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.


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!



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!

We Buy Any Hour

March 1, 2017

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

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

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… 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 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!

#FreeMyFriday – Start with a list

February 13, 2015

It’s Friday, which, in my world immediately poses one question: is my Friday free?

For some time now I’ve been really focused on helping managers and leaders to seriously improve their productivity to the extent that they have a whole extra day each week, typically Friday though sometimes taken in a couple of half days or shorter regular slots, to concentrate entirely on the the important development work that will improve or move things forward in significant ways. The key to this is the implementation of proven techniques and finding innovative new ways to get the usual five days’ work done in four so our heads can emerge from the day-to-day and consider the bigger picture.

Don’t we all face the massive challenge of handling the myriad of stuff that comes our way every day, spinning those plates as best we can just to keep our heads above water?

Doesn’t that continually leave us with that irritating (sometimes downright depressing!) feeling that genuinely important work that would make a big difference if we could only get time to do it, lies untouched for yet another week?

This is what #FreeMyFriday is all about and it starts with making that list.

Start with writing a really clear and concise list of the things you would love to get round to doing – things like going after new customers, training your team members, taking your team out to lunch, designing some new product or service offering, reading more, perhaps even finishing early and taking the kids out after school…the list will be specific to your role and the demands of the business you’re in. But do – for goodness sake – go ahead and write it!

It’s just the beginning, but it’s a super-important beginning. Being clear about where you want to go has an incredible way of enabling you to find solutions to the challenges that prevent you from getting there.

Have a fantastic Friday…and maybe now even you could start writing the list of what you’d like to be doing this time next week?

One hour: massive change

December 16, 2014

There’s a problem, a challenge, an issue – something is not right.

It may be a relationship issue with a colleague or a client, a friend or partner. Often it’s a member of our team, or the boss! It may be a process issue, perhaps a ‘how can we get more of xxxxxx?’ or ‘how can we make sure less xxxxx happens?’ question.

Sometimes these things can hang around for months – years in some situations I’m aware of. Some can be very complicated and require an awful lot of work and skilled help to resolve however, an incredible amount – I’m going to make an informed guess of around 80% – of the challenges that you and I face on a day-to-day basis can be massively improved if the relevant parties can sit down, block out all interruptions, get some good coffee…AND TALK. It might take longer or shorter, but aim for an hour.

I’ve seen it with clients. I’ve experienced it myself. If you face something like this, try it. One hour: massive change.

A simple lesson from school we stupidly forgot!

July 25, 2013

Do you remember being at school and worrying about how you were going to fit everything in? I mean, it was crazy – so many different things going on, way too much to remember!

How on earth did we manage to fit in Maths, English, French, History, Geography, General Studies (!), Chemistry, Biology, P.E., R.E., Physics….the list goes on.

And yet, as I recall it, I never once fretted about how I was going to manage to squeeze in enough lessons of each subject to get through the curriculum and be ready for exams at the end of it.

Why not?

Simple. We had a timetable.

This is very profound. We had a schedule to follow that allocated blocks of time for each subject that would allow us sufficient number of hours working on the material that would prepare us for the end goal – passing exams.

Why is it then that having left school, and with just as many different things coming our way in life and in work, that we tend to wing it…hoping we’ll manage to fit it all in, responding to the things that shout loudest, often leaving insufficient time for seriously important things.

Solution? Simple. Timetable it.

The creation of a weekly timetable, or Time Picture, as we call is, is often one of those massive ‘light bulb moments’ for our clients as the realisation dawns…

“You don’t find time; you schedule it.”

We used to know that in school. We forgot.

Getting started

January 26, 2013

If you are anything at all like me, you’ll be sat reading this with a
head full of 1001 things you’d like to do, want to do, need to do or
generally feel that you probably should get round to do.

I am continually amazed with these kind of things how often (not
always, but pretty often) once I get going on something, having put
aside some time to do it  (or it just became really desperate and I
just HAD to do it), it takes a less effort and is more enjoyable than
it felt like it would be before I got started.

So here’s a simple idea that I’ve started using myself. If you got
something that seems pretty big and daunting that you need to get
done, just block an hour to get started on it. Having done that,
continuing with it might just be a lot simpler than you thought!