Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Quality Not Quantity

October 21, 2014

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“Big doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sunflowers aren’t better than violets”.

Edna Ferber




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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Preparation

October 15, 2014

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“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation”.

Robert H. Schuller

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Complacency Is The Death Of Productivity

October 11, 2014
Graham Allcott

Graham Allcott


Photo by Rennett Stowe

Can you honestly, hand on heart, say that you are the safest and best driver that you know? Or the best driver you could possibly be? If you took that test again tomorrow, would you pass? Because that’s the thing about our habits – we develop unconscious competence that makes our productivity effortless, but we can also develop bad habits at the very same time. We can get lazy over time, too, and mistakes and errors can get made that wouldn’t have been made if we were slightly more focused or consciously aware of what we were doing. In short, there is always room for improvement. There is never a final point to reach where it doesn’t get any better and unfortunately, there is no secret formula for perfection.

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Productivity

October 6, 2014

Productivity Ninja

thoughtofthedayproductivity“Productivity is never an accident. It’s the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning & focused effort”

Paul. J. Meyer

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5 Unexpected Things Grace Learned This Summer

October 3, 2014

Productivity Ninja


Our Productivity Ninja, Grace, wrote a wonderful article about her “summer off”. It’s beautifully honest, inspiring and of course – useful for us all. You can also see her article in Productive Magazine. Enjoy!

I’ve just taken a whole month off this August. It’s the second time I’ve done this and I’m glad to report that the world did not end. In fact, I had a great time, full of fun with my family, but I have to say I still haven’t got it all worked out, so “How to have the perfect summer” is an article that will have to wait at least for another year.

I did, however, learn some valuable lessons.

1. When you have great systems set up, you miss them when they’re gone

Great systems are ones that tick along nicely in the background. Unobtrusive, unnoticed, and often undervalued. Until you stop using them.

I chose to stay connected via e-mail when I took August off this year, to keep in touch with my team, workshop enquiries and a few side projects.

But I decided not to keep my inbox at zero, thinking that I would just skim and cherry pick, leaving everything else until I returned from holiday. I thought it would be easier this way. How wrong I was!

I ended up missing the simplest things and had to be chased. Quick jobs took longer because I had to go back and find them, and the amount of headspace this took up was hugely disproportionate to the amount of work I actually had on my plate.

What I learned was that my productivity systems really work! And when I don’t use them, I miss them. Even the simplest things can be missed, forgotten or become harder, when you don’t have a trusted system to keep track of them.

2. “I’ll just” are dangerous words

There were a few side projects and loose ends I decided to allow into my time off in August. They didn’t seem like a big deal. They seemed simple and self-contained: an interview here, a review there, someone who wanted to publish an article that I’d already written.

But when the publisher comes back and asks for your author bio and links, which you don’t have with you because you’re away from your computer, that’s another thing you need to remember. Another thing you need to come back to.

Taking the kids to visit a new workshop venue was fine. The kids enjoyed their hot chocolate and almost got themselves a window cleaning contract! But for me, the visit led to e-mails to confirm what we’d agreed, letting other colleagues know what needed to be done, checking it had been done correctly, and on it goes.

Every action has potential to generate further actions. Every decision you make has an impact on other people and other projects. Every answer you give can lead to more questions. This is the way of the world we work in.

If you say “I’ll just” be aware that work can be bigger than it initially seems. Make sure you decide where to draw the line and say “I’m done”.

3. Doing someone a favor might actually be doing them a disservice.

I love helping people. It’s both my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. So when someone asks a favor, I find it hard to resist.

When I know I can give a quick answer that will help someone else get unstuck, I want to help. I want to give them an answer.

The problem is, my brain is not in work mode. It’s not fully engaged to scope all the ramifications, possibilities and knock on effects of that decision. I’m not in the best position to figure out, “What does that mean for everything else we’re working on?”

I can give an answer, but it won’t be my best answer. I can try and do someone a favor, but I won’t be able to give them my best. I can say yes to helping someone, and end up doing them a disservice. Sometimes “no” is actually the kinder and more honoring answer to give.

4. That list of things you say you’ll get around to in the holidays — adds up!

Before the summer, I did a lot of work with universities. It was the time when students had left campus, teaching semesters had ended, and technically they had more time for “everything else”.

“Everything else” ranged from building work to faculty changes, policy reviews, exam boards, personal development, PhD theses, and more.

In short, the quietest time of the year became the busiest.

The same thing can happen to our holidays. Our work days can be so busy, that everything that doesn’t need to be done right now gets saved for later. We tell ourselves we’ll get around to it in the holidays — DIY projects, fixing up the car, medical check ups, decluttering, redecorating, visiting family and friends, trips and travel, health and fitness, reading, personal projects — our holiday lists can easily become bigger than our work lists!

It’s easy to be just as busy in the holidays, and that can be plenty of fun too! But if a rest is what you really need, you may find you need to be deliberate about making that happen.

5. Someday needs to become a real day to actually happen.

I had one very exciting play project over the summer — a book proposal I’d been invited to write. The run up to the summer had been so full on, I didn’t have the headspace to get it written, so I decided I’d get it done in the holidays.

When did I actually get it written? On the last day of the holidays.

Because as exciting as it was, it was also scary, and therefore susceptible to procrastination. Because the holidays are busy, and in truth, there were very few moments when I didn’t have something to do. Because someday needs to become a real day in the calendar before you can make it happen.

Writing my first book book was on my “someday” list until I had a contract with a deadline. Learning to run was on my “someday” list until I enrolled in a beginners running course and committed to running three times a week. Meeting my best friend for a spa day was on our someday list for two years, until we actually booked in the date and made it happen.

What did you think you’d get round to doing this summer that is still hanging on your someday list? It’s time to put a real day in the calendar.

So what have I learned this summer?

None of this is new actually. I know all of this and I even teach some of it. But sometimes we have to go over old ground with new experiences, to take that learning deeper. Sometimes we have to break our own rules to discover just how valuable they are.

Ideally, we’d all be able to switch off completely from work when we take time off. But, if for whatever reason you decide to stay in touch, make sure you use the systems that work for you. Set boundaries, and be just as clear and deliberate about how you choose to spend your time outside of work as you do at work.

I, for one, have a newfound appreciation for the things I teach and use, to help me to work well and live well. And it’s good to remember that I am human, and always learning.

Photo: Flickr / De Vetpan Archive – CC BY-2.0

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Value

September 30, 2014

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“Try not to be a man of success but rather a man of value”.

Albert Einstein

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How Important Is Your Attitude?

September 25, 2014

Productivity Ninja


In my coaching and training we look at this word ATTITUDE in detail and one of the exercises we do is transpose each letter of the word with its numerical position in the alphabet and guess what, it adds up to 100!, it’s true, if you don’t believe me do the math, which gives me the opportunity to say your “attitude” makes 100% of the difference, mind-set is everything!

What’s the best definition of attitude?

“Attitude is the position or bearing as indicating action, feeling, or mood. It is OUR actions, feelings, or moods which determine the actions, feelings, or moods of others toward us, and which control, to a surprising extent, our success or failure. It is then OUR attitude towards life, which will determine LIFE’S attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingalesee

So how do we control, alter or change our attitude, Steve McDermott in his best selling book:  “How to Be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work & Everything:

“Your mood/ attitude is determined by the two F’sFizzy and Focus

  • Fizzy

Your physiology or everything that is physical about you (the way you move, breathe, stand, gesture, etc.)

  • Focus

Your mental focus (what you focus on in your mind, the sorts of questions you ask yourself, what you picture, feel, and hear inside your body)

Just change your Fizzy and or Focus, and you can instantly change your attitude or mood. Quickly sit with a physiology of acute depression, with your shoulders slumped, and ask yourself self-defeating questions in a whiny tone of voice. Such as: “Why does this always happen to me?” Your brain will look for the exact answer and instantly tell you: “Because you’re a fool!” By focusing on what you don’t want rather than what you do want, you are doing an excellent job of confirming to yourself why you don’t deserve something. This is guaranteed instantly to throw your state out of whack.

When you tell yourself something repeatedly, you are sure to believe it, especially on a subconscious level.

Remember that another easy way to control your moods is to control your focus by asking yourself better questions.

“What can I find that is good in this situation?”

“What have I learned from this that will make me more successful the next time?”

“How can I make this situation better?”

If you were to ask yourself better questions like these, you would force your brain to look for choices and find solutions. Instead, don’t stop asking yourself self-defeating questions like: “Why am I so scared?”

“What did I do to deserve this?” and “Why does nobody like me?” Because quick as a flash, your brain will fire back the exact answer.

As it says in the Bible: “Ask and you will receive.” What is it you want to receive? Good news or bad news? “Regularly ask yourself, “Am I enjoying this thought?” And if you do ask the question, and you don’t like the thought, realise you have the power to change it instantly. After all, you can hold only one thought in your head at a time. Do you really mind if it’s a good or a bad one?

Top Tips to gain and maintain a GREAT attitude

Choose: Everything is a choice, there’re only five things in life over which we have no choice in order to stay alive, you don’t have a choice to breathe, eat, drink, sleep, or defecate apart from these things everything is a choice, so choose to have a GREAT attitude. People with great attitudes carry their weather, by that I mean most people let the weather affect them, Grey and Wet = Poor attitude, Bright and Sunny = Great attitude

I love the way Billy Connelly puts it, “where is no such thing as good or bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. 

Move: Physical Exercise and pick any that gets your heart rate up, anything that makes you smile and keeps you moving. This is a great way to maintain your positive attitude because of all the positive chemicals it releases into the body. I love to watch some inspiring TED talks while I get a workout on my stepper. During the day stand as much as you can, as lots of research today is suggesting that sitting is the new smoking.

Sing: One of the best ways we can change our psychology is to change our physiology so singing in the shower for example really works, because we don’t sing because we’re happy, we are happy because we sing, cheerful songs one of my favorites is the Monty Python classic, Always look on the bright side of life. And if the rest of the family is awake, SING LOUD!

Be Contagious: Attitudes are contagious, do you know anypsychic vampires” or “mood hoovers”, you know the people who drain your positivity and energy, you only have to be in this person’s presence for a number of minutes and you feel the will to live draining from you! What are they doing their whining, moaning, complaining, criticizing etc… Brian Tracy the great sales guru says “Never wrestle with pigs, the result is you both get dirty but the pig enjoys it” and we need to steer clear of these psychic vampires before we get sucked into this stinking thinking and hardening of the attitudes, so be prepared. We are the sum total of the 5 people you spend the most time with, similar level of health, income and lifestyle. So if you want to be fit then starting hanging with fit people… And if you want to be positive make sure you’re hanging with positive people. So take it seriously if you can’t change your friends then I suggest you change your friends.

Attitudes are contagious, are yours worth catching?

GI GO:  is a computer programming mantra means Garbage In, Garbage Out

The result is only as good as the input. So if you’re feeding yourself with negativity you’re going to be feeling negative. The media thrive on negativity, in newspapers they have a saying “if it bleeds it leads” and sadly bad news sells papers. Put yourself on a negativity detox (including people) and watch how much easier it is to maintain your positive attitude. Replace with uplifting books, videos/ DVD’s or music to bring some positive balance.

You can instantly change what’s going on in your body, or your mind, in order to change how you feel. Continue to blame the weather. Or other people. Or even getting out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning.”

Earl Nightingale was so right. Our lives really do mirror our attitudes. Sure, people with positive, expectant attitudes have problems, and they experience setbacks, but their attitude enables them to respond effectively.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his/her life by altering his/her attitudes. -William James

Content credit: Jim Hetherton

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Make A Difference

September 23, 2014

Productivity Ninja

thoughtoftheday2 copy

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Productivity Ninja’s Thought For The Day: Perspective

September 16, 2014

Productivity Ninja


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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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