Three tips to beat the curse of busy

Ants are busy

When someone asks, ‘how are you?’ is your standard default ‘really busy’? Are you constantly responding to urgent and important requests on different devices with no time to think straight? Do you feel like you are on a hamster wheel running round and around with no time to stop and consider what you are doing? You are not alone. In the recent Lucidity Innovation Launchpad survey 82% of people told us they don’t have time to think because they are too busy fire-fighting everyday tasks and managing an ever increasing ‘to-do’ list with no time to do it because they are in constant meetings, juggling conflicting priorities and are stressed out at being pulled in all directions.

Is your standard default ‘really busy’?

Based on our research and experience it would seem that we are in the midst of a busyness epidemic. Huffington Post described busyness as a sickness. And we would agree since excessive busyness can cause fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain.

We’re so busy responding to other people’s ‘urgent and important’ we don’t take stock of whether the activities are truly urgent or important. We don’t take time to consider, if what we are busy about, are the right activities that will get us the best results. The stress levels associated with this sort of constant busyness are bad for us. Our health suffers, concentration ebbs, decision making is impacted, we miss opportunities and we can lack focus and become inward looking.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

That’s why over at the Lucidity Network we put some training material together on beating the curse of busy and making time to think. Here are our top three tips:

Tip 1. Work when you are at your best Humans are not programmed to work between the conventional office working hours of 9-5. Some people are best early morning, others are night owls, and some thrive at 3pm. Save time by working out how you can do the most difficult stuff that requires real thinking when you are at your Note your working patterns over the next week and notice when you do your best thinking. When are you in a slump? Start to plan your day to do the difficult tasks when you are at your best and take a nap (we’re serious) or do the tasks that take less concentration when you are in your slump.

Tip 2. Get rid of distractions If you are attempting to do meaningful work turn off all distractions. Switch off your email, put your phone out of reach where you can’t check Facebook or WhatsApp and turn off all notifications. If you work in an office put headphones on (even if you are not playing anything through them, they can signal ‘do not disturb’ or if your office environment is too distracting book a meeting room or work from home. Interruptions stop your flow and your brain’s thought process. Once you are distracted, the brain has to find where it was, re assess the situation, and then make the effort to get back to that stopping point. That can take 15 minutes per distraction which adds up to a massive amount of wasted time. Research also shows that people in a flow state are five times more productive than they otherwise would be. Turn off all your notifications, for example on email, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to give yourself a chance of concentrating for more than 10 seconds.

Tip 3. Work in short bursts Humans work best in short bursts. The optimum short burst time i.e. the length of time worked vs when a break is needed will vary from person to person. Start by sitting down to focus on a piece of work for 45 minutes. Then give yourself a 15-minute break. Set an alarm to make sure you do it. Go for a walk around. Have a stretch. Breaking up your time prevents boredom and helps you to maintain a high quality of work. Lengthen and shorten your bursts to work out your optimum time.

And I’ll give you an extra one for free. Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is simply not effective. It’s true that we can do several tasks at once, but we don’t do any single one of them well. Researchers have shown it’s more efficient to do one task after another rather than several things at once.

The Lucidity Network offers more help on making time to think, including a webinar interview where Productivity Ninja Grace Marshall shares her best tips for productivity as well as training bundles on resilience, confidence and creativity. It’s a community of generous people who help each other get the important work done. Facilitated via a Facebook Community with group coaching, mastermind groups and online content to help you tackle the complexities of working life that didn’t come with the management handbook. Click here for more information and to join the Lucidity Network.

The pitfalls of flexible working and how to avoid them

The pitfalls of flexible working

The world is changing too fast to think you’ll be working in the same role for long and the notion of a career for life is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist. In addition to the changes affecting permanent employment, freelancing is on the increase as people opt for a more flexible working lifestyle and swap the morning commute for a desk at home or a local coffee shop.

On a day to day basis, those working in conventional 9 to 5 jobs are also experiencing a shift in working style as flexible working, part-time hours, working from home and hot-desking (hot-desking policies often driven by cutting overheads as flexible working and an increasing part-time workforce means less desk space is needed) are becoming increasingly common.

We no longer need to meet people face-to-face in real life to get work done. Technology is a massive enabler to remote working for full-time employees and freelancers, for example, there’s plenty of free video conferencing options to choose from as well as sites like Fiver springing up where freelancers can get paid their expertise from anywhere and to anywhere in the world.

There’s a ton of benefits of working at any time from anywhere to freelancers, business owners and employers, but like any new system or way of working there are realities that get overlooked. For example;

It can be lonely working from home. I know this from personal experience.  When I first went from working in an office to working at home it hit me. I really missed my colleagues. I missed being able to bounce ideas and sense check things with them. If you work from home you must be able to deal with being on your own for long periods of time and if you are an employer you have a duty of care to staff to make sure they can manage the isolation of working from home.

Stress levels are rising as flexible working means we don’t switch off from work. We constantly check our phones, answer our emails and update our social media. This constant ‘being on’ is not good for our physical or mental health.

Hot-desking increases germs and illness in the office. According to the reputable publication, The Sun Your desk could be harbouring 400 times more germs than a toilet seat”. Sensationalist perhaps, but the incidence of germs spread around the office is greater when you are hot-desking and using different computers than when you keep your germs to themselves at your own desk.  

Your employees might object. I’m an advocate of hot-desking to create the water-cooler moments that spark innovation and creativity. However, water cooler moments rely on people speaking to each other. When people resent being told to hot-desk they often withdraw and don’t interact with their new colleagues around them. If a hot-desking policy isn’t implemented with an understanding of the current culture and care isn’t taken to involve employees from the start of the process, you can end up with a culture clash that causes so much disruption and upset it can do more harm than good.

There are solutions

If you work from home schedule your day carefully to ensure you do have conversations with other people, build a support network so you do have people to bounce ideas with, for example, join a mastermind group or get a mentor.

Put systems in place to not check your phone at all hours of the day and night and turn off notifications outside of working hours.

If you work in an organisation get some cleaning cloths (or ask your employer to provide them) for the keyboard and desk to stop the spread of germs.

If you are implementing a hot-desking or working from home policy carefully consult with employees and consider the culture shift required to make it work before piling in.

This changing face of work is one of the reasons that I’ve up the Lucidity Network  – whether you work for yourself or in an organisation it’s a ready-made professional support network that combines a mix of face-to-face meet-ups, online toolkits and connections to an energizing community that accelerates your progress so that you get the results you want.

I also run the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for support, inspiration, clearer thinking and better results.  

When the WOW factor becomes the HOW factor – why loving the ‘HOW?’ question makes sense

When Good Stuff Happens - FREE Virtual Summit - The HOW Factor

A guest blog by Annie Moon.

Are you a change maker on a mission to increase your social impact by being a positive force for good?

Keep reading for some top tips and deep insights for developing the HOW factor. There’s even a link to grab your space at When Good Stuff Happens, a FREE virtual summit (14-20 October) jam-packed with trailblazing models and awe-inspiring case studies which showcase what happens when the HOW factor becomes the WOW factor for being the difference in local communities.

Years ago, when I first started out in community development (this was pre-internet, when community development meant working face-to-face with local groups and people), an experienced community development manager correctly guessed which college I had trained at through observing my community development practice.  She did this without having a crystal ball to hand or having access to my CV!

“How did she do that?”, I hear you ask.

A very good question indeed. At the time, I was out in the field, helping local communities with their neighbourhood plans. Every step of the way was focused on the PROCESS – stakeholder engagement, action planning and feedback.

Of course, outcomes were important too. However, without being underpinned by a strong participatory process to encourage genuine ownership and real community buy-in, a set of standalone outcomes would have been meaningless and, going forward, probably unsustainable. So, ‘focus on the PROCESS’ was the key which was repeatedly drummed into us, ensuring it became our professional mantra. This was exactly what the community development worker had observed.

Fast-forward two decades (or thereabouts) and I’m still happily obsessed with ‘PROCESS’ as a key ingredient in helping to create positive outcomes for people and planet. In fact, I live by this concept to such a degree that I decided to inspire others by showcasing the game changing models that I’ve come across. These are notable as a well thought out and participatory process are evidenced by delivering phenomenal outcomes.

To discover this collection of ground-breaking organisations and the people who lead them, join me for the “When Good Stuff Happens” FREE Virtual Summit (14-20 October 2018) that I’m hosting.

It’s a series of pre-recorded interviews (20 – 40mins) delivered daily to your inbox during the event week.

Let’s take a closer look at the “HOW” factor with some of the featured guests.

World Health Innovation Summit

Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone worked in harmony to look after their own (and everyone else’s) health and well-being?  This scenario isn’t some sought-after Utopia. It’s fast becoming a reality with Gareth Presch’s World Health Innovation Summit (#WHIS).  Based on a Facebook for health concept (Gareth calls it ‘healthbook’), it’s a rapidly evolving platform and network which reaches deep into local communities (both on- and offline) and draws in partners from every sector.  The result? A growing collective willingness and responsibility to look after one another. Gareth shares how #WHIS is rewriting health and social care.

The World’s Biggest Garage Sale

It’s a well-documented fact that the pressures of modern-day living often lead to intensely fractured local communities with high levels of disconnect and isolation.  The Australian-based The World’s Biggest Garage Sale has found an innovative way to overcome this in a not-so-low-profile way.  The model itself is exactly what it says on the tin: The World’s Biggest Garage Sale.  However, it is so much more than this. Sure, high quality donated goods are sold (and any unsold items are donated to charity), stopping landfill and closing the loop in the circular economy.  Funds raised go towards worthy local causes.

Yet the beauty of this model lies with the people themselves.  Local people donate and local people volunteer. Suddenly, local people who have lived in the same neighbourhood for years and never spoken to one another, are involved in the biggest project that their community has ever seen and – guess what – they start conversations. Friendships blossom, trusts grows and the community blooms again. Tune in to hear CEO Yas Grigaliunas’s enthusiasm for why community matters.

An Cosán Virtual Community College

For me, the ultimate form of community development, is led by the people themselves – those that are best placed (with the right support and facilitation) to shape what happens next. An Cosán Virtual Community College, a community-based learning model, trains local people to be community leaders addressing the issues they identify, courses such as community leadership and community drugs work, given the tools to take action in their own neighbourhoods. Liz Waters, CEO, picks up the story.

To explore these and experience more ‘HOW’ factor models showcase at ‘When Good Stuff Happens’ FREE Virtual Summit, book your space now.

I’ll look forward to joining you there!

For more information and to register:

Annie Moon: Founder of ‘be the difference’ – helping change-makers supercharge their social impact, without wasting precious time, money or resources. The magic sauce? 25+ yrs not-for-profit know-how combined with a virtual assistant toolkit.


The #WhenGoodStuffHappens interviews are now available for free on Annie’s website.