Wednesday, 26 April 2017

7 Small, Easy Changes To Improve Your Productivity

Sunday 14th May 2017 heralds the start of Work Wise Week 2017, the aim of which is to promote different ways of working and smarter working practices for employers, employees and the self-employed. 

Flexible, remote, mobile and agile are all terms you may have already seen used to describe changing the way we work but, essentially, it is about individuals figuring out what they need in order to do their best work and employers figuring out what they can do to make those things happen for as many of their employees as possible. 

When you own a business or you’re self-employed however, the principles you hear about flexible working and work-life balance can seem like a distant dream.  Many people start their own business with the draw of being their own boss, setting their own course and creating a working life that seamlessly allows times for all the fun stuff too.  However, managing multiple demanding clients and doing everything yourself usually means you’re working every available hour.

The idea of changing something just feels like another thing to add to the burgeoning to-do list.

If all that sounds familiar, you are not alone.  Here are my 7 small changes that could make a big difference to your working week.

  1. What 5 things make your day a good day?
    It’s a simple question and everyone’s answer is likely to be slightly different. Some will have “a quick commute”, “getting outside on my lunch break”, “not being interrupted”.  Some will have “ticking off my to-do list”, “starting something new”, “going out after work.”  Some are in your control, some less so but knowing what they are can help you design your working day to include at least some of them!  For example even a short walk outside can make you more productive, improve your attention span and your mood!

  2. STOP Multitasking!
    Doing more than one thing at a time might seem really useful but we actually reduce our productivity by up to 40%. By giving all your attention to one thing you will get through it more quickly and more effectively.  The same is true for people either face to face or over the phone.  We all know how frustrating it is when the person we’re talking to isn’t listening properly. So stop. Listen. Pay attention. No phones or laptops in meetings.

    You can set shorter meeting times and spend less time on tasks.  Try it. It works.
  3. Say No….but.
    As an employee or a small business, it may feel like you can’t ever say no but you can.  The key is to offer an alternative.  “I can’t get it to you today but I can get it to you by 2pm tomorrow. How does that work for you?”

    You have the best sight of your priorities, workload and how you work best.  If you’re an early bird then working through the night to hit a last minute demand is likely to wipe you out and deliver a sub-standard product.  Better to propose a reasonable alternative that means the client gets what they want and it’s up to your high standards.
  4. Get Help
    Sometime you can be so busy doing everything you can’t imagine taking the time to bring someone else in.  At times like that it can be helpful to think of what only you can do. I am able to everything in my business but every hour you spend on back office tasks is an hour you could be delivering for a client (and making money!).  Whether it’s using accountingsoftware like Quickbooks to make everything add up or employing a bookkeeper or accountant to do it all for you, help is there.  Make use of it.

  5. Eat the frog!
    When things are busy, it is easy to put off the things we don’t want to do.  The problem is, they don’t go away, they just lurk there and cast a shadow over everything else.  The phrase “eat the frog” works on the principle that, if you have to eat a live frog, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for too long!

    Break it down.  What is the smallest thing you could on this task? Do it first thing in the morning and then the rest of the day will seem easy in comparison.

    And the best bit? The task is rarely as bad or as difficult as we fear it will be!

  6. Prepare for tomorrow today
    Whenever you end your day, take 5 minutes to look ahead to tomorrow.  Just 5 minutes.  Think about it, run it through, think about how you’d like it to be.  How will you integrate some of your 5 things (question 1) in to the day?

    This mental preparation will mean that as soon as you get up, you’ll feel more prepared and ready to take things on.

  7. Recognise daily successes – every day!
    It’s easy to be so busy we forget how much progress we are making every day.  Take 5  minutes at the end of every day (once you’ve finished step 6 above) and summarise your highlights.  Size doesn’t matter!  Whether it’s landing a huge deal or taking a walk outside, developing the habit of acknowledging successes every day will help you overcome those tough times and remind you why you do what you do!

Stephanie works with intelligent individuals and teams on leadership, personal impact, choice and change. Find out more at

Whose Life Is It Anyway? It's Your Decision.

Most men and women, at some point, have been told to look, act or think differently. The image above highlights a female perspective but there's a male version too - probably all the endings being "a man" which is equally unhelpful.

I'm confident I didn't receive any of these messages from my parents but I know I felt them both at school and work at various points.

I'm not talking about feedback. Feedback can be helpful when done well. It's useful to know how you're perceived, to understand the impact of your words or actions or to open your mind to another way of thinking.

I'm talking about that point when the feedback/guidance/helpful suggestions start to shake your trust in your own decision-making. When the voices, opinions and influences of others make you second-guess your own knowledge and intuition. Unchecked, this can result, in choices and decisions according to someone else's values, expectations and goals rather than your own.

If you've ever been described as the "good girl" or the "smart one" or the "funny one" or the "sensible one", you probably recognise this all too well. And it's not necessarily a problem. It can be little more than a slight annoyance most of the time. In my experience, it becomes more significant when you have a strong desire to change something in your life but the options seem way out of reach.

"I can't..." "I should......" "I need to....." are some red-flags to look out for. These words, either spoken or thought, are signs that you are not connecting to your own knowledge. intelligence and intuition. 
And if you're not listening to yourself, who are you listening to and how are they serving you?

To be clear, I'm not suggesting we don't pay any attention to what others want for us. Speaking to others and seeking opinions from people you love and trust can be hugely helpful when you're making a change or a decision. But that's the point - speak to them, don't presume you know what they think or what they'll say. People who care about you will listen to you and offer their perspective from a position of love and respect. And whatever they say, remember ultimately it's your decision.
So if you want to make a change in your life, tap in to your knowledge, your expectations and your values. Share your thoughts with others. Ask for opinions and advice. Listen. Be conscious about the external influences that are present and how they interact with your own sense of what you want in your life. And then draw on all your courage make your decision.

Stephanie works with intelligent individuals and teams on leadership, personal impact, choice and change. Find out more at