I caught one of those winter colds over the holidays, the type of thing that comes along every holiday period, and spreads like wildfire, felling thousands in its path as it wreaks its havoc.

All of a sudden it seemed like everyone across the country was getting sick as a huge miasmic stain rippled through the landmass. It got me thinking about how a virus is properly viral, in comparison to what we’re used to seeing in cyber security and social social media circles.

Then again, Internet malware and viruses do move pretty darn fast as well, now that I think about it. Social media memes or other concepts move rapidly too, but not with quite the accelerating destructive force of Internet-borne badness we’ve been used to seeing in the noughties and early teens of this century.

As business people, or people seeking to influence consumers, we long for our own thing to go viral, hoovering up support like a giant tornado, getting ever stronger and increasing our wealth accordingly. The physical reminder of seeing and experiencing real physical infection at speed served to remind me of the power that important new ideas have.

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Wouldn’t it be great if there was a such a thing as a nano-nap? Not a 20-minute power nap, but an actual split-second recharge? Now that would be worth something. What a time-saver that would be.

I’ve never been one for day-time naps, they’re just not my thing. I’d much prefer to keep going during the day and head to bed knowing I’m in for some serious deep sleep. My brothers, on the other hand, have been known to curl up under the desk at the drop of a hat.

I thought I had coined the term when I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. I liked the consonance and flow of it. Turns out, according to the old google, it exisits already in the form of a short nap of between 1 and 10 minutes.

Not quite a split-second, one-blink-and-you’re-back kind of thing though, a proper nano-nap.

One of the things my Dad used to say to me when he was coaching me on how to take a good exam was this: read the rubric. He was the only person I know who regularly used the term.

It pays to read the rubric, or the instructions on how to do something, even if you think you know what you’re doing. If the exam tells you to answer any 4 of the following 10 questions, and they’re all worth the same points, then answer 4 and spend about a quarter on each one before to the next. If it says you must answer all questions, answer them all if you can. If one question is more points than others, make sure it gets the right amount of time allocated to it.

Sometimes the rubric or instructions are simply too long to bother reading, like a car manual’s. This is why a lot of good companies also now produce a quick start guide, a much short document that gets you up and running and gives you the really key stuff.

Read the rubric. It gets you in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. Unless you’re absolutely sure what you’re doing, a quick double check never hurts.

Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

I saw the headline of an article the other day, and clicked on it, because it looked of interest. Except I had clicked on for the wrong reason, or at least my analysis was wrong.

The headline was: When is a Sale a Sale? I thought it was a cool article about defining when you have successfully closed a sale; some new insight on sales methodology. What we would call closing a deal in B2B. Is it a sale because the customer commits to the order verbally? Is it the receipt of the PO or the contract? Or is it the payment of the invoice or the handover of the cash?

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The article was a consumer-focused piece about what constitutes a selling event, the other kind of sale. It was about the retail industry trending towards a state of permanent sales and how difficult it is now to differentiate a true sales event and a retail status that is claiming ‘special’ sales status when it really isn’t.

Not to mention how difficult it is for retailers to get out of that sales spiral and protect their margins.

So, two different kinds of sale, and I clicked through under false pretences, but an interesting skim-read nonetheless.

On the 4th of January 2009 I started a food diary. Actually it was kind of an everything diary. Weight, health and fitness activities, the weather, and a quick scribbled account of what I got up to that day. It detailed exactly what I had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and other snacks, how much water I drank, and how much alcohol. When I look back, I would say that, arbitrarily, it’s 90% accurate. Oh, and there was a two week summer holiday where I recorded the information on my phone and accidentally deleted it before it got to my laptop…

Today marks over 10 years of my food diary. If I want to know – I doubt you will – exactly what I ate, drank and filled my day with on any one of the last three-and-a-half thousand days, I can find out in a couple of clicks.

I blogged some time ago about the benefits of keeping a food diary. It keeps you honest, and that helps with health and weight management. For example, I’m about 2 pounds/1 kilo lighter now than I was a decade ago. I’ve probably lost a bit of muscle tone and maybe 2 centimetres of height, but for someone who during that time moved from his fifth decade into his sixth, I think that’s a pretty decent achievement.

The collected data from 2009 to now must be of some value to someone, I would have thought? If you think so, do let me know.

As you may know, I like round numbers and I like doing things for a set amount of time before I call it a day. I’ve mentioned more than once how I may stop at 1,000 blog posts.

Maybe today will be my last food diary entry. Then again, I was going to retire at 30, 40 and 50…

Do we engage in human hibernation? I think we do, to a certain degree. I know I do, to a larger degree.

January is my hibernation month. I love Christmas, it’s my favourite part of the year, but then New Year’s Day always comes around so quickly.

In golfing western Ireland, when you hit a low ‘scuttery’ shot along the ground, instead of hitting one that flies like an angel, you sometimes call it a ‘kiss me erse’ shot. That’s January for me. It’s a bit of a kiss me erse month. You’ve no money, the nights are long and cold, you know you should be gambolling off to the gym like a March lamb, and there’s very little sport to commend itself.

I always try to delay my return to work as late as possible in January, to make it a shorter working month. It’s a month for making lists, putting the fire on and planning what you’re going to do with the year, if only you can get 8-and-one-third percent of it out of the way first.

Pretty soon, the 1st of February comes around, it’s a short month, and Rugby’s 6 Nations and Football’s Champions’ League ease us into the year proper. Happy Days.

But for now, let me pull the proverbial duvet over my head and give me a nudge in 4 weeks’ time.

Well, a happy new year to you, if you, like I, follow the western Gregorian thingamabob.

2019 marks the seventh year during which I’ve blogged – not yet my seventh year blogging if you follow the distinction – since I put my first blog post down in September 2013. Since then it’s been a 3-times-a-week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, regular as clockwork.

By the end of this year, I’ll be about a dozen posts short of 1,000 blog posts. Once you get into 4-figure territory, that probably puts you in the top 1% of bloggers in terms of output. I don’t think I’ve ever been the top 1% of anything, yet I’m willing to bet that it will feel exactly the same in early 2020 when I hit that threshold.

If you’ve read at least one of my blog posts in each of those 7 years, then I thank you, and I also admire you in equal measure.

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to wish you a most healthy and prosperous 2019. May it bring you almost all, but not absolutely all, that you hoped for. Stay hungry – not literally.

I’m on holiday as you read this. I’m not even in the country where I normally write these posts. I’ve jetted off with the family I helped to create to visit the family I was born into, as many of you do this time of year.

It’s a time for taking stock, considering where you are, and what you’re going to change or do differently next year. I always try and take off between Christmas and New Year if I can. I’m very conscious of people who work in the service industry, or people like my friend who works in the supply chain industry, that this time of year has a very stop-start feel to it. They can’t use this time of year for taking stock, they have to do it another time.

You can’t take stock in a couple of days. You need at least a week’s run at it, so you can decompress, assess and figure out the old traffic lights: what will I give the red light to and stop doing, what will I review on amber, and what will I give the green light to and continue or start doing? Then you can recoil yourself, ready to get into it.

Some people like to be working this time of the year, with a day or two off here and there. Some people have to work. I’m lucky, I have the luxury of not having to, usually, and so for me it’s a good time for taking a break, taking soundings from others and taking stock.

When we’re taught the rudiments of writing a press release, we’re sometimes encouraged to get to the ‘five w’s’ in the first paragraph. Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Why is often the last W to be addressed, and it’s probably the most important W. Why are we doing this? What impact are we hoping to have?

I remember an ad campaign for a national newspaper a few years ago, for a broadsheet rather than a tabloid, which was all about the why. I thought it was a great campaign. The answer to why is this happening or why did this happen is the most informative answer.

Why is a very pertinent question to ask in business as well. Why are we doing this? Why are we in business? This is a concept popularised by Simon Sinek in his book Starting With Why. I hadn’t heard about the author or the concept until a good friend told me about it some time ago. It’s a really simple and profound way of thinking about your business or your organisation and what its purpose for existing is.

I love the concept, but I haven’t read the book yet. It’s sitting digitally on my Kindle, working its way up my list and I’ll get to it over the holidays. What we do is something every company knows. How we do it is something that a smaller proportion of them knows. Only the very special ones understand, throughout the organisation, why they do what they do, why they’re in business in the first place, and that’s where great organisations should start. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the book, take exactly 5 minutes to watch this abridged TED talk, it’s well worth it.

Then you can ask yourself the question why are you in business. And if you don’t have a good answer, maybe start a new organisation with a new answer.