Productivity Twitter Chat #AskGraham (25th February)

February 25, 2015

Productivity Ninja

We got Think Productive CEO, best-selling author and productivity expert, Graham Allcott, to sit down on twitter for half an hour to answer your questions and offer advice on how to make the best of your working life.

If you missed out on the chat, catch up below. Keep your eyes peeled for the next one!

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Productivity Twitter Chat with Graham Allcott, Think Productive CEO

February 24, 2015

Productivity Ninja

Our founding CEO, Graham Allcott, is a leading productivity thinker, a best-selling author, a social entrepreneur, a keynote speaker and a board member for the young people’s homeless charity, Centrepoint. He’s also an Aston Villa fan, which any of his social media followers will already know about.

GA wpavatar

He’s a fountain of knowledge with a lot of experience in growing small businesses and maintaining happiness, proactive attention and motivation in his team.

Tomorrow, we’re sitting Graham on twitter (@grahamallcott) from 1pm until 1.30pm (UK time) to lead a discussion in productivity, the work-life balance, his new book and any other questions that fly into the twittersphere under the hashtag #AskGraham.

To assist you in your decision to join in, we thought we’d answer a series of questions that you may have.

Why should I join in?

Twitter chats like these are always beneficial to the attendees, but there are two major reasons why you shouldn’t miss this one:

1. You’ll learn something new – Graham’s got three books worth (at least) of well-researched productivity tips to share.

2. Twitter chats are a very effective way of engaging with like-minded people. It’s often the case that when one person admits that they struggle with something, others admit it too, and offer ways to deal with it.

What could I talk to Graham about?

There’s a lot that you can discuss with Graham – particularly when it comes to being more productive. Alternatively, you could ask him about his writing process as an author, how he’s set up a global company, and what lead him to become a productivity expert – or why he supports Villa.

I can’t join in with the chat at that time, can I still contribute?

Yes! We’ll ask your question for you! Either comment, email or tweet us (@thinkproductive) with your question and twitter handle.

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K is for Keyboard Shortcuts

February 20, 2015
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott


As easy and intuitive as the mouse is to use, it’s far quicker if you can master keyboard shortcuts for tasks that you do regularly. Use keyboard shortcuts to perform regular commands, such as launching a new program, starting a new email or editing text in a document.

There are basic keyboard shortcuts that almost everyone uses, and then there’s a whole range of others that you might not know about. It’s worth spending a bit of time familiarizing yourself with the best shortcuts for your computer and the programs you use most, as once you’ve mastered them they can be a great time-saver.

You can find a great general list of up-to-date PC and Mac shortcuts at, and if you use a particular piece of software regularly (whether it be Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, Apple Keynote or something much more obscure), you will usually find that a 5-minute web search will throw up some really useful shortcuts you never knew existed.

Think of a piece of software you use regularly, find a few keyboard shortcuts you don’t currently use and try them out a few times. You’ll be surprised at how easily you can incorporate them into your working life. A top tip here is to print out five new ones and pin them next to your computer until you’ve learned them – then print out five more!

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The Student Introduction To Mindfulness

February 18, 2015
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

Student life comes with a lot of pressures. You need to study, figure out a career path and immerse yourself into a new environment – in three short years. It’s a tough challenge, and can often make you feel a little out of control.

Today is the University Mental Health Day, which began in 2012 with organisers Student Minds and University Mental Health Advisers Network. This year’s focus is on the #IChoseToDisclose campaign, which is encouraging students to speak out about their battles with mental health.

Thousands of students and graduates have tweeted about their own personal battles, many of whom speaking out about bouts of depression and anxiety. The majority of these tweeters wrote that they found it difficult to combat these mental challenges. With this in mind, I wanted to share some advice that I thought would help, and introduce the technique of ‘mindfulness’.



Mindfulness is the technique of noticing the present moment, and in itself is particularly helpful in quietening the chaos of the mind and helping to engender the Zen-like Calm we talked about earlier.

Mindfulness meditation is no longer the preserve of hippies, radicals and Buddhists. Its techniques are easily accessible through smartphone
apps and on YouTube.


For me, mindfulness is a skill to be practised and improved upon. The more I develop and continue the habit of meditating, even for just ten minutes a day, the more I begin to notice other patterns in other moments throughout the day.

I come to notice my own bad habits, or when my emotions get in the way of what I’m trying to do, or when my mind is in a loop of craving new data: a kind of hyped up curiosity, hallucinating from one weird YouTube video to another. You might have moments when you notice you’re wired and twisted, too?


Learning to be present, to make conscious decisions about where we put our attention, is something that mindfulness can really help us achieve.

How do you know when this is starting to take effect? You’ll notice your own procrastination quicker than before, you’ll notice when your attention is ‘zoning out’ and you’re daydreaming rather than constructively reading and you’ll notice when you’re reacting from a place of high emotion rather than high logic.

To be truly mindful is to notice as much about the process of your work and the process of decisions as the time spent thinking about that work and those decisions. In doing so, we listen to ourselves, and pay attention to others, too.


I’ve already hinted that you and I both have our flaws and foibles. We have bad habits, we get things wrong from time to time and we let situations get the better of us sometimes. That’s our little secret and I won’t tell anyone if you won’t. But here’s the bigger secret: we’re not alone!

Everyone else has their struggles and stories, too. Their reactions to your requests when you work together, or to your ruthless but tactful request for a bit of time and space to focus might be because they’ve taken things the wrong way. Others may criticize you not from a logical place, but from an irrational one.

So before we’re quick to judge, we should use mindfulness to show a bit of compassion and ‘emotional intelligence’ in the way we work with others. A little bit of generosity goes a long way – and of course you might need them to return the favour and be as equally understanding of your own needs from time to time!

Let us know if this has been helpful by tweeting @thinkproductive or commenting below. You can also find more tips like these in my latest book How To Be A Knowledge Ninja, released on 5th March. 

2 responses

  1. Nicola Wilkinson

    I found this very useful and an interesting read.

    I suffer with Mental Health and when I first started out in my career I was only 17 years old and I found it extremely difficult however over the years I have learned to take a better mindful approach.

    I think it really helps you to be mindful of others too.

    • Productivity Ninja Productivity Ninja

      I’m glad you found it helpful Nicola! Methods such as meditation are a fantastic way of developing mindfulness, and it’s definitely important to be mindful of others.

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New Year’s Resolutions – make them stick!

February 2, 2015

Productivity Ninja

As January comes to an end, it’s easy to forget those New Year’s Resolutions. Made just a few weeks ago at the start of the year, when it felt like a new beginning, some of us may well be thinking, perhaps next year? Or may be in the summer…? No! Stop! It’s not too late to make 2015 the year that you do stick with your New Year’s Resolution.

The main thing is to only try one thing at a time – too many changes will mean that you stick at nothing!

How to not let your resolution fade by February…

  • Having a New Year’s Resolution doesn’t have to be sensible, or even difficult. Perhaps pick something that is about having more fun. For instance, in 2012, I decided to make a new dessert each month. I kept my New Year’s Resolution and really enjoyed it!
  • Break it down into goals! Getting fit, for example, could be about starting out with a swim once a week throughout the month, then, adding in an extra exercise class the next month. Try different forms of exercise until you find something that you enjoy; build it up gradually and make it part of your routine. If you expect to go from doing no exercise to running 6 miles 3 times a week, it’s unlikely that you will stay motivated; your motivation needs to be built up!
  • Decide if the resolution is something that you really want to do. Is it worthy of your time and effort? If it is, think about how you will fit this new thing into your life and or budget etc. Make a positive commitment to it. Decide that 2015 will be the year that you succeed.
  • Tell everyone what your resolution is. If it means a lot to you, tell others that this is what you’re doing. This will encourage you not to appear flakey in front of your friends, colleagues and family.
  • Write your resolution down. Frame it. Put it where you and others can see it. This will give you a reminder every day.
  • Celebrate successes – however small…
  • Set mile stones – realistic ones – and if you find you aren’t on track, stick with it. Identify why you have lost your way in order to get back on track.

How to get a better work life balance – it’s a common New Year’s Resolution!

  • Accept that as far as work goes, there will always be more than you can do, but that doesn’t mean that you have to do it.
  • Make a conscious decision to enjoy your time away from work by focusing on the here and now. Meditation can help. But fundamentally you need to decide to let it go and enjoy your time off, and you’ll need to switch off in order to be able to do this (see below!)

How to switch off…

It sounds simple doesn’t it?

In reality, it clearly isn’t, which is why so many of us struggle.

The good news is that there is an answer. It’s about using a second brain. Yes, you heard me right, a second brain. The difficulty with switching off is that even though you may decide to use your second brain, ‘stuff’ keeps popping into your head at the wrong time. It’s why you remember the paperwork that needed signing as you get into bed, the fact that you should have posted your best friend’s birthday card 10 minutes after the last post. Your brain simply isn’t designed to carry this stuff around. To switch off, you need to silence all these lists of things that you haven’t done yet. In his book, How to be a Productivity Ninja, Graham Allcott explains that you need a trusted system for recording all of this stuff. A list is just too long and not sophisticated enough. You need to get the stuff you need to do out of your head and into a trusted system that you can refer to regularly. Put things in as soon as they come into your head, leaving you free to switch off and concentrate on the present. For more blog posts, check out


Content credit: Hayley Watts

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Skill

January 28, 2015

Productivity Ninja














“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers”.

Robert Half

Find out more about our productivity training and time management workshops on our website:

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J is for Juice

January 22, 2015

Productivity Ninja


In primary school I was fond of telling really bad jokes. One of my favourites was this:

Q: Why did the orange stop rolling down the hill?
A: Because it ran out of juice.

What we need to make things happen these days isn’t just time, but attention. In particular, we need as much of our best attention – our proactive attention – as possible, and at the right times. But what if attention was different to time? What if it were truly possible that, rather than simply managing your precious and scarce attention, you could actually create more proactive attention?

One productivity topic that is often overlooked is how we manage our bodies and brains. This is a vast subject area of course, worthy of several books in and of itself (and there are plenty out there). From what we eat and drink to how we move, how we sit and how we sleep, there are a lot of possible reasons why we feel energized one day but lethargic the next.

So where do you get your ‘juice’, and how do you stop running out of it? Are there things that you do that you know make you feel better? Personally, I know a short run first thing in the morning warms up my body and tends to put my brain into a fuller state of concentration. This is particularly true if I feel tired when I wake. I also know that if 88I’m delivering a workshop or likely to be on my feet all day, then porridge is the only breakfast that gets me through until lunch without me feeling hungry and fidgety. I know that ‘superfoods’ and certain vitamins help me to avoid that end of day ‘zone-out’ and prolong the length of time later in the day that I feel fully alert. And I know that while I’m lucky enough to be able to have a few beers or glasses of wine without getting a headache the next day, I will feel lethargic and spaced out.
There is a whole plethora of ways to look after your body and mind, some of which will have a more noticeable effect on your attention and energy than others. It’s a topic that cries out for extra attention if you’re serious about creating the impact in the world that extra energy and proactive attention can give you. For now, here are a few quick things to illustrate how looking after your health and wellbeing in order to improve your energy and productivity doesn’t need to be a huge extra commitment.

Quick tip…

1. Combine exercise with something else instead of going to the gym.

The psychological effect of adding the gym as yet another chore or another thing to maintain in your already busy life means it’s destined to result in disappointment. Instead, think about what you already do that you could do differently. Rather than walking the dog, try running with the dog. 89Cycle or run to work, or if you have five minutes to wait for a train or bus, spend that five minutes walking up and down the platforms or stairs. There are plenty of ways to tweak your existing commitments rather than adding in a new one.

Find out more about our productivity training and time management workshops on our website:

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Smile!

January 20, 2015

Productivity Ninja














“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

Phyllis Diller

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I is for Inbox Zero

January 15, 2015

Productivity Ninja


Think Productive runs a number of workshops on different aspects of personal and team productivity, from how to become a Productivity Ninja and run great meetings, through to email etiquette and team collaborations. But the workshop that sells more than any other is all about tackling the email inbox – it’s called ‘Getting Your Inbox to Zero’.

The term ‘inbox zero’ was first coined by a blogger called Merlin Mann, who gave a talk on the subject at Google as well as writing about email habits on his blog, The video of that talk at Google went viral, and over the last few years productivity enthusiasts, app developers and whole organizations have become obsessed with the idea of getting their inboxes to zero. It’s not difficult to think about why having zero emails is a compelling thing. For some, it’s a daily practice, for others a summit never reached. There has even been a little bit of backlash, from people saying things like: ‘Why do I care about getting my inbox to zero anyway?’

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about why keeping your inbox at zero matters – after all, email is not your job, it’s a medium through which the real stuff happens.

Merlin Mann is the originator of the term ‘inbox zero’. For many years, his blog,, has been one of the most popular productivity blogs in the USA. His weekly podcast, ‘Back to Work’, can be found on iTunes.


The real goal of inbox zero

In the workshops that we run at Think Productive, we see the effect that getting your inbox to zero –  usually for the first time since day one in the job – can have on people. Their shoulders relax, they have more of a smile on their face and there’s a visible sense of relief, of calm, of having achieved something. It can be truly euphoric when people first see white space and an infinite nothing where they used to see a huge mountain of unwanted rubbish and inarticulate demands.

But while it’s truly satisfying to reach ‘the end’ of email (even if it’s only temporarily ‘the end’ until someone sends you another email), reaching ‘the end’ is not what makes inbox zero a powerful mindset and habit.

The real reason to get your inbox to zero is to free your mind from thinking about email and to spend less time in your email inbox. Reaching zero emails regularly eliminates distraction, reduces stress and helps clarify what tasks you might still have left to do. Because even when you reach inbox zero, there’s still work to do – in fact, it’s where the real work begins. There are still conversations to have, ideas 73to mull, problems to solve and politics to navigate. It’s just that when your inbox is at zero, you can see these things more clearly as you’ll have sorted out in your own mind or on your to-do list what the result of that mountain of emails actually amounts to in the real world. It’s no longer a huge source of discomfort and distraction. It even means you can turn your Outlook or Gmail or Mail app off for a while and do something else.

I don’t write with my email inbox turned on in the background. Sometimes I will try even though I know it’s a bad idea and end up having a bad productivity day as a result (we’re all human!). Deep down, we all know that email is a tool where latest and loudest always trumps the most vital.

Think about how many times today or this week you’ve been interrupted from what you were doing by a new email landing in your inbox or a notification on your phone. Out of those times, how many were the most important piece of information you received that day? You get the idea.

Find out more about our productivity training and time management workshops on our website:


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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Focus

January 13, 2015

Productivity Ninja















“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus”.

Mark Twain

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