Most people admit to being very busy, often over-busy these days, but very few people, when they think about it, will say they are very productive.
But why is that?
People don’t mean to waste time but that’s what happens more often than not.
Oh, I can hear the shouts – “No – I’m not a time-waster”.
Well I’m sure you don’t mean to be, but could that be the end result of your actions?
OK, let’s take a look.
What are the signs of someone who is busy but not productive?
- Easily distracted
- Lots of loose ends/tasks left incomplete
- Rushing from one thing to next with no time to think
- Everything seems urgent
- Feeling frazzled
- Little or no downtime
- Working hard and pushing through to get things done
So, if you want stop wasting time and be more productive, you need to do these things.
1. Have a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is the most underrated health habit and productivity tool there is. A good night’s sleep means 7 to 9 hours according to the National Sleep Foundation. Research shows that if you deprive yourself of sleep you make more mistakes and things take longer – but you know that anyway.
2. Create time to think.
”The quality of everything we do is dependent on the thinking we do first” (Nancy Kline). But so few people create time to think and they find themselves running from task to task, often responding to what’s urgent rather than important. If you want to be productive, carve out and protect your thinking time and don’t just slot it in after your working day.
3. Create an environment that allows and encourages focused concentration.
Organisations really let themselves down here.
Most people have an open plan office and are expected to be at the beck and call of their superiors. This is not an environment for hyper-productivity. People need autonomy and uninterrupted time if they’re going to be productive and do quality work. People should be allowed to work in areas free from distractions at least some of the time. People these days are so used to being distracted that the art of concentration is being lost. Few people can focus and concentrate for long before they seek a distraction/dopamine hit. Focused concentration is like a muscle that needs to be built. Use it or lose it. I believe that being able to concentrate to get quality work done will distinguish the people who will be successful.
Creating uninterrupted periods of time requires planning and scheduling. Most often, people give up these blocks of time easily. They need to be ruthlessly protected if you want to be productive.
4. Choose your tasks wisely.
It’s not possible to have focused concentration all day long. There are times when our brains need to just tick over. This is completely normal. This means that people who want to be productive need to notice their high and low levels of focus and attention and choose their tasks wisely. High focus and attention periods should be used for thinking, problem-solving and creative work. Low levels of focus and attention can be used for admin tasks and data sorting.
5. Take a break.
Our brains do their best to process information but have a finite capacity which is different for everybody. The pre-frontal cortex can hold only a limited amount of information before it gets full and needs a break to let go of what it doesn’t need, store what it does and be ready for action again. If you find yourself just not able to process/get stuff done, take a break. It doesn’t need to be long. Even standing up and taking a breath can be enough. But it is folly to keep going.
6. Make meetings matter.
Most people book meetings without considering whether that is the best way to get stuff done. Few people stop and think about what they really want from a meeting, e.g. who should be there, who should not be there, what is expected of the participants, before, during and after the meeting.
Without great clarity, meetings can often be a waste of time while still allowing people to look very busy. Take a moment and ask yourself: Is this meeting really necessary? Do I need to be there?
If you’re really finding it difficult to focus and you’re time-wasting and procrastinating it could be that you’re in the wrong job, i.e. what is important to you is not aligned with your organisation or the job you signed up to do. If so, it’s time for a re-think.
So, if you want to determine your future success the choice is yours. Do you want to be part of the focused few or the distracted many?
Are you having problems dealing with a difficult boss? Do you want to get past the hurdle of a challenging colleague so you can come and leave the office without a strained relationship looming over your head?
It may be time to have that tough conversation with them so you can speak up and talk about the issues that are weighing you down. Unfortunately, difficult conversations take strategy, skill, courage, and confidence that you may not have. Not yet, anyway.
It is important to remember that your ability to speak up has an influence on your success in the office, at home, and with life in general. If you can’t get past the stressful experiences you’re having, your productivity is limited, relationships are strained, and opportunities are constrained. You don’t want that, especially because it will slowly chip away at your self-confidence and undermine your sense of security.
Unfortunately, if your heart race or you get that sinking feeling every time you think about talking to your boss or confronting a colleague, it will be difficult to put on a brave face. It would feel even worse if you crumble in front of certain people or when you beat yourself up before and after every attempt of having a tough conversation.
Here’s the thing though, if you don’t make an effort to have a courageous conversation, you will continue to struggle. The first thing you need to do is overcome your fears and hesitation.
How do you do this exactly?
6 Keys to Have the Confidence to Have a Courageous Conversation
- They’re human too
Regardless of how difficult your boss might be, they are human too and they’re likely to be throwing their weight around because they are under a lot of stress or pressure. Their problems might even come from a variety of sources and they’re having difficulty coping, which accounts for their challenging behaviour. The same thing could be true with a difficult colleague. If what you’re doing, or the lack thereof, is exacerbating the situation, then you should think of ways to help alleviate it.
- Being likeable
People are more likely to say yes to those they like and reciprocate accordingly. So make sure to build rapport and behave in a likeable manner. This can influence how people will respond to you. If you’re not doing this yet, you might want to switch to this tactic. Just don’t end up looking like you’re sucking up. This can have the opposite effect.
- Be your best self
It is possible that your confidence is lacking because you’re unsure of how confident and resourceful you are. If you’re mismanaging your state of mind and wellbeing, then you’re not setting yourself up to be the best version of you. So make sure you’re well-fed, watered, and well-rested.
- Create a positive zone
Think of a positive outcome and play it through your mind over and over again. Make sure to watch the entire scene unfold and savour every moment that you celebrate your success in those thoughts. Then, whenever you start thinking negative or playing out the worst case scenarios in your head, stop, and go to your positive zone. You know the adage. “Be careful what you wish for”
- Do something in their favour
What can you do to a challenging colleague as a favour? It doesn’t have to be grand, but something they will appreciate. Research showed that people are likely to reciprocate and do you a favour if you’ve done the same to them.
If it’s not possible to make the first move, make them feel like they’ve done you a favour. Even as simple as borrowing a book and showing your gratitude would make them feel open to you and receptive of your friendship or attention.
- Work on your own demons and fears
Is there a reason that you have difficulty having a courageous conversation? Did a horrible parent or teacher shut you down and stomped on your self-esteem? It may be time to unhook on that history and free yourself. It may just be what you need to find your confidence and courage again.
It is important to understand that a relationship is a system that you can control. If you change something with the system, you will get a different response or an outcome. So if you want to build a working relationship with your boss or colleague, change something. If you didn’t succeed in your first attempt at having a tough conversation, try again. Make sure to try all the strategies listed above and enjoy the fruits of your effort.
Are you any good at saying no? Well, I reckon you’re pretty good at it because you say no every day!
But is that what you’re thinking?
Do you think of yourself as someone who is really good at saying no?
Or are you one of those people who shies away from saying no for fear of upsetting people or worrying about the consequences? Perhaps you think saying no is a career-limiting move. Well, whether you are one of those people or not, how do I know that you’re good at it?
Would you agree that there are only so many hours in a day and the chances are you have more on your ‘to do’ list than you can possibly get done? Yes? Do you feel you are continuing to run just to keep up and that your list of things to do never gets any shorter? Well, if that sounds familiar, you’re good at saying no whether you recognise it or not.
Let me explain. As there are only a certain number of hours in the day and it’s just not possible to get everything done, when you say yes to a request you must be saying no to something else. Would you agree? Then the key question is what are you saying no to? And is it OK to be saying no to this?
Let me give you an example of one of my clients. Let’s call him Joe. Joe continually found yourself working late at the office more evenings than not. When this came up on his coaching call recently, it was clear he was finding it difficult to say no to his demanding boss who seemed to find urgent things for him to do almost every day. But the thing is that Joe has a young family and by staying late most evenings he missed the opportunity of seeing his kids before they went to bed. So you see Joe
was saying no on a regular basis. But now he is aware of what he is having to sacrifice by saying yes to his boss he’s renegotiated and agreed that on three nights a week he will leave the office to get home
on time. Now I know that takes courage and a certain level of skill, which is just one of the things I teach at my Choose to Thrive Masterclass.
You don’t want to be doing this all of the time but if you want to live life on your terms it has to be done from time to time. Make your choices consciously rather than unconsciously.
So what are you currently saying no to that you are no longer willing to tolerate?
Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, showed that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout and even depression. Saying no is a major challenge for many people. No is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as ‘I don’t think I can’ or ‘I’m not certain’. Be clear and offer alternative solutions. Saying no to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfil them. When you learn to say no, you free yourself from
unnecessary constraints and free up your time and energy for the important things in life.
Have you come back from your holiday refreshed? Or are you feeling like you need another holiday?
Many people I’m hearing from right now still feel tired and exhausted even after their holiday. Is that you?
Maybe you didn’t get a chance to read that book or quietly sunbathe despite your best intentions.
Or perhaps you took some work away with you. You may not have literally taken your laptop but work nevertheless invaded your space. Maybe the odd email, phone call or conference call just had to be done.
So no time to really stop, unwind and relax.
Possibly you had reports to read, projects to plan or resources to juggle.
So have you really come back to work having caught up on sleep and with your batteries recharged?
Whatever is the reality for you, how is you battery level right now and is it enough to carry you through the next few months? If it’s not great, how are you going to get back on track and be ready for whatever comes?
Here are the top five tips and techniques I have gathered with my clients over the years.
If you want to increase your productivity, mood, creativity and well-being, the best thing you can do is get more sleep. Unless you’re getting from seven to nine hours of sleep a night, chances are you’re not getting enough. If you want to be a high-performer and get quality work done, research has shown that if you don’t get enough sleep you make more mistakes and things will take longer to do. An extra 30 minutes a night will make all the difference
2) Get ahead of your day.
Creating space and time to plan your day before it starts seems to be the crucial tactic for high-performers. Knowing what must get done today before looking at emails will help you stay on track. After all, emails are just a convenient way of organising other people’s agendas. If you mean business you need to be clear about your own agenda.
3) Agreements avoid disagreements.
How often have you found yourself working late into the night only to discover that what you’re working on wasn’t needed, or you did more than was necessary? Has that ever happened to you? Certainly it happened to me in my time at Goldman Sachs. You see, I never used to have the courage to seek clarification, particularly with more senior colleagues. As a consequence I often did more work than was necessary. But it doesn’t have to be so. Seek clarification before you get started.
4) Stop and take a break.
In today’s fast-paced world, which is continuously changing and bombarding us with distractions it’s easy to think that we need to keep going to get things done. However, the reality is that when you have information overload and decision fatigue it’s time to take a break. Even a short walk to the bathroom or to grab something to drink can be enough to allow your brain to recover and get back on track.
5) Choose who you hang out with.
If you want to hang on to that holiday feeling and don’t want to get dragged into office politics then choose your company wisely. Choose people who are going to motivate and energise and not those who will drag you down with their moans and groans. As my mum says, ‘hang out with radiators, not drains’.You are after all the average of the people you hang out with.
I hope you found these tips and techniques useful.
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