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Prioritizing is a pain.

But only when it’s about you.

In fact, it’s often super easy to do for others. When we listen to someone explain their struggles, we tend to know quickly what they should focus on.

But for ourselves? That’s super hard. It means letting go of opportunities and it invites failure: What if it’s the wrong priority? What about the external driving forces? There are bills to pay. Customers to satisfy. Employees to care for. Also, there’s this new trend that would open up great new opportunities and potentially skyrocket parts of our business.

But the bitter truth is this: If we don’t prioritize then someone else will do it for us. And if it’s not someone, it’s time. The one thing we can be certain of is that there are always going to be more things to do than we’ve got time to do them.

Basically, if we don’t prioritize we’re delegating the decision. If that’s not what you want, then you’ll have to make the decision yourself.

What makes it harder than it should be is when we think that our decision would be final. That it would need to be the right decision.
It doesn’t.

There’s always the possibility to change course. Revise our decision. Use new data to make a new decision.

Here are 10 thoughts that might help you with finding your focus for now: https://michaelgerharz.com/focus.

How not to buy tea

I wanted to buy tea. Easy, right?


Our local supermarket carries hundreds of different teas. Which means that for someone like me who is not an expert tea drinker it’s not easy to find the right one. Luckily (or not), the supermarket figured that out, too. So, they put up some signs for better orientation.

And achieved the opposite.

I’ve never counted the number of signs in the image above which is an actual photograph of the tea aisle in that supermarket. It’s a crazy number of signs. There are large signs and small ones. Some indicate the cheaper ones, others the new ones. Some indicate the organic ones. Some are even combinations of these. All of them wildly spread across the aisle.

The thing is: I’m only going to buy one tea, maybe two or three. Certainly not 50. But how am I supposed to choose?

The trouble with so many signs is that I don’t even know where to start looking. They are meant to provide orientation, but due to their sheer number they actually provide disorientation.

This is a general observation regarding prioritisation. When everything’s important, nothing’s important.

This approach delegates the task of prioritising to the customer.

That’s true for your marketing problem, too. If you don’t focus, you’re essentially delegating that task to your audience. If you put up too many signs, you’re asking them to prioritise.

The bad news is that – just like me in the supermarket – they will. They will pick one message, maybe two. Certainly not 23.

(And if things go really bad, they will just leave without any tea, frustrated with the paradox of choice.)

Embracing weaknesses

In school we learn that it’s best to have no weak spots.

In real life, however, it turns out that acknowledging our weak spots allow us to really let our strengths shine.

Here’s a great example from Transfer Wise (now know as Wise), an international money transfer service, who once published this customer experience on their site (emphasis mine):

“Great exchange rates, much better than the competition. The transfer could be a bit faster. For me it took five business days to get my funds.“

Being razor sharp about the fact that “fast” is a weak spot, Wise gains two things:

Simplified decision making. By focusing on one priority rather than juggling two (or more) priorities, they avoid the struggle to decide which of the two is the real priority for any given situation. “Cheap” is their top priority, not “fast”. Always. Whenever they face a choice between two services, one of which is quicker while the other is cheaper, the decision makes itself.

Clear positioning. By being upfront about their priority they filter their customers. If you care for fast, they might not be for you, but if you care for cheap, they clearly are.

Even more: By surfacing their weak spot, they reinforce their strong spot. They will compromise everything else for being the cheapest and they have no problem telling you so.

It’s about time to ditch the school approach to weaknesses.

Nobody’s perfect in a wider range of areas. Nobody can be.

Pretending to be is lying (in the worst case, even to yourself).

Acknowledging our weaknesses, even embracing them, allows us to let our strengths shine. When we can’t have it all, then setting a priority, doing it consciously, and being upfront about it, is – in my experience – a much healthier approach than trying to hide our weaknesses.

(And while we’re at it, why not stop associating “weaknesses” with failures.)

More than one priority

Having more than one priority is one of the reasons why decision making in some companies feels so difficult.

Imagine we are SuperSafe Corp and we build safes. We want to build the safest, most affordable safes. Now what does that mean when faced with a decision among the two attributes?

E.g. when faced with the decision between two different materials, one of which is safer but more expensive, what do we do? Do we make it safer or more affordable?

Making both attributes a priority turns every decision like this into a struggle.

If, however, our priority was to make “the safest safe under 10.000$”, then the decision basically makes itself: If it fits in the budget, then go for the safer material, else don’t. We have turned one priority into a constraint.

When we have two priorities at the same time it means that we want two different things at the same time. This can easily lead us into a conflict. Wanting to do one thing but knowing that there’s a border you can’t or won’t cross, is different.

The lazy designer

So, I’m not a designer. But I design all my visuals myself. I’ve adapted a posture that I call “the posture of the lazy designer” and I thought you might be interested in it.

I think that good designers are – in a way – lazy designers. For three reasons:

1. They will not start a design until they have clarity about what to design. Who is it for? What’s the change? Why do we need that visual? Once you’re clear about what to design the how becomes much easier (and much more efficient).

2. They will let the content make as many decisions as possible. If your piece makes any sense, there will be tons of correlations among the contents. Make use of them. Things that belong together are placed close together, things that don’t are spatially separated. Things that are the same look the same. Things that are different look different (not just a bit but no-doubt-different).

3. They will make effective use of constraints. One color is enough to design almost anything. Two might be useful in many situations. Three? Depends. The same is true for almost anything: fonts, shapes, you name it. A good rule of thumb is this: Stick with the smallest selection unless you have a strong reason not to, i.e. unless you have a strong reason to add to the selection of fonts, colors, shapes etc., avoid it.

Are you strong enough for PowerPoint?

… because you need to be strong to use PowerPoint in a meaningful way.

PowerPoint can turn a great story into a great presentation. But more often than not it does just the opposite. It’s a tool to turn great content into confusing presentations.

PowerPoint invites us to skip clarity and fill slides instead. When we fire up the app, the screen basically says: let’s go and start to write everything that comes to your mind onto a slide. Making bad things worse, we recall having done just that quite recently, so we go hunting for slides that we’ve already got from previous presentations.

PowerPoint doesn’t care the least bit whether, at this point, we already have an understanding of who will be sitting in front of us, why she will be sitting there and what matters to her. PowerPoint favours quantity over quality.

PowerPoint also invites us to set the wrong priorities. When the slides start to fill up, there are all sorts of buttons waiting for us to go looking for fonts, choosing colors, drawing diagrams, designing animations, moving slides etc.

PowerPoint doesn’t care the least bit whether, at this point, we’ve already nailed our storyline, which slides we actually need to make our point and what these slides need to convey in order to make the point. PowerPoint favours “that looks good” over “that’s interesting, relevant and exciting”.

In fact, PowerPoint is happy to eat up all of our preparation time with filling slides and tinkering with the design. After all, a lot of carefully crafted slides look like you’ve worked a lot and achieved a lot – while clarity in your thinking isn’t visible at all from the outside.

Yet, audiences prefer a clear story over confusing slides every single time. PowerPoint will not help you find that clarity. It wants you to make slides. And more of them. And more. You’ll need clarity before you fire up PowerPoint. Without clarity, it’s quite likely that a lot of the time you spend in PowerPoint is just wasted. I’m even willing to take a bet that the earlier you start using PowerPoint in the process of creating a presentation, the greater the risk of wasting time.

But if you are strong enough to resist. If you answer the important questions before firing up PowerPoint. Then it’s a great tool to turn your story into a great presentation.

Be strong! Resist PowerPoint! Start with clarity!

The 5 most important things are probably not as important as you think

If your service is anything but trivial there’s a lot you could tell us about it. I bet you could easily fill an hour speaking about fascinating details about the product.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that I, too, must understand all these details. Yet, when I don’t, what happens? Or if I just don’t care about the details? Then what happens? What if I remember only 4 out of the top 5 things I need to remember about your product?

A more useful approach is to think about the most important thing. And that thing could even be a feeling. Actually, more often than not people fall in love with a product not because of the details but because of how it makes them feel.

The fascinating part is this: If that most important thing really does make a difference for me, if I really do care about it improving a profound aspect of my life, then I will automatically dig deeper and I will want to know more.

That’s what matters: How does your product impact me? Rather than me having to learn something about you, things get much easier for you if you learn about me.

Das beste Café der Welt

Zeig ihnen drei Stücke Kuchen, jedes davon leckerer als das andere. Jedes davon so lecker, dass sie nicht widerstehen können. Jedes davon so lecker, dass sie unbedingt das zweite auch noch probieren wollen.

Und wenn sie wiederkommen, um das dritte Stück zu probieren, dann haben sie ihre Freunde dabei. Und du hast genug für alle da. Und vielleicht noch einen vierten Kuchen.

Und beim nächsten Mal haben die Freunde wiederum ihre Freunde dabei.

Viel zu oft versuchen wir, den Menschen gleich einen ganzen Kuchen statt eines einzelnen Stückes zu verkaufen. Dabei sind sie noch satt vom Mittagessen und haben für abends schon einen Tisch im Restaurant reserviert. Deswegen lehnen sie dankend ab.

Oder sie sind schier überfordert von der Auswahl, weil wir ihnen gleich die Rezepte von allen 32 Kuchen in schwärmerischen Details erklären, so dass sie bei Nr. 25 schon nicht mehr wissen, was Nr. 7 eigentlich war (dabei lieben sie eigentlich Marzipan).

Weil wir vor Stolz auf unser Angebot platzen, erzählen wir viel zu viel, hören viel zu wenig zu, wollen so viel wie möglich auf einmal verkaufen … und riskieren auf diese Weise, am Ende gar nichts zu verkaufen.

Zuhören und Auswählen sind die unterschätzten Fähigkeiten, ebenso der Mut, Prioritäten zu setzen. Die Menschen müssen nicht ihre ganze Ernährung auf unseren Kuchen umstellen, schon gar nicht sofort. Machen wir sie lieber zu Fans, die dauerhaft zu uns kommen und immer wieder neue Freunde mitbringen.

Wichtig oder nicht wichtig

Entweder ist es dir wichtig oder nicht. Es gibt keinen Mittelweg. Und wenn es dir wichtig ist, dann geh den Weg zu Ende. – Stanley Kubrick

Wenn Sie nicht bereit sind, den Weg zu Ende zu gehen, dann ist es Ihnen nicht wirklich wichtig.

Ein bisschen verständlich, ein bisschen eindringlich, ein bisschen überzeugend ist den Aufwand nicht wert, denn es ist als Ziel schlecht unterscheidbar von gar nicht verständlich, gar nicht eindringlich, gar nicht überzeugend.

Wenn Sie Ihr Produkt nur ein bisschen verkaufen wollen, ist es dann also ok, wenn die Kunden nicht kaufen?

Wenn Sie Ihre Mitarbeiter nur ein bisschen inspirieren wollen, nehmen Sie dann in Kauf, dass es doch so weiter geht wie bisher?

Und wenn Sie Ihre Zuhörer nur ein bisschen überzeugen wollen, sind dann Zweifel also angebracht?

Entweder Sie wollen, dass man Sie versteht oder nicht. Entweder Sie wollen inspirieren oder nicht. Entweder Sie wollen verkaufen oder nicht. Ihr Publikum spürt, wenn Sie nicht bereit sind, den Weg zu Ende zu gehen.

Das entscheidende Wort dabei ist „nicht“. Erst dadurch, dass Sie zu den meisten Aspekten „nicht wichtig“ sagen, ist es möglich, zu den richtigen Sachen „wichtig“ zu sagen und das auch so zu meinen. Erst dann können Sie diesen Weg auch zu Ende gehen und den Aufwand investieren, der nötig ist, um das Ende zu erreichen.

12 Fragen: 10. PowerPoint ist das Letzte?

Ja, das Letzte, an das Sie bei der Vortragsvorbereitung denken sollten.

Tolle Folien können gute Präsentationen zu großartigen Präsentationen machen – aber niemals retten sie eine schlechte. Also: Erst die Story, dann die Folien, die genau dazu passen (wenn Sie denn überhaupt welche brauchen).

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz



Yes, I love talking to you. Call me at +49.2241.8997777
Or reach out at michael@michaelgerharz.com