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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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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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