“The mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” – David Allen
This is the first in a series of posts defining the Characteristics of a Productivity Ninja….
So you want to be a Productivity Ninja?
The first characteristic you need to nurture is Zen-like Calm. Good decision-making comes from the ability to create the time and space to think rationally and intelligently. The Ninja realises this, remains calm in the face of adversity, and equally calm under the pressure of information overload. You might not believe this, but it is entirely possible to have a hundred and one things to do and yet still remain absolutely calm.
How do we beat stress and remain calm? I answer this question more fully in my book as well as the practical skills needed for Ninja-mastery of email, tasks, projects and meetings. Here are a few basic principles:
Use your head, don’t use your head!
Be sure that you’re not forgetting important items by keeping all of your support information in a system, not in your head. Be sure that you’re not distracted and stressed by what you could be forgetting – by using a system instead of your own head as the place where information and reminders live.
Trust your system
You need to have trust that whatever systems you use will work. There is a danger that additional stress will be created by the uncertainty of not knowing whether your systems will help you deliver. Sticking to what you trust and trusting what you stick to are crucial. The way to foster this trust and promote the Zen-like calm you need is to regularly consider not just your work, but the process of your work too. Briefly but regularly reviewing how you work will help you to promote clearer thinking in the work itself.
Realise that you’ll never get everything done. That’s not the game anymore. Be safe in the knowledge that you’re in control, selecting the right things to do. This does not mean ‘don’t be ambitious’; it does mean that if you have a sense of ambition, you’ll probably experience some times in your life with more on your plate than you can physically do. The truth is that worry, stress and negative thought patterns are tiring and completely unproductive.
Keep your body in good physical condition
Eat porridge. Keeping fit and healthy will not only reduce stress and give your brain the focus and energy it needs to produce clearer thinking and decision making and it means you’ll look hot. It’s a win-win-win! There are hundreds of theories about why physical fitness positively impacts the brain. I discuss a few of them in Chapter 3 of the book.
Be prepared & organised, ready for when times get rough
“I don’t have the time to be organised,” is a common objection I hear when coaching clients towards Productivity Ninja status. But the truth is that when we experience periods of ‘flow’ – the times in our day or week when we’re most productive – the last thing we want to do is be thrown off track by being unable to find some crucial piece of information or by not having the tools we need readily available.
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. The realisation that after each battle comes a period of rest and realignment, and the strategic value of preparedness for the battles to come, are central to the Ninja philosophy.
This is an edited extract from How to be a Productivity Ninja.
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