With September dubbed the ‘New January’ and the ‘back to school’ energy infiltrating the office as much as the classroom, early September is the perfect time to dust off your to-do list and set your new goals for the final few months of the year.
With three full months before the busy festive season is truly upon us, we asked our coach and facilitator of our ‘Working Smarter’ workshop, Vix Anderton how can we boost our productivity and ensure this Autumn is our most fruitful yet.
Have a Plan
Having a plan makes everything else so much easier.
- Take stock —Where are you currently at? This is where you’re going to reflect on the past 90 days and be really honest about what’s been working – or not.
- The Goals – Where do you want to be 12 weeks from now? Imagine you’re reading this 12 weeks from today, what has to have happened for you to feel happy with your progress? This exercise helps you ascertain what the right level of ambition for a goal is and whether it’s feasible in this timeframe. 90 days seems to be the sweet spot in terms of estimating ambition and capacity, so this is usually something that feels challenging, yet achievable. Once you figure out your goal(s), defining the criteria and fleshing out the details around it will help hold you accountable.
- The Why – Why do you want to be there? What’s the importance? What will achieving your goal allow you to do? The “why” is also what gets you to emotionally commit, so it has to be big, vibrant, and clear.
- The How – How do you get there? This is where you’re bridging the gap and starting to get into what the details that really need to get taken care of are.
- Contingency Planning – How can you prepare? This is where you’re managing the risks of things not going as planned.
- The Commitment – How will you stay on track over these next 12 weeks and commit to your goals?
Action Changes Things
- Get the basics sorted. Your body and mind need fuel. That means nutritious food at regular intervals, fluids (preferably the non-caffeinated, non-sugary variety), 7-9 hours sleep every night, and plenty of movement throughout the day. Just attending to these basics will boost your mood and focus.
- Take more breaks. Human beings aren’t designed to work at the same speed continuously throughout the day; we’re not machines. The body’s natural activity-rest pattern works in about 90-minute cycles throughout the day and night. Try this: work with no distractions for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break, three times in a row followed by a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
- Prioritise. You cannot do everything at once. Spend 5 minutes every morning getting clear on what’s actually important that day and start with those things. Do NOT start your day by checking your email – it wastes the most focused energy the day on everyone else’s priorities.
- Break big tasks down into small steps. Procrastination often creeps in if a task feels difficult or unclear. Breaking it into smaller pieces makes it much simpler and easier to face.
- Plan time for fun or relaxation. All work and no play is a sure-fire productivity killer. Even when you have lots on, especially when you have lots on, make time to see friends or do something you enjoy. You’ll be more focused at work if you’ve got something to look forward to.
- Just do it — as Nike would say. Done is better than perfect. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sometimes, you’ve just got to get over it and do something.
Reflect and review to keep learning
This is the magic step, where all the learning happens. It’s also your opportunity to celebrate your successes – an easy thing to overlook when you’re focused on getting stuff done.
- At the end of every day, take a few minutes to ask yourself what went well today. What made you smile? Our brains are primed to look for problems so this practice helps foster gratitude and positive thinking.
- At the end of every week, make some time to look back over the week. Did you achieve what you set out to? Why? Why not? What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of? How accurate was your planning for the week – did you try to do too much? Having reflected, you can then use this learning to inform the week ahead.
We hope some of these tips will help surge your productivity right through to Christmas. For more in-depth tools and tips, our ‘Working Smarter’ workshop shares tools and strategies to empower your employees to perform at their peak productivity. Find out more here.