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The Signal

Business analysis and trends to help entrepreneurs like you stay ahead of the curve

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Date Published: 
May 6, 2020

Hey Friends!

Our newsletter grew by 59 subscribers this week. I'm pretty stoked with that. Thanks for joining in.

I'm working hard to make every edition more valuable. Lemme' know if I'm not doing that!

📺 Series recommendation: The Spy - a Netflix Original limited series. It is based on true events during the Cold War era conflict between Israel and Syria. We follow the life of the spy - Eli Cohen, as he goes undercover. I'm a sucker for great acting (who isn't?) and Sacha Baren Cohen hits it out the park.

🔗 Last week's most clicked link was David Perrell's tips for great writing for business. Here they are:

  • Shorten your sentences.
  • Make your point fast.
  • Shorten the introduction.
  • Use simple words.
  • Add graphs and statistics.
  • No buzzwords.
  • Use more periods, fewer commas.
  • Write for skimming, not deep reading.
  • Bold the main takeaways.

Here are a few I would add:

  • Write something worth reading.
  • Write short paragraphs.
  • Use white space.
  • Read aloud.
  • Allow to sit for at least a few hours before a last review. There'll always be something you can improve.

Today, we're tackling productivity and how to be better at it.


// Valuable tidbits from around the interweb.

💸 If you've ever spent too much time worrying about how things look, take a note from Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway virtual AGM slides. When your product is great, no one cares how you present it. However, your product has to be great. PS: Look at the BH website. Don't spend too much time worrying about presentation. Focus on delivering value, and then very few care how things look.

📈 I stumbled across an interesting trend: Search interest of the terms "best" versus "cheap". Since 2004, there has been a significant swing towards people searching for the "best" things. See the charts below for the UK and Worldwide. Something interesting to be found there? More on that next week, maybe.

🚵‍♂️ Huckberry is one of my favourite email newsletters. I open every single one. It got me wondering, what makes me click? Turns out someone else was wondering the same thing. This Quora post from Matt Collins breaks down the Huckberry email marketing strategy in great detail. It's worth the read.

✔️ If you need to get things done ASAP, 'done lists' might be useful for you.

More on getting shit done below.

A Byte

// A byte of something useful. As tasty as a choc-chip cookie, but better for you.

This week, we're diving into productivity. More specifically - how being held accountable makes you more productive, and how to harness that to help you get shit done.


You know the feeling, there's that big project looming, but you just can't bring yourself to do it. It's been hanging over you for weeks, but there's never a good time to start. There's no place to start either. How do I even tackle this?

Yet, doing those things is necessary. The remarkable thing is that once we actually do make a start, the rest comes much easier. There's a huge amount of inertia when we're facing a big task. Getting started is the hardest part.

One of the ways of making sure you start when you need to is using an accountability partner - someone or something.

You'll know there's nothing that kicks your butt out of bed for your early morning run better than the thought of leaving your partner to face the dark and cold by themselves.

Accountability works.

However, there's a counter argument here - of course.

The theory is that by offering a reward, you're encouraging a degradation in the quality of output. You're essentially dangling a carrot (or threatening with the crack of a whip). When you complete the task, you get rewarded with a 🥕 - sweet (?), or alternatively if you don't complete your task, you get cracked with a whip 💥.

What I've just described is called extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is its better-looking cousin. It's when you do things for their own sake, not for a reward.

It is a fact: Rewarding someone for doing something directly leads to a reduction in interest and performance in that very thing.


"No controlled study has ever, to the best of my knowledge, found a long-term enhancement in the quality of work as a result of any kind of incentive or pay-for-performance plan."

- Alfie Kohn (Human behaviour & education author and lecturer)

So, we know that rewards (or the stick) are largely ineffectual in achieving any long term behaviourial effects.

The only way to actually change your willingness to do a certain task is to change the way you view that task. You must want it. You must develop intrinsic motivation.


Let's not pretend we will love everything we have to do. Sometimes things are hard. Luckily, we've got a secret weapon up our sleeves to help us.

Our ego.

Part of our ego is integrity. Our integrity is called into question when there is a mismatch between what we say and what we do.

As humans, we care what other people think. Here's an example to illustrate:

Day care centers in Israel almost all shut at 4pm. If the parents pick their kids up late, they're relying on a teacher to stay late to look after their kids. 

One center tried enforcing a fine for late pick ups, rather than relying on parents' good will. It had an inverse effect and the number of late pick ups significanlty increased. 

We care.

So, how to harness that to get more done?

Find yourself someone who is going to hold you accountable to your goals.

(See the action below.)

Here's a tip: when you find someone, share with them what you want to achieve, along with why you want to achieve it. By doing that, you're committing a part of yourself to the pact. Here's an example:

"I want to finish building my website out this weekend. The website is a key component in my goal of moving to freelance work. I want to become a freelancer because I'm tired of the corporate life and associated pressure."

Now, you've got real skin in the game. If you fail that goal you're implying that, "Leaving the corporate life isn't that important to me."

A Quote

// Because there's always someone smarter than you in the room.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
Walt Disney

You can get a free wallpaper version of this here.

An Action

// Idea's are great, but sometimes you need someone to kick yah butt into gear.

What is the most important thing you need to have done by EOB on Friday? Email it to me and I'll hold you accountable.

When you do, I'll reply with something I want to get done. I'll check in with you periodically during the week so you're not forced into an all-nighter on Thursday (I'm a slave driver - we will get this done).

Just do it - you won't believe what you can achieve when there's someone on the other end of the line.

The End Notes

// I know, I know. I can almost hear you saying "Don't go, don't go."

That's it for this week.

Quick note: I'm about half way through an eBook. Its called Working From Home: A Complete Guide.

It's jam packed with info on how to set you or your company up for efficient remote work. As a pre-launch (for the next week or so) I'm selling it for $10 USD. You can get it free. All you have to do is forward this email to a friend that might like it. If you do, I'll send it to you next week. No questions asked.

I hope you have a great week wherever you're reading from.


If you've found this interesting, valuable or entertaining, a few of your friends might too. Please forward on to them.

If you want to support in other ways, reply to this email with some feedback and your honest thoughts - please.

See yah next week, thanks for reading!

- Simon

PS: As always - I'd appreciate your feedback, please? (or you can just reply to this)