Having worked as an executive coach with high performing individual in business and sports, gamification came early in my world even when it wasn’t a word yet. I have seen people thrive by adding a few simple and effective tricks to their work days and then setting small but meaningful milestone rewards.
Most highly productive individuals have worked out a goal setting system of some kind. Whether it is online or on paper, they do have overall objectives and then they break these down into smaller bite-sized tasks to get on with. Over time they have learned to overcome procrastination with mind over matter or ‘just do it’ type approaches.
Here are the top 5 approaches I use and have seen used that work well to increase productivity:
Tag a new habit to an old habit
Creating new habits is hard to do, even for a high performer. But everyone has existing habits or rituals performed every day. Imagine you would like to do more gentle exercise and your daily commute to work is by public transport. Walking to the next stop on your tube or bus commute or getting off a stop earlier than usual can add that half hour extra either way. Finding a gym right near the tube station that you can head to straight after or before work could be another option. To create the new habit, add it into an existing routine and stick with it for 90 days to have it fully embed. Track your daily new habit and create an unbroken logging streak when you perform the activity.
I worked with top athletes at one point and even they sometimes don’t feel like training. In some instances that is your body telling you that it is time to take a rest, but more often than not it is your lazier internal friend trying to negotiate its way out of doing anything. The trick is to set yourself up for success, have your clothes ready first thing so you don’t have to think about putting them on and then head out jogging for 6 minutes. If after 6 minutes you still have the same feeling that your body is screaming not to exercise, then do listen and return back to take a rest. Most frequently you will not have noticed the 6-minute mark passing and have found your running flow. Time challenge yourself, you can tweak the amount of time, but starting is key.
Grouping similar energy tasks
Different tasks require different energy. For example, financial work requires us to have detail-focused energy and mindset, creation requires more innovative and experimental energy. Grouping tasks with the same kind of energy together, allows you to remain productive for longer. Set blocks of time in your day based on your own energy flow. Some of us are better with high detail in the morning others in the afternoon or evening. It really depends on your energy flow. For each completed energy block have mini-milestone rewards such as a cup of your favourite coffee or tea, a brief walk, a mini-game break, etc.. Make the mini-milestone reward something small but meaningful to you.
The power of a distraction-free hour
I like working really focused without interruption for an hour block at a time. I turn off the phone, emails and other pop-ups, in fact, I have only one device where banner pop-ups are still enabled, all the others are completely notification free. One of my early mentors Dave Lakhani has a book with the name ‘The Power of an Hour’, which I highly recommend reading. Whether it is an hour or an hourglass or kitchen timer Pomodoro style time challenge, the key is to ban distractions and work in focus mode. I love how I can do that these days for writing in word tools. At the end of the period take a break and walk away to change your state of mind. It will give your brain a break and by physically moving around oxygen flows and creates new energy.
One touch, one click works
Amazon is credited with the one-click buy experience and has data to back up that this increases sales for them. For each item that passes your work desk apply the one-touch technique where possible. Decide the moment you see it whether to take action on it there and then, to delegate it, to dump it or to file it for later use. Every six months, take the bottom quarter of the file for later pile or inbox and delete. You very likely will never miss it. And there is something strangely liberating about chucking out old stuff. Challenge yourself to just one touch and again aim for a record count of one touches per day.
Bonus funny one: What is the self-talk that gets you out of bed in the morning?
You may laugh, but what are the words you use to motivate yourself out of bed in the morning? It may not be as easy to answer off the top of your head. Notice over the coming days what your self-talk phrase is and then test using it at other points during the day. Apparently, when we use the same words in the remainder of the day, it can help us to keep going or get started again. Don’t worry if it isn’t charming or PC, most of us are way more direct to ourselves than we ever dream of being to someone else.
Finally, get to know your own body and work according to your own rhythms and beats. Take enough rest as well as exercise and nutrition. Aim for 80% on target, anything higher is a bonus and anything lower allows you to start again in the morning with a fresh slate.