(image via Flickr – Some rights reserved by Lachlan H
Selective ignorance’ is a term Tim Ferriss uses in his book, The 4-Hour Work Week.
He describes the idea of avoiding ever buying newspapers or consuming unnecessary media. He talks about how he ‘shortcuts’ this by asking his friends’ trusted opinions on political issues so that he can make a good decision about who to vote for without the need for a lot of time wasted engaging in the issues.
He also deliberately avoids gadgets or internet sites that he knows can be distractions.
I personally love political news coverage and find the ‘games’ that politicians engage in pretty fascinating stuff. I would therefore hate to be taking my voting preferences from friends – as good a judge as most of my friends are! – and miss all that entertainment on the way.
Likewise, many of us love nothing more than relaxing with the Sunday papers and a cup of tea. Perhaps for you, the idea of ditching the TV is quite an extreme form of selective ignorance but maybe there are some others – as extreme or perhaps less extreme – that you can more easily do? This is all about compromise – giving up small luxuries or small wins, knowing that from less comes more.
An easy one for me was that I used to spend an hour or so every week trying to keep abreast of trade press, industry news and the like. After a while I realised that the important stories were generally forwarded to me anyway, so I cancelled my subscriptions and gave myself one less distraction each week. There will be many more examples that you can begin to explore here, too.
Are you an information junkie? How long do you spend each day reading social media, watching TV or absorbing articles? Could you cut back?
Interested in finding out more ways to be productive?
Check out our in-house workshops – from email to team working – we cover it all. Visit our workshops page to find out more about staying productive
In a previous post we covered some tips and tricks to help you be creative, whilst managing the day to day duties in your life. However, there are also ways you can integrate that creative thinking everyday to boost your productivity. Here are our top 3.
Think: “What would XXX do?”
(Image courtesy of [Duncan] via Flickr)
This is one of the Ninja secrets. The exact problem you face at work today is a problem that someone in another industry faced yesterday and that someone else will face tomorrow.
So just as we can model decision-making, we can also model innovation from elsewhere. Injecting some fresh thinking into a situation and trying to see the problem through the lens of someone in a completely different area of work can be a useful technique.
If, for example, you’re looking to communicate more creatively, why not ask yourself, “How would an advertising agency do this?” or, “How would Nelson Mandela tackle this?”, or if you need more method in amongst the madness, ask how a surgeon or engineer would approach the task. And, if you know people who do those kinds of jobs, call them up and ask for their perspective. You’ll be surprised how effective this kind of modelling can be.
Break the Rules
Whilst certain rules are worth upholding – and there are certain rules that would get you fired if you broke them – a Productivity Ninja approaches work with the mindset to focus on the end result first and work back from there. Questioning of rules, especially in relation to bureaucracy, is a great skill.
Remember that if the risk of serious repercussions is limited, it’s usually easier to apologise than to ask permission. There are times when we just need to show some leadership and crack on. Don’t be afraid to rip up the rulebook, especially if you can trash some tired old bureaucracy along the way.
Capture Your Thoughts
Image via waferboard on Flickr
One of the biggest keys to good attention management is staying one step ahead of our brains. It’s estimated that our brains have on average 65,000 thoughts per day, and whilst a good number of these are primitive things like, “Hungry. Need food”, or “That person walking along the street is hot”, we’re constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our work in our minds.
This means that,among other things, we’ll keep having the same thought over and over again rather than moving on and directing our precious, proactive attention onto focussed doing. This stifles our creativity and is plain inefficient!
You need to get the important thoughts out of your head, so set up a trusted system to store them – this might be a notebook, a dictaphone or an app on your phone – anything that you can rely on to have with you at all times, and store your thoughts and ideas safely.
If you’d like to find out more, check out this online course – Productive Creativity. Save time, get more done, reduce distractions and procrastination, and spend more time doing the creative work you really love.
The course has been co-created by Think Productive founder Graham Allcott and costs £20 to complete.
Visit Creative Huddle to find out more
Many of us use the weekend as time to catch up on the things we’ve not done during the week – maybe shopping, laundry, meeting friends, odd jobs and, in lots of cases, work.
How about spending a bit of time sorting out your ninja-skills as well?
You can read more about these skills in How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott (or attend one of our public workshops), but here are some ideas of how you can get started this weekend:
Zen-Like Calm – get to the gym
Great decision-making comes from the ability to create the time and space to think rationally and intelligently about the issue at hand.
Keeping fit and healthy will not only reduce stress in its own right, but will also give your brain the focus and energy it needs to produce clearer thinking and decision-making that will enable you to stay on top of your work, too. And it means you’ll look hot. It’s a win-win-win!
Ruthlessness – plan your week ahead
Ruthlessness isn’t just about how we process information though, it’s also about our ability to protect our time and attention, focussing only on the things that add the greatest impact, even at the expense of other things that are ‘worth doing’.
With abundance of information such a problem, being choosy is the only way. It goes against the western, protestant work ethic culture that we’re so familiar with to decide not to do things, but that’s exactly what we must do. A lot. Being much choosier about what we say “Yes” to is an important skill – and learning to say “No” to ourselves means not biting off more than we can chew. Go through next weeks events – is there anything that you can say “no” to?
Weapon-Savvy – delete all those time-wasting apps and tools
The Ninja is skilful on their own, but knows that using the right tools makes them more effective.
Tools are there to help us get things done, but our obsession with them can occasionally become a distraction. There are some great productivity websites out there – often created or led by influential and insightful thinkers – but whilst we do need to keep up with technology and innovation to the extent that it increases our productivity, we also need to be hyper-conscious that this is in itself ‘dead time’, away from the completion of our priority tasks and projects.
Stealth and Camouflage – book some “you time” in your calendar
Protecting your attention spans and keeping focussed is hard to do. This is where the Ninja needs to employ a bit of old-fashioned stealth and camouflage.
Book time in your calendar for creative thinking, reviewing, forward planning and other important activities. Have a personal codeword for this if you work in an office where other people can book your calendar and are unlikely to respect your autonomy if they see ‘personal thinking time’ or ‘reading’ as a calendar entry. Use ‘private’ or ‘meeting outside of the office’ instead.
Unorthodoxy – find a mentor
We must avoid getting stuck in a rut and doing things less efficiently than we could, at all costs.
An obsession with unorthodoxy and innovation also means ditching some of the foolish creations of the ego: never be afraid or embarrassed or too proud to ask for advice, even if that means you needing to show weakness. And never resist an opportunity to learn something new from a trusted source. Modelling the success of others is crucial. Mentoring is a great way to do this: take advice from those who have travelled the road you’re setting out on, avoid making the mistakes they themselves made, and shortcut to success.
If you don’t know anyone who does your job, try sites like Meetup.com - or look out for related social events in your sector.
Agility – get organised
A Ninja needs to be light on their feet, able to respond with deftness to new opportunities or threats.
A messy desk, an out of date contacts list or diary and a bag full of receipts can play havoc with your productivity. Have a clear out, bring all your lists, files and diaries up to date – you’ll thank yourself next week.
Usually, those people who naturally resist the idea of being organised are the very same people who experience the greatest mindset shift from getting their paperwork, projects, email inbox and everything else under control. It’s immensely calming if you do it regularly, but probably even more so if you don’t normally experience it very often.
Mindfulness – pick up a book
Our minds are our most important tool. Being emotionally intelligent and self- aware are important for so many reasons, not least because they equip you to take action.
Our brains have evolved a lot since we were monkeys, but one thing has hardly changed: the lizard brain. A term popularised by Seth Godin in his brilliant book Linchpin, this part of our brain still remembers what it was like to need to survive, to blend in, to not make a fuss. In fact, the worst thing for the lizard brain to think would be that whatever we’re doing makes us stand out. Standing out from the crowd in evolutionary terms meant you’d get picked off by a predator and this is exactly how the lizard brain still thinks!
Also worth reading is Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art - a revealing and personal account of his battles as a writer against what he calls ‘the resistance’. The resistance is a mindset, usually developed by the lizard brain, but characterised by stress, anxiety, fear of failure, fear of success and a whole host of other emotions that whir around our brains and tell us to stand still.
(And of course, if you don’t have a copy of How to be a Productivity Ninja, that’s worth picking up too!)
Preparedness – chill out
Being prepared is about practical preparation as well as mental preparation.
This of course means mindfulness, but it also means looking after our most precious resource: our own attention and energy. As such, we need time to be off duty too. Perhaps being off duty involves a long Facebook binge or surfing crap on the internet. Perhaps it involves going out with friends or taking time to focus your attention onto something completely different (or onto nothing at all).
In short – it’s the weekend – enjoy it!