Sometimes technology helps us achieve our goals.

Other times, it distracts us from those very same goals.

From his work in the event industry in the 90s through running an event business during the pandemic, Business of Software CEO Mark Littlewood knows the impact of technology all too well.

Discover how Mark stays focused as a professional with ADHD, why getting rid of distractions is vital, and the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

Tune in (or read below) to explore how you can better understand business, technology, and yourself.

Listen to Episode 8:

 

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In the episode “How Technology Has Impacted Society,” we discuss:

  • How Business of Software pivoted when the pandemic struck: their rare approach and how it benefited the company
  • How COVID changed the event and conference business
  • The event industry in the 90s vs. now: the impact of technology
  • The value of automation and innovative tools: understanding your business better and not having to employ people to do simple tasks
  • What Mark’s late in life ADHD diagnosis meant for him and how he stays productive
  • Why sometimes the best thing you can do is rid yourself of distractions 
  • The importance of knowing and being transparent about your strengths and weaknesses 
  • What’s next for Mark and BoS: virtual conferences and first physical conference since the pandemic 
  • Why there is no “secret” to being an entrepreneur
  • When the interviewer becomes the interviewee: Mark switches it up and asks our host Ben about his productivity hacks 
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Favorite quotes

“We don't think of the COVID disaster. We think of the unexpected and very rapid opportunity to do some significant product development and strategy development. We took the view very early on that COVID is a long-term thing.” - Mark Littlewood
ADHD is about being stimulated and kind of getting little hits, little bumps of excitement, and you suddenly realize just how bad technology is and what an evil thing technology is. Not everybody has ADHD, but alerts, notifications, desktop notifications, this, that, and the other are all designed to stimulate and bring you back into ‘Hey, rejoin the conversation’” - Mark Littlewood
“We have a lot of people who are super organized and kind of on one level drive me mad by writing down lists and doing those kinds of things. But I know it has to be done and I really appreciate it. And if we all operated in the same way, I think life would be very different. So having great people around is good. And then I think, you know, you have to be very honest and open with the people you work with about what you are good at and what you're not and vice versa." - Mark Littlewood
“Every entrepreneur has their own unique set of circumstances, goals, or aspirations. And the hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur is to work out what the right questions are. So I think we really try to help people think about that. Once you know what the right questions are, the answers are generally easier to come by.” - Mark Littlewood

 

Mark Littlewood CEO of Business of Software

Meet today’s guest, Mark Littlewood

Mark runs the best conferences for SaaS and software entrepreneurs on the planet.

Business of Software brings smart entrepreneurs who care about building great software and great software companies to learn together. Online and in real life.

Productivity resources to explore

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“How Technology Has Impacted Society” full transcript

This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity and readability.

Ben (00:00):

You're listening to Get More Done, a YouCanBook.me podcast. I'm your host, Ben Dlugiewicz. Each month, YouCanBook.me helps millions of people around the world save time by automating their scheduling and increasing their efficiency. Because of this, we wanted to explore other aspects of productivity and talk to folks to understand how they are using automation, building systems to scale, and helping their teams do more with less. In this episode, I chat with Mark Littlewood, the CEO of Business of Software. For over 14 years, Mark and his team have coordinated conferences to bring software entrepreneurs together to help them build better companies. During our conversation, we talk about how the COVID pandemic has impacted their core business and Mark shares how he stays productive in spite of his ADHD diagnosis. Enjoy.

Ben (00:56):

Excellent. Welcome back to the Get More Done podcast where we talk about all things productivity and crushing of goals. In today's episode, I'm sitting down with Mark Littlewood, the CEO of Business of Software Conference. So Mark, welcome to the podcast.

Mark (01:10):

Hi Ben. Thanks so much for having me and apologies for not being there on time. One of the things we're going to talk about today is getting more stuff done. And I really wanted to talk about technology. Five minutes before we started, the power companies were taking up our street and we had a power cut. So there we go and that's life, isn't it? But really great to be here and great to see you.

Ben (01:35):

Yeah. Super pumped to learn everything about all the cool stuff that you got working on. As you've known from our past episodes, we start with an icebreaker question. So the one this week, what was the last book you read?

Mark (01:49):

The last book I read was The Porpoise by Mark Haddon. It's not a business book, but an absolutely fantastic, un-put-downable book. Read it in pretty much one sitting over a day. I don't know if you've come across Mark Haddon. He wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is a very well-known book. But, porpoises, just fantastic magical realism. Not something I'm massive about but just really fabulous. Fantastic. Very well-written and I felt like I was not just watching a film, but almost in a film as I was reading it. I would really recommend it.

Ben (02:35):

And is that just a book about porpoises or...?

Mark (02:41):

No, it's not really about porpoises at all. It's a book about a journey through life. It's woven through a framework of some of the old Greek tales, myths, and legends. But read it. You have to read it. It's a total sort of journey that sucks you in and leaves you feeling better about life. So all of that, all of the very good things. I have a sort of a theory about books, which there's fiction, which, this is. And then there are business books and the value of a book of fiction is how much you enjoy it multiplied by the number of pages. And the value of a business book is how useful it is divided by the number of pages because business is really important and you want to be efficient. A lot of business books are way, way, way too long, but this was one of those books where I was like, "Oh no. Well, I've only got 50 pages. 20 pages." You just don't want them to finish.

Ben (03:55):

It sounds like a really awesome read. And I think a lot of people can find some joy in life and reading fiction and escaping a little bit with the crazy times we're living in and all that. So it's really great. I'll have to check that out. The Porpoise. Awesome. So you're the CEO of the Business of Software Conference. And is it the Business of Software Conference or just Business of Software Conference?

Mark (04:18):

Well, it's Business of Software. I mean the URL is at businesofssoftware.org. And most people that will come and attend regularly will think of us as BoS, which has all sorts of fun implications when our US conference has been run in Boston. So that's the BoS BOS. And I'm apparently the BoS BOS boss. And of course, my wife is the BoS BOS boss boss.

Ben (04:52):

Yes! So tell me a little bit more about the BoS, everything that you're working on, and what would all this conference kind of entail?

Mark (05:01):

Sure. So, Business of Software was founded by a friend of mine, Neil Davidson, way back in 2007. He set up a business and grew it organically to about 40 people and decided he didn't know how to run a company, which of course he did. And he decided he'd go to some conferences and learn about how you run a business. And he looked at various things out there and lots of stuff for startups. Lots of stuff. Raising venture capital, you know, endless code things, all the rest of it. But really nothing that he could find was about how you build a successful software company and how you build successful products. So he drew up a shortlist of people he'd like to listen to, got a hold of them, and said, "I'm running a conference. Will you speak?" And people like Jeffrey Moore and Joel Spolsky and Kathy Sierra and all sorts of people said, "Hey, that sounds great."

Mark (05:59):

And he set it up and it went from that, but he was running a software company. He and his co-CEO, founder, Simon Galbraith were on a full-time gig running the business. So, I run events and networking operations for software entrepreneurs. So he asked me to come in and get involved and I've been running it pretty much ever since. And we try to help people build great software and great software companies. Quite a different focus to most events, which I think are much more transactional. Sort of trade orientated. We don't have a big exhibition hall and it's very much a high density of high-quality people. Software entrepreneurs who value spending time together. The talks are long-form, typically an hour, and just super, super high-value people who when they get together, spend time helping each other and listening to each other's problems.

Mark (07:06):

And there's a phenomenal network of people that have been part of it and come through. Everyone from HubSpot. Dharmesh from HubSpot's been coming for years. Shopify, Atlassian, and all sorts of pretty significant software companies. As well as a whole range of organizations, some venture-backed and some private equity, but a huge number of them who are incredibly successful. You may not have heard of them because they're not the ones that obsess about the TechCrunch headlines or whatever it is. They just want to get out there and build great businesses. So that's what we do. And being a physical event for many years, we've been running in the states. We started running a European conference about seven or eight years ago. Of course, beginning of last year, let's say everything went very, very differently.

Ben (08:06):

Yes. How did you all pivot when the pandemic happened?

Mark (08:10):

Well, we like to, we don't think of the COVID disaster. We think of the unexpected and very rapid opportunity to do some significant product development and strategy development. We took the view very early on that COVID is a long-term thing. So we actually had a European conference set up for March 22nd, 23rd of 2020. And at the beginning of the year, it was looking like it was going to be a great year. Registrations and signups were way ahead of where they'd been. And over those three months, it all started to go a bit strange. Then concerning. Then very concerning. Then oh my God, what are we going to do? We actually turn that event into an online event. And I remember at the conference, now the online conference, people were saying, "Oh God, how am I going to cope with being at home for the next two weeks? It's going to be a disaster."

Quote 1_ Opportunity for product development

Mark (09:13):

I was like, "This isn't going to be two weeks. It's going to be a long time." So we took a couple of days off after that to decompress. Then got back together with the team and said, "Look, let's assume there are no physical events for five years. What are we going to do?" And I chose that kind of timeline because actually, I think that really helped us focus. And it's obvious that we would be doing things online if we were going to exist at all. It meant that we weren't constantly kind of looking over our shoulder or looking around to say, "Oh, when are we going to, should we do another event? Should we get back?" And let's just say, "What do we do? Why do people love what we do? Why do people keep coming back? Why are people so loyal? What are the things that they really value and how do we then recreate that online? And what are the other great things that you can do online that you can't do at a physical event?"

Mark (10:08):

And it was a pretty interesting six months. I think we took a very different approach to a lot of event businesses where they kind of went online. What was interesting about 2020 was that everybody could speak at everybody's every event because we're all there sitting at home doing nothing. And so you could produce an event and have amazing speakers and all the rest of it. And what we did find was that because a lot of other event businesses have a very high component of sponsors because they have a trade element, and a lot of those signed up in the year prior to the event, so there was a real drive to bring volume to online events.

Mark (10:57):

And that meant people drop ticket prices or make them free. And you end up with this kind of stellar lineup of people, but you had far too much content. And because the thing was free, you almost have the wrong type of people coming. We took a different view and very consciously said, "Well we can't scale the really important things, the networking, the conversations, those bets of an event that we want to run." So then we kind of stuck by our guns and did a different kind of thing and said, "Look, if we've got 300 people coming to an online thing, we can really look after them. We can mix people up. We can have those conversations, which are one of the things that people really value." And that's what we've done. I think a lot of people were quite skeptical about doing an online thing because being on Zoom all day is quite exhausting. But we really designed everything around being energizing online and having conversations, not watching a slightly second-rate YouTube channel of CEOs showing off and telling you how brilliant they are. So I don't know if we did something right.

Ben (12:11):

Yeah. And I think tying back to just going to your foundation of what makes a successful conference in real life and tweaking the things that maybe can't scale like you mentioned. Have your past few conferences here that you've done digitally or online, have they've been successful?

Mark (12:28):

Yeah. I think they've been fantastically successful. There are so many different ways to measure success, right? The one thing that we've been quite surprised by and a goal when we shut things down and said, "Right, we're not doing physical till we know that we can, but we think that's going to be a long-term thing." Some people who are regular attendees were quite reluctant to come to an online event because it's not going to be the same. But you know, a lot of them have trusted us and said, "Look, you know, we want to support you. We'll give it a go." And now they're kind of coming back and going, "Do you know what? I don't know if I'm going to travel from Argentina every time you do this. It's great. But actually, I'm getting so much from the virtual event and the virtual things. And I'm really surprised about how they worked."

Mark (13:20):

The aim for us was to do something that was so good that people couldn't ignore it. That when they came, they didn't see it as being a poor substitute for not being able to get together in person. And then when we start doing physical events again, we have two parts to the business and you know, touch wood, it's good. And we're really looking now at some in-person conferences next year. We obviously are thinking about what they look like and how they work. I think it's quite key that there are constraints around that now. We need to be sensitive to those and make sure that people are comfortable and feel safe and are safe. And that we design that new thing, but also kind of tied into virtual events that we run throughout the year. So we're pretty excited, even if we're all hunkered down in our bunkers and working from home.

Ben (14:32):

Sounds really great and exciting for the future, too. Cause you almost have another product with this virtual side and expanding it and making it more accessible to the world, which is really great. So tying in to that, we talked a little bit earlier about just the power of technology. So how has that come into play with BoS? How have you leveraged technology to do more with less and really scale your own operation?

Mark (14:58):

Great question. I suppose, maybe look at that from two places. And I'm very old, right? So I had a birthday yesterday and it had a five in it, although there were no zeros. So I've been around for a long time and I was involved and running conferences and things in the late nineties. And that's so weird looking back. So what was going on there? You would say, "All right, we're going to have a conference." And you would book a venue, you'd get things, and you phone up speakers. Some of them very proudly at that point said that they had email numbers and things. Technology was a different thing. You would line up some speakers and then you go to a printer, design some flyers, and you'd send them out to people.

Mark (15:55):

And literally the minute you sent them out, one of the speakers would pull out or something. So everything that you're sending out is going to be out of date. And for someone to register, they would have to get the thing and fill out that credit card information and then send it through on a fax machine, which would run out of paper or it would break. And then you'd have to phone up your credit card company and give all this information. It's unbelievable. I mean the whole thing was extraordinarily convoluted. Just not a real-time thing, phenomenally expensive, and a very significant chunk of the cost of a business was administration, print production, and this, that, and the other. So the Internet's changed a lot of that. And that whole web 1.0 thing has really fundamentally, structurally changed the way that the whole industry has operated.

Mark (17:03):

And we have a very small team here and we bring in people that can do, but whether it's videography or editing or whatever it is, we bring in people that really know what they're doing for particular functions. But if we were operating in that kind of nineties model, now our headcount would be double easily. And every time you have an extra hat, you have extra headaches. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? I mean, I really love the people I work with, but I also recognize I'm not a great manager and I think that's something to just having great, really good competent people around is really helpful. The more people you have, the more issues you have.

Mark (18:05):

So that's the 1.0. But having a website, sending emails, doing all those things. Fabulous. And then I think the other thing that's had a massive impact for us is, and it's more a kind of web 2.0 thing of sorting all your systems out. And this is something that I have been doing more and more of over the last few years now. We obviously have online accounts packages. So we use Xero. It's pretty good. Other accounting packages are available. I'm sure they all do the same stuff. Would hate to move from Xero to anything else, just because even if it was something that was better, it's a pain changing all these things. But having a website and then your e-commerce stuff and your ability to take money and then connect all that in the background is absolutely beautiful.

Mark (19:05):

And for me particularly over the last couple of years, I've really kind of looked at it and started to think not about any particular thing in a silo, whether that's our email marketing list or our newsletter or our payment systems or whatever. You can see the whole thing in one piece. But the other thing I love is Zapier, because all of the things that you want to be able to do to get different bits of software to talk together, you can pretty much now do, with a pretty minimal level of programming. But being able to put everything together and see how it all operates is a really beautiful thing. I know it shouldn't be a revelation, right?

Mark (20:08):

I mean, we've always known it, but it's one of those things, you kind of take a step back and look at what we do now and what we do with Zapier. And I don't know how much we pay them. I mean, it's less than a packet of biscuits for the office every week. I mean, it's nothing, but there are people that we don't employ because they allow us to do stuff which is just really easy. But more than that, we actually get a much better view of what's going on. And I've really tried to take on board the understanding of how all the different bits of the operation fit together. And I understand accounts better now. I understand the way that different things work. When we were bringing in outside accounting firms to do bookkeeping or whatever, it was just much harder to get a view. And I was terrible. I sound like an old man, but then I am an old man. It's just really amazing to be able to look at your business and know at any point what's going on. And if you don't know what's going on, you can work out why you don't and deal with it.

Ben (21:29):

Yeah and just the technology advances that you've seen in the last 14 years as well, with all of these SaaS tools coming online. And I'm a huge fan of Zapier as well, and tying the internet together and automating tasks because it's something that you're doing multiple times. You just automate that because, like you said, then you don't have to hire a new person. It's all handled and getting a glimpse of your overall structure of everything you got going on, too. It's very powerful to have that image, which, I mean, you look at 20 years ago, wouldn't have been possible, right? 14 years ago, it wouldn't have been possible.

Mark (22:01):

No. And I remember the first time I was going to take an online accounts package on, and I phoned up my accountant who was very, very old school. And I said, "We're going to use this. Do you use it?" No, we don't. We use Sage, which is a big company that's got a pretty horrible accounts package that no one understands. It's designed to be complicated. And he said, "Why do you want to do this? That's going to be a rubbish thing." "Well, cause if I'm worried, waking up at three o'clock in the morning on a Saturday morning, and I'm worried about my cash flow or what I'm giving away to HMRC, I want to be able to just check it."

Mark (22:55):

And he's like, "Well, that's really stupid because, you know, why would you be waking up at three o'clock in the morning? You could just send me an email or leave me a message. We can print off the reports for you and send them to you in the post." That's not going to help me get to sleep at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday. So anyway, it's not that I'm a control freak particularly. I just think it's good to be able to know where you are and what you're doing and be able to address those questions. So yeah, technology is fabulous and there are some great tools. I mean, funnily enough, YouCanBook.me is one of my favorite things for setting up meetings and automating a whole load of just slightly annoying things that suddenly become quite trivial and easy. But Twist which is asynchronous, it's like Slack, but not as annoying. I think Slack is very much you know, there are lots of notifications and alerts and it's about 24/7/365. And I think there are a lot of organizations with people that take a different view and a different approach to things.

Ben (24:22):

Yeah, totally. And speaking a bit about those distractions and notifications, you've talked a bit about your diagnosis with ADHD. I'd like to explore that a little bit and talk about how that's impacted the way that you work, how that's changed your productivity, and how you personally manage your day-to-day.

Mark (24:44):

Yeah. So I suppose I discovered this pretty late. I've been lucky. I'm reasonably bright. I've always kind of managed to hand decent work in at school. Even if I didn't necessarily start at the right time. But it wasn't until I think it was 2013 when I had a speaker at Business of Software. So I have Business of Software to thank for so many things. A guy called Greg Baugues, who's now at Twilio, came along and he talked about being a developer and having depression. And I thought this was an incredibly interesting topic. And his talk was something like that. It was about developers and depression, but he sort of opened his talk. He said, "Hi, I'm Greg Baugues. And I'm bipolar and I suffer from ADHD." That's the first time I kind of heard that word.

Mark (25:46):

And then he did this incredible talk. The only one that's ever had a standing ovation from the audience primarily about depression and how you deal with it. But he also talked about ADHD and I obviously missed a bit of the talk cause I remember looking up and then I'm sitting at the front. You've got a lot of things going on as a conference organizer. And I just thought, when I looked up, I'd missed a slide cause he'd got the slide up saying, and I thought it was, this is the normal brain. And actually, I was like, "Yeah, that's the normal brain." But actually, he'd gone from the normal brain to the ADHD brain and he was showing the ADHD brain and how it operated. And I was like, "That's completely normal."

Mark (26:33):

And then something else. So I kind of missed and didn't get the whole thing. And I remember my wife came to the event with me. And I got into bed that night in the hotel and sort of reflected on the day a bit. Like, oh, you know, that talk was absolutely amazing. That ADHD thing, I think I might have that. And she looked at me like, I don't know. She was like, "Have you really taken all the rest of the day to work out whether you have it? ADHD?" And I kind of went to bed. And it was over in Boston, so we were jet-lagged and you're all psyched up about the conference. And I woke up about half-past two, half past three in the morning. I was like, ADHD, ADHD. I'm going to check this out. I didn't want to wake my wife up. So I went into the hotel bathroom. Got my laptop. I opened it up sitting on the only seat in that particular room. So ADHD, I'm going to Google this. I plug the laptop and the next five to seven minutes and I'm still on Twitter. Hmm, I think that's a clue.

Mark (27:52):

I literally managed to spend three hours on Twitter before I'd actually started to do the Googling of ADHD, which was the one thing I kind of went in to do. So anyway, it changed a lot for me. I did a lot of reading. Got a diagnosis, which was no mean feat actually in the UK. Pretty difficult. I think there were probably a lot of undiagnosed ADHD people cause they just get bored and distracted as they go through the process of having it diagnosed. I suppose the three ways that it's changed the way I approach things. One medication and I'm not a sort of big fan generally. I tend not to have a Nurofen or aspirin unless I really feel like I need it, but having regular medication has made a big difference.

Quote 2_ ADHD is about being stimulated

Mark (28:58):

So there's that side of it. But then I think the whole general awareness and knowing what is gonna really mess you up. And so this sort of thing about ADHD is about being stimulated and kind of getting little hits, little bumps of excitement, and you suddenly realize just how bad technology is and what an evil thing technology is. Not everybody has ADHD, but alerts, notifications, desktop notifications, this, that, and the other are all designed to stimulate and bring you back into "Hey rejoin the conversation" or whatever it is. So, I mean, I just have absolutely everything off. Even text messages on my phone and things. I will set my notifications so that my family can text me and I get a notification, but that's it. So really kind of managing those things and designing my life around that I think is a really important piece of it.

Mark (30:16):

And I suppose the other thing is the kind of the flip side of the easily distracted thing is you also have these periods of ultra focus. And so ADHD is not just about being completely distracted by everything around you. There are some times when you're so focused on something you're kind of in a flow state and then you can really get stuff done. Understanding how to trigger those times and create the situations where you really can chunk through stuff is very important. And there are different ways that those states come on. Classically, you know, one of the things about ADHD, you give someone with ADHD eight weeks to do a project. They'll be like, "Right, I'm going to start." And of course, they will start about an hour before the thing is due to be handed in. So you have to kind of create your own final deadlines much earlier on and break things down into little chunks and drive towards those rather than think about things in a more normal way.

Ben (31:40):

Yeah and we talked a little bit earlier about just that Parkinson's law. When you give something so much room, it's going to take that room up. So shortening those deadlines definitely helps. What other things help you trigger that flow state? We talked about stopping the notifications, but anything else that's helped you carve out and do some of that deep work?

Mark (31:58):

Switching off the internet as much as possible. Music, the two things that I generally listen to when I need to get things done are Goldberg variations or the bar and accompany cello suites or something like that. Those are bits of music that I'm very familiar with but really work in the background. And Motorhead.

Ben (32:32):

Two sides of the spectrum.

Mark (32:33):

Yeah. But I mean, if it's music I haven't heard before, then that's not helpful. I'm not a big karaoke fan, but I think the song that I'd like played at my funeral and the song that would be my go-to karaoke song would be Killed by Death by Motorhead. Just having that really familiar kind of music as a background. So creating a kind of background noise, that's familiar. And then the Pomodoro method, that type of thing, whether it's a kind of a 20-minute thing or you're going to do X, Y, or Zed and absolutely do nothing and phone off and just really focus. That works very well, I'm kind of embarrassed because some of the people that you've spoken to have got a real track record of getting stuff done and making things happen and they can kind of talk to people. And in a funny way, I can kind of tell people some of the theory and the principle on the practice of how you get things done, but it doesn't necessarily work for me. I think everyone has to find their own ways of doing things.

Ben (34:08):

Yeah. I wouldn't sell yourself too short because 14 years of running successful conferences, that's a lot to get done, right? And it's short time periods and quick turnarounds and a lot of fires that pop up. Emergencies. A lot of things to coordinate. So I mean, you definitely had your hands full over the last decade and a half.

Mark (34:27):

That's true, but I've also had some really good people around me. We've got a pretty complementary set of skills in the team. We have a lot of people who are super organized and kind of on one level drive me mad by writing down lists and doing those kinds of things. But I know it has to be done and I really appreciate it. And if we all operated in the same way, I think life would be very different. So having great people around is good. And then I think, you know, you have to be very honest and open with the people you work with about what you are good at and what you're not and vice versa. And, you know, it's not like I could hide the fact that I'm easily distracted to my team. They talk anyway. So, it's generally a kind of, "Well, thank goodness you said that."

Quote 3_ Be honest and open with your team

Ben (35:34):

Yeah. Approaching those relationships with vulnerability, compassion, and just transparency is going to be better for the team overall. And the power of delegation, like you mentioned of saying, "Hey, this isn't my strong suit, so let somebody else take it on." That makes total sense. So what's on the horizon for you? What's coming up? What are you excited about?

Mark (35:56):

In the very short term? So on the one-week horizon, I'm really excited about seeing my eldest daughter who's been away at university. And I was saying at the weekend, I went over to see her and took her out for lunch. So I drove over on Sunday, phoned her up at college and we had lunch and then went around town and then I came home and it's literally the first time in my life that I've ever felt grown up. When I was getting a house, getting married, all of those things, all kind of felt like these were things that you do, but I still didn't feel grown-up. So that was the very first time. So she's coming home from her first term away this weekend and that's going to be amazing. And then next year we look like we're going to be doing some in-person events.

Mark (36:55):

So we'll be doing virtual things. We're spreading a lot of virtual one-day conferences out over the year, which means that we have time when we can spend with people. We can do the conference thing. We can kind of look at particular challenges. By spreading those events out over the year, you have a degree of connection between attendees and continuity. But at the moment we're planning our first European, our first physical conference for a couple of years, which will be in Europe on 4th and 5th of April. Which are interesting times because you can't wait to get back. We need to make sure it is safe and makes sense. There's a lot of big question marks. And I don't know when, or even if, you'll decide that you'll put this up on the podcast.

Mark (37:55):

I completely understand if the publication is deferred for a couple of decades. I'm cool with that. But, you know, we've got this...what's the new one called? The Omicron which, you know, we'll see what happens. Say we're really kind of designing something that will work, even if it's a very local thing. I don't expect people to travel nearly as much as they would do traditionally. I mean, our US event probably 60% of the attendees are from the US and 40% are from outside. So those dynamics I think are going to change in the short term, but I'm super excited about getting back to seeing people in real life. And I don't know what it is. You can get so much out of online, but, you know, maybe it's the smells or the life. It's just that it's a different thing. So yeah, next year, it's going to be really exciting.

Ben (39:00):

Yeah. That sounds amazing. A lot of planning that you have to work on and make sure everything's safe, above board, and all that stuff. So where can folks go to learn a little bit more about BoS?

Mark (39:10):

Probably the best place is our website. So businessofsofteare.org and everything's there. We have information about our events. We have videos, interviews, transcripts, and all sorts of things of the previous talks. So we've got things going back years, including Bridget Harris. Who's the CEO founder of YouCanBook.me, who's done some amazing talks. So you can access all the talks, all the videos, and hear about new stuff. It's designed to be a site that has lots of resources for people that want to think deeply about stuff. We don't really believe in that seven sexy secrets of SaaS success type playbooks. That kind of bullshit. I think the whole thing for BOS is that everyone exists in their own context. Every entrepreneur has their own unique set of circumstances, goals, or aspirations. And the hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur is to work out what the right questions are. So I think we really try to help people think about that. Once you know what the right questions are, the answers are generally easier to come by. So yeah, that's what we're doing.

Quote 4_ Work out the right questions

Ben (40:38):

Well, it's really amazing to hear. And anybody looking to scale or grow a software tool or learn about anything, check out all the good content there, and we'll be sure to put it up on the show notes and on the blog. We'll get this published before your conference in April, for sure. Hopefully.

Mark (40:56):

Cool. So I have a question for you as well. The other thing we do is if people sign up for the newsletter, when they get that confirmation through we always say, challenge us with a question. What's the thing you're struggling with? What's the thing you're thinking about? What's the biggest issue you’re addressing in your business? Because we've got over 300 hours of talks from people like Jeffrey Moore, Clayton Christensen, Bridget and Kathy Sierra, Toby from Shopify, and some pretty amazing people. There's quite a daunting collection of talks. So we always like to be challenged. So rise to the challenge and see if you can break us. And my question for you is what's the thing you're most excited about for 2022?

Ben (41:52):

Yeah, that is a great question. And I think it's, you know, growing this podcast and getting more insights for everybody so they can help level up and get more done. And me working on my own productivity and taking all the lessons I've learned about Pomodoro time blocking. Getting into that deep flow state is really something I'm super pumped in and potentially getting into some real-life conferences, too. And getting out into the world again and exploring all of that. I'm super excited about it. And then from there, the YouCanBook.me side specifically, just growing our product and getting some cool things in place that are really going to open things up for a lot more teams to get that scheduling headache off of their plate.

Mark (42:39):

And what's the single productivity hack that you have taken on over your career that has made the biggest difference, do you think? Because you're the expert.

Ben (42:51):

I'm becoming an expert as I get more of these conversations in. But I think the biggest thing, like you mentioned, is just setting up those time blocks and saying, I'm looking to sink my teeth into this one thing and just rid the distractions for that time period. So turn off the Slack. Turn off your social media. Just don't open it and say, you know, I'm digging into this and not even putting a prescription on what the outcome would be at the end of that time. Just saying, I'm going to sink my teeth in. See what progress I can make. That's been a huge help. Something I struggle with is doing that deep work because I'm involved in so many little things at a small company. You have a lot of hats.

Ben (43:34):

You need to be task-switching a lot, and it doesn't really afford you that time to do the deep work. So that's something I'm getting better at each day and each week. And I think coupled with that is taking your to-do list and being like, what are the top six things? Three in business and three in personal that I want to get done today. And then it's a lot easier to manage. But there are other folks that subscribe to getting everything out into one big list and then you're prioritizing based off of that. That's still something I'm keen to dig into and work more on that. But yeah. Great question.

Mark (44:09):

Fabulous. Cool. Thank you. Well, what a pleasure.

Ben (44:14):

Yes, it's been great talking with you. Thanks so much for being on Get More Done and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. There are no more emergencies or breakages of anything and it's a good weekend for you as well.

Mark (44:28):

I really hope so. Thanks so much. Really nice to talk. Thanks, Ben.

Ben (44:31):

Alright, have a good one. Cheers. Thank you for listening to Get More Done. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. If you or someone you know would like to be on the show, you can visit getmoredone.youcanbook.me, reach out to us on Twitter @YouCanBookMe, or visit us on the forum, forum.youcanbook.me. I'll catch you in the next episode. Cheers.

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The YouCanBook.me team

Written by

The YouCanBook.me team

We care... so we share. The YCBM team has a lot to say about online scheduling and improving productivity. We pay it forward with interesting articles, top tips, updates, and insights about how to be a scheduling ninja and a productivity pro!

The YouCanBook.me team

Written by

The YouCanBook.me team

We care... so we share. The YCBM team has a lot to say about online scheduling and improving productivity. We pay it forward with interesting articles, top tips, updates, and insights about how to be a scheduling ninja and a productivity pro!

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