Being productive is about optimisation & staying objective
Everyone is busy, everyone has a job to do, and there will never be enough hours in the day. These are the facts of business life. But there’s no need to let them overwhelm your working day or personal time. Stop, take a quick step back, and look at what’s going on day-to-day. Don’t limit yourself to your work life though; look holistically at how you as a person operate.
Being a productive business person isn’t just about looking at your work habits, it’s about looking at optimising some of the things you do that could negatively impact your focus or motivation for getting things done.
Below are some tips that help us remain as productive as possible while still finding time for friends, family, health and happiness.
1. Optimise your time
How do you spend your day, and are there ways you could possibly optimise your time to improve your productivity? Below are some questions to ask yourself (which I have asked myself and have implemented some, if not all, of the options) and possible solutions depending on your situation:
Question – How do you commute to work?
- Option 1 = Rather than taking the car, look at catching the bus or train to work. Depending on the commute this can give you an extra hour or so of time that you can use to clear lower-priority emails, educate yourself on the latest happenings in the world of SaaS, or train the brain with that latest game.
- Option 2 = If you would prefer less screen time in your day but are lacking exercise, try combining your commute with exercise by getting on your bike or even getting a robust back pack and running into work. If you run to work (we don’t recommend doing this if you cycle), you could even take it to the next level by listening to some of your favourite TED speakers.
Question – What’s your downtime like?
- Option 1 = We all love unwinding in front of the TV, but sometimes we get caught sitting there watching mind numbingly boring programmes that offer nothing in way of entertainment or stimulus. Instead, try “cutting the cord” and using streaming services instead which allow you to watch what you want, when you want so you can get your fill of entertainment more efficiently.
- Option 2 = Read a book, but not just any book. Find something that you could potentially gain a new perception or understanding from and then apply in your working life. For me this is not about reading a cringe worthy self help book from Tony Robbins (don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he has helped lots of people with his direct guidance). It’s more about reading something which allows for an independent thought process and potential adaption to your circumstances.
Question – How do you balance staying active with seeing family and friends?
- Option 1 = If you struggle to stay active and spend more time with your family or friends, consider exercising with them. It could simply be a walk at night or playing sport. In my case I wanted to spend more time with my young son and wife. So instead of going for a bike ride by myself, I bought my wife a bike and acquired (from a friend) a kids bike seat for my son so they could both come with me.
- Option 2 = Break up your day with a run at lunch (as per below for “Staying Active”). Therefore leaving your weekday mornings and evenings to spend what ever spare time you can with your family and friends.
2. Visibility is crucial
Ensuring you have the right visibility in the right areas of your business is crucial to being able to make objective, informed and timely decisions. Below are some of the products we not only use but love to help us maintain optimal visibility:
- Slack – Brilliant for collaborative communication and so intuitive it hurts. It has become a staple part of our working lives and we are a better business for it. The transition from web app/desktop to mobile app is superb, and if it purely gets you to stop using that memory sucking application Skype (which Slack is much, much more) then it’s got to be a good thing, right?
- PredictHQ – Events like public holidays, school holidays, concerts, sports, observances and natural disasters all impact your business – that is a fact. Rather than being in the dark, PredictHQ can help businesses understand what events impact their profitability so they can better plan for the future.
- Trello – If it’s project visibility you’re looking for to help organise your team, then Trello is for you. Using the kanban paradigm, it seamlessly gives you one of those satisfying user experiences that keeps you engaged and using the product. When people know what they should be working on and what’s expected, beautiful things happen.
3. Stay active
If your mind and body is not functioning as well as it could be, it’s going to slow you down, which means your decisions aren’t going to be as quick and the knock-on effect is that you take longer to execute key projects. Setting time aside everyday to be active is crucial. Now, we’re not saying you need to go out today and start pounding the pavement at 5.30am every morning (well, you can if you like – it’s your prerogative), it’s just understanding how can you combine a mental break from your day-to-day stresses with getting your heart pumping at the same time. Outside of starting a rigorous exercise routine you could consider one of the following, or mix up all three through out your working week:
- Morning – Rather than having a coffee first thing in the morning, try and spend five minutes doing some basic exercises to get the heart pumping and brain firing. You can also use this time to plan out your day and what priorities you have – yay for optimisation!
- Lunch – You can either be too tired in the morning or too tired after leaving the office to worry about doing any exercise. So instead, try going for a run or a walk for 30 minutes around lunch time. It will give you a nice little break, time to re-energise, mull over some problems you might be trying to solve, come up with new creative ideas… or just listen to your latest and greatest playlist. Either way it’s a fantastic time to be active.
- Evening – Going to the gym after work is a great option but it can often be time consuming. Instead, try mixing it up by doing your workout at home. It can be a super simple body weight regime or even incorporating kettle bells, but if you really want to go to that next level a home gym can actually really work and save you a lot of time which is normally consumed traveling to and from the gym.
4. Go low-fi every now & again
We love Slack. Seriously, we are absolute fans of their collaborative platform and it will continue to be part of our working life for the foreseeable future. However, sometimes when you need to get a point across or articulate your particular creative angle and you have the luxury of working in the same office as the person you’re trying to communicate with, simply walk across the room and talk to them. It’s old school but sometimes problems can be resolved a lot faster the old fashioned low-fi way – and better yet, you build a meaningful rapport with that person.
5. Try to remain objective in your decision making
We live in a world of easily accessible data, A/B tests and all sorts of amazing SaaS platforms to make us work harder, faster and smarter. But the reality is there are still people who, in meetings or email chains, use flippant and subjective opinions to try to prove their point, like: “research has shown” or survey-of-one specialists who say, “Well, I don’t use it or see any benefit in it”. This often leads to more conjecture, time-wasting and ultimately poor decision making.
Put your egos aside and let objective logic prevail. Now, we’re not saying you should stop trusting your instinct – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Instinct is what creates those innovative ideas that you base your next a/b test’s on. However remaining objective (leveraging data and technology can help with this) and pragmatic will ensure you get greater buy-in from the rest of the team. Better yet, your decision making will be very black and white, focused on the projects that are going to “move the needle” for your business.
Also, don’t be afraid to embrace failure, because this will help you create better products, campaigns and features. Failing is a humbling experience but if you’re not willing to learn from it, you’re not willing to adapt and move forward, which is counter-intuitive to becoming the most productive business person you can be.
*Bonus Tip: Do something different everyday
People interpret, adapt and implement certain aspects in their lives based on their own experiences or advice derived from other people’s experiences. A piece of advice that I’ve successfully adapted and implemented although in a slightly different manner to which it was first suggested by Tim Ferriss is – “doing something you fear everyday.”
Instead of going down the fear route, my adaption was to simply do something different everyday, to break routine and stimulate the brain. It can be as small as having a long black instead of a cappuccino or something slightly bigger like contacting a tech pioneer you have always admired from afar. This natural form of stimulation in the day can enhance your focus and become a piece of the puzzle in ultimately improving your productivity.