Week 35

Thinking about work-life balance and how to write better proposals for our clients.

Keep calm & read a book Print by Agadart, available via etsy

So, it’s my turn again writing the week note. Well, this is going to be interesting as I had the week off last week. But I figured that vacation and time off is actually an important part of setting up and running your own business. So I will share a few thoughts on this topic, anyway.

Work-life balance

The whole topic of work-life balance is a challenging one – especially as a new company – from a variety of perspectives. First, we have a problem with the term itself. We consider our work a big part of our life. We started this company because we wanted to invest our lives into something we love and can stand behind. It also means that we are trying to make enough money to live from stuff that we actually enjoy doing. So the line between work and time off is pretty blurry for us. It’s difficult to just leave work behind when closing the office door in the evening. Not only because smartphones and laptops allow us to work from everywhere, but also because we love to dig into new thoughts and ideas whenever and wherever we can. A lot of times, I have to force myself to step away from any reading device and allow my brain to relax which is really an important part of our work. As knowledge workers, we trust mostly in our brains to come up with the new ideas and strategies, to draw the connections between trends and to recognize the patterns in the input we digest. There’s a reason why we come up with the best ideas in the shower or by walking in nature. So this “work-time off balance” is actually pretty important for us, especially when work doesn’t feel like work.

There’s a second aspect to this that influences our balance. We’re lucky to be friends with some of Berlins finest start-ups. We see how they bust their asses to get their baby off the ground, putting in the extra hours, empowered by the enthusiasm for their vision. We are not a start-up in it’s usual meaning, but we’re still in the infant phase of a business that we want to see thrive. There’s no limit to the available work. If there’s no client work, there’s still tons of stuff to do like administrative work, organizing research, new business development etc. So the question that has been on my mind for the last months is what’s the right work-life balance for us right now. Should we work more because that’s what’s appropriate for the state of our business? Or should we take more time out to let our minds rest purposefully to create insights because that’s a huge part of what the success of our business is based on? I don’t think that there will ever be a definite answer to this question. The purpose of balances is to work at the equilibrium constantly. And last week, it was time for me to take some time off to relax my head by leaving Berlin, having a quiet time near Frankfurt, read some books and re-connect with the big picture.

Writing proposals

While I was away, Igor was working – among other things – on a bigger proposal for a social media strategy. We’re still trying to get our heads around how to provide our clients with better proposals that give them a more detailed idea of what we want to work on with them and what the exact costs will be. We’ve been trying to convince clients to do a small workshop before writing the actual proposal to make sure we’ve all sat in a room together and are all on the same page about the scope and the task of the project. We feel that this early investment will pay off for both sides in the end. We’ve just seen too many proposals that had nothing to do with the final project outcome and scope. We also try to break up larger projects into smaller projects that the client can book one after the other, or choose not to. We feel that we can plan a strategy part much better after a research part. Unfortunately, most clients still seem to prefer to just be given a final number for the whole, no matter how much that number might be off in the end. This is an area where we still have a lot to learn but also won’t give in to the “but this is how everybody is doing it” approaches. We want to push things forward. And we will gladly have a conversation about it.

Quantified Self

Peter is investing more and more time into a report on the Quantified Self, one of the bigger trends we’re most excited about. Again, technology is disrupting not only industries but our lives. Expect more about this topic from us soon. Also, the planning for Social Media Week Berlin is kicking in for real. Peter is more than happy to pitch in as a member of the advisory board along with many other Berlin geeks.

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.

One thought on “Week 35”

  1. On the topic of proposal writing: don’t be fooled by the “this is how everybody is doing it” line. It’s not, especially for technology organisations.

    A lot of the work I’ve been doing over the last 5 years is running exactly the sort of workshops you’re talking about for large companies considering programmes of work, with the objective of getting a much better idea of what they are trying to do, have some constancy of opinions, and ultimately a better understanding of scope. We call it a “Project/Programme Inception”.

    And then there the delivery of a piece of work: and again any effective organisation should be using iterative methodologies to achieve exactly what you’re talking about – a regular chance to pause, reflect and then act (which may mean stopping work entirely) before too much investment has been made in, potentially, the wrong direction. In software development, example methodologies are Scrum and Agile, and they are rapidly becoming the de-facto standard approach for software delivery.

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