Tag Archives: productivity

This article sums up our discussion over the last weeks:

Forget Robots! The Attention-Robbers Are Hurting Your Job Prospects More  – J.T. O’Donnell

An exciting year comes to the end and despite the turmoil in the world, despite the political agendas and against the current “polaristic worldview“* I am proud to say that our global team has further expanded. We work with freelancers in Pakistan, Finland, the US and Switzerland and some of our clients join us via Skype from New York City, Pune and the UK. Living diversity and being with clients and people from all over the world is the best gift for me. So, I don’t really have any further wishes for the holidays.

I wish that you find time to relax and spend quality time with your loved ones. Also, that all your career aims and life aspirations will materialize in 2017.

Happy Holidays!

Angie and the Global People Transitions Team

PS: We still have space in our HireMe! Groups! If you are looking for a career change or want to find that job in Switzerland come to see me.

 

*”Polaristic worldview”: According to Milton Bennett this happens in the second phase of intercultural sensitivity development (called defense) where we fight the existence of intercultural differences and argue in a them versus us narrative. Read more.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/forget-robots-attention-robbers-hurting-your-job-more-j-t-o-donnell?trk=prof-post


When you are in the workforce and have a fully packed diary there is nothing you want more than a day without meetings and conference calls. You want a day in which you can decide what you want to do and how to prioritize from hour to hour.

People who watch netflix in the afternoon

When you take time off, you realize how hard it is to follow your own wishes because for the longest time you have done and followed the targets and needs of others. Maybe you are also a mother and used to take care of several persons in your household. Maybe you are a father and feel the pressure of earning an income. Did you ever have that fantasy of staying at home like an “unemployed” bum and watching netflix during the day (when all your friends are at work)? For me this would feel like missing school. Not ok. I am the pupil who had a bad conscience when she missed a day of school. I hated to miss lectures at uni. Showing up is part of my deal. Even when I am unwell.

For me to get to a point where I could not get out of bed and had to stay at home during my professional career was probably the lowest it ever got.

The vicious cycle of hustle

Taking time out to re-think yourself can be a healing experience but once you return from your yoga retreat, you feel the immediate need to get back into the vicious cycle of hustle, which includes maintaining a diary, checking your mailbox and dating for lunch. It also includes doing favors and running small errands for others, forwarding resumes and establishing connections, mentoring juniors and serving on committees or in the local fire brigade. Your days never seem to end. Once you get home there is a mess waiting to be cleaned up or you stumble upon clothes that should be washed / dry-cleaned or ironed. Unless you are really affluent, you will do these tasks yourself.

In egalitarian Switzerland your hairdresser has a higher productivity rate than your executive coach and your cleaner earns more by the hour than most undergraduates in other developed markets, so outsourcing is only a limited option.

Structure is the key to simplicity

After a long journey in the corporate world which sometimes feels a bit unreal I fell out of the structure of “having work” to go to. Four years into running my own business I can assure you that routine is back and having four days off feels like being away for weeks. A day spent walking in nature and studying medieval architecture seems as long as a normal working week. When we run on our programs, in our little rat cage the beautiful world outside seems unreachable. It’s strange that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and still we have so many stressed and unhappy people. Most of us in my view have built up such a high standard of living that we lost the ability to appreciate simplicity. We strive for more and more becomes the equivalent of better. I would call this idea delusional.

Become a bum once in a while

Sometimes you need to become a bum to appreciate your other life. I know it is hard to be out of the “workforce”. I know how it feels not to belong to the “inner circle” anymore, not being able to afford opera tickets, bar nights and luncheons. I understand the embarrassment you might feel when you have to decline a friend’s visit because you cannot even offer a glass of wine. Still, I would advise all of you to be a bum once in a while. Give your soul a rest from hustle by being out of a job. If you really think you can’t afford this experience try one of those four suggestions:

  • Have you sat in a café at the street by yourself and watched people?
  • Did you meet a friend for lunch and asked him about his parents?
  • Have you picked flowers in a garden lately instead of checking your twitter followers?
  • Did you spend time playing a game with children in the neighborhood?

I would be very interested in your experience and what you are taking away from it. Schedule your first meeting with me here.

You take your phone out as soon as you sit on the train. You skim through your email. Another attachment fail. You forgot to save the legal document before you attached it. Your colleague across the ocean is confused. After three emails you clear the confusion. You clarify your ask to her and apologize. You know you must come across stressed. Even though you know that you have worked at higher stress levels in your life, you know that there is a nagging voice inside you that screams “I need a holiday.” You wonder how this happened as it seems your last holiday was only four weeks back. Could the issue be deeper you ask yourself? Is something wrong with me? Do I need therapy?
Then you become aware of all the bullshit that  you need to handle every day in your job. It is not the job itself. You love your work. It is not the team. You have shared your vision, mission, brand and values with your team. They follow you eagerly because they see a brighter future with you. Your team buys into your cause and wants you to succeed but the politics in the management team have become unbearable. The blame-storm that follows every client issue and the loss of ground with your big clients have made you look bad. You are concerned about losing your job, not performing well and not delivering what you promised to deliver. Your wife looks at you for support with the children. Your daughter has behaved difficult lately. She needs your guidance. You want to support but you feel drained on every corner of your life. 3
You had started a hobby about a year ago because a friend advised you to do “something for yourself”. In the beginning you were so thrilled about the new friends you made there but now it just feels like another obligation, another point on your task list of never-ending topics.
You snap when friends ask you if you want to go out for a beer and your mother’s voice is in your head. “You said you would come for a visit with the children on Sunday.” And there is this mortgage on the house that needs refinancing.
In short: You feel the weight of responsibility of being the provider. You feel that weight in your shoulders and your back. You identify with it through pain.

Stress written all over your body?

Many of us have stress written all over their body. Even though you will find a lot of methods of reducing stress when you look online many of us have issues to focus nowadays. There are too many distractions that pull us into different directions every minute. We also have too many “shoulds”. We should go to the gym more often, we should recycle the bottles, we should save money. Our mind spends a lot of time thinking about the “shoulds”. Here are the three quickies to get in control again.

1) Take one hour out of your busy schedule and consult a therapist

Sometimes we feel like we have tried everything possible to please everyone else but lost ourselves in the process. It helps in such situations to consult a therapist. Sometimes you might not really need therapy but in most cases you will. I am a fan of prevention and I know that we can improve our physical symptoms if we seek support early enough. Unfortunately in my experience, many managers look for external support when it is too late as they are stuck in an ideal of playing superhero. Alternatively, they are sent to a business coach. A serious coach should send you to a therapist or doctor as soon as you cannot confirm anymore that you feel psychologically and physically healthy. And some of you might seek a doctor before they seek a therapist, because you do not believe that your psyche could play tricks on you. It’s up to you! Do something about it before your family loses you for good.

2) Go for light exercise rather than the gym such as a daily walk outside

If you feel stressed but still in control it can help to prescribe yourself a daily dose of light exercise such as a 20 minute walk. I have written about getting healthy earlier in this post about my favorite productivity hacks. Be sure that you don’t distract yourself with your phone when you go for a walk. Build the walk into a routine such as your commute to work or your coffee run in the morning.

3) Clean up your workspace daily and mono-task

It sounds simple but is a commonly known ZEN practice. You can get rid of the constant distractions by developing a regular routine of cleaning up and only working on one topic at the time. The stream of information you are letting in can be directed in the right channel. One example: If you think I should file my documents do it the same day. Spend five minutes every evening before you rush home to clean up your desk. Throw away everything that you don’t need. Before you start your workday write down your top three priorities for the day.
Let me know how you handle stress in the comments.

When clients ask me how they can fit more into their day I tell them to forget time management. We manage our time when we have enough. When we are stressed and under pressure of delivery we forget all of the methods and act like crazy headless chicken or chucks.

Over the years of my early career having worked with bankers I learnt that time is money and efficiency was considered a must. Responsiveness meant that I would call back immediately and respond to emails as fast as possible. Today I feel this paradigm has shifted to social media, what’s app and text messages. Anyhow, when you are constantly in response mode it is hard to get any work done. Moving into more managerial roles I had to re-learn how I prioritized and as a company owner it was again different. If you also struggle with being productive I have five tips for you to claim back your diary. You want to have more time with family and friends? You want to start a new hobby or continue one you started years ago and then dropped? You want to go running regularly? If your answer is “Yes, but I don’t have time.” Practice one or two of the methods given below.

diary 2

►Have-Done Diary

In consulting firms you have to maintain a timesheet in which you document daily how you use your time. This can be great to give you an understanding of where you are focused. You can increase the value of this exercise by maintaining a daily diary in which you document your accomplished tasks (Have-Done-Diary). I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise.

►Time blocks with pomodoro-clocks

Find your most productive time in the day and block 90 minutes for creative and conceptual work. Set a kitchen timer for the task to 25 minutes. Work without picking up the phone or checking emails or Social Media. Then take a five minutes break.

Then work for another 25 minutes and take another 5 minutes break and a third junk. See how much you accomplish with this method. This is called Pomodoro-Method and you can even get a timer on your browser.

http://tomato-timer.com/

 

For many professionals the most important brain time is the early morning but I hear there is the other camp of night owls as well. So it is up to you to find your best 90 minutes in a day.

►Use an easy categorizer to determine where to start

Our most important tasks will have 80% of impact on our success only take 20% of our time according to the Pareto principle. 80% or our time we usually spend on important but less urgent and urgent but less important tasks which will only contribute 20% to our success. When you are overwhelmed use an easy categorizer. Work with an A, B, C categorization whenever you add a task to your diary or task list. Use your time block for A tasks.

►The Island

In your day build one island of peace. The island can be lunch with a good friend, a massage, running or sitting outside watching birds. The island of peace needs to fulfil two criteria:

1) You cannot take your smartphone or it has to be switched off.

2) You are not allowed to take away tasks from this place.

►Repetition, Routine, Checklists

Repetition, routine and checklists are great ways to take the stress out of tasks that need to be accomplished but should not require a lot of focus. I prefer to work on such tasks in the late afternoon or evening. Examples are packing for an event, preparing your travel cost claim. Color-coding, tagging, printing and filing

If you feel that you are constantly looking for documents, try color-coding folders according to topic, tag documents, put descriptors on paper files, file papers weekly, throw out junk, advertising and ask yourself before printing: What will be the added value of having this document on paper? Will I read it? Will it end up in a pile? Will I review it?

In my experience we print a lot of documents, magazines, whitepapers without looking at them ever. Do you also have 50 books and only started to read them? When you are like me you probably should stop yourself from buying more books until you are at least through 25 of them (and have written reviews on Amazon).

►Outsourcing housework

Finally I encourage you to outsource your housework from grocery shopping to cleaning. Most of the housework you might still be stuck with but at least you can win about three hours per week if your house is cleaned by another person. You will also notice that you keep the house tidier if you have regular external help. I also sublet my office so that I have to keep the space relatively clean. If I did not have regular client contact I would probably have post-it’s everywhere and drafts in progress on the floor.

Now practice one tip per week and let me know what happened.

 

►Read more:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229772

 

http://acuff.me/do-over/

 

http://www.briantracy.com/blog/leadership-success/practice-the-abc-method/

 

http://blog.idonethis.com/franklin-focus-on-daily-progress/

 

http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/3367/10-Management-Lessons-From-Donald-Trump.aspx

 

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/06/16/not-to-do-lists-drugs-and-other-productivity-tricks/

 

 

►Related:

http://globalpeopletransitions.com/how-to-get-rid-of-clutter-in-five-steps-spring-cleaning-for-more-productivity/

Holidays can bring down any routine you have just acquired with miraculous discipline and take you out of whatever you have been doing. Whenever I read anything related to productivity and creative work it seems that a good routine is needed plus exercise plus a healthy lifestyle. I also know that now in my fourties that this is the type of life I want. Gone are the days where a night out was the highlight of my week. I enjoy getting up early on Sundays and having a full day of “flow” without appointments other than for a nice brunch in the city.

Still, the occasional long weekend (and we have many of those in the spring) is a chance to take a mini-break. It’s also a chance to see the family and friends you have fallen out of touch with. Especially as a self-employed blogger, writer, or service professional you might easily fall into the trap of not knowing how to handle “free” time anymore as you always have “work” to do, emails to read, social media to follow up on, potential clients to get back in touch with.

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I suggest you try to break this routine on purpose and see what you take away from this experience. Allow yourself a few days offline. Fly away to a location on your “1000 places to see before I die list” and experience a new world. Routine and productivity are necessary but once in a while you need to shut down, re-boot and clean up the motherboard in your brain.

You can also support this process by planning relaxation for your body, soul and mind for example a Spa retreat in Austria, a hiking holiday in Graubuenden, a castle tour of Germany or a bicycle trip around lake Constance.

I am advising against putting yourself at excessive performance pressure during your holidays. I believe this might be counter-productive especially if you you are usually “driven” in your work life.

Also, I advise you give yourself a few days of adjustment into the “free” time and out of the “free” time. You could develop a ritual such as unpacking your suitcase in three steps, sorting out pictures and presents, updating your diary. This might be easy and natural for you but also remember that your body might have to adjust especially after long travels. When you are employed you might want to leave work earlier and keep the evenings work-free.

How was this experience for you?