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

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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)

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Featured photo credit: Jake Barford via unsplash.com

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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