The following is a conversation between Amantha Imber, Founder of and Chief Maker at Inventium, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: Inventium is Australia’s leading innovation and behavioral science consultancy since 2007. This helped provide people from around the world with the tools to innovate, adapt, create, experiment, and grow. They’re also leading the way and helping us all work smarter — so critical in this time of COVID-19. And here to share some of their insights with us is Dr. Amantha Imber, the founder and chief maker of Inventium.
Welcome to The Business of Giving, Amantha!
Amantha: It’s good to be here!
Denver: You have said that starting Inventium was the plan B, and not the plan A. So what transpired that turned that plan B into plan A?
Amantha: Well, I was working in advertising at the time as a consumer psychologist, and I knew that I wanted to leave the industry. I’d lost my passion for what I was doing. And I gave my boss three months’ notice because it’s hard to find good strategists in Australia, and that’s what I was doing. And I thought three months will be long enough for me to find another job. And so, I interviewed for a bunch of different positions at a bunch of different organizations, and I just couldn’t find anywhere that I wanted to work.
And a couple of friends were like, “Why don’t you start your own business?” And at the time, I was in my late-20s, and I just thought, “No, I’m too young. I don’t know enough.” Obviously, now, the landscape is completely different where people start businesses coming out of the womb. But for me, I couldn’t find anywhere where I wanted to work. So, I thought, “Well, I will create a workplace where I want to work.”
Money was just never a motivator, never important, and the only reason why we have financial goals is just to give the team clarity around some of our individual goals, and so that we can try to stick to a budget, and important things like that. But for me, it was always about the impact that we could have in the world and being purpose-driven was… it wasn’t even a decision; it’s: “That’s just what we do.”
Denver: And the workplace that you did create, you made a B Corp. How has that impacted your decision-making?
Amantha: So we became a B Corp four or five years ago, I want to say. And I don’t think that it influenced things because I was already very deliberate about putting purpose before profit. We didn’t even have financial targets for the first 10 years despite turning over several million dollars. Money was just never a motivator, never important, and the only reason why we have financial goals is just to give the team clarity around some of our individual goals, and so that we can try to stick to a budget and important things like that. But for me, it was always about the impact that we could have in the world and being purpose-driven was… it wasn’t even a decision; it’s: “That’s just what we do.”
And so then becoming a B Corp, I think what was interesting there is the accreditation process, which is essentially a full-time job for… I reckon two- or three weeks, getting B Corp accredited. So where that was useful is: it asks you a bunch of different questions. It essentially does an audit on your business around all the ways that you can do good in the world. And so, it did get us thinking around who we purchase things from… like our suppliers, where perhaps in the past we hadn’t given enough thought to that.
It got us thinking about how we can be more environmentally friendly with our impact, which is not huge because we’re a management consultancy. So, our biggest impact is in travel. Not anymore. And so, it was just kind of doing more of the same. And I think B Corp was helpful because it gave us other things to think about that we perhaps haven’t thought about previously.
The best place for innovation to start, quite simply, is in thinking about: What really frustrates your customer, and how can you solve for that frustration? It’s as simple as that. Ask your customers: What do we do that really frustrates you? And if you can solve that problem, then you’re going to create some value for that customer.
Denver: It helps codify a lot of things, and it also helps set an example for others, because again, as that movement grows, I think others are going to take a look at it, and hopefully they’ll be encouraged or persuaded to do it.
I wanted to talk to you, Amantha, about three different things. I want to talk a little bit about innovation; and then the workplace culture — you’ve done some really interesting things there; and then personal productivity. And I love your e-book you have online, and we’ll get into that.
But let’s start with innovation. And let me ask you a question about where a lot of people start with innovation, and that’s idea generation — brainstorming, blue sky workshops, virtual suggestion boxes, and so on. Is this a good idea to get the ball rolling, or is it not such a good idea?
Amantha: We say innovation shouldn’t really start with an idea, as tempting as that is, because we’ve all had that experience where we have that “Aha!” moment, and we get really excited about an idea, and we fall in love with it, and we think that it will solve lots of problems and create lots of opportunities. So not a great place for it to start because it’s not necessarily connected to what the customer wants.
So we said the best place for innovation to start, quite simply, is in thinking about: What really frustrates your customer, and how can you solve for that frustration? It’s as simple as that. Ask your customers: What do we do that really frustrates you? And if you can solve that problem, then you’re going to create some value for that customer.
Denver: You find the pain point. I’ve always noticed that in people I’ve talked to, if they’re at a certain place and you can make them that much better, they’re really not that interested. But if you can remove their pain, you got an eager listener, that’s for sure. What are some of the signs that point to an organization that is killing innovation?
Amantha: There’s quite a few things. Firstly, they walk the talk. I think there are a lot of organizations that talk about innovation and how important it is, but they don’t actually dedicate any resources to getting better at it and doing it.
So the dedicating time and money to doing innovation, that for me is very… it’s an obvious sign. Like if I’m going into a sales meeting with an organization, and they’re saying, “We want to create an innovation culture,” and I ask, “Well, how are you resourcing innovation at the moment?” And they’re like, “We’re not,” like “Budgets are tight and so forth.” Then it’s like, “Well, it’s not just going to happen without anyone dedicating time to doing that, without dedicating budget to training people to become better innovators, and dedicating budget to actually fund ideas that are coming through.” So that’s a really big one.
I think having some sort of a process for innovation so that employees know how they can contribute to innovation. So, it might be like some sort of idea management software, for example, where they know the big problems that the company is trying to tackle, and they can put forward their ideas or vote on other people’s ideas. That kind of thing is important.
And then there are certain elements that we look for in the culture of an organization. An obvious one is they need to be comfortable with failure and seeing failure as the root to learning, and becoming better, and knowing more so that you can put better things out into the world. But also, we look for: Do employees feel a sense of challenge around what they do? We talk about finding the challenge sweet spot where people feel challenged by the projects that they’re working on because that’s a huge driver of an innovation culture, but also that people have the resources and skills to rise up to meet that challenge. There are a few things that are really important.
One of the biggest problems with feedback is that it tends to be past-focused. So, looking into the past as opposed to forward-looking. And what research has found is that if we can actually ask for advice as opposed to feedback, advice then tends to orient people to the future, and it tends to be more practical as well.
Denver: I think sometimes people have the idea about innovation that it is to “take the seeds and throw them to the four winds and let the flowers bloom.” But essentially, it’s a pretty disciplined and rigorous process if they’re going to do it right.
I read a recent article of yours in the Harvard Business Review, I believe. It was about feedback. And I would say that the common belief that most people have is that feedback’s great. It’s going to get you better. And you need more of it, the better of it. But you say it actually has very little impact. And to the extent that it does have some impact, one-third of the time, that impact is negative. Why is this the case?
Amantha: So you’ve done your research. So, yes, a few months ago I wrote an article for HBR around why feedback is sometimes not that helpful. Look, one of the biggest problems with feedback is that it tends to be past-focused. So, looking into the past as opposed to forward-looking. And what research has found is that if we can actually ask for advice as opposed to feedback, advice then tends to orient people to the future, and it tends to be more practical as well.
So, I would say, look, sometimes feedback can be useful, but a lot of the time it’s not. So instead of going with that instinct to say to someone “Hey, can you give me feedback on this presentation that you saw me deliver?” for example, instead going “Can you give me two or three bits of advice so that my presentation can be better in the future?” So it’s settled, but it gets people thinking about things that you could start to do as opposed to rehashing what you have always done. So that would be my advice.
Denver: Well, that’s good advice. If you’re telling me how I can get better as opposed to what I did wrong, that’s going to change the dynamic of that conversation, that’s for sure.
I looked at your company, and I find it to be a very interesting place. And what you seem to do… maybe I’m wrong about this, but you pilot ideas around the workplace, and then you see whether they’re going to work or not. If they work, you adopt them, and if they work, you encourage others to do them. One of those would be giving everyone unlimited holidays, unlimited leave. Tell us about that and the impact that that has had.
Amantha: So this was an initiative that we put in place over four years ago. I guess there were a few companies doing it at the time, but I think we were the first business in Australia to have an initiative like that.
So we gave everybody… well, the problem that we were trying to solve is probably the starting point to explain why we did this, is that as a management consultancy, people work long hours. They used to travel a lot, and there are kind of weeks, stints of weeks, sometimes a month or two, where work is really intense, and work-life balance was a problem that we were trying to solve for. How could we help people have more balanced lives and be able to recover from really intense periods of work?
So, we thought sometimes four-weeks annual leave, which is what we’re legally required to give to full-time staff in Australia, is just not enough. Like if you’ve got a big, 3-week holiday plan for the middle of the year or over Christmas, then that only leaves you with five days to play around with. And if you’re having a really intense time at work, sometimes you just need to take a couple of extra days, have a long weekend or have a week off. And that’s really hard when all your leave has been spoken for. So we thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if people could just take as much leave as they needed so that they could feel balanced at any given point in time?” So we call it the “policy rebalanced leave” because it was about taking leave, extra annual leave or paid time-off to feel balanced.
The way the media covered it, because we got a lot of media coverage for it, they called it unlimited paid leave, which theoretically it is. And for three years, it worked really well. So it definitely gave people much more flexibility. People started taking, about on average, five and a half weeks leave per year. So it increased by about a third, which was great, and that seemed to be pretty good.
And then probably sort of after the third year, we found that… just the policy began to be misinterpreted by the team because so much of the messaging was received by the media coverage that we were getting. And so people would plan like, two mega holidays a year before they even knew what they needed.
And then it was… and not because they were trying to abuse the policy, but it’s like we just don’t talk about it that much internally, and that’s the sense that they’re like, “‘Oh, this is what the policy means,” because we never had guidelines. It was always just “Here’s the intent behind the policy.” So that stopped working after about three years. And then, so we were like, “What should we do in its place?” And then, we’ve now moved to a four-day workweek, which has taken the place, and I’m happy to go into more detail there if that’s of interest.
Denver: Why would a four-day workweek not be of interest is what I want to know. Everybody wants to know about that initiative. How’s it working?
Amantha: It’s working brilliantly. So it’s been in place since July 1, 2020. And how it works… so the concept was pioneered by Andrew Barnes from Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand. And essentially, how it works is it’s 100% productivity. So people are meant to be as productive as you would expect from a full-time staff member, doing 80% of the time. So four normal length, seven- or eight-hour days, and at 100% remuneration, so paid at a full-time salary despite the fact that they’re essentially working 80% of the time.
Denver: Now, you get paid for five for doing four. Sounds good to me.
Amantha: Exactly. And so, we ran it as an experiment for six months and we tracked things like productivity, staff engagement, energy levels, stress levels, intention to leave. We obviously kept an eye on our financial goals as well. And at the end of the six-month period, everything had gone up, and many of the things have gone up statistically significantly, so by quite a large degree. And financially, we met our company goals two months early in terms of the first half of the financial year.
I think Australia runs on a different financial year to America, but yes, from the July to December period, we actually met our financial targets two months early, despite the fact that we’re working 80% of the time. So it’s been brilliant, and we’ve made it permanent. And to be honest, there hasn’t been a single downside so far.
Denver: That’s incredible. Well, let me ask you: How does that get done, though? You just said, if I heard you right, regular hours, not those super long days that everybody’s thinking of, from 7:00 to 10:00 or something like that. How do you get that much more production in 80% of the time? What were some of the things that went into doing that?
Amantha: It’s a really good question because to do that, you kind of go, “Well, you have to increase your productivity by at least 20%.” And we were already like a very high-performing, productive team because a lot of the work that we do with our clients is actually training them in how to be more productive, and we typically get productivity uplifts with our work of about 20% to 25% over a five-week period with the programs that we run. And we felt like we’re pretty good at optimizing our productivity, but there’s always room for more. We’re not perfect.
And so, I ran some additional productivity training with the team. People just use that time really wisely. Like if you think… and I should say we called the initiative “gift of the fifth,” because it is about the gift of time. Friday is the day that we take off. And what is in the back of your head the working week is going, “I’m really motivated to stay super-focused and to not be doing a just check of Insta or Facebook or TikTok or whatever during the working day, because I know that if I can get my job done in four normal-length days. I get the gift of Friday off.”
Whereas we’ve all had weeks. So typically, on average, we take it about 70% of the time. We take Friday off, but sometimes we don’t because either we haven’t had as productive a week as we want, or it’s an unusually busy week, and we just simply couldn’t fit it all in, which is fine. I will often do probably an hour’s worth of work on a Friday, but it’s because I want to as opposed to because I have to. I just sort of want to feel like I’ve wrapped up all the loose ends, and I’m really clear on my focus for the following week.
So it’s about being super diligent and conscientious with how you’re using your time, and I don’t think that most people really think in that way.
Denver: No. Occasionally what I do is I have a little timer, and I time myself when I’m doing tasks, and I really work hard all day. And at the end of the day, I’ve done five and a half hours. And I said, I’ve done 12 hours, but I’ve done five and a half.
And I guess if I worked at Inventium, and I knew that if I was really productive, I was going to have the gift of the fifth, I would be productive. We always take the allotted amount of time to do a job. If somebody says you have two hours, we’re going to take two hours. If somebody, you have 90 minutes, you’ll do it in 90 minutes. And it’s pretty much the same job. Sometimes even the hastened pace makes you do it better.
You’ve also been a big part of the Best Places to Work. Tell us a little bit about that initiative and maybe some of the threads you’ve seen of those people who’ve gone up the list of what makes them the best workplaces out there.
Amantha: So this is a competition that we run with the Australian Financial Review. And so, for those listeners that are not in Australia, which I assume is most… this is just kind of like the premier business publication in Australia, that if you’re working in business or corporate, you’d probably be reading it. And so, the list is a collaboration with them called the AFR Best Places to Work list, where we look for the best places to work across 10 different industries– so professional services, banking and finance, manufacturing, things like that. And the first list is going to be published in late April.
So we’ve done all the assessment, and look, there are certain things that the companies that did rank high on the list do. So, as we mentioned at the beginning, they’re purpose-driven, and their purpose is not to make money for shareholders. It’s something more meaningful than that. So that’s a really big one.
They’re also thinking very deeply around… for example, with diversity and inclusion, like thinking about what are really clever ways to help overcome a lot of the unconscious biases that we all have. And they’re kind of thinking beyond the obvious stuff. For example, we know that mandatory training around unconscious bias and trying to eliminate bias when it comes to trying to increase diversity… mandatory training isn’t actually that effective. Voluntary training is actually more effective. And then they’re thinking about the recruitment process when they’re bringing on new people, and: How do they eliminate bias from that? And there’s really interesting things that they’re doing.
They’re also thinking, above and beyond, around flexibility. So, maternity and paternity leave is very generous at the best places to work in terms of this new remote/hybrid working world. For them, they are giving staff more flexibility and not demanding that they come back to the office now that in Australia, offices are very much opening up. So there are a few things that we’re noticing.
Denver: And about that offices, so much of it, I think, gets down to trust because if you’re saying to me that I trust you to do your work on your own, and you don’t have to clock in, that is going to be so reciprocal because they trust me; then I’m going to be loyal to you and trust you. And that is just a virtuous circle that goes around.
We’ve talked about innovation. We talked a little bit about workplace culture. Let’s talk about personal productivity. Creating your Most Productive Workday. And that is the title of a free e-book you have on your website. So, let me start with this, and that is the importance of identifying your chronotype. OK. What are you talking about? What is my chronotype? And tell me why it is important for me to know what that is.
Amantha: Good question. So a chronotype, put very simply, is it’s the natural peaks and troughs of our energy level over a 24-hour period. And it’s been researched a lot by psychologists. You might’ve heard the term circadian rhythms, for example, and it basically determines when we naturally go to sleep, and when we’re naturally at our peak in terms of brainpower and thinking power.
So, broadly speaking, there are three types of chronotypes. There are larks who are your traditional morning people. They’re people that get up at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning without an alarm. It’s about anywhere between 16% to 20% of the population in terms of estimates. They are deeply annoying to owls who come to life at night. They do their best work when most offices are closed, unlike larks who do their best work between like 7:00 to 10:00 in the morning.
So owls are really disadvantaged by your average organization and working hours, and also by the school system as well. So they’re about 20% of the population, one in five. And then everyone else is a middle bird who loosely follows the patterns of a lark, albeit delayed by a couple of hours. So middle birds typically rise at about 7:00, 7:30 maybe 8:00 a.m., and then they’re going to be most productive between the hours of 9:00 to 12:00. or thereabouts.
So what we want to do is we want to identify a chronotype, and I can send you through a link for listeners to go to, to use one of the scientifically-validated tools out there to do that. And then you want to be structuring your day around your chronotype. So if you’re a lark or a middle bird, you really want to ideally avoid having meetings in the morning, unless those meetings require really deep, focused thinking — a lot of meetings do not — and that’s really your precious time where you should be working on your most important tasks.
Then, after lunch, we have a dip in energy — we all do no matter what our chronotype — between the hours of about 12:00 – 2:00 or 1:00 – 3:00. This is when you want to be doing less heavy lifting in terms of your brainpower. So this is a great time for work-in-progress meetings, or information-sharing meetings, or checking your email, or returning phone calls, things that are pretty light-on in terms of brainpower.
And then we have a rebound in the afternoon, but then obviously for owls, this is where they’re coming into their peak brainpower.
Denver: This reminds me of a very funny story up at Harvard, and one of the physics teachers there was an owl. And he was called in by the chairman of the department and was told that he had to teach an eight o’clock physics class the next semester. And he looked at him strangely. And eventually, the chairman of the department said, “Is that a problem?” He says, “Well, I don’t know if I can stay awake that long.”
Amantha: Oh, that’s great.
Denver: What are you?
Amantha: Lark-ish. So I typically wake naturally between about 6:00 and 6:30 a.m, so I used to be more lark-ish before COVID and before working from home, I typically wake at about 5:30, but now that I’m not driving to an office and Inventium is now fully remote, I’m about 6:00 to 6:30 a.m.
Multitasking is not a good thing, even though most of us do it… And what we know from Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan is that when we task-switch our way through our day or through a couple of tasks, things take about 40% longer.
Denver: Are you a fan of multitasking?
Amantha: No. Multitasking is not a good thing, even though most of us do it. Most of us do constantly switched tasks. We might be working on a report, and then we’re feeling a bit stuck, and then we’re like, “Oh, I’ll just dip into my inbox and check some emails and feel that false sense of progress that email gives me.” And then you remember, “Hang on. I meant to be writing this report.” So you switched back to the report, and then you get to a stuck point again, and then you dip into email. And that’s a classic example of multitasking or task-switching.
And what we know from Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan is that when we task-switch our way through our day or through a couple of tasks, things take about 40% longer, so it really adds to the day. So if you’re thinking about a four-day week, and doing five days’ worth of work in four, a really easy way to do that is to just stop multitasking. Or if you find yourself doing it because it’s very natural to do, particularly in the age of digital distraction, you need to become more consciously aware of it and just stop yourself. When you feel yourself multitasking, go “I’m making things take 40% longer. I just need to focus on one thing at the one time.”
Denver: Multitasking the way you describe it sounds like a good way to a six-day week.
Amantha: Very good way to a six-day week
Denver: Talk about digital because we all have a digital habit, if not a digital addiction. Are there some things that you can recommend to kind of get us off that?
Amantha: Definitely. So research from Rescue Time has found that the average person does a just check of their email or instant messenger every six minutes, which is nuts, but then I share that statistic with people, and people reflect on their own behavior and they’re like, “Yeah. Maybe I’m checking email quite a lot.” I think a lot of us do because it’s very addictive by nature.
We never know when that next good news email is coming into our inbox or that reply that we’ve been waiting for comes in. And then we get that dopamine hit, and it feels really good. And then, it encourages us to keep dipping into email just in case there’s something good there. Often, there’s not. It’s a reinforcement schedule called positive random reinforcement, which is far more addictive than a positive reinforcement schedule where we’re given that good news thing or that “like,” or whatever every time that we do it. So it’s random, and that’s why it’s so addictive.
So if you’re listening to this and going, “Yes. I feel like I do dip into email or social media or the news,” or any of those things that are designed to give you that dopamine hit, then what you want to avoid doing is using willpower. You don’t want to say. “OK. I’m just not going to check it for the next hour,” because that’s really hard, and our willpower is a limited resource, and it depletes quite quickly. So instead, what you want to do is you want to think about, “Well, what are some barriers that I can put in the way that just make it a little bit harder for me to do that?” And then you’ll start to change your habits far more easily.
So, a software that I really love is Freedom. So the website is freedom.to, and there is a free version, and I have no affiliation to the company other than I love it. And it’s website and software-blocking software. So you hop on freedom, create an account or install it, and then you basically say, “Freedom, don’t let me access this software, maybe Microsoft Outlook, for example, or these websites like Facebook, for example, between the hours of 9:00 – 12:00 in the morning, because that’s when I want to be doing really deep, focused work,” and Freedom locks you out.
So even if, out of habit, you’re like, “Oh, I’m just going to open up Instagram or Facebook,” or whatever just because you need a bit of a break, Freedom won’t let you do that. And it’s a really great way to start rewiring your brain and changing habits without the need for willpower.
Denver: That’s great. And maybe that leads me into one of my problems, and that is ending my workday because it’s… I have a real challenge doing that. Or maybe it’s very easy for me because I do it three or four different times, so that doesn’t sound like the way to go about it. But there is that email or that idea that pops into your head, and you just keep on coming back. Freedom would probably help address that. Anything else?
Amantha: Something really effective that you can do in terms of shutting down your day that will just help make it a really nice, clean but motivating end.
So we’ve experimented with this with our clients, and we found that it led to a huge increase in productivity and just general well-being. And so, at the end of the day, write two sentences. So, the first sentence is: Today, I made progress on… So think about something that you made progress on. So what we know from Professor Teresa Amabile from Harvard is that feeling a sense of progress in any given workday, like progress on meaningful projects, is the biggest driver of a motivation at work. So it’s really good to actually reflect on where have you made progress.
Then, the second sentence that I recommend writing is saying: Tomorrow will be a great day if I achieve X. And that then sets your focus for the following day. It identifies what is the most meaningful, important task that you could work on, and if you’re a lark or a middle bird, actually put that in your diary to work on in the morning, and it just sets your day up for success. So that you’re not kind of starting your day and checking your inbox and procrastinating. It’s like, “This is my focus. This is the first thing I’m doing.”
So two simple sentences, doing that every day or even a few times a week, we found that that led to, in our research, led to about a 46% increase in productivity and a 23% increase in well-being, just over a two-week period of doing that.
And so, what that’s doing is when you say “I don’t do something,” it’s like that’s deep into your self-identity. Like, “I don’t eat chocolate. OK. Well, I don’t want to be inconsistent with my self-identity,” so it’s easy to make that choice… So, if you’re trying to change a habit and break a bad habit, for example, just saying “I don’t do this” is really, really helpful.
Denver: I can see that. That’s really brilliant. And sometimes, once you start to talk about tomorrow, it kind of does close today, and one thing that I’ve always done, which is somewhat similar to that when I write is, I always try to end in the middle of a sentence because when I start the next day, I got my on-ramp to finish that sentence as opposed to that blank piece of paper, which intimidates me.
Another subtle difference that you made, which I really thought was wonderful, was the distinction between saying “I can’t do that” and “I don’t do that.” Now, what’s the difference?
Amantha: So there was some really interesting research done by Vanessa Patrick, and she was looking at the impact of language on actually changing our behavior. So she set up a study where she brought a bunch of people into the lab, and it was all about healthy eating. And one group was taught the strategy rather than saying, “I can’t have chocolate or insert unhealthy thing there, saying “I don’t eat chocolate,” for example. And then another group was taught just some general strategies.
What they found is that the group that were taught the “I don’t” strategy in terms of their self-talk, were actually… so when the participants were asked to leave the experiment room, the cracks of the experiment happened, and they were actually given a choice of a healthy muesli bar or something that was unhealthy. I think it was like a chocolate bar or something. And they found that the group that were taught the “I don’t” strategy was significantly more likely, and from memory, about 50% more likely to take the healthy bar as opposed to the unhealthy one.
And so, what that’s doing is when you say “I don’t do something,” it’s like that’s deep into your self-identity. Like, “I don’t eat chocolate. OK. Well, I don’t want to be inconsistent with my self-identity, so it’s easy to make that choice.” Whereas when it’s like, “I can’t do something,” it’s like, “Oh, I can’t do that. Oh, that feels exhausting and annoying. Oh, OK. Maybe I will. Maybe I will just this once.” So, it’s kind of easier to talk yourself into it.
So, if you’re trying to change a habit and break a bad habit, for example, just saying “I don’t do this” is really, really helpful.
Denver: That’s a great point. because I tell you when I hear “I don’t,” I feel very assertive. And when I hear “I can’t do that,” it sounds like somebody has told me I can’t do it, and I have to follow somebody else’s directions. So it comes from a place of weakness. I’m very rebellious anyway, you know what I mean? So just tell me I can’t do it, and there I go.
You have one of the most popular podcasts, Amantha, in all of Australia called How I Work. Tell us about it.
Amantha: So on How I Work, I set out with the question that there are lots of people that are really successful in their field, but they’ve got the same amount of hours in the day as the rest of us. So I thought surely they’re doing something differently in how they run their days, how they structure their days, how they think about productivity than the rest of us mere mortals.
And so, every Thursday, I have someone on the show who’s really at the top of their field. So some of the people that have been on the show include Adam Grant, Wharton professor and host of the WorkLife podcast; Dan Pink, who’s quite a well-known author and TED talker; Matt Mullenweg, who co-founded WordPress, which powers about 30% of the internet; Amanda Palmer, the musician; Abbi Jacobson, the comedian.
So I interviewed them all to understand: How do they work? So it’s a very practical podcast where I’m trying to extract what are the practical tips and tactics that they’re using that listeners can adopt in their own lives. So that’s How I Work.
Denver: Well, let me close with this, Amantha, then. Can you share with us maybe a favorite tip or tactic that one of your guests has passed along?
Amantha: So, there’s so many. One that I got recently actually, which was an unusual one, but it really made me think differently about how I use my computer was from Rahul Vohra, who’s the founder of Superhuman, which I got to say is the best email software on the planet. I love it so much.
And something that he thinks about is how can he use his mouse less, like his computer mouse, because if we can learn more keyboard shortcuts and rely more on our keyboard, when we’re doing things on our computer as opposed to the mouse, it significantly speeds things up, which I’d never heard before as a productivity tip. But now I’m actually going to the effort to learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts. So I really love that.
A really extreme tip I heard, which I liked, came from Brian Scudamore, who’s the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? And he’s over in America. And something that he does to resist the temptation to check email and social media on holidays, because he takes his holidays seriously. He’s like, “I need a complete break. There’s no emergencies that can’t be solved through everyone else in the company when I’m on holidays.” He gets his assistant to change his email and social media passwords.
Denver: That’s brilliant.
Amantha: So he literally cannot log in. And while I’m sure not every listener is going to have an assistant that can do that, surely you have a friend that can do that for you. So if you really want to take a clean break from digital consumption, I just thought that’s an awesome hack.
Denver: It really is. It better be a good friend, though, so that they tell you what it is so you don’t lose your job.
Amantha: Someone that actually writes it down, so you can get back in.
Denver: Yes. Absolutely. Tell us about your website, Amantha, and also about the podcast and where people can go and access it.
Amantha: Sure. So if people want to learn more about what I do and what Inventium does, go to inventium.com.au. And if you’re looking for help with productivity or innovation, we can do that.
People can find me at amanthaimber.com or on LinkedIn. I think I’m the only Amantha Imber. I’m one of the only Amanthas on LinkedIn. And with the How I Work podcast: just search for How I Work wherever you listen to podcasts.
Denver: Well, I guess that “S” before Amantha got lost somewhere along the way. I want to thank you, Amantha, for being here today. It was just a delight to have you on the show.
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