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Four Unusual Productivity Boosting Techniques You Can Use Today


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

5 minute read

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Eliminate distractions

Distractions and interruptions are toxic in the workplace. They make our productivity drop massively by shifting our focus. Can you afford losing an average 2-4 hours a day on this issue? You might think eliminating distractions is easier said than done, but there are tons of ways you can employ this tactic. To start with:

  • Turn off your phone and log out of all your social media. If you really struggle with self-control, block sites that you know will distract you.
  • Next, let everyone know you’re not to be disturbed between a certain time period. That means both in-person and online.
  • Finally, delegate! Did you know that we spend a whopping six hours a day checking our email? And that according to email management company SaneBox, only 38% of our inbox contains important emails. Instead of sifting through emails, trying to find what's important and what isn't everyday, let someone else organise and prioritise your emails. This will save you so much time to focus on the things that will actually help your business grow. Delegate sorting your inbox to someone else - you’ll be amazed at the amount of time it’ll free up on a daily basis.

Take a time out

Next, block out your time. I always make sure to block time for nothing in my diary. I call these days my sacred days - I do one every two weeks - and I make sure nothing is scheduled on them. I normally have them after my most productive days as a pat on the back and opportunity to recharge.

I’m also a great believer in the power of working in three month blocks. For years, I set myself goals and then just worked and worked and worked. I’d go through bursts of energy, followed by long periods of tiredness that left me feeling completely unmotivated.

Then, three years ago I discovered a technique that quickly revolutionised my approach to work – working in three-month blocks. It’s a strategy used by companies like Google, and since I’ve started using it my motivation, energy, and focus has increased massively. Working in this way has made me feel so much happier, plus it’s had an incredible impact on the business – since I started using it, our performance has improved dramatically. By setting specific goals for just three months ahead, I’m in a much better rhythm.

Research has shown that setting challenging and specific goals enhances engagement in attaining those goals. I can stay focused for so much longer and can deal with challenges much more effectively. At the end of each three-month cycle, I take a couple of days off to reflect. I take a closer look at what is and isn’t working in the business and have a brainstorming session about what I want to achieve in the next three months. It helps me make smarter decisions and means I can go into the next three months with renewed energy.

Open your diary diary now and block out a day for recharging in two weeks’ time. Then, set yourself goals for what you want to achieve in the next three months.

Brunch, anyone?

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, is the richest man alive - he’s worth a whopping $137.8 billion! You’d think this might make him pretty busy, but surprisingly he’s not.

He’s a firm believer in the power of a good night's sleep and makes sure he gets eight hours every night. Studies show that good sleep “helps us to think clearly, remember information, and make decisions”, according to The National Sleep Foundation. After his eight hours, he spends his morning “puttering” around - reading the newspaper, eating breakfast with his kids - before starting work at 10am.

That might seem incredibly late for many entrepreneurs, but Bezos believes scheduling “high IQ” meetings from 10am to lunch helps him make the best decisions because it's when he's the most energised and focused. He says his job is to make a small number of high-quality decisions as the leader of his business and that's it. If you’re still not convinced you don’t need to be busy to be successful after reading these facts, nothing will change your mind! The above is Jeff Bezos’ perfect day, but what's yours? I want you to design your perfect day.

Think about when you feel most energised and the tasks you know you’re great at that really benefit your business. Starting off by noting how long you want to work, taking into account how long you’re actually productive for.

Next, split your day into three parts: decision making time, focus time, and email time. Write down the time you’ll spend on each and your goals for them and make sure you stick to the time limit! Also make sure to factor in breaks too, your brain won’t function properly without them. Design your perfect day right now and from tomorrow, start following it’s schedule!

Change your diet

My friend and mentor, bestselling author Sam Horn, uses the term ‘infobesity’ to describe the information that threatens to drown us mentally, all day, every day. Human brains have limited room for new information and the huge amount of content that plagues us every day from smartphones, news, tv, and more, means we’re often storing useless information instead of valuable content!

For entrepreneurs, this onslaught of useless information is especially damaging - when we consume low-value content, we have less time, less attention and less energy to read, process and store high-value content. So, how can you start swapping poor-quality content for powerful content that sparks ideas and helps you achieve more?

Three tips to consuming the right information:

1. Research what you want to know more about! Once you know, curate a list of books, audiobooks, and podcasts from proven experts, that will help you to improve and develop. The content you consume should be helping you reach your goals, so take the time after reading or listening to reflect on how you can use what you’ve learnt in your business.

2. Stop obsessing over news and social media. Guess what? If something important happens that you need to know about, I promise you’ll hear about it. I stopped reading the news and scrolling through social media years ago, and it’s had no negative impact on my life. In fact, I actually feel happier! By cutting out news and social media, you’ll free up so much time and have much less useless content taking up room in your brain.

3. Encourage good reading habits. Try to avoid mindlessly reading random pieces of content throughout the day, and instead, block out an hour, find a comfy space, and enjoy your curated list of high-quality content. By making it an event, you’re much more likely to make it a habit.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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