How to stay naturally energised during your work day

energised

Your working day is a marathon, not a sprint. After a hectic weekend, it can be difficult to get back into the swing of things. However, luckily there are a few techniques that allow you to stay alert, regardless of how little sleep you’ve had. Here are four of the best expert-recommended ways to stay naturally energised during your working day.

1. Non-caffeinated energisers

Luckily for those of you who don’t want to rely on caffeine for energy, there are some great alternatives to stay energised. Many experts recommend exercising first thing in the morning so you get an adrenaline boost for the rest of the day. Exercise helps to keep you alert and also keeps your endorphins up – so that no matter how tired you may be – you will feel positive and upbeat. However, if exercising first thing in the morning isn’t for you, than simply taking a walk in fresh air (rain or shine) can significantly increase your level of alertness. Try to do this throughout the day, especially if you feel your eyelids getting heavy at your desk.

2.  Try the R.I.S.E U.P. method

Dr. Harvey of the Golden Bear Sleep Research Center recommends what’s called the R.I.S.E. U.P. method to her patients who suffer from severe sleep inertia and need a concrete process to feel energised. R.I.S.E. U.P. stands for:

Refrain from snoozing
Increase activity for the first hour
Shower or wash face
Expose yourself to sunlight
Upbeat music
Phone a friend

3. Be mindful of what you eat

If you particularly tired, refrain from eating anything heavy, too hot or starchy. These foods will simply make you feel less energised and lethargic. Instead switch to light foods such as Greek yogurt, fruit, smoothies, salads, and lean protein. Bananas and nuts are a great snack to help keep your energy up throughout the day. Another great trick is to have strong spearmint gum with you – as chewing this helps to keep you alert.

4. Take a 10-minute nap

Studies show that the perfect amount of time for a nap, during the working day, is 10 minutes. Anything more than this and you risk being more tired. The perfect 10-minute nap involves sleeping slightly upright so that you don’t fall into a deep sleep and spring back into action. Those that do nap at work tend to do it in a conference room, a couch or their car!

5. Listen to your favorite upbeat song

Turn on your favorite song, that gets you moving. Listen to it using headphones at work and feel all of the happy endorphins run through your body, giving you all the energy you need, to tackle the next task.

 

Why the most successful people have removed these 5 things from their working day

successful

Successful people know exactly how to manage their time. They have highly productive days and limit their stress levels by staying focused on the things that matter. When they run into unexpected mishaps, they don’t get thrown off course because they are prepared for anything.

If you find yourself regularly wishing there were more hours in your day, cut out these 5-time wasters holding you back.

1. Unplanned mornings

Being successful is tiring. If you leave your mornings unplanned you can aimlessly drift into the afternoon, trying to get through your huge to-do list without any proper strategy. This leads to crucial time-wasting and ultimate unproductivity. Your brain is the most efficient in the morning, so with simple planning, you can take advantage of this time and glide into the afternoon with several important tasks completed.

2. Social media

According to Business Today, social media usage reduces total workplace productivity by 13 percent. With so much to do successful people can’t afford to let their working days fall into the hands of social media procrastination.

Unless you need to be on social media for work tasks, delete or restrict the apps from your phone. Many of us are in a vicious cycle of checking social media out of habit, or boredom, or both. Break this ultimate time-wasting skill and be in the habit of not checking up on Facebook or Twitter, multiple times a day. Not only will this benefit your productivity but also your wellbeing.

3. Worry

High achievers are obsessed with the future. They want to think about where their careers will be next year, what kind of obstacles they could be facing and how they can act now to prevent those potential hiccups.

Foresight is important, but unnecessary and incessant worrying can prevent you from accomplishing tasks that require your full attention, today. Schedule time to brainstorm future plans and needs (because you don’t want to shoot blindly); then, spend the rest of your time focusing on what’s in front of you.

4. Routine meetings

Routine meetings are a waste of time, especially for leaders who have a huge amount of tasks they need to complete. By rule of thumb, never attend a meeting simply to learn information – you can get the same update from an email. Instead, attend only meetings that require your input. Even then, if you are a founder or a leader, send someone else in your place, when you can, unless you’re irreplaceable at a particular meeting.

5. Multi-tasking

It’s now a common fact, that multitasking, as a form of productivity, is a myth. Despite this truth, many people still try to do everything at once and reduce the quality of each task by doing so.

Slow down so you can focus on one thing at a time. Emails are one of the main reasons we feel forced to multi-task, so rather than let incoming mail disrupt your flow of productivity, schedule two times, during the day, to focus on checking your inbox. That way, you can keep your messages from distracting you and you can continue to be in the zone of your workflow, distraction-free.

 

The art of choosing; how to increase your self-awareness around choice

choice

The world famous expert on choice and decisions, Sheena Iyengar, wrote her book titled, “The Art of Choosing” to explain years of her cumulative research on human decision making. What makes her book so interesting (and a global book chart dominator) is that she combines psychology, politics, technology, business, and culture to understand what influences choice, how external factors affect us and what we can do better.

External factors and choice

Learning how to make choices is more important today than ever. We live in a noisy world, where choices are in abundance – being self-aware around our decision making cuts the complexity (and bias) out of our choices. Iyengar became one of the world’s most prominent researchers in this field following her famous jam study, whereby shoppers could sample 6 or 24 different varieties of jam at a supermarket. The study found six times more purchases when fewer jams were available.

How to be more self-aware around decision making

1. Understand your culture and how much choice you need

Cultures that focus and protect individual freedoms and rights, for example, Europe, and the U.S produce people who want autonomy and independence. Eastern cultures are typically more focused on community and feel more at ease with collective decisions being made on their behalf.

In a study where Asian-American and Anglo-American children were either given a toy to play with by their mothers or allowed to select a toy to play with themselves, the Asian kids played longer when their parents chose their toy, whereas the American kids played longer if they self-selected.

This kind of environmental bias can determine our overall happiness and career satisfaction. Be mindful of how much choice you need in your life and try to negotiate a career that can give you what you need.

2. A lack of choice, if left unresolved, can impact your health

Typically those in higher paid roles, with higher responsibility have better mental health. Studies show this isn’t due to more money but due to the increased freedom to structure work and tasks experienced by those in higher responsibility roles.

Feeling like you have a choice is so important that even the perception of choice matters a great deal. For example, when new residents of a nursing home were given a schedule of activities, along with instructions stating they were “allowed” to visit other floors, they felt like their health was the staff’s responsibility, and they gave up on it. Telling a second group that everything was their choice made them much happier, even though technically both groups were free to do as they pleased. This is something to remember if you lead a group of employees, choice is key to employee morale, innovation and productivity.

3. Sometimes delegating our freedom of choice is better for us, but only if we’re properly informed

Sometimes in life, we have to make really, really hard choices. This can range from life or death situations for example, deciding to keep a loved one on life support or big business choices for example, deciding how many employees you have to make redundant. In these situations, it’s often better for your mental health to delegate to an expert however, it only makes you feel better if you’re well informed about the entire decision making process.

In a study where participants read about the following three scenarios, the group that didn’t have to make the decision but was well-informed felt best about it:

  1. The parents aren’t informed about their child’s survival chances, the doctors stop the treatment and the child dies.
  2. The parents are told there’s a 60% survival chance, but with severe neurological disabilities, before the doctors stop the treatment and the child dies.
  3. The parents are told the chances and have to decide themselves.

Groups 1 and 3 felt equally as bad, for being robbed of choice and for having to deal with the circumstances, while group 2 felt glad to know what was going on and that the choice was inevitable.

Choices are everywhere and we make them multiple times a day. Our objective should be to increase self-awareness around the most important areas of our life. Why am I making this choice? Is there any external factors that may make this choice less objective? Small, probing questions can increase self-awareness around your external biases and allow you to make decisions that best serve your long term goals.

 

 

 

 

Haiku; what Japanese poetry can teach us about productivity

Haiku

The essence of Haiku is cutting (“Kiru”). It is a Japanese poetic form consisting of just 3 lines and 17 syllables.

The traditional art of Haiku writing started with Buddist monks in Japan. The poems are inspired by living in the moment. The shortness of the poems (just 3 lines) reflects the minimalist mindset of extracting excess, being left with only what you need.

The Haiku writing form is a true reflection of Zen Buddhist philosophy and arguably something that we can apply to every area of work and life. As Haiku is restricted to such tiny parameters, poets are forced to focus on one concept, choosing only the words that are most important for the poem. The task of the poet is much harder, they must master their concept, ensuring the strict word limits, do not detract from the overall meaning.

Examples of Haiku poetry can be found here.

Haiku principles and productivity  

If we apply the Haiku writing process to our productivity, it means that in order to succeed, we must limit ourselves to the essentials. It’s a simple but effective way to ensure that we focus only, on what matters to our objective(s) and that we don’t waste our valuable time on irrelevant tasks.

Here are the four, most effective, Haiku inspired, productivity hacks to make our working life more efficient:

1) Limit your goals

Can we truly give our 100% to more than one goal at a time? Personally, I find several goals distracting. Dividing time between several things, at once, means doing everything in a mediocre way, instead of doing one thing well. Try to limit the number of goals you have at once. The ideal number is just one. If you do this, you will find yourself more effectively reaching your targets than you could otherwise.

2) Limit your tasks

This may seem counterintuitive if your to-do list is as long as your arm, but you will be surprised at how much energy is wasted on tasks that undermine your goal. Start by writing your overriding objective at the top of your to-do list, then eliminate the tasks that do not directly, support your goal. Stop wasting your precious time on irrelevant things. This to-do list, re-vamp, will redefine your focus and de-clutter your mind.

3) Limit your communications

Technology has advanced our productivity in many, unimaginable, ways but it equally causes idleness in undisciplined users. Think about the number of times you’ve been distracted from a task by a phone notification or an email? I have personally lost count. A great Haiku inspired way, to manage your communications, is to set strict time limits for when you can check your phone or email. Typically, people create 2 times slots one in the morning and then in the late afternoon. This way you allow technology to make your life easier but you don’t allow it to control your time.

4) 7 minutes of limitless fun

My favorite Haiku inspired advise is taken from Zen Habits. In their insightful blog on Haiku productivity, they describe a Haiku reward, of allowing yourself to do anything you want for 7-minutes, once you complete a task. This helps to motivate you, refresh your mind and sprinkle fun throughout your day, but limits it. No endless scrolling through your favorite blog, just 7-minutes and then back to work.

Remember, the rule of Haiku productivity is to put limits on everything you do. The things you limit depends entirely on your work and personal goals. By restricting yourself to the most important tasks, you only focus on the essentials and you give those essential your 100%.

How technology adds more hours to your day

technology

As technology evolves, so do the fears of it’s impact on our personal lives. Whilst it’s normal and at times, warranted to be nervous of how technology is going to effect our brains (and social skills) there is also another, more positive, side to the coin.

Technology can give us back some of our precious time so that we can have personal lives and a career. What if instead of viewing tech as the downfall of humanity, we considered it as a way to enhance our lives by helping us to make more time to spend with the people we love? Let’s face it, working days are not getting shorter but we can find ways, with the help of technology, to live and work without burning out.

Here are some of the ways tech can add more hours to our 24 hour day;

1. Organization

Apps like Evernote syncs all of your to-do lists, documents and reminders in one place. Helping you to never forget anything. It also gives you the freedom to write ideas and your to-do items in a safe place, where you will be reminded to execute them. Dropbox is another life-saver, keeping all your files, photos, docs, and videos in one place – you can share your files with anyone even if they don’t have an account and everything is automatically synced and backed up – it means you have access to your files, from anywhere and you don’t need to be chained to your desk when it matters most. Finally, if you’ve ever needed a personal assistant, the app 24me is for you. Your calendar, to-do lists, accounts, and documents are centralized in one place, and your errands can be completed by one tap. You can receive billing, event, and birthday reminders and even have the app pay your bills and/or send gifts to friends. The app goes as far as telling you when you should leave for your commitments based on current traffic.

2. Productivity

Ever wonder how many hours a day you waste doing nothing productive? Well, theres an app for that. Hours will track the time you spend on tasks versus the time you spend on distractions. At the end of the week it gives you a ROI of your time. This helps you see how you utilize your hours each day and eliminate any waste. For powering through your to-do list, Momentum is a focus app. It seeks to keep you focused on one task a time and if you deviate from your task, it reminds you of your working objective. It can be used for tasks, but crucially it helps you to form healthy habits for long term changes in your productivity.

3. Work/Life Balance

There are some great apps to help you strike the ideal balance between home and work, for example Way of Life helps you to eliminate bad habits that get in the way of your work/life balance such as, lack of sleep, poor diet and develop good ones instead. You create daily/weekly goals and track whether or not you are meeting them. Another golden gem is Cozi Family Organiser, the app allows you to manage and sync your families appointments and activities so that you never miss out on your child(s) special event or even story time. The app even allows you to collect memories such as favourite restaurants/recipes so that you can be there for your family, amidst workplace chaos. Other helpful apps you should download are your grocery shops app – this can simply be downloaded from their website. This allows you to order your weekly groceries, from your desk, for delivery at a convenient time at your home – saving you time and unnecessary stress.

 

 

6 ways to improve your communication today

communication

Leadership and communication go hand in hand. How we communicate with others is integral to our success. Communication is a leadership skill that has multiple dimensions, verbal, non-verbal, and written, so if you want to get better at this critical skill, here are some proven strategies to learn;

1. Learn the basics of body language

Nonverbal communication accounts for 55 percent of how a public speaker is perceived. This means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through body language. Things like posture and eye contact matter. Stand tall and look people in the eye. Crossing your arms or reducing your size, in any way, communicates closed body language and a lack of confidence. Read more on body language here.

2. Get rid of filler words

Things like “Ummm” may seem innocuous but they drastically reduce the persuasive value of what you’re saying. Most of us use them out of habit. One way to get rid of them is to start keeping track of when you say words like “um” or “like.” You can also start to try to pause before you speak. Silence is not always bad, in fact, it communicates confidence and control and be assured that the silences feel longer to you, than they do to your audience.

3. Lead with empathy, not ego

When we have to have difficult discussions try to always lead with empathy. This means instead of using judgment “What you did was wrong/unacceptable”, start with “Why did you decided to do that?” or “How could I have helped you more in this situation?” or “How was this in your eyes?”. This takes you into an open and honest conversation where the other person can feel comfortable responding. This will help you to find solutions far more effectively and also build respect in those around you.

4. Listen, actually listen

One of the best things you can do to improve your communication skills is to learn to listen. So many of us are just waiting to respond. However, an effective conversation is a line of words elegantly connected with listening. So, instead of responding with “yes, but”, try and replace it with a follow-up question. Let people finish what they are saying and don’t interrupt if that is your inclination. Genuinely, listen to the speaker. These simple skills can go a long way in building trust with those around you.

5. Make your communication two way

Ask more questions and seek feedback. This is different to listening and more about keeping your mind open to input from others. The most successful people and companies are the most flexible. Asking questions about how others feel about a given topic or how they think something could be done better puts you in an active role. Asking questions is also a core leadership skill, it builds trust and keeps your mind open to innovation.

6. Create stories

Stories are powerful. They activate our brains, make presentations engaging and make us more persuasive than others. Use stories to bolster a point, “I think we should do it this way because of a time..”, use it to create trust, or prove characteristic points about yourself to a new audience for example, “I believe I can do this, because…” In its simplest form, a story is a description of cause and effect. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced. This is simply how humans are wired. Stories help you to make your points stronger and are more memorable for your audience.

How the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen can revolutionise your work

Kaizen

Kaizen, which translates roughly to “good change,” is a Japanese productivity philosophy, used by the likes of Toyota, in their famous Toyota Production System to promote serious organizational change. The philosophy is that constant and continuous, improvement is conducive to big, long-term advancements. The Kaizen mantra is that “everything can always be improved.”

Kaizen and Market Leadership

Toyota famously embodied the Kaizen philosophy in their production warehouses. They believed that all employees should have an input into Toyota’s self-improvement, so much so, that any worker on a production line can stop the line at any time to address a perceived problem, correct an error, or suggest to management a better way to do things with the object of waste reduction and increased efficiency. The results of Toyota’s production system are phenomenal, resulting in their rapid market domination and high-profit margins. Toyota began offering instruction in the methodology to others most notably non-profit organizations with the goal of improving their efficiency and increasing their impact. After three months of working with Toyota SPB, a disaster relief organization based out of New Orleans reported that their home rebuilds had been reduced from 12 to 18 weeks to 6 weeks. Further, construction industries reported that after employing the Toyota method (Kaizen) construction errors had reduced by 50 percent.

Why Kaizen works

Kaizen means that nothing is ever seen as a status quo – there is a continuous, collective force to improve everything which results in small, often imperceptible, changes over time. These incremental changes add up to substantial long-term advancements, without having to go through any radical and often risky, innovations. It’s a much safer and employee-friendly way to instill changes that must occur for a business to be truly competitive.

How to implement Kaizen

Notably, Kaizen is a philosophy, as opposed to a methodology meaning that it can be implemented in various ways from employee suggestion boxes to more rigorous employee inclusion methods such as Total Quality Management.

The most effective way to implement Kaizen is to understand the core elements of the Japanese production system, which can and has been, successfully applied to any work environment.

Much of the focus is on reducing “waste” and this waste can be identified in the following ways;

  • Movement – moving materials (or people) around before further value can be added to them

For example, moving people to different locations for meetings when it can be done virtually or having databases of information which take time and effort to get into (such as contact details) when these could be printed and put on a wall.

  • Time – spent waiting (no value is being added during this time)

For example, enforcing prompt meetings and properly organized calls where non-attendees are reduced.

  • Defects – which require re-work or have to be thrown away

This has a lot more to do with effective delegation than employee incompetence. If a junior had been briefed properly than re-works should be eliminated – if not then it’s a hiring system failure.

  • Over-processing – doing more to the product than is necessary to give the “customer” maximum value for money

This can range from adding too much detail to presentations/document designs – streamlining decision making lines.

  • Variations – producing bespoke solutions where a standard one will work just as well.

For example, creating new documents when you could use a precedent.

For more information on Kaizen read this insightful blog by MindTools.

 

Sleep; why society needs to universally embrace the lie in

Why we need more sleepWe can ignore our yawns. We can ignore the devastation that strikes us, when our morning alarm wakes us after yet another late night at the office. The one person we can’t ignore, is mother nature. If she tells us we need more sleep, we should listen. The Earth has a rhythm. Every 24 hours it rotates on its axis, basking its surface, alternately, in darkness and sunlight. In turn, quite magnificently, evolution has provided all of Earth’s organism’s – from bacteria to humans – with the ability to coordinate their internal, metabolic processes, with that of the environment around them. This evolutionary masterpiece is called our “Circadian rhythm” which is also known as our “internal body clock”.

Listen to mother nature

Circadian rhythms, regulate the periods of alertness and sleepiness experienced throughout a day, in response to the light and darkness of surrounding environments. It controls our physical, mental and behavior changes – making us feel sleepier, if we are sleep deprived. The advantage of having Circadian rhythms, is that they influence us to perform activities at biologically advantageous times during the day. This means, reflects Issac Edery in his influential paper on Circadian rhythms, for the American Physiological Society, although we have tried to create “cities that never sleep” we cannot escape the resistance of endogenous clocks that regulate much of our physiology and behaviour. Whilst everyone has a unique Circadian rhythm, 7.5 – 9 hours a night of sleep is, generally, considered sufficient sleep for adults.

The diligent worker

Edery and several other prominent scientists including Paul Kelley, of Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, note, that modern working culture of “being the first to arrive and the last to leave” means that our work schedules are now, entirely, at odds with our Circadian rhythm, we are sleeping far less, which is not without consequence to our health. Malfunctions in our Circadian system can lead to chronic sleep disorders, depression, obesity and at the very least unproductivity which, appears to defy the very objective of lengthy work schedules. Kelley concludes that most of the working world are still waking up far too early. “It’s not rational to start the day at 8am” he continues, its simply just to feed into the bias that you’re only a committed worker if you’re chained to your desk. Kelley suggests that 10am is the ideal work day start time. Experts are now urging employers to reconsider long work schedules in favour of ones that sync with our body clocks.

More sleep = More productivity

Christopher Barnes in his white paper on “why it pays to ensure adequate sleep for your employees”, argues, many organisational leaders do not understand health and organisational benefits of monitoring healthy sleep schedules, for their company’s performance. Bad habits include sending emails during the night which shows a “no sleep” culture in the company. Barnes makes 7 helpful suggestions for companies to promote better sleep habits for employees here.

In a series of studies carried out, respectively, by scientists Roenneberg and Ryan Olsen, workers who adjusted their work schedule to their individual biological clocks were far more productive, healthier and focused, both in work and out of work. Olsen suggests “with technology today there is no reason to have a rigid schedule” he continues, productivity is when “you stop focusing on time and decide what results you are paying people for”.

Written by, Leila Mezoughi for PCALaw

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