Author:
• Friday, February 17th, 2017

focusProcrastinating? 30 Minutes Can Change Your Day.

We all have more to do and yet ironically we seem to be spinning our wheels now more than ever. Have you noticed that people are procrastinating more and more despite ever-increasing workloads?

When we are overloaded, we actually tend to procrastinate more. This is called the Paradox of Choice: with too many decisions to make, we tend to do nothing, or at the very least, we do the easiest thing. The Easiest Thing is rarely the best decision. We all know it will just put us under pressure down the track, when that deadline is finally looming. But we keep doing those easy things anyway.

That is, until there’s some urgency.

 

Urgency forces us to switch into the performance zone. It makes us switch out of auto-pilot mode and switch on the part of the brain that controls our behaviours. It also gives us a little shot of adrenalin, which narrows our focus.

But usually people wait for something or someone else to make this happen:

Someone else gives us a deadline

Or I am all of a sudden so far behind my budget or project timeline that I need to switch on.

This is a hallmark of being overwhelmed in the 21st Century. I will do easy things until someone else forces me to do something more productive. We wait to that external impetus to really get us moving.

The minute we create our own urgency, we start being more productive. We take control of our own performances and we are not held to the whims of deadlines and controlling managers.

 

Here’s a tip:

Build Blocks Of Focus into your day

Plan 30min blocks where all you do is work on the things that are most important. No email, no distractions, no daydreaming about the things that aren’t getting done. Be deliberate and set specific tasks to complete during this time. And if you can control your environment by closing your door or finding a meeting room to work in – even better.

I know 30 minutes doesn’t seem like much, but it is sometimes all we need to get us going. That 30 minutes quickly turns into an hour, but the original 30min block is long enough to get us started and short enough to create some urgency.

Now this takes some practice, so don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time. We can actually train ourselves to work in these blocks of focus. Again, 30min may not seem like much, but you’ll find it amazing how much you get done in this small space of time, with better focus.

 

 

** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it’s application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn’t See and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.

Author:
• Tuesday, February 07th, 2017

broad focus narrow focus think big act small

 

To lead a team well is really quite hard. The concepts are easy, but the execution is often difficult. One of the things that is exceedingly difficult is getting people to focus on the things that really make a difference.

If you want to build a high performing team, you need to help narrow their focus down to the things that make a really big difference. This is especially true in the 21st Century. When all the other teams in the world are scrambling to do more. The way to get people focussed is to do less and focus on execution. In my keynote speaking engagement and workshops, this is what people want to hear about a lot. They want to know how to build high performance culture by honing in on the big ticket items.

But sometimes we need to broaden that focus. In the planning stage of the year, we need to look outside of what we are doing and just gather as much information as possible. This is where we find ideas that might cause the next great shift in our performance. In doing this, most people just look at what their competitors and their industry are doing, but here are some other ideas:

If you want to engage customers, look at some of the social media platforms that are getting massive engagement. Why are people getting addicted and what can you learn from that?

If you want your people to be more productive, then take a look at what some start-ups are doing – how are they making things work on a shoestring budget?

If you want your people to produce better quality, look at some QA-heavy industries like foods and manufacturing to see what process they put in place to make sure their quality is of the highest level.

This is a great exercise to get people to brainstorm and think outside the box for new initiatives and strategies that just might help your team find the next level. It’s also a great exercise in innovation that can stimulate thinking and help people start challenging the status quo.

But….

Once you pick the initiatives, it comes back to narrow focus for the rest of the year. Spending a couple months with broad focus and brainstorming is a great stimulus. But if you want to really execute – you have to narrow your teams focus and make sure the behaviours they choose are affecting the things that really matter.

 

Author:
• Thursday, February 02nd, 2017

 

vive la france

The French have got it right! Their new laws mean that any organisation with more than 50 employees needs to determine hours when their employees should not send or reply to emails.

Emails are a constant drain on our attention in the workplace and need to be managed better. But now they have become a constant drain on our attention outside of the workplace as well. Like it or not, many managers expect their people to answer emails immediately. Wherever they are. And it also seems that we, as workers just can’t help ourselves from picking up that smart phone when the email ping is calling.

I spoke about it on radio here: Click Here to Listen

And this must be impacting relationships, work-life balance and stress in general. I wrote an article earlier about how 80% of kids notice that their parents bring work stress home with them.

What do you think? Good or bad? Should we have to implement a law for this or should we just be more understanding or people’s personal time?

 

Author:
• Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

procrastinationThis year, stop procrastinating and start doing

What’s going to stop you from achieving those New Year’s Goals? If you’re like most people – the answer is procrastination. And it is never helpful. Research shows that procrastinators end up with higher stress, more illness and lower grades at university. In my workshops and keynote engagements, this is one of the topics that consistently pops up.

Why do we procrastinate?

People procrastinate for many reasons. The main ones are that a) a task is too difficult, so they make themselves feel good by doing things that give them an immediate reward, or b) the reward or consequence of not doing the task is too far away – there is actually not enough stress to get them motivated.

To sum it up very simply, when we procrastinate, we are doing it because we would rather have something right now, than wait for something in the future. We opt for a smaller, sooner reward, instead of doing something that will deliver a larger, later reward.

What does the smaller sooner reward look like?

Let’s say you should really get started on a project that’s due in four weeks’ time. But instead, you decide to check facebook and answer some emails that aren’t particularly urgent. What just happened?

Now, you could have a bigger reward later in the future. If you did some work on that project, then you may not get stressed out down the track when the deadline comes around. Or you will probably do a better job because you won’t be so rushed, and this might lead to a promotion or at least making your life a lot easier.

But you didn’t do that. You took the smaller, sooner reward.

You opted for something that you could get right now. You got some social connection (facebook) or maybe a sense of achievement (answered some emails…. tick!), or maybe you just got to do something easy, which made you feel comfortable. Either way you got a little reward right now.

And it’s not just you. A lot of people do this. We are actually hard-wired to believe that something we can get right now is more important than something we can get in the future. It’s evolutionary biology. Scientists call it Temporal Discounting

What to do about it:

But there are some simple ways to beat procrastination, and boost performance:

1)    Connect with your ‘future self’ more clearly

Simply try to imagine yourself in the future, having NOT worked on the project and being under enormous pressure because of the deadline. Imagine your boss getting angry at you, or those sleepless nights. Then maybe also imagine how good you’ll feel if you actually do a great job, with a bunch of time to spare.

2)    Manufacturing self-imposed deadlines

Set a timer for no more than 30 minutes. Ask yourself ‘what could I get done in the next 30 mins that will help me get closer to getting this project done. It doesn’t matter how small the task, but if you just get started, you might find that you continue to work on it once you build some momentum. The key is don’t get started on the simple task – get started on the harder task.

Try these things to beat procrastination in 2017. They’re simple but they are very effective at tricking our hard-wiring.

 

* Tony Wilson is a workplace performance expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it’s application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership and culture change. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn’t See, and is highly sought after for workshops, programs and keynotes around the Asia Pacific Region. www.teamcorp.com.au

 

Author:
• Friday, December 09th, 2016

Is it Time to Close Down the Open Plan Office
Think about this: Distractions take up 28% of our day.

Someone once thought it was a good idea, but open plan offices are killing our productivity.

Research shows that we get distracted every 11 minutes. That can include someone directly interrupting you, or the loud-talker four desks over that won’t keep it down. Even worse, once we are interrupted, it takes a staggering 25 minutes, on average, to get back on track.

The concept of increased collaboration by removing the office walls is great in theory, but when we need people to be more productive than ever before, why would we give them an environment full of distractions?

In my workshops, a constant theme is that people are regularly getting into the office early (before anyone else is there) or staying later (when no one else is there) in order to get some productive work time in. This tells us one thing: we are more productive when we’re not interrupted!

In order to thrive in these chaotic workplaces, we need some personal and organisational strategies to maximise productivity, without leaving collaboration behind.

Here’s what I suggest:

1) Acknowledge the Problem

Distractions are a real problem. If we are getting distracted every 11 minutes, and it takes us 25 minutes to get back on track, then how much work are we actually getting done? We need to acknowledge that collaboration is great, but we also need periods of time where we can actually get the important stuff done during the day.

2) Develop Team Strategies

Sit down with your team and work out some strategies to make this happen. Maybe it’s that there are periods during the day that are free from internal email, meetings or interruptions. Or maybe you set up a ‘signal’ that people are working at full intensity – maybe people have a sign on their desk or they have their headphone in.

3) Develop Personal Strategies

Our willingness to be distracted is increasing daily. We feel compelled to response to every email ping or social media blip. Start implementing periods of focussed attention in your day. Maybe start small and practice ignoring distractions for 20-30 minutes and then increase from there.

Author:
• Tuesday, December 06th, 2016

Self-Control is Limited
Ever tried to turn over a new leaf? Ever started a health kick, or made a conscious effort to be more productive at work, and then been unable to make the habits stick? maybe you’re doing too much.

Changing behaviours takes self control. And self control is a limited resource. The more we use it, the more we run out of it.

Take some typical self-control research:

Two groups of people watched emotional movies for one hour. One group had to exert extreme self-control – they had to watch the movie with no reactions whatsoever. Complete poker face. The second group didn’t have to exhibit any self-control at all. They could cry, wince, scream or yell at the movie screen.

After watching the movie, the two groups ran on a treadmill at a set effort.

What do you think happened?

The extreme self-control group gave up pretty quickly. They depleted all their self-control while watching the movie – trying not to react, trying not to move. Fighting all their instincts to act out on their emotional reactions. But the group that didn’t exhibit any self-control during the movie, pushed through and ran for a lot longer. Because they hadn’t used any self-control while watching the movie, they were able to use it to keep running and not give up.

The same phenomenon happens to us when we are trying to change too many behaviours at once. If I use all my self-control resisting bad food during the day, chances are that I won’t have any left to make myself go to the gym after work. If I use all my self-control avoiding procrastination and paying attention in meetings, then I might have less left in the afternoon to avoid distractions.

Self-control is like a skill or a muscle. The more we use it, the better we get at it. But if we use it too much at once, it gets depleted. Instead of committing to too many things, try to change one thing at a time. Once this becomes a habit, then add another behaviour and then another.