Tag-Archive for ◊ productivity ◊

• 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.

• 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


• 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.

• 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.

• Thursday, December 01st, 2016

Fear of Taking Annual Leave

Who would have thought that Australians would feel so guilty taking annual leave? The Princess Cruises National Relaxation Survey discovered that almost two thirds of workers are actually scared of taking time off.

A big part of this is ‘letting the team down,’ with a quarter of workers saying it’s more stressful to ask for a holiday than a payrise. But equally, people are worried about negative consequences, like coming back to find they have been replaced, or having their ‘fill in’ discover flaws in their work. The bad news is that with no break from the stress of work, our brains may actually start to shrink. This leads to many potential problems and can only be reversed with some relaxing time away from a stressful environment.

Even moderate levels of work stress, over a long time, affect our ability to think and perform at our best and can actually start to make some areas of our brain deteriorate. Fortunately, rest helps the brain ‘grow back’ to normal function. How much rest do we need? Coincidentally, it takes four weeks for some brain regions to grow back to normal size. If you haven’t taken four weeks holiday in a while, now could be a good time to start.

In a study of medical students who crammed for three weeks before final exams, it was shown that their cortex (the part of the brain that learns, controls behaviour and helps us to think critically) actually began to shrink. A smaller cortex means less ability to do all the things that make you valuable in work and life and help you achieve your goals.

The student’s brains eventually returned to normal size, but only after four weeks of rest. While some long weekends and a few short breaks here and there help us to recharge in the short term, our long-term brain health and our ability to perform requires us to have some longer breaks as well.

Here are some tips for making this more effective:

1)    Get away

If possible, get away. Away from work and away from home. This makes sure that there is no feeling of ‘oh, I really should be doing x’ around the home or home office

2)    Turn off the office

Set up your auto-responder and divert your phone. You might still see your email on your smart phone, but if you’ve set up an auto-reply, then you set the expectation for people that you won’t be getting replying until you are back from holidays.

3)    Spend time slowing down

Don’t go flat out every day on your holiday. Trying to cram things into your holiday can sometimes be as stressful as cramming them into your work day. Make sure you take time every day to stop and slow down. Maybe a long walk on the beach, or an hour reading a book – anything that takes your mind of anything to do with stress.

• Thursday, November 24th, 2016


How are those 2016 goals working out for you? I’ve got some news for you, but most people don’t want to hear it.

There are only three reasons that you fail to make progress towards your goals. Yes – it’s that simple. But people are going to deny it.

The first two reasons are the most important – and the ones that people don’t want to face. The third reason is really just a caveat. So let’s scrap the third reason.

There are only two reasons you fail to progress towards your goals.
In. Anything.

a) You’re not doing the work, or
b) You’re doing the wrong work

That’s it. Nothing else is stopping you. Whether you want to get a promotion, make more sales, qualify for your bonus or lose ten kilos. If it’s not happening for you, it’s because of one of those things.

So here’s what you need to do. And I KNOW this sounds really simple, but I am really frustrated with a bunch of people I’ve been working with, so I’m going to spell it out.

First – find out what the ‘right work’ is. Because if you want to make more sales, but you’re only making three sales calls a week, then getting buried in admin – it’s probably not going to happen. Or if you want a brilliant team, but you aren’t doing one-on-ones with your staff at least once a month – it’s probably not going to happen.

So, find out what the BEST people in your world are doing. Whether that’s sales, or losing weight, or leadership, or whatever. And then do it even better than them.

Secondly. Commit and work relentlessly on making it happen. You can’t make those 10 sales calls every other week – it has to be every week. Don’t make excuses why you can’t get out the door and exercise, because you’re too busy – just make it happen. Don’t cancel those one-on-ones with your staff because you have too many emails to answer. Prioritise it and Get. It. Done.

And don’t lie to yourself and other people that you’re doing it, when you’re actually NOT.

What’s the third reason? The third reason is that your goals are out of your control. But this rant assumes that you set controllable, smart goals anyway. So forget it.