Jun
16

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Six tips for being more productive

Do you ever have weeks when you are learning so much you feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants? It’s not a bad thing but it can feel a bit overwhelming when all the new learning activities collide at the same time.

So the irony of learning how to host my first webinar, on the new Lucidity Network by interviewing Grace Marshall, Productivity Ninja on how to be more productive and manage overwhelm is not lost on me.

The truth is that I really enjoyed the webinar (and if you were watching I hope you did too) and I learned practical tips to keep being productive and better manage that ‘seat of pant’ feeling.

Here are my key take-outs

Taking time to think is fuel for your productivity

Reframe ‘thinking time’ which often in a busy working week can feel like a luxury, as ‘fuel for your productivity’. If we don’t take time to think it’s hard to know where to focus, what to prioritise and what to say no to. Making time to think, whether that’s 10 minutes each day to readjust your to-do list, or an afternoon every month to plan the next month’s activity is critical to your productivity. Sadly, not everyone values thinking time as productivity fuel. If this is true of the environment that you work you may have to operate in stealth mode. Call ‘thinking time’ something different in your diary. Try ‘strategy planning’ or ‘business development’.

Go frog hunting

With reference to the infamous business book ‘Eat that Frog’ do the difficult and important stuff first and go frog hunting. You know that difficult supporter call that you put off making, the budget spreadsheet that you need to send to finance or the health and safety briefing notes that had to be submitted yesterday. Stop spending time putting it off and just to it.

Carving time out

Carve your day up into different modes of thinking, depending on your own productivity peaks and troughs. For example, if you are a morning person this might be the best time to do your deep dive thinking – the stuff that you really need to concentrate on and think deeply about. If, as Grace puts it, you go into ‘zombie mode’ after lunch do the tasks that you don’t have to think very much about then. There is a time after zombie mode – when you are starting to get your energy back that according to research featured in Dan Pinks book ‘When’ is the best time for creative thinking and idea generation.

Overwhelm

If you feel like you have way too much to do and overwhelm is creeping in, Grace recommends you write everything down. Get everything buzzing around in your head out onto paper. Here you can make sense of it and put it in order. Often we find that once we can see everything in front of us it becomes more manageable and less overwhelming.

Want and should

Many of us want to please other people and because of this end up saying yes to more than we can take on. We have a choice. We can differentiate between what we ‘want’ to do and what we feel we ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do. We can say ‘no’ and when we do, its important to give clear reasons why it’s a no, for example working on another deadline or don’t have the skills and perhaps offering alternatives (longer deadline or a colleague who might be better placed to complete the task). Too often people say ‘yes’ (because they don’t want to say no) and then don’t deliver and let people down which is, in my opinion, far worse than simply saying no.

It’s up to you

We all have the same amount of time yet some people are more productive than others. It takes discipline and focus and saying no to the things that are not important to concentrate on the good stuff that has potential to make a bigger impact. It’s up to each of us to prioritise our time as the fuel of our own productivity. Whatever you choose to spend your time doing – make it count.

The recording of the webinar is available for members of the Lucidity Network. If you’d like support to get better results then you might like the Lucidity Network. Drop me a line for more information about how to join.

PS For more productivity tips and advice I also recommend you check out Grace’s book ‘How to be really productive’

May
30

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Creativity. What is it good for?

A guest blog by Becky Slack.

Creativity. When you say that word, what type of person or job role do you think of? Artist? Writer? Designer?

Many people think that creativity is just for “creatives”. But it’s not. Everyone can benefit from being and thinking creatively. As Dave Trott, a creative director and the author of Creative Mischief, says: “Creativity isn’t a particular discipline. It’s the quality of originality and unexpectedness that you bring to whatever you do.“

Creativity is about putting new and different – often unanticipated and unpredictable – things together, which causes you and others to think about them in a new way. This isn’t just something for people who work in the creative industries. No matter what your role, you are likely to have to think creatively about the tasks at hand.

Often the need to think creatively is associated with problem solving:

  • Can you turn a problem into an opportunity?
  • Can you turn a problem into a competitive advantage?
  • Do you need to fight a problem head on, or can you circumnavigate it in some way?

Finding solutions to problems; seeing opportunities where no one else does – this is how new products and services come to be every day. The business world is littered with stories of entrepreneurs who have built businesses by being creative.

Richard Branson, for instance, started Virgin Atlantic when his flight from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands was cancelled. Rather than waiting for the next available flight, he hired a charter plane and sold seats to all of the other passengers who had also been bumped.

After questioning why Coco-Cola could be found almost anywhere in the world but aid couldn’t, ColaLife worked with the soft drinks company to develop the AidPod, a wedge-shaped container that fits between the necks of bottles in a CocaCola crate and allows aid to be transported using CocaCola’s distribution routes.

Back in 1984, Anderson Erickson Dairy in Des Moines, America wanted to do something to help find two boys who had gone missing on their paper-round. Knowing that their milk cartons would be seen by many families in the area, they printed the photo of the boys on the packaging – and so began the practice of publishing photos of missing children on milk cartons, a tool that remained in use until the mid 90s.

Thinking creatively means questioning the norms and challenging the status quo. It means doing things differently.

This is where surrounding yourself with people just like you can become a problem. If everyone thinks and acts the same, and have had the same life experiences, you’re going to keep getting the same responses. Real creativity happens when different people from different disciplines, genders, age, race and backgrounds etc get together. Diversity is a driver of creativity.

For instance, when you bring together people who think with the right brain (sensory and emotional) with those who are more ‘left brain’ (rational and logical), brilliance can be achieved. The right-brainers have flashes of inspiration and great ideas; the left-brainers find a way to deliver the solution and keep the whole process on track. I’m thinking of visionary CEO’s working well with their finance directors, or creative directors working with planners on branding projects.

The same principle applies with skills: as the old saying goes, when the only tool you’ve got is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

Hence why it can be really helpful for left brain people to take training in art, theatre and creative writing, and for right brainers to learn about structure, logic and analytics. Learning about difference disciplines is how new ideas are borne. We don’t always have to use those new skills but they can help get us out of stale thinking and into new ways of working.

So whether you’re a fundraiser or a finance director; a campaigner or volunteer manager, creativity could be just what you need to get out of a rut, take advantage over your competitors and help you to be even more brilliant than you already are.

Becky Slack is the managing director of the PR and comms agency, Slack Communications, and the co-host of L’atelier des écrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France, a four-day creative writing retreat in southwest France, 20-24 September 2018.

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