There are 6 main pillars of high performance; Clarity, Energy, Courage, Productivity, Influence and Purpose but interestingly, when I ask my clients to rate themselves in each of these categories, 70% of my clients rate themselves lowest around their productivity levels. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average rating is an astonishing 4! Even in cases where individuals are ‘powering through’ tasks, some just don’t feel they are productive.
Let’s face it, we all live busy life’s, trying to balance work and family life can be a struggle and now that many of us are working from home, it’s even more important that learn some skills to ensure we maintain a healthy balanced life.
The fundamentals of becoming more productive are setting goals and maintaining energy and focus. When you set clear and specific goals this enables you to get you focused and engaged. So, let’s embark on a quest to become more productive. To aid you with this, I have detailed out some points for you to consider and some useful tips for you to implement. So here we go…
Is it smarter to think about goals and targets rather than hours spent?
Quantity output has often served as a misguided reference to many since, in a corporate environment, it is believed or perceived that if you’re still hung over your computer and desk at 8pm you are “putting in the hours”. Too often that time is spent with internet surfing and shuffling of tasks. Quality output, however, is about focusing on goals and targets rather than how long we spend doing it.
Busy hours spent working means nothing if they are unproductive ones. A much more focused way to achieve results is if you make a targeted priority list of goals and tasks and create an action plan around how you are going to execute each one. Once you have completed one task, visual stimulation of simply ticking them off, invokes the feeling of happiness which in turns increases motivation to tackle the next task.
Thus, quality output, considering the goals and targets rather than time, brings more joy and productivity.
Is there a particular time of the day when it is best to attack work?
Jeff Bezos, founder, CEO and president of Amazon spoke on an interview about how he only schedules important meetings, decision making events and key activities between 10am and 12pm as this is the peak time for his ability to make the best decisions.
So, morning time is a great time to attack large pieces of work as it’s when we are the most rested and have the most energy but, it is important to avoid rolling out of bed and straight into emails and tasks. Doing so only sets us up to be reactive throughout the day. Taking the initial hour of our day to set ourselves up mentally and physically will help us prepare even more for the most effective time we have.
How important are start and stop times?
You NEED to set boundaries between your life and your work!
Before the changes enforced on us by the global pandemic, most of us had the structure of the daily work routine. These predetermined times gave the boundaries and routine that humans thrive on. As any parent will tell you, creating a good routine for children is essential as it helps the child feel safe, its sets clear boundaries and expectations and, as long as this is consistent, it will contribute to a happy child. As adults we still need this, it’s just that we need to be mindful to create our own boundaries, for which scheduled start and stop times for work are essential.
Setting clear start and stop times will also make you more productive as it will ensure you are working the optimum number of hours in a working week. Research has shown, when you decrease your daily working hours from 10 to 8 and shorten the work week from 6 days to 5, your productivity increases. The more you work, the less effective and productive you are going to become over both short and long term.
When you increase your productivity levels and allow more time to relax, you will naturally feel happier which will in turn reduce stress levels, leading to improved mental and physical health.
Determining these times is essential so that you find the optimum working times. Where possible, your family schedule should be considered as there is no point trying to work when your home is at its busiest. This will lead to increased anxiety levels, decrease productivity levels and worst of all you’ll not be emotionally present for your loved ones. By establishing times and boundaries that everyone understands, expectations will be set, and you can hit your ultimate, undisturbed, stress-free productivity levels.
Are there key tricks and strategies to maintaining focus?
For many of us coffee has become the answer to aid us in trying to help us maintain focus throughout the day, however, we can actually do this another way. This skill is used by high performing people globally have and use which fortunately can be learned and developed through creating the right habits. In high performance, the first thing we work with our clients on is Focus Points to home in on what we are working towards.
It’s no surprise that when we are focused and engaged in something, passionate about a piece of work or project, or excited and motivated, we have less issues with staying focused on what needs to be done. When we are in this state, we don’t tend to get distracted or invite interruptions, so we can keep laser focused. So, it stands to reason that if we can generate this connection to our projects and tasks, we can also generate more focus.
By building routines and habits around sleep, nutrition and exercise we increase our ability to stay focused and concentrated but it’s not enough. We need to prioritise the projects/tasks we’re working on, set deadlines for completion and avoid distractions.
Blocking time is a great way to ensuring that we stick to our plan, avoid distractions and complete the intended work scope. Ensuring to block time for rest and breaks is equally as important, as well as block times for checking emails and to have our social media check in. By limiting the amount of limbo time in our calendar and replacing it with specific ‘block time’, we stay more focused on those specific projects/tasks and don’t lose 30-60 mins in and out of emails etc.
How important a consideration is what we eat/drink while we work?
To feel more energized and vibrant each day, we all know we have to take care of our physical body.
The idea that we need to keep eating to keep our energy up, unfortunately promotes a false pretence and understanding that a small sugar hit will help! Studies show that these short bursts actually have an adverse effect on our energy and causes more fatigue, not to mention the health implications that come with it too.
Any advice for what to eat and when is best to eat should come from a nutritionist who has studied the individual’s personal requirements and I do recommendation to anyone who wants to reach optimum performance level, to get a full health check and seeks advice from a reputable nutritionist. However, simply by increasing your water intake, adopting a more plant-based diet and cutting out snacking, will dramatically increases your performance in a very short time.
Do we need to make time for deep work, and how do we do that?
The signs of busyness and productivity often get confused. It’s tempting to busy ourselves with these easier tasks, but they, too often, bring less value to our work. Jumping from task to task or attending every meeting, call and email just because you’ve been invited, means you are busy, not necessarily productive. To work at ultimate performance over a sustained period of time means you need to adopt a different strategy – The Deep Work Strategy!
Deep work is defined as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limits”. This needs to be performed in a state of distraction-free concentration and is important because without it, you’ll constantly find yourself caught focussing on small non-value adding tasks and you’ll never making progress on the larger important pieces of work.
Being able to enter into deep work means much preparation. You need to set time scales to when you are going to enter into this period because burnout is real and work creep is inevitable if you don’t. In addition, you need to ensure you have no distractions, you are in a good place to work, you have switched off all social media and the likes.
Most importantly make sure you prioritise. If you have a lot of smaller tasks which you haven’t either prioritised or scheduled, they can remain in your mind and become a major distraction. I find that morning time is a good time to enter into deep work as your energy levels are higher. Later in the day, is a good time to perform the smaller less important tasks where your brain doesn’t need to be so concentrated. Human brains work in such a great way, they recognise lude various rituals as part of your routine. This can look differently for everyone but before you start, do the ritual that works for you to signal to your body and mind that you are about to do some deep work.
Always remember to take some rest. You need to switch off your brain in order to let it recharge. If you want to continually work at this level over a sustained period of time, your downtime is equally as important as the ‘deep work’ time.
The pomodoro method is well documented. Are there any other similarly efficient techniques to maximise our concentration power?
Like pomodoro, there are many techniques to help us manage our time such as, the Getting Things Done (GTD) Method by David Allen, Important – Urgent Matrix from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Pareto Analysis, Rapid Planning Method and others help to be more effective but, at the end of the day, to maximise our concentration power it comes down to how we are taking care of ourselves and, regardless of what method we use, how and what we’re planning.
The level of our concentration is deeply affected by our mental stamina and physical vibrancy. If we are not managing these areas no amount of planning will allow us to maximise what we’re capable of. By holistically looking at our sleep, nutrition, exercise, planning, prioritisation, distraction and interruption management we can then maximise what levels of concentration we are capable of.
Meditation has proven to be a great technique and antidote to scatteredness. By practicing meditation and implementing it into our daily routines, it can really serve as a very beneficial tool to train our mind to focus on one thing at a time. In fact, I can personally say that upon practicing meditation it has played a key part in my morning routine for focus and planning as well as assisting with transitioning between major tasks and projects. It is also something that I introduce to my clients during our coaching program and has profound affects.
How important a consideration is what we wear while we work?
I work with may high performers and there is a definite consensus that work performance can be enhanced by dressing well.
Napoleon Hill said “The clothes maketh not the man but they surely do give him a good head start” and if that’s the impression or importance of our choice of clothing then it stands to reason that we should not only “dress to impress” others but also ourselves!
There have been many discussions on how does a dress code impact productivity with no definite conclusion. It seems that attire is such a deeply personal preference that there is no perfect way to predict how implementing a dress code in your workplace will affect productivity. However, there have been studies conducted that have discovered the clothes you wear can have an impact on how you act therefore wearing more formal clothing or a uniform can change people’s mindset to that of workplace mindset.
In my opinion, there are valid reasons many schools that have their pupils wear school unform. Dressing for work puts you in a workplace mindset and work mode. It teaches its students to dress smartly and take pride in their appearance and prepares students for success by teaching them professional dress.
Not only do I believe that your performance can be enhanced by dressing well I also think that it impacts how others perceive us in the workplace.
Another interesting thing to consider when discussing productivity in relation to work attire is why some of the world highest performers have designed their work wardrobe to have multiple sets of the same work clothes. The idea behind this is, by doing this it eliminates the task of deciding what to wear in the morning leaving more thinking space on how to be productive through the day and having one less decision to make which allows them to focus on more important workplace decisions.
Get intentional and focussed on making these changes and just wait so see your productivity levels rise and your life transform!