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Top productivity tips from Workplace members

Workplace
Author since:
December, 2016
33 blog posts

It’s safe to say that most of us look for ways to improve our output, reduce our stress, and create a slightly more productive version of ourselves. I think I’ve only ever worked with one person in my career who didn’t need to do this; she is just naturally organised in every way. In fact, we used to send her to other members of the team to help them organise, become more productive, and tidy their desks. (You know who you are Amanda Wallis!)

If you Google productivity there are reams and reams of research, lists, and ideas on the subject. A whole industry exists that provides weird and the wonderful productivity tips from when to take breaks, what to eat, and how to stand. I even read one that said to drink water…oh really!

However, in reality, I think many of these are more distracting than productive. So, what does work when we want to stop feeling guilty and get things done? How can we be confident that we are that pinnacle of organisation and productivity?

 

We asked our members for their top productivity tips:

#1 Louise’s tip. Every time you get an email from a list you are not subscribed to, and you don’t want them to interrupt your day, make a conscious effort to unsubscribe; reducing your inbox and the time it takes to sort it. This will also mean that important communications don’t get lost amongst the sales emails we all get sent daily.

#2 Amanda’s tip. Every day, go through your emails and clear them out, deal with, sort and file.

#3 Heather’s tip. The oldest productivity tip is making a list, but I think it’s important to use a medium that works for you. Personally, I spend most of my time glued to screens, so I prefer my lists to be digital. As a team, we use Trello to manage tasks and projects, and I keep a personal Trello board to organise my own tasks. Within that board, I break down tasks into different lists; one for the most important things to get done that day, one for ‘focus’ tasks (things that require more time and focus) and one for ‘sometime soon’ (tasks that aren’t urgent). Finally, I also have an ‘ideas’ list to keep track of ideas I haven’t yet had time to flesh out. One day I’ll get to those!

#4 Pete’s tip. Turn off Outlook. Don’t let your inbox control you. You control it and look at it when you have allocated time to deal with it.

#5 Laura’s tip. If you have a job that will take less than five mins, do it now.

#6 Hayley’s tip. Keep a journal. Page index your journal so that all your notes and list are indexed and easy to find. You can even buy these ready done. A few good ones are Bullet Journals or Best Self Co, both of which have helped me. You can use this one journal as your diary, to do list, holiday log, blog list, in fact, just about anything. There are loads of websites to help you organise your journal effectively. It is also quite therapeutic as you can be as creative as you like.

#7 Jane’s tip. Touch a piece of paper once – deal with it and file it.

#8 Tim’s tip. If you have a task that you need to do, block out time to achieve this. Blocks of two or three hours are good where you don’t have your phone or any interruptions, and you just close in on getting the task completed. This is especially great for strategy or R and D which often gets left to the end of the list when you are working for yourself but is what will make your business a success.

Of course, these are all great. And I’m sure many of us are now thinking “yes that is amazing I must do that”. But will you ever get around to it? Or will it just add to your guilt and the list of things you want to do to become more productive?

There’s research to say that productivity doesn’t sit in the knowing what you should do it, it sits in two areas, mind set and subconscious. Going back to Amanda, my organised ex colleague, this was the difference between her and the rest of us, it was her mind set.

I listened recently to a podcast by organisational psychologist Gary Latham, and there are some interesting academic findings that he discusses.

Here’s a quick review of what he thinks being productive is:

1. Specific Goal Setting

Not making your goals general (e.g. each day I will go through my emails and deal with them or file them). Instead, the goal would be:

Before I start work each day I will go through my inbox and deal with everything I have not dealt with, and then I will start my day; or

Before I close my computer each day I will write tomorrow’s to-do list.

This makes these goals habits, and makes sure that you do them. He says that the specificity of the goal is what will make you achieve the productivity.

This takes us back to Tim’s tip of blocking out time in your diary to complete specific projects. So, rather than today’s to-do list saying “write a blog”, it would say “11am-1pm write a blog on X”. This mind set and specific goal is what gets us to productivity.

2. Subconscious Productivity

Gary talks at length about this because, while he did not initially believe in it, he undertook research that proved he was wrong. The subconscious does have a massive effect on our productivity. While he uses several examples, two stood out to me:

A CEO of a company sends out a “motivational” email to the sales team each week. Gary and his team took this and added 12 productivity and achievement words such as success, achievement, victory, etc. They then sent the original email to one half of the team and the new email to the other half. The sales results of the team with the productivity words soared in comparison. This amazed him and got him to look at other areas of the subconscious such as your surroundings and the impact of your environment on productivity and results. Positive wording and phrases such as those classic sucessories posters DO get into your subconscious and will help you to achieve more.

He also tells a story of asking people to wait in a room. In one room there were books on gardening and in another diet books. They then offered people a snack of either chocolate or an apple. In the room with the diet books most people chose the apple, and in the gardening the chocolate. When asked if they remembered seeing books, they said no. So this proves that the information was processed in their subconscious.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

So, to conclude, tips are great, but we need specific goals that are habit forming if we want to succeed. And we need to stay away from negative conversations and move towards the positive.

Happy positivity everyone – you can do it!

Up Next

Work-life integration VS work-life balance

Workplace
Author since:
December, 2016
33 blog posts

Integration: to combine two or more things to become more effective.

 

All anyone ever talked about in the early 2000’s was work-life balance. People were told that they needed more life outside work and a “better balance”. Many of them started looking for more flexible jobs, in search of what they perceived to be a better life. However, the very concept of balance implies that work would compete with life to dominate the mix. Being in the hotel industry gave me hands-on experience of this clash.

For many years, we looked at our lives in hotels as a blend of two worlds: work and home.  Much of our social time was spent at work and with people we enjoyed the company of. These people were also part of our “other” life, the one that happened on the few occasions we were not at work. With the two worlds being completely blended, we never felt left out or unhappy; we had practically achieved what we call today “work-life integration”.

But, is this integration more effective than balance, or is it just the same thing with a different name?

As Clare Mulligan, Senior Psychologist at Carter Cordon Business Psychologists recently said, “right time – right place – right task is what work-life integration is all about. This allows you to be at the kids’ school at 11am, then doing a conference call at 7pm, this is integrating your work and your home for greater effectiveness.”

Technology advances that make us available 24/7 have brought about a massive shift in our work and life patterns. Life is now instantaneous with few boundaries or breaks. Managed properly, this continuity becomes a real integration between work and home life that works for everyone, and gives the flexibility so many of us now strive to achieve.

Introducing the “anywhere worker”

Professor Robert Kelly’s recent interview with the BBC gatecrashed by his children was integration at its very best. The professor was at home in Korea, having paused his daily work activities to be interviewed on live television when his children “bombed” his presentation. This went immediately viral and in a rather funny way shows the important role of technology in integration.

A study by the Fast Company, combining data from the US, UK, and Germany found that 68% of people who described their teams as “very successful” had more than half of them in different locations. Being chained to an office does not indicate productivity; the “anywhere worker” may be at their best in a café or brainstorming with the team via a conference call on their mobile.

This survey also showed that successful teams collaborate freely, regardless of their location. 67% said that they are more likely to share spontaneous ideas through virtual media than in a face to face meeting. Social media and digital platforms have changed the way we share ideas radically – in fact, we share them instantly instead of saving them for a face-to-face conversation. With more ideas being shared in real time, success can only be easier to achieve.

The shift towards free-range productivity

Productivity isn’t about the setting, it’s about the mindset. Work-life integration starts with how you work best. To figure this out, take stock of your work style. Ask yourself where, when and how you perform at your highest calibre. An “anywhere worker” weaves these considerations with professional priorities and lifestyle choices.

The leaders of the future are looking at work differently, aiming to nourish productivity through integration. This tendency is more noticeable in digital companies like Netflix: the company is headquartered in California, and is being run by its Italy-based CEO, Reed Hastings.

The verdict

To some, work-life integration is just a way of getting the worst of both worlds by being always on call but never allowed to switch off. In all fairness, this could be the case for some. However I like to see work-life integration as a life choice, not an institution. It will work for some and not for others, some will see it as a completely positive switch and others as another stressant added to their already stressed lives.

It remains a fact that the new generation of workers are constantly looking for more flexibility in their work and this is what this integration really stands for. As long as it’s a functional life choice, integration will eat balance for breakfast every time.

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