Six tips for being more productive

Do you ever have weeks when you are learning so much you feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants? It’s not a bad thing but it can feel a bit overwhelming when all the new learning activities collide at the same time.

So the irony of learning how to host my first webinar, on the new Lucidity Network by interviewing Grace Marshall, Productivity Ninja on how to be more productive and manage overwhelm is not lost on me.

The truth is that I really enjoyed the webinar (and if you were watching I hope you did too) and I learned practical tips to keep being productive and better manage that ‘seat of pant’ feeling. Here are my key take-outs.

Taking time to think is fuel for your productivity

Reframe ‘thinking time’ which often in a busy working week can feel like a luxury, as ‘fuel for your productivity’. If we don’t take time to think it’s hard to know where to focus, what to prioritise and what to say no to. Making time to think, whether that’s 10 minutes each day to readjust your to-do list, or an afternoon every month to plan the next month’s activity is critical to your productivity. Sadly, not everyone values thinking time as productivity fuel. If this is true of the environment that you work you may have to operate in stealth mode. Call ‘thinking time’ something different in your diary. Try ‘strategy planning’ or ‘business development’.

Go frog hunting

With reference to the infamous business book ‘Eat that Frog’ do the difficult and important stuff first and go frog hunting. You know that difficult client call that you put off making, the budget spreadsheet that you need to send to finance or the health and safety briefing notes that had to be submitted yesterday. Stop spending time putting it off and just to it.

Carving time out

Carve your day up into different modes of thinking, depending on your own productivity peaks and troughs. For example, if you are a morning person this might be the best time to do your deep dive thinking – the stuff that you really need to concentrate on and think deeply about. If, as Grace puts it, you go into ‘zombie mode’ after lunch do the tasks that you don’t have to think very much about then. There is a time after zombie mode – when you are starting to get your energy back that according to research featured in Dan Pinks book ‘When’ is the best time for creative thinking and idea generation.

Overwhelm

If you feel like you have way too much to do and overwhelm is creeping in, Grace recommends you write everything down. Get everything buzzing around in your head out onto paper. Here you can make sense of it and put it in order. Often we find that once we can see everything in front of us it becomes more manageable and less overwhelming.

Want and should

Many of us want to please other people and because of this end up saying ‘yes’ to more than we can take on. We have a choice. We can differentiate between what we ‘want’ to do and what we feel we ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do. We can say ‘no’ and when we do, its important to give clear reasons why it’s a no, for example working on another deadline or don’t have the skills and perhaps offering alternatives (longer deadline or a colleague who might be better placed to complete the task). Too often people say ‘yes’ (because they don’t want to say no) and then don’t deliver and let people down which is, in my opinion, far worse than simply saying no.

It’s up to you

We all have the same amount of time yet some people are more productive than others. It takes discipline and focus and saying no to the things that are not important to concentrate on the good stuff that has potential to make a bigger impact. It’s up to each of us to prioritise our time as the fuel of our own productivity. Whatever you choose to spend your time doing – make it count.

The recording of the webinar is available for members of the Lucidity Network. If you’d like access to exclusive content, be connected to a diverse network that can help you to be more productive then sign up for the Lucidity Network. We open a few times a year. To be the first to know when membership is open and also access special offers head on over to the Lucidity Facebook community. 

PS For more productivity tips and advice I also recommend you check out Grace’s book ‘How to be really productive’

The secrets of larks and owls – because when you do things matters

I’ve been mocked for napping in the afternoon for many years so I was delighted to read Dan Pink’s latest book ‘When – the scientific secrets of perfect timing’ for his endorsement of napping as well as some fascinating insights about how absolutely everything is about timing.

Do you ever feel like you’ve hit a mental block or that you are working in slow motion in the early afternoon? Do you blame it on a post-lunch carb slump? It turns out that how you feel after lunch might be less about the carbs and more about you being a lark.

Dan’s research shows that adults broadly fall into two categories: larks and owls. As the name suggests larks rise early and do their best work in the mornings – owls follow a different pattern and do their best work later in the day. (There are also a few third birds who are somewhere in the middle but you need to read ‘When’ to find out more about them.)

Most of us are larks.

Dan’s research shows that we all fall into a daily pattern of when our brains are most alert, followed by a slump and then a recovery. Our lark or owl tendencies dictate at what times of day we are alert, slumping or recovering.

However, the research shows that it’s more than just about when we do our ‘best’ work. If you are a lark the morning is the best time for analytic tasks, tasks that you need to think about in detail, likewise morning is the best time to make decisions. Larks are better at insight tasks – tasks that require lateral thinking to solve problems during late afternoon or early evening when you are coming out of the slump. When you are right in the slump that’s the best time to do the admin tasks, the things you don’t need to think carefully about. Or better still take a short nap.

As a freelancer, I already work to this pattern when I can. I do the hardest stuff in the morning – the things I need to think about. I’ve learned that it’s much more efficient for me to get up earlier than keep working late at night. The same task can take half the time in the morning than it can the evening. I save the easier tasks for the afternoon slump and whenever I can I take a quick afternoon nap.

If you work 9-5 napping might be problematic, (unless you work at Google, famed for having sleep pods for employees to nap when they like) however within the framework of your day there are there things you can do to encourage your lark and owl traits to be more productive.

For example, if you are a team of larks and have a catch-up meeting in the morning – don’t. You are wasting the best part of your day on tasks that don’t need that morning analytical attention. Instead, have the catch up in the slump and focus on analytical tasks in the morning. If you are an owl can you start work later when you are at your best and work later in the evening?

What might you be able to do to adjust your ‘when’ and your teams ‘when’ in order to play to individual and team strengths and be more productive?

You can get your copy of ‘When’ the scientific secrets of perfect timing here.