the time, I thought, well if I delegate my job to everyone else, then what’s my job? Duh. Be the Chief Executive of the company and bring in bigger and better opportunities.Unplugging is my new struggle. I got so used to working 19 hour days that I looked up one day and realized, I had no new friends. And hadn’t seen my old friends in years. Who do I enjoy all these good times ahead with? No one if I don’t work less. Still work half a day on Saturday, but now… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 8 months ago
I really enjoyed this Gini. After all, you’re kind of a freak when it comes to productivity, so it’s always cool when you talk about this stuff. You know how I feel about delegation. I wrote about this subject over at Danny Brown’s place this week and of course think about it every day now that I’m not in the day-to-day of my swimming pool company. When it comes down to it, we become entrepreneurs for the purpose of attaining more freedom, but what happens is typically the opposite. And almost always the solution is ‘Just Work Harder’. That’s why… Read more »
fitzternet
4 years 8 months ago
Whoa. Good stuff, Gini! Re: Burnout… I once had a statistics professor who made us all read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. The professor spent about a week explaining that the key to avoiding burnout in any field is to understand why we do what we do. And to help each other, we all need to be aware enough to tell people when they’ve helped you – whether it be a teacher, a neighbor, police officer, waitress, musician, etc. The more distant the event, the more meaningful the feedback will be to the person who helped you. I… Read more »
Nic_Cartwright
4 years 8 months ago

the bike is a great place to think about stuff (keep your eyes and ears on the road though!). The other ones for me are 1 – “be organized” – not the sexiest part of anyone’s life – but knowing what you are trying to achieve or do / having a plan to stick to and to motivate towards is key and 2 – “Have fun” – life is easier if you are smiling – the bike certainly helps there!!

Nic_Cartwright
4 years 8 months ago

the bike is a great place to think about stuff (keep your eyes and ears on the road though!). The other ones for me are 1 – “be organized” – not the sexiest part of anyone’s life – but knowing what you are trying to achieve or do / having a plan to stick to and to motivate towards is key and 2 – “Have fun” – life is easier if you are smiling – the bike certainly helps there!!

Nic_Cartwright
4 years 8 months ago

the bike is a great place to think about stuff (keep your eyes and ears on the road though!). The other ones for me are 1 – “be organized” – not the sexiest part of anyone’s life – but knowing what you are trying to achieve or do / having a plan to stick to and to motivate towards is key and 2 – “Have fun” – life is easier if you are smiling – the bike certainly helps there!!

TheJackB
4 years 8 months ago

@KenMueller I share that. For the past 5.5 years I have had a home office and hours that are long. I am constantly trying to adjust my schedule so that I am not always working when the kids are around.

But it is easy to get sucked into let me just check my email one more time….

TheJackB
4 years 8 months ago

@KenMueller I share that. For the past 5.5 years I have had a home office and hours that are long. I am constantly trying to adjust my schedule so that I am not always working when the kids are around.

But it is easy to get sucked into let me just check my email one more time….

Marijean
4 years 8 months ago

I’m so proud of you and grateful that you’re setting a good example.

richescorner
4 years 8 months ago

It’s really important to take some time to yourself and unplug. I have a pretty demanding job outside of the blogosphere, and then I come home and blog in my off time after taking care of the family. It leaves very little time for myself, but I make the effort to unplug and get away from it all every so often or I would go insane.

janbeery
4 years 8 months ago
Gini, You are spot on. I left the corporate world after many years of burn out. The hours were insane and for what? The quality of life was non existent. I’m managing life so much better now. Our clients are better for it, we are more innovative and on top of things, delivering outstanding results. (I’m proud to say) All those eager executives who were on my team and felt it so important to compete with each other, on how many hours they were working, who was available in the evenings on weekends, who answered their blackberries on holidays? They’re… Read more »
patrickreyes
patrickreyes
4 years 8 months ago

ginidietrich I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m even more glad that you take time for yourself more than just on your bike during the week. Having time to unplug from the daily grind is exhausting. You know me well enough by now to realize how important making time for my family is. That is my release and relaxation even with 4 kids!

Bravo to you and I also LOVE the 4 things leaders should be doing.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@TheJackB@KenMueller When I worked at home (and still tend to a couple of days a week) I always made sure my office was in a spot that wasn’t easily accessible…such as not the first floor with the dining and living rooms. My office now is on the third floor and, while it’s not that far to go to check email one more time, it certainly makes it less convenient.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@TheJackB@KenMueller When I worked at home (and still tend to a couple of days a week) I always made sure my office was in a spot that wasn’t easily accessible…such as not the first floor with the dining and living rooms. My office now is on the third floor and, while it’s not that far to go to check email one more time, it certainly makes it less convenient.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@HowieSPM I’m irritated that I had more than 100 comments on yesterday’s post and our ranking went down overnight. I don’t get it. I think I’m going to remove the badge. It’s pissing me off.

I just saw a stat that says the average person watches FIVE HOURS of TV a day. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I had five hours every day to watch TV. Oh yeah. I’d read or write or ride my bike or cook. Five hours. Jeez.

I’m not commenting on your smart ass senior paragraph. #theend

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Krista Oh yeah…I once got pulled over at 3 a.m., on my way home. The cop thought I’d been drinking. Turned out I was waaaaaaay too tired to be behind the wheel of a car.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Cision LOL! I can hear the conversation now: Yvette, could you do write this blog post? Sure, Yvette! Is tomorrow good for you?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Mightybytes Look at you! Hi! HAHAHA! The image made my head hurt, too. But it’s the best thing I could find to illustrate my point.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Erin F. I’m brewing up an idea that is still in its infancy (which means it’s still in my head and I haven’t uttered it out loud yet) that could help you with the first tip. Stay tuned.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@John_Trader1 A few years ago, a very close adviser said to me, “Have you ever failed?” I thought about it. No, I really hadn’t…not in the big F word kind of way. He said, “You need some failure under your belt.” And boy did I get some! Failing forward is the BEST way to learn.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Tinu Whoa. You do better than me! I still sleep with my phone. And my iPad.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Marcus_Sheridan The funny thing is that I’m still working the same number of hours a week (sometimes more) that I did in seven days. But I’m less stressed and less overwhelmed. It really, really, really helps to have two days to do no work. It makes you more focused and energized for the five work days.

P.S. My mom says I have better teeth than you.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet That’s funny it was a stats professor and not a philosophy teacher. Did you ever find out why he taught that?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet That’s funny it was a stats professor and not a philosophy teacher. Did you ever find out why he taught that?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet That’s funny it was a stats professor and not a philosophy teacher. Did you ever find out why he taught that?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Nic_Cartwright Be organized (and have fun) is a great one! Actually, it’s essential. I’ll have to add a #5!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Nic_Cartwright Be organized (and have fun) is a great one! Actually, it’s essential. I’ll have to add a #5!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Nic_Cartwright Be organized (and have fun) is a great one! Actually, it’s essential. I’ll have to add a #5!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@Marijean Ah thanks, my friend!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@richescorner You WOULD go insane. For sure. Wait. Are you sure it hasn’t already happened?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@janbeery My dad said to me, just a year ago, “I’m really proud of what you’ve built, Gin. But I always thought you’d write a book…or 10.” That really affected me. And now I’m writing a book! I say that to illustrate exactly your last line.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@patrickreyes The difference is you have FOUR kids who need your attention so you’re forced to unplug and take trips to DQ on a Tuesday night. Speaking of, I need to come visit. I want to meet them. And go to DQ.

John Falchetto
4 years 8 months ago

Hey Gini;

Now you are hitting one of my favorite subjects; thinking time. I absolutely agree, we need times were we step back and think about the bigger picture of the business. That’s actually what I spend a lot of time doing with my clients. It’s amazing how good we are at getting bogged down by details and small tactical stuff, in one way I believe it’s laziness because when we get “busy” with the small stuff it prevents us from doing the real, hard work.

Now what is that thinking about work during your cycling?? 😉

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@John Falchetto I am so with you – I love to get clients in a conference room, without laptops or phones, and ask them lots of hard questions. We get more accomplished that way than we can even in a conference call. I actually will take their phones away from them.

And come on! You don’t think while you’re riding?! I know you do.

John Falchetto
4 years 8 months ago

@ginidietrich That’s actually an excellent blog topic. Focus.

I do drift into work thoughts sometimes but my best rides is when I can hit the zone and get into the flow. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

I also try as much as I can to recenter my thoughts on the bike trajectory, my effort, how I feel, etc..

Sometimes I suck at it, try to think about other things and end up rolling down the hill 🙂

So much for men trying to multitask !

John Falchetto
4 years 8 months ago

@ginidietrich That’s actually an excellent blog topic. Focus.

I do drift into work thoughts sometimes but my best rides is when I can hit the zone and get into the flow. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

I also try as much as I can to recenter my thoughts on the bike trajectory, my effort, how I feel, etc..

Sometimes I suck at it, try to think about other things and end up rolling down the hill 🙂

So much for men trying to multitask !

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 8 months ago

@John Falchetto HAHAH! Yeah…that whole stitches thing. I had a year like that last season.

Al Smith
4 years 8 months ago
Had to, Gini. So, your best ideas come to you while you’re riding a bike in the shower ? With a helmet cam, I hope. Now that is multi-tasking. Must be a bigass shower or unicycle. Hummm. Actually, really enjoyed this post, after I got past the visual. (Still lmao) We have to remember to take a break and decompress. It is really hard when you are starting out and have not found that life balance. I am still working on finding that balance. Great ideas and suggestions. Thanks. And don’t forget your helmet. Ha ! Al
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