How I Stay Productive: Nicola Knight

Our last, but certainly not least, interview candidate for this year is Productivity Ninja and Head of Releases at JHC Systems, Nicola Knight. Nicola gives us an insight into what boosts her productivity and which Ninja Characteristics she is tackling next. She also shares some great tips on how to spend your breaks and what definitely not to do while on holiday. 

How I Stay Productive


Occupation: Head of Releases

Company: JHC Systems

Location: Birmingham

Other job titles in life: Recruitment Consultant, Helpdesk Analyst, Release Manager, Mommy

What’s important about your workspace?

I keep it clear and free of clutter, just my phone, laptop – and a box of tissues in case of tea spillage…

Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?

Human not Superhero – I try not to expect too much of myself, and forgive myself for mistakes, slip-ups and lapses in ninja-like productivity when they happen. And then pick myself up and go again.

Human Not Superhero

Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?

Ruthlessness – I am a people-pleaser at heart and find it hard to say ‘no’ at times, although I do recognize that it can actually be more helpful to do that in the long run!

Productivity Ninja Ruthlessness

Which five apps could you not live without?

Slack – brilliant for team collaboration and reduces reliance on email massively.
Trello – love the Kanban-style tracking of projects and activities.
Google Keep – smashing for grabbing notes, making quick lists, setting reminders for times and locations
WhatsApp – for ensuring I have a life outside work!
Google Drive – allows me to access all the documents I need, wherever I am and whatever device I have with me.

What’s your favorite piece of stationery?

I am a sucker for a nice notebook, especially if it has dividers so I can keep notes from different projects or meetings in their own sections. I tend not to use paper these days though!

Productivity Ninja Interview

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

First thing in the morning. I get into the office for 8am, when it’s nice and quiet, and I’m pretty much guaranteed at least an hour of uninterrupted thinking, planning and writing time.

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

Go and make a cup of tea – making sure to give it a good few minutes to brew while I gaze out of the window or chat with whoever else I happen to run into in the kitchen. It’s amazing what you can find out that way!

Take breaks to boost your productivity

What’s your best advice for reducing stress?

Don’t take work home with you – have clear boundaries between work time and non-work time, and be strict about not checking emails outside work. I spoiled a holiday once when I read an email containing bad news that I could do nothing about until I got back to work – never again!

What’s your email regime?

Slightly sporadic – if I’m working on something time-critical or requiring absolute concentration, I will avoid checking email at all. If I’m in and out of meetings, I’ll check when I can and try to address only the urgent things. I sometimes even get my inbox to zero…

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

Go and meet a friend for coffee and a gossip, or if I’m feeling flush, have a wander round the department store next to the office. I have a weakness for boots!

What’s the secret to your productivity?

I try to focus on one thing at a time – it is much more efficient and effective to complete one task and move on to the next than to keep switching from one thing to another and back again.  Choosing what to do now and what can wait is key to getting the right things done.

If you know someone who we should interview and feature in our How I Stay Productive series, please get in touch at
In the meantime, make sure you acquire necessary Productivity Ninja skills for the new year, through one of our Time Management Workshops, Facilitation Training and Effective Meetings Training

By Hannah Urbanek 

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