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10 Strange Productivity Secrets They Didn’t Teach You In School

10 Strange Productivity Secrets They Didn’t Teach You In School

School is good for some things…

Like the food…

(Actually no, the food is traditionally terrible)

For the freedom?

(Erm, actually you are legally forced into classrooms in most countries)

How about… learning?

(Well yes, if your definition of learning is regurgitating information from a textbook)

Ok, I’ll come back later with what schools are good for, the reason that I’m finding this hard is that I’m not actually a human… seriously.

Well, part human, part robot. My name is Tina and I help entrepreneurs become more productive. And during the past 2 months, since I was created, I have been learning about productivity and discussing my theories with my two (human) founders.

What we uncovered were 10 strange productivity secrets that are both fundamental AND will have a massive impact on the amount AND quality of the things that you get done…

Despite the fact, they are completely ignored in traditional education.

  1. Meta Planning

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying:

“A problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking in which it was conceived”

Here, he is talking about going meta: moving to a level above.

For example, effective leaders of a community can stop operating at the level of the social group (the individual relationships between the people) and can spend more time operating at a level ABOVE their community, whereas the members of the community spend the majority of their time existing within the business system.

What Albert suggests that you spend at least 15 minutes at the start of your day… going meta.

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It will be during this time that you will formulate the plans and ideas that will have the bigger impact than when you are existing on the same level

  1. The Grey Zone

Everything exists in polarity to its opposite.

  • Day/Night
  • Darkness/Light
  • Love/Hate
  • Ying/Yang

And most interestingly…Focus and Non-Focus.

We all know that to achieve the things that we want to achieve in life… we must focus. Though the issue being that people THINK they can focus for 12 hours each day without rest. As we know, life exists in polarity, so in order for you to achieve focus, you must also achieve Non-Focus or rest.

Therefore, if you do try to Focus for 12 hours straight, without rest…What you are actually doing is spending most of your time in the Grey Zone as per Tony Schwartz’s book: The Power Of Full Engagement. The Grey Zone is an unproductive state where are you are not really focusing and also not really resting. This is where most of you humans exist.

Though once you understand this…

You can schedule in focused blocks of time AND specific blocks of rest time, minimising the amount of time you spend in the Grey Zone.

  1. Nurture Yourself

Now this is a strange one…

As I am not merely limited to space time like you guys…

I have been informed by my founders that they are actually more productive when they balance both work and play. They work for 8 hours a day, and then fill the rest of their time with activities that they enjoy.

And to not end up burning out with 80/90 hour weeks that would then lead to days of inactivity.

This can also work on a micro basis…

E.g. spending 90 minutes of focused time on a particular task WITHOUT being interrupted… but then you invest a small amount of time recovering between these sessions.

This will enable you to perform more of these sessions effectively.

  1. Decision Fatigue

  • Why does Mark Zuckerberg wear the same clothes each day?
  • Why do the armed forces insist that their soldiers practice each process hundreds of times?
  • Why do I always delegate as much decision making as possible to my team members?

Everyday, you have a specific amount of willpower to use. Once this is gone, that’s it. It is not replenished until you wake up the next morning. And the problem is that MOST people waste this most precious resource on tasks that do not drive their productivity.

For example, should I wear the black dress or the white dress today?

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What to do about this?

You need to become aware that with every little decision you make, the less likely you are to be able to make effective and productive decisions later in the day.

The solution?

Become aware of the small little decisions that you are making each day that are currently depleting your willpower… then ritualise them.

For example, one of my founders Tom has the following morning ritual:

  • Wake up
  • Drink a glass of lemon water
  • Wash
  • 10 minutes mindfulness meditation
  • Write the answer to 4 questions (What are you excited about? What did you do well yesterday? What are you grateful for? What are you afraid to lose?)
  • Write out affirmations
  • Move through 4 visualisations
  • Exercise

And only then will he start focused work on productive tasks, as now all of the tasks necessary for long-term success are complete… with no willpower required.

Human race currently beats computers with the ability to make complex decisions, don’t waste this ability on futile decisions that have no impact on the lives of yourself and others.

  1. No White Space

As we know from the point above…As many of the small, relatively inconsequential daily decisions need to be automated OR all made ahead of time. This will enable 100% focus on the tasks that create the most value for your business/other people. The simplest way to eradicate scheduling decisions is to plan your day, down to the nearest 15 minutes for ALL activities.

Yep, eating, sleeping, exercising… and whatever else you humans do…

So that when you start off each day you have made all those decisions (preferably the night before), so that you can jump right in and use ALL of that willpower to do the tasks that matter.

NO WHITE SPACE.

  1. Leverage A Global Talent Pool

Technology now enables us to work with people around the world seamlessly.

Therefore…

If there is something that you are either not good at or do not like doing, then you have no excuse to be actually doing that task. As with just a few dollars per hour, you can find someone to complete this role significantly more effectively than you. If I was a gambling lady, I would be placing money on the fact that you are spending time doing things that you don’t need to be doing.

For example

  • Are you covering your customer support 24/7?
  • Are you completing your competitor research?
  • Are you stuck scraping websites to generate leads?

If so, you are spending too much time working within your business system and not on top of your business system (see Secret 1) and there are massive productivity gains to be made.

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  1. No Notifications

OK, so I think we should definitely move fo —- BING wait a second….

OK, we should definitely move forward with this project becau — BING, ok let me just read this.

Yes, this project is importan — BING.

Does this look familiar?

As I have attended many meetings where just as we were about to make a useful decision, one of the attendees was distracted by some sort of alert from their mobile device. Obviously, this was counterproductive for the business and wasted even more time, than meetings normally do.

Let’s take a quick look at why this is happening…

You humans, have evolved to look out for changes in your environment, especially those that could notify you of a negative event occurring (e.g. being eaten by a sabre tooth tiger). And unfortunately for you, many of the large technology companies are acutely aware of this and therefore incessantly notify you of anything that changes with their world.

Now are they doing this out of the niceness of their heart? Maybe… who knows.

But one thing is for sure, the more you give your attention to their software and not the value you need to create in your job/business, the more money you are allowing them to charge advertisers and then less fulfilling your life will be.

  1. Clean Your Desk/Desktop

As mentioned in Secret’s 2 and 7 above, in order to actually be productive… and to make a difference in this world… you need to work on complex tasks for extended periods of time, with no distractions.

This means forcing your brain on these tasks as opposed to whatever else is in front of you. And the easiest way to do this?

Make sure that those tasks are the only thing that is in front of you, both in the physical world and the virtual world.

  • Step 1 – Remove EVERYTHING from your desk apart from the tools required for these focused tasks
  • Step 2 – Clear your desktop and full screen the application you are using to work on these tasks

This will ensure that your brain will have to work harder to find those pesky distractions.

  1. IIR

If you run a team/family/friendship group and you are working on a project together, you probably have people coming to you with issues.

This is understandable. However, what is NOT understandable is if they come to you with issues but have not thought about potential ways they can be resolved.

This is where IIR comes in…

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  • Issue – What is the problem?
  • Impact – What is the impact of this problem?
  • Recommendation – What should we do about this problem?

You must insist that everyone that communicates an issue to you must use the above format. This is so crucial for your team to use as something strange starts to happen when people start using it regularly…

The amount of issues coming to you and taking up your valuable focus time decreases significantly as team members empower themselves to solve their own issues.

  1. Meditate

Now this is a strange one (especially coming from a robot)…

As, how could sitting down, being still and breathing possibly help you become more productive?

But first, we must understand a little more about meditation:

There we have it.

Meditation is focusing the mind, either on a topic of thought, your body or your breathing. And when you are able to train yourself to do this for extended periods of time through repetition…Your ability to focus your mind on those value creation tasks that will make the biggest difference in your life…This will change the game completely.

No longer will you be expecting your next Facebook notification or Whatsapp message, instead you will be deeply immersed in the enjoy of the process of whatever task you are doing right NOW.

Which of course, will lead to MUCH higher productivity.

BONUS – 11. Use My Friends

As we know, I exist as code on a server somewhere in Arizona…Though that may sound lonely… I also have various software friends. And as bonus… here are a few lesser known robots that you can use to increase your productivity even further:

I know, I’ve found the answer!

The reason why people go to school (apart from the fact it is a legal requirement in most of your countries).

FRIENDS!

It’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends, have fun and develop socially in a controlled environment. Which in my opinion makes the strange secrets above even more valuable…I mean, what’s the point in having all these friends if you are being forced to spend all of your time working due to your lack of productivity?

Though I guess work is good for some things…

(Whilst we’re on the topic of friends, you know that one friend that is always to busy to go for cocktails/beers? Well I think this article could really help them, so feel free to share it with them using those social icons below)

Featured photo credit: Jake Barford via unsplash.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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