300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Brain Dump

I was on a commuter train recently, heading to a Chicago suburb for drinks with friends. As I settled into my book, a young woman took the seat beside me. It was the 5 o’clock express train, and she was one of the many business professionals heading home at the end of the day. She took out a notebook, sighed a couple of times, and started writing. The heading on the page read, “July 12, 2018: Brain Dump.”

Now, I admit that I’m a curious over-the-shoulder-reader. (And if you are the guy who felt ogled at the Kansas City airport, I truly just wanted to see which Paul Auster book you were reading.) But this time my over-the-shoulder-glances didn’t register any content. I was too wrapped up in the idea of a “brain dump”—freeing items, thoughts, tasks, etc. from the mind by moving it to paper.

Think about it. The best time to remember anything is when it’s fresh in your mind and before you’ve moved on to something else, and for me that something else could be as mundane as, “Where did I park my car?”

On the train, as my seat mate penned her list, the sighs became fewer. I don’t know if she later used that list to create a plan of attack, but I know that’s what I’d do. Since I use TeuxDeux, my brain dump becomes to-do items, assigned to a specific day according to deadline or realistic expectations. (I don’t like lofty to-do items that follow me, unfinished, day to day. They become dead weight.)

So before you walk out of the store today, take 300 seconds to try your own brain dump. Remembering to share The New Yorker’s adaptation of Knausgaard’s “The Trouble With Dogs for a Writer” with the proven fans in your database might mean more sales of Summer this week.

And now that that’s out of my brain, I can search for my car.

300 Seconds: Back To Reality

Do you have just 300 seconds to devote to marketing today? Take those 5 minutes to ease back into reality if you’re just getting home from Winter Institute, or to just do a mental reset if you never left.

If you have been at Winter Institute, this might mean implementing a new idea borrowed from another store. Or it just might include looking through those business cards you collected and adding action items to your to-do list. Did you promise a publisher a review? Publishers, did you promise a bookseller a galley? Add these to your list and attach a deadline. (And if you can delegate, even better.)

What items on your to-do list are weighing on your mind? Have they actually been added to your to-do list? Sometimes the act of writing down your tasks and prioritizing them allows you to free your mind to focus on the task at hand.

Sometimes a long to-do list can be daunting. (Mine is so long I’m almost embarrassed.) But if you just tackle it one item at a time, you’ll be able to make good progress even if it’s in 300 second increments.

300 Seconds: No #backwardsbooks, please.

300 Seconds: No #backwardsbooks, please.

The #backwardsbooks design trend on Twitter and Instagram might be dividing the internet, but I’m fairly sure I can guess on which side of the debate most booksellers would side.

You know how much thought goes into cover design–and by extension–spine design.They’re meant to attract and intrigue. Covers and spines are meant to be seen. 

Take 300 seconds today and look around your store. Do you see colorful covers and spines? Or do you see stacks of white pages on shelf and table tops? To make full use of the design, rotate those stacks of books so the spines are visible to those approaching the display.

Do you have extra room on your shelves? Fill that space by turning a few books face-out.

These covers and spines are designed to sell. Let’s make sure they can be seen.

300 Seconds: Website Check

When it comes to these 300-second tasks, I often focus on the store website because it is often the public face of your store, especially after business hours. If you have an eCommerce site, it’s more than a glorified YellowPages ad. In a way, you’re always open. 

Take 5 minutes today and check the content of your site. Click on menu items to make sure the links are working. Do any of the landing pages read “coming soon” or reflect maintenance? Use your 300 seconds to make a list of those pages, and then use open moments during the day to develop a plan of attack.

Also, take a moment to see how your site looks on a phone or tablet. One of my favorite stores has the search option in the right column. It looks good on my laptop, but when I want to search for an item from my phone, I have to scroll past a quite a bit of content just to get to the search box. It’s not a deal-breaker, but sometimes I do wish it were positioned closer to the top.

Remember that you can enlist your staff to help with something like this, too. Ask them to look at the site from a computer and from a phone and try to order a book, taking notes along the way. Try not to take the suggestions as criticism. Just remember that the end goal is a great customer experience.

300 Seconds: Tis the Season?

If you still have holiday decor up in your store, hey, I’m not one to judge. One year I threw a party on February 25 just so my friends could help remove ornaments from my tree.

If you have decided it’s time to switch out the seasonal theme, you might take 300 seconds to walk through the store to make sure you’ve caught all of the hidden places.

Look at your front door for posters or signs that might be out of date. Glance at your website to make sure it doesn’t have any stray holiday messages. Check your answering machine, the bottom of your receipts, and even your wrapping paper selection. Sometimes we become so accustomed to seeing items in our daily lives we do not realize they’ve expired.

And if you’re free the evening of February 25, the festivities begin at 7.