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Boost Your Business in 2014 – Take a Break

Have a restful holiday and be energised for the new year.

Tracey Foulkes

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Look around and you’ll realise you’re not alone.  Everyone I speak to tells me they are desperate for a break, It’s been a mammoth year, I’m tired and am guessing that you are too.

Taking a break after every 90 minute work cycle boosts productivity … taking time off at the end of a busy year is vital for your sanity and the efficacy of your business in the long run.

So how do you bring closure when there’s still so much to do?

1. Do a mind-dump: 

Take 20 minutes and literally dump down whatever thoughts and actions are swimming around in your brain. Resist using numbers and rather jot or type them one under each other as they come to mind. This will free up some brain space for taking action.

2. Consolidate your list:

Prioritise your list giving each action a 1, 2 or 3. Your 1’s should be the tasks that are high value, think: what on my list will help me bring in money? While you can’t ignore the 2’s and 3’s, you need to start with the 1’s early in the day when your energy levels are higher.

3. Delete, delay, diminish:

  • Delete off anything on your list that is not essential. Seriously, if no one is shouting for it and it’s not critical to your business, just cross it off.
  • If you are running out of time (and energy), assess what on your list can be delayed for another time. Make a note of this delayed action in  your calendar so you don’t forget about it and take it off your action list for now.
  • Diminishing a task is about making it smaller (check out point 6 below). Break overwhelming tasks down into smaller projects and save your energy for where it is really needed.

4. Crunch the time container:

Productivity levels peak before taking leave. Simply put, when you crunch the time container, you are left with little choice but to stop procrastinating and get things done. Set the timer, and get going.

5. Tie the knots:

See your tasks as a loose thread, if it doesn’t have a knot tied at the end, chances are it will soon unravel. Studies show that it takes as much as 20 minutes to get back to the same level of focus when you drop a task to hop to another, instead of multitasking, set a timer and work like crazy to bring closure to each item, one by one, on your list.

6. 80% is enough:

I can feel your disapproval but there is logic here that you just need to hear. Give 100% of your attention, energy and time to the tasks that are of high value to you and your business, but realise that for the better part, the many tasks still requiring action on your list are of lower value so devoting anything more than 80% would be wasting your time and therefore not quite as perfect as you’d imagined.

7. Organise your desk:

With your action list under control, clear the clutter on your desk so that when you return from leave you are not confronted with a debilitating mess but rather a productive space and a sense of clarity.

8. Declutter your computer:

So you’d cleared your physical space, your electronic files and folders possibly need a shuffle too. While this is usually the type of project that gets delayed for another time, a desktop declutter could take you all of 5 minutes and might be just what you need to bring closure to your year and clarity to your electronic world.

9. Get out of the office:

Taking a break from your physical office environment is not enough, to really recharge your brain batteries; you want to be able to disengage from work. Switch off … literally.

While you might not be able to do everything before you take a break, congratulate yourself for what you did get done. It’s been a big year, rest well, and come back in 2013 refreshed and renewed.

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The Productivity Life Saver You Need to Know About.

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Tracey Foulkes wows audiences with her sharp wit, quick reactions and personable sense of humour. She speaks about procrastination, business productivity, personal motivation and time management. . If you want your team to be inspired to operate outside of the box, contact her for a complimentary productivity assessment, email tracey@getorganised.co or find her on Twitter as Tracey Foulkes or on LinkedIn as Tracey Foulkes.

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(Infographic) 9 Daily Rituals To Boost Your Performance At Work

In a rut? These daily rituals can help lift you up.

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Some rituals might seem like nonsense, but it turns out, they can be helpful when it comes to productivity and job performance. Studies have shown that rituals can help us take on tough challenges at work, boost productivity and even decrease anxiety. How do you know what type of ritual is right for you? Here are some ideas.

Instead of starting your day with a hot shower, try opting for a cold one. Cold water increases blood circulation and releases endorphins, which can boost a person’s mood and make them more productive. Another helpful ritual is shutting down distracting devices. For example, turn your smartphone on airplane mode for a few hours so you can hone your focus on a single task until its full completion.

Whether you’ve got a big deadline approaching or an upcoming presentation, if you’re feeling anxious, one ritual to help calm your nerves is counting your breaths. A quick daily mindfulness practice, such as counting your inhales and exhales for 10 minutes, can help relieve stress and get you in the right headspace for getting work done.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

From journaling daily to doing five-minute desk exercises, check out Pound Place’s infographic below for nine daily rituals to boost performance at work.

1531498187_daily-rituals-work-infographic

Related: Your Crazy Erratic Sleep Routine Is Making You Less Productive

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Four Ways To Boost Your Daily Productivity

You can also, hopefully, become a happier human. Here are our suggestions…

Colin Thornton

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Given that most modern professionals are armed with a full array of sophisticated technology tools, it is safe to assume that our productivity and efficiency has reached dizzying heights…right?

Wrong.

With so many digital distractions and the constant pinging of notifications, most of us have severely dwindling attention spans. Several years ago, Microsoft released a study that revealed a consumer’s attention span is now less than that of your average goldfish. Moreover, our overall productivity might be plummeting. According to research from theHRDirector.com, employees are distracted at work every three minutes – and it can take us as long as 25 minutes to refocus. In addition, workers are more stressed out than ever before, a trend that has been attributed to the constant barrage of digital information and data.

The good news is that by making a few simple changes and employing the right tools (yes, tech tools), you can both alleviate your work stress and enhance your daily productivity. You can also, hopefully, become a happier human. Here are our suggestions…

1. Find Ways to Work Remotely

Although this may not be an option for everyone given his or her particular company or personality, research has shown that working from home – or from a quiet place – can boost your productivity.  The average workplace is a hive of activity and distractions, making it near impossible to get critical tasks done.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

Nowadays, with enhanced mobile connectivity, employees can escape home or to wifi-hotspots (with great coffee) to focus on their work. Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom recently conducted a two-year study on remote workers that showed a massive productivity boost among the telecommuters… Moreover, his study revealed that employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the remote workers. Also, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days and took less time off work.

2. Turn off Your Push Notifications

Yes, that’s right. You can do it. There is simply no need to see a notification every time someone likes your post on Facebook or adds you as a contact on LinkedIN.  Also, that Whatsapp message on the group from old high school friends can wait. By constantly moving between screens, apps and platforms to keep up with ongoing digital communications, we lose focus and interrupt our creative processes.

In 2016, a Deloitte study found that people look at their phones 47 times a day on average. For young people, it’s more like 90. As Wired writer David Pierce put it, “push notifications are ruining my life. Yours too, I bet”.  It might be  time to turn down the digital input volume.

3. Use Productivity Apps

Yes, this might seem ironic and counterintuitive.  But, there are now several productivity apps that have been cleverly designed to help – not hurt – your ability to focus. There is Todoist, which allows you to put all your to-do lists into one, easily manageable place. This app syncs with virtually any platform – allowing you to complete tasks even if you forgot your smartphone at home (maybe a good thing?).

We also like Pocket, which collects your favourite articles and sites so that you can peruse them later, instead of ‘right now’. There are also great project management tools now available, such as Omniplan and Trello, which make certain tasks appear fun and often encourage collaboration and creativity. These apps allow you to create and group tasks, organise and streamline workflows, and to file documents in a simple and accessible way.

 4. Find Cool Ways to Collaborate

Although technology can fuel our efficiency (if used the right way) it can also isolate us from our peers and make teamwork (or talking to humans) seem a thing of the past. Yet many studies have shown that collaboration actually supercharges our contributions at work.

Related: How Dial A Nerd Managed To Dial Up Profits

For example, a recent joint study between the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College, revealed “companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times as likely to be high performing.” In addition, a 2014 Stanford study found that simply working alongside others drives ‘intrinsic motivation.’ And, as always, there’s an app for that!

The most popular tools include Slack, which allows for the sending of direct messages (DMs) and files to a single person or a group of employees. It also has the ability to place conversations into different channels (for specific projects, one for customer support, general chat, etc). Another handy tool growing in popularity is Microsoft Teams, which is included in many Office 365 packages.  Businesses may have Teams available right now and not even realise it or the powerful productivity boosts it can unlock.

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Can A Simple Checklist Transform Your Business?

If checklists are useful for building a skyscraper or performing complex surgery, they just might be right for you, too.

Thomas Smale

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What do test pilots, surgeons, architects and hedge fund managers all have in common? They all turn to one simple tool to make them more efficient: the humble checklist.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, renowned surgeon and author Atul Gawande explores how breaking down complex processes into boxes to be ticked off on a list can save lives and stop something as significant as buildings collapsing.

Related: How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

After personally adopting this simple rule in the processes at my own business, I’ve found Gawande’s simple solution of using a checklist to be surprisingly effective. So, I want to spread the word on how entrepreneurs can incorporate checklists to optimise their business operations’ efficiency. Here’s how to do that.

Break it down

No matter what the industry, professionals face more complexity in the workplace than ever before. Breaking down complex tasks into simple, verifiable steps can have remarkable effects, even when those steps appear explicit or mundane.

In The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande tells the story of Peter Pronovost, a critical-care specialist at John Hopkins Hospital. Pronovost developed a five-step checklist designed to prevent a common and sometimes deadly complication faced by patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU): the central line infection.

The steps in this list aimed at prevention are basic. For example, one calls for caregivers to “wash their hands with soap.” Despite such an obvious precaution, Pronovost’s team discovered that in over a third of patients observed, at least one step of the five recommended ones was skipped.

As part of the solution, Pronovost empowered nurses to stop doctors from proceeding if they witnessed even one step in the checklist being bypassed.

This simple regimen led to staggering results. In one hospital, over the course of just over two years, the central line infection checklist “prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs,” Gawande wrote.

Caring for patients in an ICU is extremely complex, but the wisdom of the checklist is that it breaks patient care down into incremental and verifiable steps.

Keep it short

One key to creating effective checklists is to keep them short. A good rule of thumb, Gawande says in the book, is to “keep it between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory.”

You must also “define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used.” Keeping the list short forces you to boil down complex processes into the essential, required steps.

“Keeping it short” also means that you will most likely end up with multiple checklists, each tailored to a clearly defined set of circumstances.

Keep it simple

Hand-in-hand with keeping checklists short is keeping them simple. Checklists should use clear and exact language. Gawande also stresses the importance of formatting. Limit your list to one page and avoid clutter and the unnecessary use of colours. Your lists should be clean, simple, and concise.

Daniel Boorman, the checklist guru at airplane manufacturing giant The Boeing Company, has suggested the use of both upper- and lower-case text for ease of reading, as well as the use of a sans serif font like Helvetica.

Boeing makes extensive use of checklists — for everything from routine processes like readying an airplane for takeoff to emergency situations like smoke in the cockpit. Every situation that a pilot might encounter comes with a corresponding checklist, as is shared in the book.

Decide between “Read-Do” and “Do-Confirm.”

There are two types of checklists: READ-DO and DO-CONFIRM. A READ-DO checklist is similar to a recipe. It consists of a set of clearly defined tasks that you check off as you complete them. With a DO-CONFIRM checklist, “Team members perform their jobs from memory and experience, often separately.”

Related: Become A Life-Hacker

But then they stop. “They pause to run the checklist and confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done.” Before building your checklist, you will need to decide which of the following two options to use.

Use checklists to facilitate communication

Even extremely complex tasks, like the building of a modern skyscraper, can benefit greatly from the use of checklists.

Not only can the floor-by-floor construction of the building be broken down into many small individual tasks that must be ticked off as completed, but a checklist can also help facilitate problem-solving and communications when complications inevitably arise.

Gawande discovered that the builders he interviewed relied on “one set of checklists to make sure that simple steps are not missed or skipped and another set to make sure that everyone talks through and resolves all the hard and unexpected problems.”

Using checklists to ensure that the appropriate experts consult with one other to resolve any issues that come up and reach an agreement on how to move forward is one of the tool’s most valuable applications.

Despite buildings’ being bigger and more complex than ever before, creative and diligent use of checklists has significantly sped up the building process, according to the experts Gawande consulted for his book.

Where to start

checklist-app

Not surprisingly,  a plethora of tools are available to help you incorporate the use of checklists into your business process. Here are just a few:

  • Checklist. The eponymous Checklist app offers a robust free plan with unlimited checklists, team management, due dates, reminders and more. The app is available for iOS and Android, or on the web. One of Checklist’s greatest strengths is its community. You can choose from thousands of user-submitted checklist templates to help get you started.
  • Tallyfy.Tallyfy is a powerful solution for automating your business processes with a particular emphasis on collaboration. If you and your team can benefit from applying the principles behind The Checklist Manifesto, Tallyfy is well worth a look.
  • Manifest.ly. If your team, like mine, relies heavily on Slack for collaboration and communication, Manifest.ly is a checklist tool that boasts seamless Slack integration. You and your team can work on checklists and receive notifications without ever leaving Slack.

Final thoughts

Checklists are a potent tool that have been shown to work in a wide variety of industries and circumstances. There are almost inevitably processes in your business that the clever application of checklists will improve.

Even the most complex tasks, such as the building of a modern skyscraper, open heart surgery and flying a commercial airliner have been shown to benefit greatly from the use of checklists. As Gawande wrote, “Checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realised.”

Using checklists to establish a higher level of base-line performance for you and your team can similarly pay big dividends in making your business more efficient and error-free.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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