Q: John, have you got any practical tips for organising my work and time? Fortunately, business is booming at my employer right now, so there’s more for my team members to do, but we’re struggling with the extra workload and I feel a bit out of control.
A: Resist the temptation to introduce overtime and don’t increase your own working hours. This is a good time to eliminate the obstacles getting in your way.
I’m willing to bet you spend a lot of your working day on emails, text messages and other distractions. The smartphone is a great business tool, but it also gets in the way. You don’t have to send an immediate reply to every message. Be disciplined and, if necessary, leave your phone in another room. Don’t allow it to rule your life.
Write a list of the five things you want to achieve each day and do them before tackling any other job. Lists might seem too basic and old fashioned for the digital age, but they’re still one of the best business tools around. They make you think about your priorities, keep you on track and when the list has been completed, you get a warm feeling of achievement.
What else? Seek advice. Don’t spend lots of time worrying about your workload, and talk about your daily problems with people you respect in and outside the business. Constantly churning problems over in your mind can be very stressful. It’s good to talk.
As a leader, the simplest way to cope with a heavier workload is to give your team members the freedom to decide how the job should be done. Most firms expect their front line colleagues to follow a process devised by policymakers at head office. But they seldom know best; the real experts are the colleagues on the front line who know the job inside out.
Otherwise, think twice before recruiting more staff; new untrained colleagues could slow the job down. Indeed, I’ve seen a shop’s sales increase when a colleague leaves.
However busy the business becomes, make sure you maintain your regular leisure routine and spend plenty of time with your family.
Q: What do you make of Apple’s recent $2tn valuation?
A: Ever since the dot-com boom at the end of the last century, I’ve been bewildered by the keenness of investors to embrace any new digital idea and jump on the latest technical bandwagon. Their blind enthusiasm caused stocks to be valued on the promise of jam tomorrow. The more money companies lost, the higher their value.
In 1999, interest was concentrated on internet shopping. Today investors can bet on the future success of Uber, healthcare provider Babylon and the dating site Bumble, which hopes to float for more than £6bn.
But Apple was always a bit different. It has been clear for some time that iPads and iPhones were changing our lives. I got my first mobile phone in 1983. It was a big heavy block of a thing that lived in my car and seldom got a signal. Today we hold in our hands an all in one phone: camera, diary, road map, calculator, newspaper, messenger, games machine, weather forecaster, encyclopaedia and more. No wonder Apple is worth such a lot, but is $2tn the right number?