How I Stay Productive: Graham Allcott

The Think Productive blog offers different ideas on how you can increase your productivity on a daily basis, but we thought it would help to show you how our favourite productivity ninjas apply these tips to their daily lives.

GrahamShoot-7-2Graham Allcott

Occupation: CEO of Think Productive, Author

Company: Think Productive

Location: Brighton, UK

Other job titles in life: Trustee of Centrepoint (youth homelessness charity), father, son, husband, Villa fanatic

What’s important about your workspace?

Clear space and a nice view. My new home office space is surrounded by trees and birds. Being surrounded by nature or gazing out to sea are what inspire me most.

Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?

I’d probably say Stealth and Camouflage. I spend a lot of time working on my own and disconnecting. Luckily I have the autonomy to do that.

Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?

I think I can improve on pretty much all of them (which you might think is an odd thing for me to say, given that I wrote them, but my philosophy is that no one ever ‘perfects’ productivity, so I believe we always have lots more to learn, as well as lots to teach) but being Ruthless with my choices is probably my weakness. I think everyone struggles with saying ‘No’, but I often have a pathological desire to help and add value. I don’t know why, I’ve just always been a bit like that.

Which five apps could you not live without?

Nozbe, Dropbox, Xero (for my company finances), Headspace, Runkeeper (I’m currently training for my second marathon!).

What’s your favourite piece of stationary?

My Dymo label-maker. When I get started with that thing, it’s my productivity porn moment of Weapon un-Savvyness.

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

Around 10am until around 12 noon. Hence why I try and work from home and solo at that time as much as possible.

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

I know you’re expecting me to give some super-Ninja thing here, but I truly believe there are only two answers to this: 1. Save up things like email and easy tasks to do when your attention is waning (preferably on a list called something like ‘inactive attention’ or ‘mindless crap’), and 2. Have the mindfulness to take care of yourself in that moment, without beating yourself up about what you’re not doing or not able to do. That’s it.

What’s your best advice for reducing stress?

Well again, lowering expectations certainly helps! But the main habit that will reduce your stress (and increase your productivity) is to treat thinking as the important work it is, rather than as a luxury for when you’re “less busy”. There’s no substitute for weekly and daily Review periods, with a nice checklist for each so that you get into a good rhythm with it. When I miss a weekly review, I feel more stressed – until I catch up and run through that checklist again, and then all is well in the world.

What’s your email regime?

Since my productivity experiment of only processing email once a week (back in 2013), I’ve been setting aside time on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. In practice, this has had varying degrees of discipline and rigidity, and I also have an assistant screening email much more regularly, so we’re on top of the big stuff. But what it means for my own attention management and the expectations of others is that I don’t need to live in my inbox.

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

Our office is five minutes from Brighton Beach. I have to say that we don’t make use of that as often as we should! I think getting a little bit of fresh air clears the head. I’m always jealous of the smokers: as an ex-smoker, I know they’re killing themselves with their filthy habit, but I also remember that all those enforced “five minute think” times were very grounding.

What’s the secret to your productivity?

I think about the efficiency of everything. I don’t know where this came from, but I’ve always had a weird thing where I can’t stand waste, so I’m constantly thinking “is this the easiest way to do this?”. It’s a blessing and a curse – at work it makes me productive, at home it makes me annoying, I’m sure!

The other thing that helps me with things like writing and starting businesses is that I’m pretty single-minded when I lay my eyes on something I want to do, which is a very important trait for writing, because writing ALWAYS has a tricky period in the middle of the process where you just want to give up, and of course the same is true for starting businesses.

And finally, of course, applying my nine ninja characteristics! Having written that book, there’s a constant sense that I need to live up to what a Productivity Ninja should be – so that creates its’ own pressure but is also very motivating. But of course, the final of those 9 characteristics is that a Productivity Ninja is a human being, not a superhero. Rest assured, I screw it all up regularly too, but that’s all part of what makes productivity such an interesting subject for me – we’re all on a journey, improving, one day at a time.

Follow Graham on twitter at @grahamallcott for more of his productivity expertise.

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