Your Productivity Ninja Weekend Challenges

25/10/2013 |

NinjaMany of us use the weekend as time to catch up on the things we’ve not done during the week – maybe shopping, laundry, meeting friends, odd jobs and, in lots of cases, work.

How about spending a bit of time sorting out your ninja-skills as well?

You can read more about these skills in How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott (or attend one of our public workshops), but here are some ideas of how you can get started this weekend:


Zen-Like Calm – get to the gym

Great decision-making comes from the ability to create the time and space to think rationally and intelligently about the issue at hand. 

Keeping fit and healthy will not only reduce stress in its own right, but will also give your brain the focus and energy it needs to produce clearer thinking and decision-making that will enable you to stay on top of your work, too. And it means you’ll look hot. It’s a win-win-win!

Ruthlessness – plan your week ahead

Ruthlessness isn’t just about how we process information though, it’s also about our ability to protect our time and attention, focussing only on the things that add the greatest impact, even at the expense of other things that are ‘worth doing’. 

With abundance of information such a problem, being choosy is the only way. It goes against the western, protestant work ethic culture that we’re so familiar with to decide not to do things, but that’s exactly what we must do. A lot. Being much choosier about what we say “Yes” to is an important skill – and learning to say “No” to ourselves means not biting off more than we can chew. Go through next weeks events – is there anything that you can say “no” to?

Weapon-Savvy – delete all those time-wasting apps and tools

The Ninja is skilful on their own, but knows that using the right tools makes them more effective. 

Tools are there to help us get things done, but our obsession with them can occasionally become a distraction. There are some great productivity websites out there – often created or led by influential and insightful thinkers – but whilst we do need to keep up with technology and innovation to the extent that it increases our productivity, we also need to be hyper-conscious that this is in itself ‘dead time’, away from the completion of our priority tasks and projects.

Stealth and Camouflage – book some “you time” in your calendar

Protecting your attention spans and keeping focussed is hard to do. This is where the Ninja needs to employ a bit of old-fashioned stealth and camouflage.

Book time in your calendar for creative thinking, reviewing, forward planning and other important activities. Have a personal codeword for this if you work in an office where other people can book your calendar and are unlikely to respect your autonomy if they see ‘personal thinking time’ or ‘reading’ as a calendar entry. Use ‘private’ or ‘meeting outside of the office’ instead.

Unorthodoxy – find a mentor

We must avoid getting stuck in a rut and doing things less efficiently than we could, at all costs. 

An obsession with unorthodoxy and innovation also means ditching some of the foolish creations of the ego: never be afraid or embarrassed or too proud to ask for advice, even if that means you needing to show weakness. And never resist an opportunity to learn something new from a trusted source. Modelling the success of others is crucial. Mentoring is a great way to do this: take advice from those who have travelled the road you’re setting out on, avoid making the mistakes they themselves made, and shortcut to success.

If you don’t know anyone who does your job, try sites like – or look out for related social events in your sector.

Agility – get organised

A Ninja needs to be light on their feet, able to respond with deftness to new opportunities or threats. 

A messy desk, an out of date contacts list or diary and a bag full of receipts can play havoc with your productivity. Have a clear out, bring all your lists, files and diaries up to date – you’ll thank yourself next week.

Usually, those people who naturally resist the idea of being organised are the very same people who experience the greatest mindset shift from getting their paperwork, projects, email inbox and everything else under control. It’s immensely calming if you do it regularly, but probably even more so if you don’t normally experience it very often.

Mindfulness – pick up a book

Our minds are our most important tool. Being emotionally intelligent and self- aware are important for so many reasons, not least because they equip you to take action.

Our brains have evolved a lot since we were monkeys, but one thing has hardly changed: the lizard brain. A term popularised by Seth Godin in his brilliant book Linchpin, this part of our brain still remembers what it was like to need to survive, to blend in, to not make a fuss. In fact, the worst thing for the lizard brain to think would be that whatever we’re doing makes us stand out. Standing out from the crowd in evolutionary terms meant you’d get picked off by a predator and this is exactly how the lizard brain still thinks!

Also worth reading is Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art  – a revealing and personal account of his battles as a writer against what he calls ‘the resistance’. The resistance is a mindset, usually developed by the lizard brain, but characterised by stress, anxiety, fear of failure, fear of success and a whole host of other emotions that whir around our brains and tell us to stand still.

(And of course, if you don’t have a copy of How to be a Productivity Ninja, that’s worth picking up too!)

Preparedness – chill out

Being prepared is about practical preparation as well as mental preparation. 

This of course means mindfulness, but it also means looking after our most precious resource: our own attention and energy. As such, we need time to be off duty too. Perhaps being off duty involves a long Facebook binge or surfing crap on the internet. Perhaps it involves going out with friends or taking time to focus your attention onto something completely different (or onto nothing at all).

In short – it’s the weekend – enjoy it!


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