Being Great at Work

A David Goggins quote appeared on my Instagram Reels this morning:

“Out of the hundred men that go to war, ten shouldn’t be there. Eighty of them are just targets. Nine do most of the fighting. One is a warrior. It is a true quote to life. I saw it going throughout training. I saw everywhere I went. Some so many people just show up to life that shouldn’t even be around. And there are a few people who do all the work. I wanted to be part of that nine, and I’m working towards being that one.”

David Goggins

I think that we often experience similar at work. 10% of people should not be there and usually remain due to poor management, conflict avoidance, or it can be easier to leave someone doing a poor job than the effort it takes to go through the dismissal process. The sad part is that 10% of people might be happier and more productive in a more suitable role.

80% of people turn up, do what is asked of them, and then go home, not ever going above and beyond or making significant innovations or impact but getting work done. 9% make a real difference, introducing new ways of doing things, volunteering for tough jobs, being prepared, staying late, and going above and beyond what is required.

Then there is the 1%, the people that impact not only the company or institution but the field or sector they work in, the key people of influence that push things forward and make lasting change. These people are wholly committed to their work and improving themselves and those around them to change the world.

Price’s Law

Price’s law states that 50% of the work is by the square root of the total number of people participating. So, the more employees a company has, the smaller the proportion of people that genuinely make a difference. According to the observations documented in Price’s Law:

  • In a micro company (up to 9 people), 50% of the results would be generated by up to three people. 
  • In a small business (10-49 people), half the results would be generated by up to seven people. 
  • In a medium-sized company (50-249), roughly 50% of the results would be generated by 16 people.
  • In a large business (over 250 employees) where the average employee number was around 1300 in 2021, half the results would be generated by just 36 employees.

The Good News

The good news is that if you want to progress, you can strive to be one of the nine employees and work and then gain the competencies and mindset to be that one in a hundred. 

The first step is quantity. If you have been smart enough to pick an industry that operates more or less as a meritocracy, you can start by working longer than everyone else. This might be easier than it sounds; according to multiple studies, the average person only productively works for 2-3 hours per day in a full-time job. If you can build up to six hours of highly productive work, you could produce twice the output within a standard 35-40 hour week.  

The next step is to understand the game you are playing within your industry. If you are an academic, that would be referenced research papers. A salesperson would be the revenue generated etc. Once you produce more than everyone else, you can target the specific output you are developing in this extra time to win the game. 

Finally, you can optimise your work through systems and processes to produce more of what matters within the same period. 

Hard questions

It is a tricky question to ask ourselves. Our egos do not want to admit if we are one of the 80% and not a top performer. I recently talked with one of my managers about Price’s law. I saw the blood drain from her face as she contemplated if she were one of the roughly seven people in our team of 50 people generating 50% of the results. She is, and by the fact you are reading a blog like this, you probably are one of your company’s top performers, as ordinary people don’t read stuff like this for fun.

Take some time to think about this, and then get a pen and paper out to make a plan:

  1. How many hours are you actually productive in the workday? (be brutally honest) How can you get this up to six hours?
  2. What game are you playing in your industry? What can you do to play better and win?
  3. How can you use systems and processes to optimise your outputs within your six productive hours? 

Sunday Planning Ritual

Like most people, I waste a lot of my week. Some of this waste comes from endless meetings with little output. Other parts of my week are wasted purely because I do not have a plan for what to do next. My workdays can be full of meetings which can make it easy to get lost in the day-to-day and not progress towards my bigger work goals. I work hard, but I always feel I could do more.

I have tried all sorts of productivity tips and tricks, but very few of them stick. However, a Sunday planning ritual has been a big part of my working life for the last decade. Every Sunday, I sit in a coffee shop with paper and a pan and plan my week.

This ritual started when I first got married. We both worked long hours outside of the home and got very little time in the house when we were not cooking, cleaning, or preparing for work. My mum sat me down and explained the importance of time in the house alone, so I created this time for my wife to have regular space in our small flat when I was not around. I would walk down the road to the town centre and get a coffee or two and plan my week. This Continued and has become a key part of my week since. This process prepares me for the week ahead and clears my head for better focus on Monday morning.

This process usually involves four distinct steps:
Step 1: Mind dump – tasks, ideas, and commitments
Step 2: Review the previous week – write a weekly update for my teams
Step 3: Unstructured plan for the week – write a plan.txt
Step 4: Identify a ‘Highlight’ task for each day and which days I must commute into the office.

I review the plan each morning and time block my most important tasks, including my 90-minute deep work block.

Journaling for ideas: how to use writing to capture your best thoughts 

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on

I never realised the power of my thoughts until I started writing them down. Journaling helps me set and achieve my goals in a way that simply thinking about them never could. By journaling, I gain clarity and a new perspective on my work.

I have started to carry a notepad again. I use it to make lists of high-value tasks, write goals, draw diagrams, write copy, calculate plans, envision my future, track thoughts and ideas, and mark milestones. I have been amazed by the insights and self-discoveries that came to me by writing them down and revisiting them regularly.

My Tools

My favourite notepad brand is Rhodia, they are reasonably priced, and the paper quality is excellent. For 2023 and the Entrepreneur Revolution challenge, I am using a simple and light Rhodia A5 Notebook with dotted paper. However, on my desk, I have kept a less portable A4 stapled notepad with squared paper for the last few years. As for pens, I lose them regularly, so I don’t use anything expensive; I currently use a pen borrowed from the City of London Club when I stayed there a few months back. I have heard the Lamy Swift is an idea journaling pen.

How to keep it up

I’m not too fond of linear journaling (a page per day) as I don’t want to do it daily. Keep it simple, and don’t give yourself too much to do and set yourself up to feel guilty about not doing it. Keep it non-linear so you never miss a day, a week, or a month; you use it when you have something to write. Use it how you want, use your headings and categories for pages that make sense to you, and keep the index up to date – this will make it invaluable in the future. Apart from that, use it any time you have a thought you want to explore.

Sections I am using

  1. Index – table of contents for my notebook – 2 page spread
  2. Future Log – my year at a glance – 4 pages
  3. Big Moments – memories, milestones and wins record – 1 page
  4. My Routine/Habits – 1 page
  5. SBA from Iman Gadzhi – 1 page each
    1. Life’s Vision
    2. 2023 Goals
    3. My future Wikipedia entry
    4. Affirmations
  6. Entrepreneur Revolution pages – 1 page each
    1. What am I most grateful for in my life so far?
    2. Who has helped me recently that I have not acknowledged?
    3. What do I want to achieve in the coming three years?
    4. What would I do if I had £100K to invest in my business?
    5. Who can I take out to lunch?
    6. What have I noticed since carrying £500 in my pocket?
    7. What problems can I solve for my clients?
    8. Where would I like to go on holiday in the next 12 months?
  7. Weekly planning – 2 page spread per week
  8. I will add new sections as I come up with them.


  1. Get an A5 notebook and carry it around with you.
  2. Create an index page and use the notepad for all your notes and ideas to plan out your thoughts.
  3. Let me know how you get on.

High-rep kettlebell snatches

Photo by Taco Fleur on

Lockdowns over the last year have made kettlebell training a central element in my daily routine. I write this on a seaside holiday in the southeast of England, to which I brought a 24kg kettlebell in the car (no joke). Working from home means I risk spending all day sitting down with little reason for any meaningful movement, so I have a couple of kettlebells in my conservatory for quick access between meetings. I know that each day, with just 10 minutes, I can get 10×10 swings with a 40kg kettlebell or if I am swamped and only have 5 minutes, I can do 10×10 single hand swings with 24kg.

I think every household should build a collection of kettlebells as a home gym or a ‘Courage corner’ as the Russian Military calls it, according to Pavel in The Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Kettlebells are cheap, will outlast you, require no additional equipment, and the techniques are easy to learn from Youtube. 

Progression on Kettlebell swings

  1. Two-handed swing
  2. One-handed swing
  3. Clean
  4. Snatch

High rep kettlebell snatches are hard; they test your mental resilience, conditioning, grip strength, and shoulder strength and mobility. High rep kettlebell snatches will highlight and fix problems and asymmetries in your swing technique. As a ballistic movement, it is a great way to build a powerful hip snap that will carry over into other activities like running, and it will burn fat at the same time.

Before trying high rep or heavy kettlebell snatches, it is good to build solid technique on the push press and the more accessible swings. Once you start to train the snatch, think of it as a one-handed swing that goes all the way up and swing from the top – pauses with the kettlebell overhead and let your bell drop into the swing movement. 

Start with a 16kg Kettlebell (if you have one) and spend time learning the groove of the movement before you move to a 24kg kettlebell. Until you have mastered the movement, treat it as a practice rather than a workout, take your time building up the reps and weight. Use heavy swings, cleans, and presses for your strength and conditioning work until you feel confident with the snatch.  


The first big test is the StrongFirst snatch test that forms part of the entry-level certification. Dan Johns rep recommendations of 20/15/10/5 (per hand) starting with your weaker hand is a great way to approach the test. As Dan points out, by the end of the first set of 20, you can smile as you have completed the most challenging part.

  1. StrongFirst Certification Snatch Test: 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a 24kg kettlebell
  2. The US Secret Service 10-minute snatch test: 200 snatches in 10 minutes with a 24kg
  3. Tactical strength challenge: max snatches in 5 minutes with a 32kg kettlebell
  4. Girevoy national ranking: Snatch a 32Kg kettlebell 40 times with one arm, then 40 times with the other back to back 


High rep snatching with a kettlebell can be tough on your hands, and once the skin on your palms rips, it will take time without training to heal. Only snatch 2-3 times per week to avoid over breaking the skin and supplement with other types of swing and presses that are easier on the grip.

I like to use a combination of Pavel’s rite of passage method, including the clean and presses from Enter the Kettlebell and the progression ladder from Jason Marchall’s TSC prep plan.

Monday: 5-10 snatches per side on the minute every minute for 7 minutes with competition weight based on the milestone you are working towards.

Wednesday & Thursday: 3 sets of 1-10 snatches with the weight above your Monday workout weight followed by 3 sets of 5-10 heavy swings with 3 minutes rest between each set. 

Start with five snatches on each arm, and each week add a snatch on each arm until you get to 10 reps on each side, then start the ladder again but with a heavier kettlebell or add a minute (e.g. 5/5 for 8 minutes with 28kg). For the snatches on the mid-week workouts, start with three sets of one rep on each side and add a rep per side for each subsequent workout. Progress to a heavier kettlebell once you reach 10 per side for three sets.

So, if you haven’t already, buy at least a decent 24kg kettlebell (cheaper bells can have uneven and rough handles) and work through the progression of the swings, training most days based on feel. From there, get a 32kg and then a 40kg kettlebell and build your ‘Courage corner’. 

What gets measured gets managed

“What gets measured gets managed — even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organization to do so.

Peter Drucker


Goodheart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.


Campbell’s Law: The more a metric counts for real decisions, the greater the pressure for corruption, the more it distorts the situation it’s intended to monitor.


“Quantitative measures of performance are tools, and are undoubtedly useful. But research indicates that indiscriminate use and undue confidence and reliance in them result from insufficient knowledge of the full effects and consequences. Judicious use of a tool requires awareness of possible side effects and reactions. Otherwise, indiscriminate use may result in side effects and reactions outweighing the benefits (…) The cure is sometimes worse than the disease.”

V. F. Ridgway


“It’s Not About the Result, It’s About Awareness.

The trick is to realize that counting, measuring, and tracking is not about the result. It’s about the system, not the goal.

Measure from a place of curiosity. Measure to discover, to find out, to understand.

Measure from a place of self-awareness. Measure to get to know yourself better.

Measure to see if you are showing up. Measure to see if you’re actually spending time on the things that are important to you. (Make sure to measure backward, not forward.)”

James Clear

New daily exercise recommendations for healthy

The current recommended levels of physical activity to reduce the risk of early death by up to 30% is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two per week. Just under a third of people globally do not achieve this minimum standard and it is higher in richer countries. But a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that these recommendations for activity levels are not enough to avoid chronic illnesses for those that spend most of their day sitting down. 

The study looked at the effects of various daily amounts of different intensities of exercise, lack of exercise, and sleep on early death using six previous studies covering over 130,000 adults in the UK, US, and Sweeden. The paper suggests that most of us in the UK and other wealthy countries spend up to twelve hours a day sitting and so require higher levels of movement to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary life than those that sid for just six to seven hours used to model the original recommendations. They suggest a minimum of three minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise or twelve minutes of light physical activity for every hour spent seated each day. 

For a person who sits twelve hours per day, the recommendations would mean 36 minutes of vigorous or 144 minutes of light activity each day. If we just followed this for five days per week that is 180 minutes of vigorous exercise, 2.4 times the amount previously suggested for the same level of risk reduction. If you are in bed for eight hours and working for eight to nine hours and then sitting in front of the TV in the evening it is likely that twelve hours seated is realistic and possibly low for some people. 

In addition to increased weekly exercise time to offset all the sitting, the paper also suggests using a variety of movements each week to accumulate the required vigorous or light activity. This means that if a person had previously completed three to four runs per week to get in the minimum recommended activity, then adding some strength training, a swim session, and a bike ride could bring better health benefits than more running when using the new benchmarks. For the health benefits, the important thing is to get your heart rate up each day and use a variety of movements across the week, so be creative and use what you have. 

Above the suggestion that people should create a daily exercise habit, The study also suggested that moving regularly between exercise and getting good amounts of daily also presented benefits. The UK National Health Service has some good suggestions for exercise and the Canadian government has already adopted a daily approach to movement

On this blog, there are recommendations of training goals for running starting at the beginner level, suggestions for strength and conditioning using kettlebells, and recommendations for four-minute movement breaks that can be used throughout the day.

How many hours will you work in your career?

The website 80,000 hours, created by academics at Oxford University, provides a rough estimate of the average number of hours people will work in their lives:

80,000 hours of work in your career = 40 years x 50 weeks x 40 hours

But how does this relate to the reality for someone in the UK?

92,684 hours of work in a UK career = 47 years x 46.4 weeks x 42.5 hours

This number is considerable, but the equation is highly variable based on your work. If you take an academic working at an English university, the working years, weeks and hours contracted will be less, but actual hours might be greater. 

If you started paying into a pension before 2011, it might be possible to retire at 60, and you likely stayed in education through to a PhD so graduated at 26, giving just 34 years of ‘work’. A full-time academic ‘contracted’ hours might be 37 per week, and work 44.4 weeks with 38 days of leave, including bank holidays. 

This fictional academic could work just 55,855.2 hours in their career based on contracted hours. However, this is a romantic bare minimum, and self-reporting on working hours is much higher. 

The question is, what will you do with the hours you have left? 

Fundamentals of accounting

I have been working on the fundamentals of accounting for my first MBA exam today. Like most employees or a large organisation, I have not had to deal with balance sheets in my work before, so the practice application of double-entry bookkeeping is new to me.

You may be aware that businesses, companies, and organisations (entities in accounting speak) must follow a set of financial reporting standards called the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the US. An entities finances are kept separate from its owner’s finances (Entity concept) even when the entity is a proprietorship, where the entity has a sole owner/investor.

The reporting centres around the balance sheet that displays the health and composition of an organisation. The balance sheet has three main elements, assets, liabilities, and equity, all recorded in monetary amounts in a single currency.

Balance Sheet equation: assets = liabilities + equity

Assets are items owned and controlled by the company and acquired at a measurable financial cost and are split into current assets and noncurrent assets. Current assets are short term items that are likely to be used or converted to cash within the financial year; these include cash, accounts receivable (money owed for goods/services), inventory, and prepaid expenses like insurance. Noncurrent assets are long term items that are unlikely to be used or converted to cash within the financial year; these include property, plant and equipment such as factories, equipment and land.

Liabilities are debts owed to creditors in return for goods and services and are similarly slit into current and long-term categories based on the current financial year. Current liabilities include bank loans, accounts payable (money owed for goods and services) and estimated tax liabilities (estimate before filing reports at the end of the year). Equity is the capital supplied by investors (Paid-In Capital) and profits from the business that are then reinvested into the company (Retained Earnings).

The balance sheet displays all assets, liabilities, and equity of a company, with assets on the left and liabilities and equity on the right. The Double-entry bookkeeping principle requires that any transaction, such as a purchase of inventory or equipment, results in two entries, an increase in PP&E or inventory, could mean a reduction in cash or increase in accounts payable if they are purchased on credit, for example.

I hope you enjoyed a brief introduction to accounting and the balance sheet.

Searching (2018)

Today I rewatched the 2018 film ‘Searching’ directed by Aneesh Chaganty. The movie is worth a watch just for the way it is filmed. All the shorts are through the desktop of the main character’s computer, with the story told through video calls, text messages, web searches, and the occasional TV news report. It sounds like it would not work, but it does, partly down to the excellent editing.

The exciting thing about this film is how much you can do with your computer if you set up a link between your phone and laptop. The main character approaches the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance like a ninja project manager. He starts by creating a table with questions that he then goes through each of his daughters 96 Facebook friends completing a row for each. He goes through search history, social media accounts, text messages, and email, meticulously logging everything he learns and gradually finding clues to create a timeline of the days running up to the disappearance. 

The situation in the film is extreme, but it showcases how much of the world’s information is online and how a computer can aid a systematic approach to solve a problem. It raises the question about how much more productive you might be if you learned to use your computer better and how methodical you are in your approach and documentation when problem-solving.

Two tasks for me this week:

  1. Become a power user with my computer
  2. Be deliberate in my approach and documentation in my problem-solving.

Are your employees satisfied at work?

As a manager, the job satisfaction of the people in my team is important. If I am honest, it is more to do with the psychological need to get one with people and my in-built desire as a teacher to develop those whose careers I am responsible for than it is about productivity. But employee satisfaction is closely correlated with positive business outcomes; data between 1984 and 2009 suggests that companies on the ‘100 best companies to for work in America’ earned 2.1% higher stock returns than the industry averages.

A 2019 Siad Business School study using Gallop data coving nearly two million employees across seventy-three countries showed a significant, strong link between employee satisfaction and corporate performance. The study measured four business outcomes; customer loyalty, employee productivity, profitability, and staff turnover. The researchers found that the higher the satisfaction of staff, the lower the staff turnover and higher customer loyalty. The correlation was weaker with productivity and profitability, but they were still linked.

Ultimately, higher wellbeing at work is positively correlated with more business-unit level profitability.

Krekel et al.

How to improve employee satisfaction

The basics matter, like job security, opportunities for development and progression, and fair compensation and benefits all need to be present. If these things are in place, one of the simplest ways to make employees happier is to produce a well-run company where staff are treated as people. Keep employees consulted and informed about company plans, provide them with clear goals and objectives, foster psychological safety, and follow periods of intense work and long hours by quieter times for recovery. 

One quick activity to take from Biz Stone that makes a big difference to my teams work satisfaction is emailing a short weekly update. Writing around 350-450 words or producing a three-minute video at the end of the week summarising things people should know keeps them informed and connected to what is going on. Give it a go, set up a read counter, and get some feedback.

If in doubt, follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”