How Being A Comedy Improviser Helps Me At Work

August 28, 2015

Productivity Ninja

Ninja Productivity TipsI’ve been improvising since I was 8 and I love it. I quite often get asked how being an improviser impacts on my job as a Productivity Ninja. So here is a blog about the top 3 things you can take from the world of improvisation and use at work.

Yes And…

Improvisation is based on the concept of “Yes and…”, meaning that when someone gives you an idea you say yes to it, you accept it whole heartedly and then add something of your own to it.

Yes Anding works really well when it comes to your own ideas and the ideas of your colleagues. It’s so easy to have an idea and then to think of 100 reasons why that idea won’t work. Or for a colleague to make a suggestion only to be bombarded with every reason why it wouldn’t work and not one reason why it could.

So try saying Yes And to your ideas and those of the people around you. It is so easy to jump to the negative and by letting no be our go to answer, we’re risking destroying so many potential awesome ideas.

Saying Yes and is fun and we all need fun at work. And somewhere amongst the fun the answer you are searching for might be hiding! 

Make your colleagues look good

In improvisation we always work as a team. When you are building a story together from nothing except an audience suggestion you can’t afford to have one member of the team being a lime light hogger.

Being a team player is so important in all areas of life and it’s incredibly important at work. Try to remember at all times to make your colleagues look good.

Help them, give them credit where credit is due, point people in the right direction, introduce people who will be able to help each other, spread your knowledge and wisdom.

Don’t be the one person trying to hog the lime light when everyone else is working together as a team. No one likes that guy (or girl).

It’s good to fail

As well as improvising myself I go and watch a lot of improvisation especially at festivals. All of the best shows I have seen were built around failure, when one of the improvisers made a mistake e.g. called someone the wrong name and all the improvisers on stage grabbed the failure and ran with it.

Great improvisers love to fail and audiences love to watch improvisers fail, laugh it off and use it to their advantage.

Unfortunately in some schools and workplaces failure is seen as something to be ashamed of and something that you will be jumped on for. Obviously we don’t want people failing at work because they’re being lazy and incompetent but failing genuinely can give us so much information.

It can tell us what isn’t working, where we need to improve, how we can do things better.

We can also make massive discoveries through mistakes, did you know that Penicillin, X-rays and Pacemakers were all made my mistake?

Try and create an environment where people aren’t blamed for their mistakes and instead the mistakes are seen as opportunities.

about_us

Want to see Katy’s comedy skills in the flesh – and learn to be more productive? She’s hosting a public workshop in Manchester for ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’ on 13th November. Book now before spaces run out!

Read more posts by Katy on her Productivity blog: katybateson.com. We love her post on the Magical Ideas Jar!

 

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5 Essential Apps for a Zen-Like Calm Lifestyle

August 19, 2015

Productivity Ninja

“Zen-like calm” is the first characteristic of the Productivity Ninja, and involves the ability to think rationally and intelligently in even the most stressful of situations, whilst maintaining Ninja levels of focus.

Although at Think Productive we have a “psychology before technology” approach to productivity training, Productivity Ninjas are weapon-savvy, and have the right thinking and organising tools at their disposal to help maximise their productivity.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our top five essential apps for achieving Zen-like calm in day-to-day life!

1. Headspace

We’ve mentioned our love for the Headspace guided meditation tool on numerous occasions, making it a must for our list of essential “Zen-like calm” apps. If you want to know more about why we try and fit a ten minute meditation session into the start of every working day, we have a post telling you exactly that!

2. Spotify

Spotify has a readymade playlist of music for just about every scenario you can imagine. Need to knuckle down and get that last hour of work completed? Try Zen Focus. Determined to finally get those recommended eight hours of sleep? Sleepify. Other great calming playlists include Your Morning Coffee, Music for Concentration, and The Stress Buster.

3. Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle alarm clock
One of the most effective ways of reducing stress is to ensure that you’re properly looking after your body. This includes making sure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep, which is where apps like Sleep Cycle can be useful. Sleep Cycle monitors your sleep and aims to wake you up in your lightest sleep phase so that you feel as well-rested as possible – the Guardian describe it as “like being woken up by a mermaid stroking your hair or a unicorn nuzzling your toes”.

4. Daily Yoga Daily Yoga – Mobile health | Yoga Workouts on Android and iPhone | Mobile Fitness

Again, taking good care of your body is of the utmost importance when it comes to achieving Zen-like levels of calm. If exercise is your thing, there are dozens of brilliant exercise apps out there, including 7 Minute Workout, which is perfect if you’re a regular culprit of the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse. For something a little gentler, however, apps such as Daily Yoga are a wonderful to introduce some light exercise into your daily routine.

5. Toodledoo / Todoist / Evernote / Second-Brain app of your choice

“Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” – David Allen. By offloading the contents of your mind into a “second brain”, you automatically release the stress of trying to hold onto one million and one ideas at once. Having a second brain app that can be accessed from your mobile and sync between devices is even better – you can relax in the knowledge that the digital manifestation of your life is only ever a few taps away.

Learn more about Unorthodoxy (and the other eight Ninja characteristics) in Graham Allcott’s How to be a Productivity Ninja.

zen-2Like this? Try these

Sign up for one of our Stress Less, Achieve More public workshops

The Student Introduction To Mindfulness

Why We Meditate for Ten Minutes A Day

Follow our ‘Mindfulness’ Pinterest board

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Why We Meditate for Ten Minutes A Day

August 14, 2015

Productivity Ninja

The words “meditation” and “mindfulness” conjure up a very specific image in the minds of most people. Thumbs and forefingers pressed together. Wrists resting lightly upon knees. Legs arranged in such a way that they bear closer resemblance to a pretzel than actual functioning limbs.

Forget all of that.

Meditation is simply the act of quieting and focussing the mind. It can be done on the floor or in a chair, in solitude or with others, in absolute silence or with the aid of a “guided meditation” instructor. Plus, with the dozens of guided meditation apps out there (Headspace, Simply Being, Calm, Omvana) you can have your own meditation instructor on the go.

Why meditate?

Meditation comes with a hoard of both mental and physical benefits – especially when it is adopted as a regular feature of your lifestyle.

Physically, meditation can lower high blood pressure, increase your immunity, and speed up your metabolism, with some studies even suggesting it could be helpful in relieving the body of pains and headaches that relate to tension. Mental benefits include an increase in creativity, a decrease in anxiety, and clearer, focused thinking.

Get your daily dose of zen like calm

Here at the Think Productive Headquarters, we’ve made a habit of fitting in a ten-minute daily meditation session (courtesy of the Headspace app) in between writing our to-do lists for the day, and getting into the full swing of work.

In terms of achieving Productivity Ninja levels of “Zen-Like Calm”, this is the time that we find works best for us. We set out our plans for the day, and then have an opportunity to focus our minds and get some control over our stress levels before tackling the day ahead. That’s both  Zen-Like Calm and Ninja Preparedness.

If something is a priority, you can and will find a way to make time for it – and ten minutes out of your day is really nothing once you‘ve considered the benefits of daily meditation.

zen-2Like this? Try these

Sign up for one of our Stress Less, Achieve More public workshops

The Student Introduction To Mindfulness

Make The Most Out Of Your Break With An Office Fika

Follow our ‘Mindfulness’ Pinterest board

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How To Create Clear, Concise and Actionable Email

August 7, 2015

Productivity Ninja

If you’ve mastered the art of effectively using recipient fields and are looking for more ideas for creating messages that are read and responded to quickly, strengthen the body of your email message by adopting an acronym to provide a consistent framework for every message you create. There are three ways you can do this.

Read the rest of this entry »

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How I Stay Productive: Peter Stark, Eden Springs

July 27, 2015

Productivity Ninja

This regular feature shares the secrets of the most highly efficient Productivity Ninjas. In this post, we spoke to the Marketing Manager of Eden Springs, Peter Stark, whose advanced time management skills and awareness of his whole team’s proactive attention levels are making him both a great Productivity Ninja and a great leader.

peter stark

About Peter Stark

Occupation: Marketing Manager

Company: Eden Springs – a leading supplier of eco-friendly coffee machines and water coolers to businesses throughout the UK

Location: Blantyre, Scotland

Other job titles in life: Franchise and Marketing Manager at S:CRAFT, Group Marketing Manager at Crewsaver and Cosalt International Ltd

What’s important about your workspace?

Organisation. I’m a firm believer that a tidy office equates to a tidy mind – so if my workspace is in order, I can manage my day more efficiently.

Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?

Time management. I’m quite good at keeping everything organised and working to a strict schedule.

Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?

Self-criticism. I’m always wondering if I’ve been productive enough or if I could’ve done more.

Which five apps could you not live without?

Twitter, BBC News, WhatsApp, Skype and Toggl

What’s your favourite piece of stationary?

I take a lot of notes so I can’t live without a notepad and pen!

When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?

Both me and my team seem to be more alert before lunchtime, so I organise our days accordingly – with the more important jobs taking precedence. When I first arrive in the office I make sure my schedule for the day is in order, check my emails and make sure my team are set up for a productive day.

What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?

I always start the day with plenty of water to wake me up – but if I start to struggle, a strong coffee or going out for some fresh air helps me stay alert.

What’s your best advice for reducing stress?

While working longer hours is sometimes unavoidable, I find that keeping overtime to a minimum helps to reduce my stress levels. Where possible, I try to complete work within regular office hours to avoid work life spilling over into my personal life.

What’s your email regime?

My email account is open throughout the working day and I check my inbox about once every hour. That way, I can respond to any urgent requests in a timely manner and leave less important tasks until later in the day.

What’s your favourite way to take a break in the middle of the day?

Regular breaks are a must if you want to stay productive – and in the middle of the day I break for lunch and make sure I leave the office and get some fresh air.

What’s the secret to your productivity?

I try to deal with one task at a time and focus my attention on that. At the start of each day, I plan my work for the day and the time I expect it to take – and this helps me stay on track throughout the day.

about_us

Huge THANK YOU to Eden Springs for naming us as number 2 out of the ’50 motivational twitter accounts that every manager should be following.

For more ideas on how to incorporate productivity techniques into your daily routine, see our entire ‘How I Stay Productive’ series here. 

Or read the most popular posts from the series…

Graham Allcott, CEO of Think Productive

Jim Hetherton, Productivity Ninja at Think Productive

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Unorthodox Productivity: Office Fika

July 22, 2015

Productivity Ninja

Productivity tips and tricks come in all shapes and sizes – and from every corner of the world. One of our favourite examples of unorthodox productivity, and one that you could even introduce to your own workplace, is the Swedish tradition of “fika”.

Did you know fika (1)

In Swedish culture, fika is essentially the idea of taking a coffee-and-cake style break at some point during the working day. According to Helene Henderson, author of The Swedish Table, to partake in a traditional Swedish fika you need “to impress, serve a variety of seven freshly baked items – and be ready to talk about the weather”.

The concept itself can be taken fairly broadly, though. You could fika with friends, family, or colleagues, with or without cake (although we highly recommend the cake), and you can easily switch out coffee for tea, juice, or anything else you feel like.

Fika in the workplace – why?

Fika is a formalised social institution in Sweden, with many workplaces encouraging the tradition and setting aside a specific time for colleagues to take a collective break. Taking a break might go against every one of your instincts when it comes to “getting things done”, but in fact – as any Productivity Ninja will tell you – the effect is exactly the opposite.

Improving productivity with formalised breaks

Formalised work breaks (like fika) demonstrate that managers and employees alike are actively acknowledging the importance of taking breaks. They provide an opportunity to slow down and remove yourself from the working environment for a few minutes, so that you can feel extra refreshed upon your return, and ready to get back to work.

While simply advocating social breaks helps to build better relationships between colleagues, the act of setting aside specific time for socialising helps to prevent other social distractions throughout the day. Colleagues have this break to look forward to, and so find themselves more able to work uninterrupted until their scheduled fika.

Productivity training is all about good attention management, and scheduled breaks are a great way of working around your most and least active levels of attention, to ensure that you get the most from them.

Why not try introducing the Swedish coffee break to your workplace, and see for yourself?

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How I Stay Productive: Katy Bateson

July 20, 2015

Productivity Ninja

This regular feature shares the secrets of the most highly efficient Productivity Ninjas. In this post, we spoke to our own Productivity Ninja, Katy Bateson, whose ruthless email regime and mindfulness approach is helping to keep her stress levels low and productivity levels high.

Katy Bateson
About Katy

Occupation: Productivity Ninja

Company: Think Productive

Location: North West (Heysham)

Other job titles in life: Office Manager for Hyfire, Improv teacher, performer and founder of We Are Improv

What’s important about your workspace?

It reflects me, with lots of nice objects that make me smile/happy. I also have a window so have light and can see the world outside.

Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?

Mindfulness. I’m pretty good at recognising what I really need to worry about and when it’s my lizard brain getting at me.

Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?

Human, not superhero. If I have a day where I feel I haven’t achieved as much as I’d have liked, I still find it difficult to not be annoyed. I’m still practicing giving myself a break!

Which five apps could you not live without?

Whatsapp, Netflix, Twitter, Banking App and Iplayer radio.

What’s your favourite piece of stationary?

I love stationary! Either a lovely notebook or a sharpie!

When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?

In the morning, between 8:30 and 12.

What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?

Go for a walk! Get a bit of fresh air and some space.

What’s your best advice for reducing stress?

Have lots of play in your life and have things to look forward to. Fill your life with fun and laughter!

What’s your email regime?

Log in a few times a day (depending what I’ve got going on) and making sure I achieve Inbox Zero every time I log on.

What’s your favourite way to take a break in the middle of the day?

An episode on Netflix – it feels like a real treat!

What’s the secret to your productivity?

Making sure I have lots of down time in my life – watching a TV series, reading, going out with my boyfriend, seeing family and generally having fun!

about_usFor more ideas on how to incorporate productivity techniques into your daily routine, see our entire ‘How I Stay Productive’ series here. 

Or read the most popular posts from the series…

Graham Allcott, CEO of Think Productive

Jim Hetherton, Productivity Ninja at Think Productive

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Extreme Productivity Experiments: Ruthless Kindness

July 16, 2015

Productivity Ninja

Following on from the difficulties of September, October 2013 continued to be difficult for Graham. Think Productive was busier than ever, increasing stress levels in the office to the highest they had ever been and with Graham having to balance his time between his work and his family, times were becoming more and more difficult. What was needed amongst all the stress and everyone around him was some ruthless kindness. 

‘If you can resolve stress, then you can resolve and improve productivity. They are pretty much the same thing in many ways. I wanted to use ‘kindness’ as a secret weapon and tool for productivity.’

After a few months of difficulty and problems, everything worked out well in the end. We hope you feel inspired by Graham’s recap of his extreme productivity experiment!

As you heard towards the end of the video, Graham took the month of November off so check back with us next Thursday to hear all about Grahams final month in the Extreme Productivity Experiments series.

Are you feeling out by constantly having to be switched on and finding no time to find your work-life balance?  Want to achieve more during your day in the office? Look into our Stress Less, Achieve More workshops.

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Extreme Productivity Experiments: The Lemon

July 9, 2015

Productivity Ninja

September 2013 was supposed to be Graham’s first trip to Australia. Planned for over a year, Graham was going to give a keynote at Australia’s biggest volunteering conference, run some productivity masterclasses in Oz’s coolest cities and go and meet his new Australian publishers ahead of ‘How To Be A Productivity Ninja’ launching there in 2014.  A really exciting work trip, popping in on my friends at ProductiveMuslim.com in Dubai on the way back home.  A final, pre-fatherhood work fling!

Yet as the time approached, with a pregnant wife whose hospital visits were becoming more complicated and frequent, it became clear that Australia would be too far away.  He needed to be here for September.  At that moment in time, “life” was getting in the way of all of those best-laid plans. He wondered how much of a stretch it would be to continue with September’s scheduled productivity experiment “Global Office”, in which the intrepid ninja runs his office as normal with just a laptop bag and an internet connection.  No matter how hard he could try, Costa Coffee in Kings Cross doesn’t have quite the same ring and excitement as the Sydney Opera House.

And then Graham remembered the words of his coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru, from a time a couple of years ago when he was panicking and scared.  He stopped him in the middle of his paranoid rant and said “Graham, this is your material”.

Productivity is nothing to do with perfection.  It’s about making the best reality.  And as the old saying goes, “when life throws you a lemon, make lemonade”.

So this month is no longer “global office”, or “out of office” as he was planning to rename it.  This month is “the lemon”.

We hope you feel inspired by Grahams recap of his extreme productivity experiment! Check back next Thursday to hear all about October’s Experiment: Ruthless Kindnesss!

Are you feeling out by constantly having to be switched on and finding no time to find your work-life balance?  Want to achieve more during your day in the office? Look into our ‘Stress Less, Achieve More’ workshops.

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Extreme Productivity Experiments: Abyss

July 2, 2015

Productivity Ninja

How many of us really switch off during our holiday time anymore? Even when we’re abroad and trying to relax, the temptation to check our emails and keep on top of everything thats going on before we get back can sometimes just be too much. After the last seven months of productivity experiments, I felt like I needed a break. A rest. A recharge. I need to stop feeling slightly frayed around the edges and feel sharp and energised again.

But how could I do this? I love my work and it energises me (for the most part!). So I decided it was time for a month of ‘Extreme rest’  – a month off of the internet in its entirety, a month of no work, a month of no smart phone, a month of no laptop. No demands, no expectations, nothing to check, nothing to do. Bliss for many, scary as hell to many others.

This is the Abyss.

We hope you feel inspired by Grahams recap of his extreme productivity experiment! Check back next Thursday to hear all about September’s Experiment: The Lemon!

Are you feeling out by constantly having to be switched on and finding no time to find your work-life balance?  Want to achieve more during your day in the office? Look into our Stress Less, Achieve More workshop.

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