DIY Deadline Day

August 31, 2017

It’s Transfer Deadline Day in the football world, with the transfer window bolted shut at 11pm tonight. Any business that clubs don’t get done by that cast-iron cut-off point doesn’t happen….at least until the window opens again on 1st January.

Many I know, and I humbly confess to being one of them, will be refreshing the deadline day news apps on phones quite a few times between now and 11pm.

Watch

Whether you’re a fellow ‘refresher’ or have no interest at all, you can’t escape the fact that the deadline creates activity and lots gets done. The transfer window has been open all summer but it’s today that many of the deals get completed. It’s do or die, now or never, time to go and make it happen!

There’s something incredible about the deadline that generates action. We humans can’t seem to resist it’s power. Whether it’s ‘last day of early bird booking rate’, tax return submission day, job application cut-off, the big tender due date or the last day at work before holidays, the time when time is running out is so often when we are at our most productive.

Somehow our lack of self-discipline, poor self-motivation and well-honed procrastination skills all get put aside as the shadow of the pending deadline looms large!

My aim here is not to look at why this is, but rather to think about how we can use this naturally occurring phenomenon to our huge advantage.

What happens when we don’t have a big, externally-dictated deadline looming?

Here are three ways to harness some of the power of the deadline every single day:

1) Set a deadline for when you are going to finish working today

Make your plans, write your lists, set about your daily work but with a definite end-time which is 100% inflexible. I guarantee you’ll work more efficiently knowing that you can’t just keep going ‘for as long as it takes’.

2) Set the clock on a piece of work

When you have a large project or specific task that needs your focussed attention and you don’t know how long it will take, it can be really hard to get going with any sense of urgency. This is especially true if it’s one of those long-term projects that will generally improve the world but lacks any definite ‘we need it by then’ dates. Here’s where it can be really helpful to set yourself set blocks of time to make as much progress as possible. Choose a realistic period, an hour often works, to get your head down and concentrate only on that task. Set a timer and keep it visible in front of you and keep going until it beeps. Then schedule your next block of time to pick it up again.

3) Create an arbitrary deadline and make it public

Sometimes we will be more motivated by the potential for public shame than just the satisfaction of our own achievement! Where this is the case, set a date for a project, a launch, an event…anything really…and tell people. ‘Going public’ might be telling your family, your team, the whole office, your clients, all your social media followers or even the Stock Exchange. But do it and see the difference it makes!

The unavoidable truth is that deadlines work like a dream and, as is the case for many ‘refreshers’ today, can even make things a little bit more exciting!

 

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Success by routines

August 30, 2017

Are you feeling rested, refreshed and energised to launch full-steam ahead into the Autumn? Perhaps for you or some colleagues, “exhausted and glad the kids are going back to school is more like it”?!

However you’re feeling as August comes to a close, the Autumn does tend to be a really productive – dare we say, ‘busy’ – few months where the natural lull in routine created by the summer gives way to full-scale activity.

Here’s a warning right away. As you well know, activity doesn’t equal productivity. Being busy and working hard doesn’t guarantee results.

With this in mind, my ‘one-percent’ recommendation is that you take some time to review and re-establish your routines – the regular habits that keep you on track. After a break in the norm, it can take more effort than we think to get back into good work habits rather than starting with email and seeing where the day takes us!

There are key activities that if practised routinely, make a huge difference to your productivity. Here are just a few examples:

– 10 magic minutes daily planning
– week review & planning meetings
– regular team meetings and one-to-one’s
– booked out periods of uninterrupted time
– finishing work at a set time to do other stuff!

I’m sure you could add to the list. Give it some thought and make a conscious effort (& book it it the diary!) to re-establish those routines that will help you stay a little bit more in control, focused on your high-payoff activities and working towards important goals over the next few months.

Here’s to a fantastic September!


Step back. It’s wonky!

May 4, 2017

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of spending a few days with many of my LMI colleagues from around the world at our annual convention in Florence. Our flight from London went into Pisa so, having never set foot in Italy before, it would have been rude not to stop and have a look around. As every good tourist does in that small-ish Italian town, we headed in what seemed like the direction of that world-famous wonky tower.

pisa

It’s more wonky that I thought!

You can’t see the tower from miles away so it came as quite a shock when we rounded a corner and there it was, leaning away, just like in the pictures. Having seen it’s picture dozens of times, I was still amazed, when confronted with it in real life, at just how much it leans. It’s impressive!
Something I then found very interesting. The closer I got to it, the less obvious it’s lean became. It’s basic physics I know, but these things make an impact when you experience them first hand. Close up, it could almost be straight. Start walking away and look back, it’s lean becomes stark once again.

Lots in our lives and our businesses can be like this. We get so involved, so consumed by the the day-to-day demands, so ‘close’ to all that’s going on, we don’t notice how wonky it is.

When I look at the pictures I’m reminded to step back and notice where things may have become a little wonky.

Am I working too many hours & have lost balance?

Have I stopped being so careful about prioritising my work?

Are my goals a little out of focus?

Has our passion for great customer service dropped off a little?

Whatever ‘stepping back’ means for you at the moment, it’s well worth doing. And when you notice something’s wonky, get help to fix it (unless it’s so extraordinary that you can get rich off people coming to see it)!


We Buy Any Hour

March 1, 2017

Have you seen the latest WeBuyAnyCar.com adverts? They are very interesting.

If not, here’s 30 seconds that will put you in the picture:

https://youtu.be/p10Oiwe7MdM?list=PLTci7XJwYZCkOuOqKbOdTaxPY61D5hCPM

There’s a whole series of these. In one, the lady on the sofa tells us that she happily sold her car with this company even though she could have got a better price selling privately, then adds:

“Yeah, they just let me say that in an ad for WeBuyAnyCar.com… cos they know quite a lot of us value our time more than a few extra quid.”

timecartoonlinkedinTime-pressure is consistently one of the greatest challenges most of the people are facing. In fact, it’s becoming a national epidemic and yet, despite the continual frustration of not having enough time to do everything we want to do, we can still invest significant amounts of our precious 168 hours each week doing things that really aren’t that important.

This is what WeBuyAnyCar.com have tapped into. What they are saying is, “Your time is the most valuable thing that you have. Spend it on important things, with important people, not in doing something you don’t like, you aren’t very good at and, at the end of the day, isn’t worth much anyway.”

One of the most helpful things I think you can do to help with this is to settle on a fixed figure, yes an actual amount – in pounds, of how much one hour of your time is worth.

How you come to this figure is not so important. You can divide your earnings by the hours you work. You can divide the amount you aspire to earn by the amount of hours you’d like to work. You may just come up with a number based on what someone would have to pay you to take you away from doing something very important and give them that time instead.

Let’s say you settle on £50/hour. Now write that figure down and carry it with you for a week. Put it in your wallet, your purse on in your pocket. Now consciously live with it and see how it affects what you do with your time, inside and outside of work.

Is an hour round the dinner table with my family or good friends worth it? Yes. How about an hour watching something rubbish on tele? Perhaps not.

This is what these adverts are tapping into. Is an extra 150 quid worth half of your weekend and all that hassle?

I’m not one who advocates living at high intensity all the time. The truth is that if we spend enough of our time concentrating on the most valuable activities in a focused and productive manner, the likelihood is we will have plenty left to relax and enjoy the things we value most.

If some more insight on this subject would be helpful, I ran a webinar called ‘Who Stole My Day?’ and it’s available here as an on-demand reply. It’s a better use of your time than watching adverts on YouTube!


Have you planned your victory party?

October 31, 2016

On the Foundations of Success workshop, I introduce four Success Foundations.

Number 1 is CLEAR DIRECTION or ‘having a crystal clear picture of what success looks like.’

This is a great starting point. Define goals clearly.

Are you aware though that you can significantly increase the compelling power of those goals to enthuse and energise people (including yourself) to give very best efforts, when you plan and communicate how you’ll celebrate when you get there?

My son’s Year 5 class knows if they’ve get a certain number of merit marks in a week, that means Friday afternoon Golden Hour!

Sports teams plan their open-top bus parades.

Marathon runners salivate over their planned post-race meal!

This can work with the big, hairy long-term goals and just as well with the small ones.

“When I finish writing this blog, I’ll reward myself by making a fresh pot of coffee.” [true story]

Try it this week. Define an aspect of success that’s achievable by the end of this week and be specific about how you’ll celebrate when it’s done.

Have a great week,
Nick

P.S. Interested in further leadership ideas & discussion?

I’m excited about my new Total Leader Facebook Group for developing ideas & discussion that will help leaders with the day-to-day joys & challenges of leading. It’s a closed, moderated group so won’t be full of spam and drivel and I’d like to invite you to be one of my specially invited founder members – join here.


A bit of know-how & the right tools

October 28, 2016

It’s been half-term for my kids which generally means it’s bit of a mixed week between work and other things…one of which has been getting my driveway done.

Before you get in any way impressed I should confess that my neighbour is a landscape gardener who’s been doing his own driveway…and I’ve just piggy-backed onto his project!

Without going into the whole shebang in great detail, a couple of things have stood out to me as the project neared completion.

I had a go at some aspects of the work on my own, with my own tools. It involved a couple of evenings well beyond the fall of darkness and some severely sore legs from all the crouching down.

Then I would watch the expert. He had the right tools and (more than) a bit of know-how and the difference in how quick and how well things got done was incredible. A circular saw instead of a hand-saw. A petrol whacker-plate. An open-backed Transit instead of my family-wagon with the seats down. I could go on.

The difference in progress (productivity) between me on my own – getting there but it’s a hard slog – and the expert with the right tools and plenty of experience was immense.

Leading people, teams and organisations can be much like this. You can get it done by instinct, common sense and what you’ve picked up from others along the way or get in the right tools, with some expert guidance and see much better results with less toil and in less time.

I share loads of these kinds of tools for free (one complimentary place for the first person from any organisation) at the Foundations of Success workshop. If you, like me with my driveway, know some help would make a huge difference, you’re very welcome to get along.


Three unexpected ways to get more done in less time

October 14, 2016

You’ll no doubt be familiar with most of the common ways that are suggested to help you improve your productivity. Things like:

  • Don’t multitask; land one plane at a time
  • Switch off email alerts (If you’ve worked with me you’ll know I’m quite insistent about this)!
  • Start with planning your day / week / month rather than just launching into ‘doing’

These are all great and loads of my work is helping busy managers and leaders improve their productive use of time. It is still the biggest pressure that so many people face at work and it’s no small issue outside of work too.

I have also stumbled across some far less conventional ways of getting more done that are worthy of your consideration. You may find one or more of them helpful, and if not helpful, perhaps at least interesting! Waiting over. My three juicy nuggets of wisdom are:

Plan some messing about time!

Do something deliberately slowly.

Stop and chat for longer than usual.

Here’s why.

  • Plan some messing about time! If you have things you’re interested in but aren’t crucial to your work at hand, keep a list and schedule some down time (not loads) casually playing / learning / experimenting / reading etc…generally just satisfying that interest. Sometimes brilliant new ideas come from these times. It will also help focus you on the more serious work for the rest of the day

 

  • Do something deliberately slowly. Think of something important that has many options and requires your thought and creativity. Decide how long it should take. Then double it. Deliberately take it slowly. Explore every option. Discuss every possible outcome. Pretend that there’s no hurry at all. You might uncover some gold that otherwise would have remained lost forever.

 

  • Stop and chat for longer than usual. “Grab a quick coffee, quick chat…and straight back to it.” Most of the time that mantra may be spot on. However, the discerning amongst you will sometimes recognise the time that this one conversation could lead somewhere. It might just open a door, solve a problem or reveal an opportunity if given the chance.

Have a great day. Perhaps do a little less, a little slower….just this once!