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10 Secrets To Boosting Productivity

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Whether you’re in Australia, England, or America; blue-collared, white, or pink, we’ve all got 24-hours to work with. Success comes down to what we’re able to do in those hours. No entrepreneur can keep the sun from setting or add hours to their day, but there are strategies that will help maximize work habits and productivity.

Here are 10 strategies for efficiency and effectiveness: [td_block_ad_box spot_id=”custom_ad_1″]

Parkinson’s Law

“If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do,”observed Cyril Northcote Parkinson. We’ve all experienced Parkinson’s Law. We struggle for a month to finish a project, then magically get it done in the final week. Or, the house is a mess for weeks, then spotless within a few hours of the in-laws showing up.

The law provides great leverage for efficiency: imposing shorter deadlines for a task, or scheduling an earlier meeting. Find the sweet spot for productive hustle. Rushed work can be a recipe for reckless work.

Finding your flow

For athletes, it’s called being “in the zone,” where you’re so focused that you’re numbed out to any distractions. It’s a state we can all tap into: writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs.

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s research is focused on these flow states that optimize our performance by finding that balance between challenge and skill. If the task is too challenging and beyond our skill, then we go into anxiety and frustration, but not challenging enough and we fall into boredom.

Stretch yourself, but don’t snap. We’re at our most efficient when in the zone.

Flow

Single-tasking

There’s many compelling cases against multi-tasking. A study found that even folks walking while talking on a cell phone run into people more often and were so distracted, many failed to notice a clown riding a unicycle.

Telling an entrepreneur not to multi-task, however, is like telling a pig to stay out of mud but the truth is, multi-tasking a misnomer better termed “task-switching.” We don’t juggle so much as we jump around. The problem is ending up with too many open projects, and spreading yourself too thin. A good quote on scaling back is by Alexander Graham Bell: “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand, the sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

The 2-Minute Rule

From David Allen’s Getting Things Done, he explains that the most productive people capitalize on the little windows of time opening up during the day. Having an inventory of two-minute tasks on hand whenever windows appear will increase productivity. Cleaning out the inbox, checking voicemail, approving a request, all in brief openings in the schedule, builds our efficiency muscles and gets the ball rolling for bigger tasks.

A major cause of procrastination lies in overthinking the next step. Allen says it takes less time to do the action than the time spent thinking about it.

Working to circadian rhythms

Nerve cells in our brains control our circadian rhythms, which influences sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, emotions and energy levels. Constant operation outside circadian rhythms (e.g. international pilots) creates fatigue.

Efficiency lies in synchronizing specific work with these biological peak times. Dr. Steve Kay says analytical work is best within a couple hours of waking, when the morning rise in body temperature increases blood flow to the brain.

Alertness slumps after lunch as the digestive process saps energy. This analytical disengagement is the best time for novel and creative thinking, according to Professor Mareike Wieth.

Exercise increases efficiency. Dr Gerard Kennedy notes more Olympic records are broken in the late afternoon than any other time. Muscle strength, lung capacity, eye-hand coordination and joint flexibility peaks between 4pm and 6pm.

Three sweet spots for maximizing your efforts: the morning analytic spike, a creative spike after lunch, and a physical spike in the afternoon.

Reverse engineering

Most commonly applied to industrial machinery and computer software, reverse engineering can be applied to different fields, products, and strategies.

It is disassembling and analyzing the components that make up the whole. Efficiency comes not only with seeing how parts relate, but being able to work on aspects out of order. Tim Ferriss notes his rapid mastering of the tango through deconstructing the dance, and learning the female role along with the male.

Expert linguists do the same, breaking a language into pieces and having a bird’s-eye view of the most common grammatical structures.

The Willpower trinity

Stanford Professor Kelly McGonigal says the key to hitting goals is understanding the three powers of willpower: I will power, I won’tpower, and I want power.

• I “won’t power” is resisting temptation, such as saying “no” to social media.

• I “will power” is to choose an alternate behavior — sending a social, but networking email.

• I “want power” is remembering your why, your goal, be it expanding your career, business or profits.

Willpower is like a muscle. When we fail to reach goals, it’s due to solely relying on I won’t power, but  we can only say “no” so many times before we crumble. However, bringing in backup, and using all three aspects of willpower, will triple the likelihood of success. Resist, replace, remember.

57 on, 17 off

The entrepreneurial hustle makes breaks non-existent. Recent studies show only one-in-five employees take lunch breaks, despite clear cognitive benefits for our fatigued brains.

So what’s the perfect work/rest ratio? DeskTime App played Big Brother, monitoring employees’ computer use. They found the most productive 10 percent worked hard for 52 minutes, then took a break for 17. It’s backed by scientists, pointing to the natural rhythms of our attention span. Our brain can focus for up to 90 minutes, then needs roughly 20 minutes of rest. Strategic breaks equals efficient work.

Power poses

If it weren’t true, it’d be preposterous to think simply changing your posture affects productivity. Professor Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk highlights the psychosomatic and neurological responses caused by our posture. Taking a high-power pose causes an increase in testosterone (confidence, assertiveness, energy) and a decrease in cortisol (stress, anxiety, nervousness). A confident, testosterone-perked person is much more productive than a cortisol-crippled, stressed person.

Our brain is wired to respond to certain physiologies. A forced smile will still release endorphins. Pulling yourself out of a figurative slump is as simple as pulling yourself out of a physical slump.

PP

Validated progress

A good warning from Eric Ries: “If we’re building the wrong product really efficiently, it’s like we’re driving our car off a cliff and bragging about our awesome gas mileage.”

Along the same stream of the Sharpe ratio’s risk/return measures in finance, and the “minimum viable product” in the tech world, the strategy is about being calculated and conscious in our efforts, with a flexible, rather than fixed process and goal. It’s being productive and ready to pivot, rather than simply charging full-steam ahead.

A case-in-point is Nick Swinmurn’s startup of Zappos. He validated his idea without blowing cash by first going to a shoe store, taking photos and posting them online. When sales came in, he went and bought the shoes. He didn’t need to pivot, just perservere.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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