Our video from the Keep Productive YouTube channel:
We also sponsored their apps of. the month video which you can see here
This has to come above all else. Just like looking after yourself first because you cannot help anyone else if you do not have your health. As long as your focus is on how to help others, then looking after yourself first is okay. If you have a tendency to be selfish, then you may need different advice. But if you are the sort of person that always puts others before yourself, you may be burning yourself out to the point that you can no longer help them.
It is okay to take some time for yourself. You need to unwind, decompress, de-stress. There is no point putting others first if you are angry, irritable and frustrated. Sort yourself out so that you are in the right frame for your interactions. Otherwise, you are not really helping - you are there in body but not in mind - just going through the motions because you have to.
A quick cheat code for getting some time for yourself? Get up before everyone else. No need to lose sleep, go to bed earlier. Getting up earlier is the easiest way to be more productive. Workout, meditate, journal. Whatever it is you need to do to get back to yourself, early morning is the easiest time to do it before the day descends into chaos and whim.
I was watching Master Chef. What a decadent people we humans have become. I watched someone prepare cauliflower for three hours. Slicing it, grilling it, making balls of it in solution and making a powder out of it. They served it four ways with a tiny ball of sheepâs these on top. Whilst it looked good, and was obviously a testament to the technical skills and creativity of the chef, do we really need to mess around with our food?
The answer to this question was made clear for me when the critic who tasted it described it as very clever because when he ate a bit of the cauliflower along with the cheese that exploded in his mouth, he said it tasted like cauliflower cheese - something much less extravagant that could be knocked up in a tenth of the time. If you want to eat something that tastes like cauliflower cheese, then why not just eat that rather than over complicate things?
Unsophisticated is the counter-argument. You are not sophisticated enough to understand the delicate flavours and all of the work involved. You must be unsophisticated if you like to eat actual cauliflower cheese for a tenth of the price.
I feel like money comes first and then seeking a way to waste it. Michelin star restaurants are the epitome of this for me. Why can we not be happy eating plain porridge for every meal? Why must we seek out the most elaborate processes possible for our food to be tampered with before we can enjoy it?
Why must food be exciting at all? It does not need to be anything more Than just fuel for the body if we do not give in to our need for pleasure.
Of course, we do this in every area of life. Spending money and over complicating things to further the perception of ourselves to others. We love to over complicate things as it makes us look clever, indispensable, that we need a bigger team to cope.
What can you try today to live with the scantest of fare, to think from first principals, to simplify? See how it feels.
If you do not have a plan when things go wrong, what do you do? You are trusting yourself to make a reasoned choice quickly amongst chaos and emotion. Planning is not some magical thing where you have to tirelessly plan out every scenario or every detail - as people who hate planning might think. Nor is thinking that the plan will need to change anyway so why bother doing it in the first place.
It is the planning, rather than the plan itself, that is beneficial. It is the thinking time ahead of chaos that allows better decisions when the plan is knocked off track, even if you have not formally considered the event or circumstances that end up impacting the plan.
Similarly, it is much easier to assess what is going on in life through a mental model. We have mental models whether we consciously choose them or not, so why wouldn't you want to be conscious of them! To be more aware of yourself, you need to be aware of the mental models you are using.
A plan is very to mental model, it helps make sense of what is going on around you, and the consequences, very quickly. It provides structure now, to any further decision. With no plan to start with, things will quickly descend into scattered panic and disorder at the first sign of trouble.
This is what leaders do. They must sell the vision of the future, gain buy-in and then get on track through a plan.
Meetings are no different. They will descend into mindless chatter and chaos without knowing the vision of the meeting - the purpose. There must also be a semblance of structure - an agenda. It does not need to be detailed, but it does need to be there to protect the purpose of the meeting.
Things will go off track but deciding how to get back on track is much easier now you have done the groundwork.
The first of this weekends's link posts is from Alison Rimm on HBR about to-do lists. The whole article is worth a read for how she manages her to-do's, but I love the following advice about using this in conjunction with your calendar, which I have also been doing for a while now:
The calendar is for blocking out time to accomplish important matters on schedule. For example, instead of putting an item like âwrite speechâ on my to-do list, I put it on my calendar, blocking out the necessary prep time to get it done. I do this as soon as I book the speech. Then thereâs no chance that Iâll notice the day before, âOops, Iâm supposed to give that speech tomorrow!â And putting it on the calendar right way means that if I donât actually have time to write the speech, I can see that at the outset and (regretfully) decline the opportunity. I consider that block of time an unbreakable appointment.
Read the whole article here
For the first of the weekend link posts we turn to riding the wave of motivation by Doug Toft who has some great advice from BJ Fogg, a psychologist at Stanford University. This fits in with our thinking in a previous blog post on setting up your future self. Over to Doug:
Harness high motivation in three key ways
High motivation is temporary. It can disappear in a matter of days, hours, or minutes. So, seize the precious opportunity that high motivation presents.
According to BJ, the most valuable things that you can do when highly motivated are:
1. Structure your future behavior. Structured behaviors are presets â default options. For example: If you want to reduce your spending, then cut up your credit cards. If you want to stop eating junk food, then remove all that stuff from your kitchen and throw it away. If you want to exercise regularly, then schedule a personal trainer. This strategy is powerful because reversing your earlier commitment forces you to exert extra effort, such as calling the trainer to cancel.
2. Reduce barriers to future behavior. For instance, go to the grocery store and buy a lot of vegetables. Then go home, wash them, cut them, and put all that good food into serving size containers. This reduces a barrier to making healthy meals when your motivation to cook sags and you feel the urge to do something easier â like going out to eat.
3. Increase capacity. When your motivation to cook a healthy meal is high, for example, then take that opportunity to learn a new recipe. This is harder than going out to eat or chopping vegetables. But as you practice making the meal over the coming weeks, youâll find this behavior easier to do â even when you donât feel like cooking.
Note that Iâve numbered these options in the order that BJ recommends. So when motivation peaks, start with #1 before trying #2. And opt for #3 after experimenting with #2.
Read the whole article here
We choose our own actions. Even when we are planning the future, it is the planning that we are doing in the present moment. We only have the present to do things and only a series of present moments before the future becomes the present and then just as quickly becomes the past.
Wishing is the worst of future activities. Wishes get you nowhere. Next best is planning. This can be helpful but can also be disguised procrastination. If you are planning in the present moment, then this is also time that cannot be spent actually doing the activities that will move your plan forward. Realise this and also that 'no plan survives first contact with the enemy' as well as the fact that you are unlikely to be planning to lead men into war. If you plan fails, it does not matter. Try something else.
If it can be helpful to plan, but also if the plan is likely to change and is not life-threatening, then how much time should you. Spend planning? As little as possible. Say, ten minutes?
A plan can protect us from busy work. We just need to make sure that doing the plan, and the associated tasks of keeping it up to date does not become the busy work itself.
A quick rule of thumb for planning quickly: Plan top-down using no more than three steps. Then list no more than three steps below these as sub-tasks sub-steps. This forces you to keep it really simple. Do not over complicate things. You do not need much structure to know what you should be doing right now. Keep it simple to the point that it seems too simple. Then do the first thing that you can do.
You do not need much more than this to start. Just start.
The second of this weekends link posts is from The Wall Street Journal Article on the most productive hour of the day - 4am. Some highlights below:
One of the most common challenges to productivity, Dr. Davis says, is that people booby trap their offices with distractions: Desk clutter, email pop-ups, cellphone, Facebook , news feeds. "By waking up at 4 a.m., they've essentially wiped a lot of those distractions off their plate. No one is expecting you to email or answer the phone at 4 a.m. No one will be posting on Facebook. You've removed the internal temptation and the external temptation."
Read the whole article here
This weekends link posts start with a great one from Barking Up The Wrong Tree on how to actually work smarter not harder. Some stand outs for me:
1) Do Less - Then Obsess
By using a variation on a classic scientific principle. "Occam's Razor" says the simplest answer is often the best. So start ruthlessly cutting all the activities in your workday that aren't producing value.
Ask: How many tasks can I remove, given what I must do to excel? Remember: As few as you can, as many as you must.
Reduce the number of activities you perform - and reallocate that time to intensity.
There is loads more in this great article. Go check it out.
A few people at my day job have recently left to "pursue other opportunities."
One got made redundant, is close to retirement but yet did not want to go and retire on the pay-out, instead wanting to carry on working and will seek another job after a small break. A couple of people have gone into consulting for some big money but a lot of travel and long hours, so they will be impacting their family life as a result.
What are they working for? What are they earning the money for? DO they love what they do? Do they hate their families? Who knows? Maybe not even them if they have not stopped to work it out.
The latest person to leave has given extended notice (six months instead of three) so she hopes that a replacement can be found and have a good handover. How novel an idea that there would be some continuity in a key job. I wonder if HR will catch on ;-) But she is leaving to do charitable work or work for a non-profit. They always said later in their career they wanted to give back rather than working for big corporations all their lives.
I thought that this was so refreshing. Obviously, people who have made big bucks, celebrities and politicians wives always go on the non-profit train because it is noble and because they have the means to do it. But to hear from a 'normal' person that they have always wanted to do this and actually having the courage to follow through with it, with nothing to go to, is quite inspiring.
If you do not follow through in actions, that which your mind desires, then they can never come to fruition.
I found it strange that I know no one who has left to start their own business apart from a consulting business of one person, for tax purposes. But no one has built a product business or anything remotely scalable. It is like everyone is brainwashed to use time to earn money rather than the other way around.