Tips & tricks on how to increase your productivity - Part 5 Blog main Page


  • Overcoming Fear: How To Conquer Public Speaking Anxiety

    Sep 21, 2013

    Productivity is not only about time management, avoiding distractions, and having well-structured To-Do lists. Sometimes the problem is at a more fundamental level: our fears. They can prevent us from taking action and realizing our goals.

    In this post I'd like to analyze public speaking anxiety, which is frequently identified as people’s greatest fear:

    “According to most studies, people's number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
    – Jerry Seinfeld

    Understanding the Problem

    In order to understand the problem, I’ve tried to illustrate the different elements of Public Speaking Anxiety and how they are connected:

    Fear of public speaking anxiety causes

    (Click on picture for full page view) 

    Let’s examine the root causes of public speaking anxiety one by one:

  • Could a 4-day Workweek Make You More Productive?

    Aug 28, 2013

    You’ve no doubt heard of the 4-hour workweek, popularized by Tim Ferriss, however most would agree that the concept of reducing your working hours so dramatically is more of a marketing hook than an achievable schedule.

    So if you don’t belong to the lucky minority who can fit their week’s work into 4 hours, how about 4 days?

    The idea of a reduced workweek with a 3-day weekend is one that seems to be growing in popularity worldwide, and there have been some interesting studies into its effects.

    While researching this article I found several examples of companies that have successfully implemented a 4-day work week, and they seem to fall into two camps: those that have lengthened the work day to fit in the same number of hours of work in  fewer days, and those that have reduced weekly working hours overall.

    Are 10-hour days the answer?

    Web development agency Reusser Design recently discussed in their company blog how they had lengthened the working day to 10 hours by changing their working hours to 6.30am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday and compressing 40 hours of work into just 4 days.

    Team members are rotated in on Fridays so that there is always someone available to deal with clients, but otherwise the employees are free to work on their own projects or enjoy leisure time with their families.

    A 3-day weekend may sound worth a couple of extra hours at work each day, but personally, I can’t help feeling that restructuring the working schedule in this way has missed the point of the 4-day workweek.

  • Altering Tasks to Maintain Your Attention

    Aug 21, 2013


    Photo Courtesty of Dani and Susi at between2chairsblog

    As we near the end of our series on strategies for coping with information overload, we’re ready to check out the simple but effective strategy of ‘altering. Altering means changing your perception of a task by performing it in a different way or place.

    Everyone’s heard the phrase ‘a change is as good as a rest,’ but as with other well-known phrases, we rarely take the time to think about what it means and whether there is much truth behind it. In fact this is one saying that really hits the nail on the head (excuse the use of yet another cliché).

    When we’re  performing a task, we require something known as “directed attention” in order to process information related to that task. All too often the  monotony of a task leads to directed attention fatigue, where we are no longer able to efficiently process information. One of the most effective ways to recover from that fatigue is to make small changes to the way we are working, stimulating different parts of the brain and restoring directed attention.

    So what can you change?

    You  might think that the tasks you perform at work are pretty routine, with little scope for altering, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference small changes can make to your perception of what you need to do.

    • Location. Even a slight change of location, such as turning your desk around or moving to a different part of your office, can help restore your attention. For a more extreme change, move to a coffee shop or other public place where there will be new stimuli for your brain. According to Attention Restoration Theory, nature is particularly powerful in helping us recover from directed attention fatigue. Working outside could be an option. Clouds in the sky, plants and flowers, birds in flight, and flowing water can all help restore attention.
    • Media. Most of us now spend an inordinate amount of time seated in front of a computer, and almost all tasks are done digitally. Just consider for a moment the other types of media you could combine with your computer screen. When you’re taking notes, why not use a pen and paper or even a Dictaphone rather than a word processor.  If you have to read or edit a document, decide whether you’d rather print it off or read it on the screen. If you need to brainstorm, get out the old flip chart or a white board and some magic markers. The experience can be strangely liberating.  
    • Environment. In our last article on ‘escaping’ we looked at the issue of noise in the workplace. If noise is a distraction for you, think about finding somewhere quieter to work or using sound reducing headphones. On the other hand you may feel that your work environment is too quiet. Switching on the radio, or just playing some background music while you’re working can stimulate your brain and help reduce attention fatigue. Also consider the temperature and air flow of your workspace. Perhaps you just need to open a window.
    • Schedule. Is the task you have to complete really as dull as you think it is, or does the fact that you always do it during your 2:00 PM energy slump have an impact? Try switching your schedule so that you complete the task first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee. You might find you can do it quicker and more easily, and you might even enjoy it. If not, at least you don’t have to spend the rest of the day dreading it.
  • Escaping the Information Deluge

    Aug 14, 2013

    Although we are looking at eleven strategies for coping with information overload, they aren’t necessarily suitable to use all at once. This week’s strategy may be seen as the opposite of multitasking and is known as escaping. It is the ideal strategy to adopt when you need to cut out all distractions and focus 100% on one immensely important task.

    Photo Courtesy of

    Escaping is eliminating disturbances by psychologically or physically limiting disruptions from the outside world.

    Disruptions and distractions cost time and productivity. Every time you are distracted, you lose focus on the task at hand, making you lose valuable time. You may even end up repeating finished work.

    However, distractions have a far greater impact than we realise. Chronic disruptions in the workplace make it difficult to concentrate, think deeply, and be creative. This causes work place conflicts, inadequate performance, missed deadlines, poor customer relationships, and ultimately lost business. 

    The variety of distractions we are exposed to in the workplace are growing with the digital age. Along with traditional distractions, such as ad hoc meetings and talking with colleagues, we now have e-mail, text messages, instant messaging, and social media updates vying for our attention.

    A 2011 survey on electronic distractions in the workplace conducted by discovered that:

    • 45% of employees only work for 15 minutes or less before getting interrupted
    • 53% of employees waste an hour a day due to all types of distractions
    • 57% of distractions are electronic, for example e-mails or instant messages
    • 43% of distractions are personal, for example colleague queries or phone calls

    The survey also showed that employees were likely to become distracted while switching between different applications and screens on their computer. 45% of employees said they usually had at least six items open simultaneously, and switched between all of these.  

  • Delegating Is a Win Win Strategy

    Jul 31, 2013

    So far we’ve learned some important skills for coping with information overload and increasing our productivity: prioritising, multitasking, and queuing. But what if your workload is so overwhelming that you find these strategies  lacking?

    The seventh part of our guide on coping with information overload should help you with decreasing your own workload, and should enable you to focus on the really important parts of your job. It discusses the art of delegating.  

    “Delegation is about entrusting others with appropriate responsibility and authority for the operation and / or accomplishment of certain activities.”Chartered Management Institute

    By learning to delegate you can identify work tasks that can and should be taken on by someone else. This will usually be someone in a team that you manage, or an employee  of your own business. 

    Delegating benefits for delegators, or managers,  by reducing their workload and allowing them to share tasks, making the whole team or business more productive. Delegating can prevent managers from becoming overburdened and stressed, and can allow them to focus on business strategy rather than everyday operational tasks.

    What many managers fail to realise is that delegation is also beneficial to those being delegated to. Managers often feel that by taking on tasks themselves, or by solving all issues themselves, their employees will feel that they are being helped and supported. In fact the opposite is usually true. When a managers fails to delegate, their team frequently feels untrusted, undervalued, or undermined. If their manager has low expectations of them, they will tend to fulfil these expectations.

    If employees aren’t required or allowed to think for themselves–to reach their own solutions–they will  become dissatisfied and unmotivated, depriving the business of ideas  and input. On the other hand, managers who empower their employees to work independently find they have more committed and creative staff.