The Way of the Productivity Ninja
By Nix Bhachu
It feels like a good while since I’ve got round to documenting a post event summary for WIBF. I’ve freshly come out of the mind-blowing ‘way of the productivity ninja’ workshop presented by the super talented Grace Marshall and fabulously hosted by the Michael Page Group in their Brindleyplace offices. I felt some kind of duty to document my learnings because the workshop was so good and it would be selfish of me not to share these productivity life hacks.
You might have heard of the book – The Way of the Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott, I’ll advise you from the offset, it’s definitely worth the investment along with other books in the range.
The productivity ninja has 9 characteristics and these are what we explored in this marvellous workshop.
1. Zen-Like Calm
Even saying words like zen make me feel calm but zen definitely does not describe my life. If only I could reach zen like calm status, but how?
The idea of zen is not the absence of chaos, it’s about getting into the ‘me’ zone. Grace explained that our mind is for having ideas, not for storing them. So to help achieve zen status, download your brain. Get stuff on paper/app so your mind is clear to have more ideas and clear thoughts. We are all knowledge workers, we create value from our knowledge so our minds need to be clear and clutter free to learn.
I already knew this was about saying no… and I was right. It’s about making good choices. Say no and de-prioritise so we can focus. It’s about being kind to ourselves and embracing our limits and constraints to protect our most precious resources e.g. time and attention. Did you know it can take up to 23 mins and 15 seconds to recover from a 1 minute distraction? Just say no…
Before we start talking about miracle apps saving lives bla bla bla.. a weapon (productivity tool) is only ever as good as the person using it. Did you know its ok to switch your notifications off from your devices? Yep… notifications off – imagine that.
There’s always the good old to do list which you can of course get an app for now – Trello/Todoist to name but a few. Did you know that ticking things off your list gives a dopamine hit? Dopamine is a type of brain chemical associated with feelings of bliss, euphoria and motivation. One of my friends sometimes writes things on their list just to tick them off!
Stop checking emails and using chat tools all the time, talk to each other! If you ever find yourself typing ‘I hope this makes sense, do everyone a favour and just pick up the phone and call the recipient of the drafted email. Same goes for when there’s an emergency – don’t email! Pick up the phone…
Think about if you really need to CC everyone into an email and if you really need to reply to all, let’s face it, most of the time it’s not necessary. Use subject headings to get more comms savvy such as; INFO/ACTION/URGENT. It helps the recipients manage their tasks and you manage yours. You don’t need to respond to all emails instantly. Use your inbox as a door mat and file emails into sub folders for action, reading and info purposes. Don’t leave things just sitting there on the mat. Use tools like conditional formatting and rules to help you organise yourself.
4. Stealth & Camouflage
Be a little bit selfish and go in stealth or camo mode to get your work done. How? We have so many options available to us such as working from home, booking meeting rooms or using co-working spaces.
You can also activate stealth and camo mode digitally … put your out of office on, go on do not disturb on chat apps, work in offline mode in outlook, put your phone on do not disturb or better still – switch your WiFi OFF… go on I dare you.
Why are we so scared of being offline? Set yourself a challenge to come (or is it go?) offline for periods of the day. There is a Forest app (google Forest app) that challenges smart phone addiction. The way it works is while your phone is not being used a tree grows but if you start using your phone, you kill the tree. Do you want to be a tree killer? I think not. Cut your dependency on being online, get focused and stay present.
It’s ok to be in a bubble at times, our jobs are demanding and sometimes you need that isolation to think. Don’t feel guilty for doing that.
This is all about being willing to challenge the status quo. Some questions to get you into this mind-set:
• What would be the EasyJet way of doing this? (no frills, just get from A-B)
• Why? (Think like your inner child and ask why at every given opportunity)
• How do they do it in the movies? (Movies make everything look seamless; can it really be that easy?)
• How can I turn my weaknesses into strengths? (Air BNB – don’t own any properties but is the world’s biggest accommodation provider)
The important thing is, if you want to do something, just do it – have a go and inject some playfulness into your work.
Break tasks up into stages like a platform game and always get feedback and reward before entering the next level. Sonic the hedgehog was my favourite game ever growing up so think about Sonic working through the stages, collecting rings. Be more Sonic.
The final tip under unorthodoxy is to always tame your bad guys. What do I mean? Ever heard of the saying eat a frog for breakfast? Not literally, unless you want to (euw)… but it means tackle the hardest tasks on your list first thing. Also, as a team share your frogs, someone may have the relevant experience or solution to help you.
I bet you’ve all heard of/used the term ‘I’m firefighting’, usually to describe a state of panic. Well, firefighting isn’t a bad thing because what do firefighters need to be? They need to be coordinated, strategic and planned.
The key is to stop consistent firefighting with prevention, education and training. Agility means that you are horizon scanning and looking to see what’s changed and what you need to prioritise. It’s ok to step back for a minute and conduct that scan and think about what you’re doing because those 5 mins will help you get on the front foot.
The art of multitasking
Can anyone really multitask? Did you know that during multitasking you are using energy to rapidly refocus meaning you’re not only on average 30% slower than doing one thing at a time but twice as likely to make mistakes.
There is a case about where a man stayed at home one evening and picked up duties that his wife usually does so she could enjoy an evening out. He put the TV on and started ironing whilst sipping on beer thinking this is easy. His wife called to check how he was getting on and he answered the iron thinking it was the phone. Ouch!
Moral of the story – multitasking is unproductive. Leave it!
If you can, batch similar tasks together so you can attack them while you’re in the right mode for that specific type of activity.
Recognise your peak times and zombies times and identify what parts of the day it would be ideal for you to collate, collaborate and chill.
Thanks for paying attention if you’re still here! This is what mindfulness is all about – paying attention. Look at your habits and ways of working.
Ways to get into the mindfulness state:
• Practice meditation
• Do some yoga (if you work in Brindleyplace, please reach out to me, there is a subsidised yoga class on Thursdays that you might like to attend)
• Start a meeting with a one minute meditation
• Use apps like Headspace and Calm
• Practice activities like dancing, singing, cooking, walking and sitting quietly
Keep a Ta da! List… so you can look at it and see how far you’ve come, Google it! Obviously there’s even an app for it! The message here is to practice celebrating success.
Give yourself a future gift by being prepared. Think like this; we eat good food when we have good food in the fridge. There is a book called work fuel which teaches you that eating the right food will help boost your performance, improve your focus and improve your lifestyle.
Did you know that being sleep deprived is just as damaging to your health as being drunk? It’s counterproductive to run on little sleep. You need to be physically well to be mentally well and productive.
9. Human, not superhero
News Flash – we all make mistakes! Own up, clear it up and most importantly learn from those mistakes.Think about what your self-care tag would say?
Mine would probably say, if found, switch it off and put in it on again because every now and again, you need to reset things, including yourself.
Remember to take breaks, take a lunch hour, treat yourself and be happy. Happy people are productive people!
Those are all of the characteristics of the productivity ninja covered in a nutshell. I hope this has inspired you as much as it did me to get productive in some way, shape or form.
Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback for me, it will be gratefully accepted firstname.lastname@example.org