Do what you always do, but different.

June 1, 2020

It’s the start of a new month, June 2020. We are in a period of history that none of us will ever forget. Remember February this year? How different does that seem now?

The times are changing again; the rules are flexing. Who knows what the world – your world – will look like in another four months!

So, as we start a new month, indecision and uncertainty can easily payalyse us.

Because there’s so much you don’t know, how can you possibly make plans? How can you take action when you don’t know whether they’ll be the ‘right’ actions given the changing circumstances?

All valid questions. So what should you do?

Answer: do the same as you always do, but different.

Go to your system – the one you use every month to review the previous and plan the next. The system that helps you set goals and establish priorities for the next four weeks. The system that helps you set up progress tracking towards your goals and recording your success with the habits you’re working on developing.  The system that you rely on to make sure you schedule time for your high payoff activities and reminds you of your ‘big picture’ (purpose, mission and values) so the vision of what you are living for is crystal clear.

Such a planning system is absolute gold. Most people had them in the 80s and 90s. Their large, leather-bound organisers with templates for setting goals, making plans, communicating well and remembering to spend time doing the most important things, day by day, week by week, month by month.

Then we went all technological. We moved on.

But we didn’t take our systems with us into the new media. We left them behind and with it a whole heap of healthy habits were lost.

If you’re reading this and you don’t have a brilliant system for planning June 2020, we need to do something about that. You see, when you have a system that you know inside-out, one that you’ve used time and time again, it’s much, much easier to adapt to changing times. Just follow the process but with different inputs. I can’t do X this month, but I can do Y. A and B may be uncertain, so I’ll focus extra effort on C because that’s within my control.

I’ll end simply with this: get a system. LMI have a brilliant one and I’m always happy to share that. You can design your own if you’re so inclined. Buy one – Best Self Planner is a great option – borrow one, phone a friend. By any means, get a system that works for you. Then you can do the same, month by month, every month, but different.


Catch both rabbits!

February 5, 2018

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

So says the ancient proverb… and there’s lot of wisdom in this. If you try to go in two directions at the same time, you’ll end up reaching neither.

Wouldn’t it be lovely then to only chase one rabbit? It would be heavenly to focus on just one thing but for most of us that seems like an unrealistic dream because we have so many different things running concurrently and we mustn’t drop the ball on any of them.

So what practical wisdom can we take from the age-old ‘Two Rabbits’ conundrum? Here’s just one thing that you may find helpful.

Manage transition between projects.

Think back to school. Maths lessons followed English followed History. Each lesson (at least the good ones) had a well-structured start and finish so you left in good shape to do whatever homework may be required and arrive back for the next lesson ready to continue. You were (again, in the good lessons!) able to give full focus to that one lesson for that one hour before moving on to the next.

Many challenges arise as we hop between projects and tasks holding many different things in our minds, not able to fully focus on any of them. Let’s take meetings as an example. People arrive at the meeting unprepared because they were doing something else, often unrelated, right up to the last moment they left to join the meeting, Then they leave the meeting and go straight to the next thing without processing what just happened. Instead they should be reviewing what just took place, scheduling any actions required on their part and swiftly following up with any further communication needed. When this doesn’t happen, next meeting we find agreed actions haven’t been done, or are part-done, little thought has been given to the implications of what was discussed last time and much inefficiency ensues!

Whether it’s a meeting with others or simply your own management of the various rabbits / balls / plates (pick your favourite metaphor!), it can really help to work on slowing down and focusing on good transitions. Doing this well can seriously boost your productivity and also reduce stress as things feel less hectic and out-of-control.

Give it a try and have a great week!


DIY Deadline Day

August 31, 2017

It’s Transfer Deadline Day in the football world, with the transfer window bolted shut at 11pm tonight. Any business that clubs don’t get done by that cast-iron cut-off point doesn’t happen….at least until the window opens again on 1st January.

Many I know, and I humbly confess to being one of them, will be refreshing the deadline day news apps on phones quite a few times between now and 11pm.

Watch

Whether you’re a fellow ‘refresher’ or have no interest at all, you can’t escape the fact that the deadline creates activity and lots gets done. The transfer window has been open all summer but it’s today that many of the deals get completed. It’s do or die, now or never, time to go and make it happen!

There’s something incredible about the deadline that generates action. We humans can’t seem to resist it’s power. Whether it’s ‘last day of early bird booking rate’, tax return submission day, job application cut-off, the big tender due date or the last day at work before holidays, the time when time is running out is so often when we are at our most productive.

Somehow our lack of self-discipline, poor self-motivation and well-honed procrastination skills all get put aside as the shadow of the pending deadline looms large!

My aim here is not to look at why this is, but rather to think about how we can use this naturally occurring phenomenon to our huge advantage.

What happens when we don’t have a big, externally-dictated deadline looming?

Here are three ways to harness some of the power of the deadline every single day:

1) Set a deadline for when you are going to finish working today

Make your plans, write your lists, set about your daily work but with a definite end-time which is 100% inflexible. I guarantee you’ll work more efficiently knowing that you can’t just keep going ‘for as long as it takes’.

2) Set the clock on a piece of work

When you have a large project or specific task that needs your focussed attention and you don’t know how long it will take, it can be really hard to get going with any sense of urgency. This is especially true if it’s one of those long-term projects that will generally improve the world but lacks any definite ‘we need it by then’ dates. Here’s where it can be really helpful to set yourself set blocks of time to make as much progress as possible. Choose a realistic period, an hour often works, to get your head down and concentrate only on that task. Set a timer and keep it visible in front of you and keep going until it beeps. Then schedule your next block of time to pick it up again.

3) Create an arbitrary deadline and make it public

Sometimes we will be more motivated by the potential for public shame than just the satisfaction of our own achievement! Where this is the case, set a date for a project, a launch, an event…anything really…and tell people. ‘Going public’ might be telling your family, your team, the whole office, your clients, all your social media followers or even the Stock Exchange. But do it and see the difference it makes!

The unavoidable truth is that deadlines work like a dream and, as is the case for many ‘refreshers’ today, can even make things a little bit more exciting!

 


Success by routines

August 30, 2017

Are you feeling rested, refreshed and energised to launch full-steam ahead into the Autumn? Perhaps for you or some colleagues, “exhausted and glad the kids are going back to school is more like it”?!

However you’re feeling as August comes to a close, the Autumn does tend to be a really productive – dare we say, ‘busy’ – few months where the natural lull in routine created by the summer gives way to full-scale activity.

Here’s a warning right away. As you well know, activity doesn’t equal productivity. Being busy and working hard doesn’t guarantee results.

With this in mind, my ‘one-percent’ recommendation is that you take some time to review and re-establish your routines – the regular habits that keep you on track. After a break in the norm, it can take more effort than we think to get back into good work habits rather than starting with email and seeing where the day takes us!

There are key activities that if practised routinely, make a huge difference to your productivity. Here are just a few examples:

– 10 magic minutes daily planning
– week review & planning meetings
– regular team meetings and one-to-one’s
– booked out periods of uninterrupted time
– finishing work at a set time to do other stuff!

I’m sure you could add to the list. Give it some thought and make a conscious effort (& book it it the diary!) to re-establish those routines that will help you stay a little bit more in control, focused on your high-payoff activities and working towards important goals over the next few months.

Here’s to a fantastic September!


We Buy Any Hour

March 1, 2017

Have you seen the latest WeBuyAnyCar.com adverts? They are very interesting.

If not, here’s 30 seconds that will put you in the picture:

https://youtu.be/p10Oiwe7MdM?list=PLTci7XJwYZCkOuOqKbOdTaxPY61D5hCPM

There’s a whole series of these. In one, the lady on the sofa tells us that she happily sold her car with this company even though she could have got a better price selling privately, then adds:

“Yeah, they just let me say that in an ad for WeBuyAnyCar.com… cos they know quite a lot of us value our time more than a few extra quid.”

timecartoonlinkedinTime-pressure is consistently one of the greatest challenges most of the people are facing. In fact, it’s becoming a national epidemic and yet, despite the continual frustration of not having enough time to do everything we want to do, we can still invest significant amounts of our precious 168 hours each week doing things that really aren’t that important.

This is what WeBuyAnyCar.com have tapped into. What they are saying is, “Your time is the most valuable thing that you have. Spend it on important things, with important people, not in doing something you don’t like, you aren’t very good at and, at the end of the day, isn’t worth much anyway.”

One of the most helpful things I think you can do to help with this is to settle on a fixed figure, yes an actual amount – in pounds, of how much one hour of your time is worth.

How you come to this figure is not so important. You can divide your earnings by the hours you work. You can divide the amount you aspire to earn by the amount of hours you’d like to work. You may just come up with a number based on what someone would have to pay you to take you away from doing something very important and give them that time instead.

Let’s say you settle on £50/hour. Now write that figure down and carry it with you for a week. Put it in your wallet, your purse on in your pocket. Now consciously live with it and see how it affects what you do with your time, inside and outside of work.

Is an hour round the dinner table with my family or good friends worth it? Yes. How about an hour watching something rubbish on tele? Perhaps not.

This is what these adverts are tapping into. Is an extra 150 quid worth half of your weekend and all that hassle?

I’m not one who advocates living at high intensity all the time. The truth is that if we spend enough of our time concentrating on the most valuable activities in a focused and productive manner, the likelihood is we will have plenty left to relax and enjoy the things we value most.

If some more insight on this subject would be helpful, I ran a webinar called ‘Who Stole My Day?’ and it’s available here as an on-demand reply. It’s a better use of your time than watching adverts on YouTube!


Three unexpected ways to get more done in less time

October 14, 2016

You’ll no doubt be familiar with most of the common ways that are suggested to help you improve your productivity. Things like:

  • Don’t multitask; land one plane at a time
  • Switch off email alerts (If you’ve worked with me you’ll know I’m quite insistent about this)!
  • Start with planning your day / week / month rather than just launching into ‘doing’

These are all great and loads of my work is helping busy managers and leaders improve their productive use of time. It is still the biggest pressure that so many people face at work and it’s no small issue outside of work too.

I have also stumbled across some far less conventional ways of getting more done that are worthy of your consideration. You may find one or more of them helpful, and if not helpful, perhaps at least interesting! Waiting over. My three juicy nuggets of wisdom are:

Plan some messing about time!

Do something deliberately slowly.

Stop and chat for longer than usual.

Here’s why.

  • Plan some messing about time! If you have things you’re interested in but aren’t crucial to your work at hand, keep a list and schedule some down time (not loads) casually playing / learning / experimenting / reading etc…generally just satisfying that interest. Sometimes brilliant new ideas come from these times. It will also help focus you on the more serious work for the rest of the day

 

  • Do something deliberately slowly. Think of something important that has many options and requires your thought and creativity. Decide how long it should take. Then double it. Deliberately take it slowly. Explore every option. Discuss every possible outcome. Pretend that there’s no hurry at all. You might uncover some gold that otherwise would have remained lost forever.

 

  • Stop and chat for longer than usual. “Grab a quick coffee, quick chat…and straight back to it.” Most of the time that mantra may be spot on. However, the discerning amongst you will sometimes recognise the time that this one conversation could lead somewhere. It might just open a door, solve a problem or reveal an opportunity if given the chance.

Have a great day. Perhaps do a little less, a little slower….just this once!


An alternative definition of Urgent

April 28, 2016

Getting your work done 2 hours quicker!

April 19, 2016

Rock Solid Foundations

March 21, 2016

I’ve been using a training room on the 11th floor of a building in Fenchurch Street, London on a fairly regular basis for a little over a year.

Across the road is a building site which has been the fascination of myself and many course delegates during coffee breaks over this period. For months progress seemed painfully slow – not a lot happening. Just clearing the site and digging some extremely deep holes!

Suddenly, on my last two visits, I’ve been amazed how quickly things have changed. The foundations stage complete, now things are moving fast. The building is taking shape as its structure rises from well below ground level to form a new landmark on the London skyline.

The same principle that applies to buildings is also true with building strength in an organisation’s people. If the foundations are good, the sky’s the limit. If they are weak, inefficiency, stress, confusion and conflict abound.

When it comes to people and performance there are also ‘foundations’ that if everyone in a team understands and consistently does, make a huge impact on effectiveness and overall productivity.

Here’s a few ideas that help form that strong foundation:

  • The ability to set and work to clearly defined goals
  • Understanding ‘WHY’ – knowing the purpose behind the goal
  • The power of The Slight Edge & 1% improvements
  • Avoiding crisis mode & constant fire-fighting.
  • ‘High Payoff Activities’ & the power of 80:20
  • Effective, systematic daily planning & prioritising
  • Not living in your inbox
  • Choosing most appropriate means of communication
  • Sensitively handling interactions with others
  • Maintaining a healthy balance across all areas of life

I’m sure you could add others to this list and I’m also sure that few, if any, of these subject areas are things you’re not already familiar with. They are not the icing on the cake. They are the base-layer. The starting point. Like in the building project described above, disproportionate time and care should be taken to make sure they are properly laid.

It’s not complex but neither is it simple.

So many times I’ve seen that difficulties faced by individuals, teams and sometimes whole organisations stem from poorly laid foundations.

The magic is not in knowing about these foundational concepts but in the consistent application of these ideas in a consistent way by all members of your team!

It’s for the reasons stated above that the course I run most often, and am always excited by the results, is the half-day Foundations of Success workshop. If you’d like to know more about Foundations of Success, click this link


Remember when your history teacher kept interrupting?

March 4, 2016

A brief but important piece this time round.

Picture this – and you’ll have to imagine it because despite the question in the title, I bet it never happened. You are sat in a Maths class at school and just getting into some long division or a bit of algebra when in through the door bursts the history teacher who was teaching you the previous lesson.

“We didn’t cover it earlier but I just wanted to let you know, the Battle of Hastings was 1066 and Harold died when he was hit in the eye with an arrow!”

Then out she goes.

A little perplexed, your Maths teacher tries to remember where he was and carry on. Six minutes later, in comes your Geography teacher.

“I know I’ll be seeing you in class this afternoon, but I couldn’t wait to tell you that the best example of coastal erosion in the UK is at Barton-on-Sea and we’ll have a look later at some brilliant footage of the cliffs collapsing. Bye.”

“This is getting silly”, you think to yourself. And it is. Really silly. It makes the Maths lesson really unproductive for you in terms of learning anything, tires all the teachers out as they rush around trying not to forget to tell anyone anything that might be important, and generally leaves both teachers and pupils feeling stressed and like they’re not accomplishing important work nearly as fast as they should be.

Good job the workplace isn’t anything like this!

We talk a lot about this at our Foundations of Success workshops and it certainly stirs up some interesting conversations!