A Change Of Perspective

September 18, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

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It’s possible to temporarily ‘trick’ your brain into a short additional period of active attention if you’re feeling sluggish and inactive. To do this, you need to jolt your brain into needing to feel its way around again. If you’re working on a long report, move to a new part of the room every half an hour or so. If you’re working on an Excel spreadsheet, change all the fonts to red and green just for half an hour and then change it all back. These tweaks in perspective can really help to keep you going that bit longer than you really have the energy for.

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Perspective

September 16, 2014

Productivity Ninja

thoughtoftheday

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Desktop Utopia

September 12, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

724619122_e634531f5f_oDo you have a million little icons of old Word documents on your desktop screen, or just a beautiful image of a peaceful lake and a mountain range? The computer desktop is a veritable treasure trove for two types of files or folders: the ultra-useful and the ultra-useless. Our laziness sees us save important documents here rather than risk – wait for it – saving it in a reasonable location instead! And heaven forbid having to use the search function to relocate the file if we don’t find it immediately! So, our computer desktop suddenly becomes another collection point. It requires a bit of organization though. Try setting up a folder called ‘Desktop Inbox’ and regularly sweep all of those random documents inside it. Once you have a good pile in there, you can spend a few minutes filing them all back into the right place, or of course getting delete-happy with what you don’t need!

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“E is for Email Etiquette”

September 5, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

az_banner3Email is one of the bane’s of productivity so today we are going to focus on the things that you do that make email easier for other people and the things that they do that make it really annoying for you. So this is about the interdependency of productivity and the culture of teams and organizations – and what you can do to improve it.

We all get the email we deserve

Nothing tells you more about the culture of an organization than the way people ‘do’ email. It differs tremendously from one organization to the next, from those organizations that rely almost solely on it, to those that use email more as a follow up tool but do their best work away from their inbox. Then there are those organizations where it’s become the norm to be connected via smartphone 24/7, 365 days a year, and others where the thought of emailing on a Saturday would be ridiculous.

Whatever your email culture, there are things you can do that make everyone else’s job easier. And why would you want to spend more than a second doing that? Well, because there’s a good chance that they’ll return the favour and consider you in their email communications too, and together you can build a healthier email culture.

Talkin’ about a revolution…

Facilitate some conversations that utilize the knowledge and experience of your people and you’ll be surprised by how exciting and productive your emails can become. Here are five questions you can ask your team members over lunch one day, over a coffee or in a brief workshop:

1. What do you recognize in yourself and in others as bad email habits?

2. What do you recognize in yourself and in others as things that make it easier for an email to get processed at the other end?

3. What would be the three kinds of email bug bears that you would want to stop receiving if that were possible?

4. What ground rules could you collectively set up to make these things happen?

5. When will you measure and reflect on the success of this, and how?

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought for the Day

September 1, 2014

Productivity Ninja

Ninja Thought for the Day 5

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“D is for Distractions”

August 28, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

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“D is for Distractions”

Much of our best work – the quality thinking and quality doing – happens when we’re able to fend off distractions and keep our attention on the things that matter.

There are two types of distractions: external and internal. Let’s start with those external distractions that we have to battle with on a day-to-day basis. I’ll start with this thought: If you could design a more interruption-filled, uncomfortable, judgement and stress-fuelled environment specifically for the purposes of keeping someone off-topic and unproductive, you’d design something that looks much like the average open plan office. If you’re unfortunate enough to work in an open plan office, then many external distractions can’t be controlled. However, what you can do is:

Much of our best work – the quality thinking and quality doing - happens when we’re able to fend off distractions and keep our attention on the things that matter.

  • Turn off email and social media notifications so that your screen, phone or tablet is not constantly flashing new pieces of information in your face. These interruptions may feel small individually, but added together they take out a huge chunk of the day’s attention.
  • Take some time in your week when you purposefully work somewhere else in the building, away from bosses, colleagues, email inboxes and the like. Even two hours a week spent ‘going dark’ – absent from view but using your proactive attention to focus – can be extremely valuable.
  • Spend more time plugged in but offline – you don’t have to have your email inbox and phone switched on the whole time! Again, even at your desk you can control the distractions at source to some extent.
  • Pay attention to how much information you are exposed to, both outside of work and in the rest of your life. Watch less TV; choose not to read the free newspapers; take some time off the internet; be ‘screen-free’ for a day or all weekend. The downside to our instant information culture is that it distracts us from the present moment and from our own thoughts. It’s important to give your mind a rest and a chance to wander once in a while.
  • Meditate. We will cover this later when we come on to Zen, but these final couple of points are not disconnected from work productivity. In fact, they’re absolutely essential to maintaining good proactive attention.

 

Even harder to deal with than those external distractions are the internal distractions: the little voices and vices inside your head. Yes, it was you that retreated from the challenges of that spreadsheet to go and check the BBC website. Yes, it was you that spent time on that shiny new thing instead of following through on that more valuable but scary thing. There’s no-one else to blame (and yes, I’m just as guilty of sabotaging my own work too!).

Why does this happen? Well, put simply, lots of distractions give the illusion of having value. So when we’re stuck or struggling or feeling frustrated we tend to look for some kind of instant gratification.

Low-grade useful stuff we procrastinate with:

  • Checking email
  • Checking notifications
  • Internet ‘research’ into topics that in reality we don’t need to research at all
  • ‘Catching up’ with the news (which we’ll read, hear or watch later anyway)
  • Making another cup of tea or snacking
  • Optional meetings

 

Downright useless stuff we procrastinate with:

  • Solitaire/Tetris/Angry Birds/Minesweeper/Candy Crush (delete according to your device and generation)
  • Office gossip
  • Loops of videos or celeb gossip online – usually justified with some kind of ‘five minutes of chill time’ internal dialogue.

 

 

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought for the Day

Productivity Ninja

Perfecting the art of a good subject line is key to excellent email etiquette. Do this by writing it last instead of first

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Resistance is Futile

August 26, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

Routines can distract resistance for just long enough to get you into momentum

Resistance is Futile! Resisting tough tasks makes work harder in the long run

Getting going and building momentum can be difficult at the start of your day. Routines are a great tool to distract resistance for just long enough to get you into momentum. Following a particular pattern at the start of your day, where the fifth of six elements happens to be doing a piece of work that your resistance would usually shout and scream about is a clever way of nipping in with the work before your resistance notices. For a long time when I worked from home, my morning routine was deliberately regimented:

1. Drink water
2. Ten minute run
3. Shower
4. Breakfast
5. Worst task of the day
6. Daily Check-list

Hidden inside so many positive and comfortable tasks was doing something truly dreadful. With the endorphins from my run still pumping around my body, the resistance didn’t know where to look. These days, every morning is different but those that start with good routines tend to continue on into more productive days.

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought for the Day

Productivity Ninja

Ninja Thought for the Day 3

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“C is for the CORD Productivity Model”

August 21, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott

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Your job is not your job…

There is a fundamental difference between the kind of job you might have had in the pre-digital age and the kind of job you have now as a knowledge worker. In the industrial age, your job was to perform a function – think packing boxes in a factory or serving drinks behind a bar. Your job as a knowledge worker is to deliver the right outcomes and information in much the same way as someone behind a bar needs to deliver a good beer. But that’s not really your job. That’s not the bit they pay you for.

What you’re paid to do is work out what the job is, how it should look, how to go about it, and so on. What you’re paid to do is take information from other people’s emails and priorities, react to what’s happening in the wider world, apply professional expertise and define the work. What you’re really paid for is the thinking process that goes on. After all, anyone could type and send that final email signing it all off if they were told exactly what to say!

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How strong is your CORD?

My book, How to be a Productivity Ninja, uses the CORD Productivity Model, which we developed through my company, Think Productive, and have taught to thousands of people in organizations around the world over the last few years. It’s an illustration of ‘information workflow’: the journey that you go on with any piece of information, from receiving it to its final conversion into something that’s either done or not done.

There are four stages to this process: Capture and Collect, Organize, Review and Do. To improve your productivity, you must focus on the habits that support each of these four stages. Think of it like a chain – one weak link will affect its overall strength. Your productivity is only as good as the weakest of these four crucial elements.

Using CORD to overcome ‘information overload’

Recognizing these four distinct phases of knowledge work can be a great help when we’re faced with the feeling of 33 ‘information overload’. Using CORD, you can work out where the ‘blockage’ in your workflow is and which element of the CORD process you have neglected.

Is it down to too much information coming in? Is it too much information remaining undefined and disorganized, with no sense of the potential meaning or outcome? Is it because you need to take a step back and revisit priorities and see the bigger picture? Or is it that the time for thinking is over and you need to knuckle down and clear the decks by simply getting on with delivering on your commitments?

CORD can act as a diagnostic tool to help you put your attention in the right place and become motivated and in control again.

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