What if you could find additional pockets of attention where there were previously none? I’m not talking about extending your working hours here, but perhaps using some of the points in your day that you might currently not have considered. Opportunity is everywhere – as long as we’re prepared?
Calls and Walking
Every day I have at least two periods where I’m walking somewhere for five or ten minutes. This is where I make most of my phone calls. Why make calls when I’m at my desk and have so many other things available to me, when I can do this when I’d otherwise be, well, just walking?
I can’t do these calls unless I’m prepared, though. I need a regular discipline of adding phone numbers to my Blackberry a regularly updated list of what calls I can make on the move.
Reading and Waiting
Similarly, I keep both a physical and a digital file of reading materials, primarily as a way of avoiding having to read things at my desk when again, there are other things I could be doing there that require more resources to be available.
- My physical ‘Reading’ file is simply an A4 document wallet. It lives in my bag and is constantly being filled up and emptied.
- My digital file is one I keep on the iPad using the app, Instapaper. Instapaper allows me to save interesting pages from the web, documents, and emails, and then access them wherever I am (and without the need for a 3G connection either).
I read on trains, on the tube (my particular favourite, as I get a geeky little thrill from leaving interesting articles behind for other passengers to discover!), in the dentist’s waiting room, in receptions if I arrive early for a meeting and so on.
It’s also sometimes nice to catch up your reading at home for an hour, whilst relaxing with a cup of tea. You’ll be amazed at all the extra pockets of attention you can create, but again you need to have done your preparation so that when the opportunity arrives, you’ve got your reading material at the ready!
Thinking and Travelling
One of the Think Productive UK colleagues lives just outside London and travels into the city on a motorbike. By keeping a list of all the big decisions and thinking he has coming up, he can refer to this just before he turns the key and starts the engine running; it sets him up to use that time really productively.
For several years I lived in London and rode a motorbike (by far the best way of getting around the city) but all I could think about when I rode my bike was, “Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die”, so I’m in awe of the confidence needed to also use this time for useful thinking!
There are many, many other examples of times a ‘Thinking List’ comes in handy: at airports, in queues, when driving, whilst attending functions you don’t really care about, or watching films your partner wanted to see but you hate (do it subtly though!), and many more. A great tip is to keep this list synchronised to your phone. Since you always have your phone with you, the list is always there when you find an opportunity arises. Again, you need to be prepared for this to work!
Coffee and Conversations
Think about all those internal emails that fly around the office from people who sit just a few desks away. Whilst the kettle is being boiled or the coffee made, use this time to have quick conversations in reply to some of those emails.
Before you get up to make a drink, do a quick scan of your email inbox, picking out two or three potential targets. Then, your goal is to hunt them down between now and when you sit back down with your hot beverage. Make it a game! Particularly focus on the conversations that are so much more easily done in person than on email, which will save you a bucketful of time later on.
Sometimes a useful way to decide this is to think about which emails might lead you to reply with a series of questions – usually in a two-way conversation, the number of questions you need to answer is seriously reduced.
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