Next up in our ‘How I Stay Productive’ series, is our powerhouse and every day inspiration, Elena Kerrigan. Elena is Think Productive’s Managing Director and is not only in charge of keeping everyone on track but she also spreads the Productivity Ninja love and leads by example. Find out how she does it below…
Occupation: Managing Director
Company: Think Productive
Location: Brighton, United Kingdom
Other job titles in life: New Mum, Improvisor, Podcast Addict
What’s important about your workspace?
It can be anywhere as long as I have my notepad to populate My Daily Checklist (i.e. my hard landscape, such as any Meetings or deadline-dependent tasks/conversations that need to happen that day, my “free blocks” of time and what “Big Rocks” I can get done in them and my “Stucks” for the Team Huddle) and my headset. I generally don’t like working without my monitor, mouse and keyboard (as my body is quick to tell me if I’m being ergonomically lazy). So I carry a mouse with me even if working from a cafe.
Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?
If I’m allowed two, probably Ruthlessness or Stealth and Camouflage. The world doesn’t stop turning if you go offline, are unavailable for a few hours or leave the office on time. In fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true. When I’m offline, or off somewhere reviewing, team members know I’m contactable on my mobile if they really need me, but they’ll try to avoid it if possible so that often pushes them to more confidently take action or make decisions themselves. Also, I’m pretty ruthless with my working hours. I start and leave on time and work a 4 day week. And I always take a lunch break away from my desk.
I compartmentalize my work time with strong physical barriers so that it doesn’t bleed into my personal time. I find this really helps me switch off, rest and recover, and keep stress at bay. So I rarely take my laptop home. And if I do (say, because I’m working from home the next day), I actually store away my laptop bag and any work docs as soon as I get in the house, so that it’s all out of sight and much less likely to pop into my brain. And I don’t have ANY work apps or work email on my phone. If any ideas come “out of hours”, I immediately add them into my “Email Me” app, which sends it to my Nozbe inbox as a new task. Then it’s forgotten about until the next work day when I am happy to give it my full attention.
Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
Unorthodoxy. This comes naturally to Graham (TP Founder) and he’s always challenging us to think differently. I’m the kind of person who likes and follows rules, so being a maverick in that way is definitely something that I am still working on!
Which five apps could you not live without?
Email Me – to quickly capture work ideas when I’m outside of work and don’t want to be drawn into any work apps
Nozbe – my work second brain
Beyondpod – my portal into another dimension
Colornote – my home second brain
WhatsApp – family and friends
If I can squeeze a no 6, my guilty pleasure, Facebook – for connecting with extended family, friends and the improv community. I also love Audible.
What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
Scissors (I have a pair in every room at home as I just seem to need them all the time and helps me get those 20 second jobs done which are easily forgotten about as soon as I leave the room!). I also love tape dispensers.
When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
In the afternoon. Tends to be about an hour after I’ve finished lunch. I’ll settle down with a cuppa and fire on all cylinders until an hour before hometime.
What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
Get up, have a stretch and make a tea. Then go back to my desk and switch my Outlook to offline mode and close down my Slack app.
What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
Learn to get your inbox to zero and get yourself a second brain that you constantly feed, check in with and trust.
Also, make space in your life for a hobby that really disconnects your work brain and uses other parts of your brain instead. For me it’s Improv. I’m in two troupes and we rehearse weekly. Laughter is so so good for you!
What’s your email regime?
I go into my inbox after I’ve planned my Daily Checklist. That normally takes me through until our team meditation and Huddle at 10.25. At 11am I try to go offline or have meetings for about 60-90 mins. I like to process emails again just before and after lunch and then again in my last 40 minutes of the work day.
What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
I always like to have a proper lunch break outside, away from the office so I can switch off for a bit and get some fresh air. I like to sit in a nearby cafe, catch up on my WhatsApp and Facebook, then stick a good podcast on to really disconnect.
What’s the secret to your productivity?
Work smart, break hard, leave on time.
(And, make space for laughter in your life!)
What’s your productivity secret? Eager to try out some of Elena’s top tips? Let us know in the comment section below or @thinkproductive
By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive’s Head of Outreach and is the voice behind a lot of our blog and social media content.