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The Crisis Book – Exercise

The following is an extract from The Crisis Book: Overcoming & surviving work-life challenges by Rick Hughes, Andrew Kinder & Cary Cooper.

Get 30% off when using code ‘Crisis30’ at the checkout.

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It is widely recommended by health practitioners that adults engage in moderate intensity exercise for 20-30 minutes a day at least five days a week (that gives us two days off each week!). Children and young people need to aim for about 60 minutes a day.

Exercise can be fun, engaging, stimulating, help you sleep better, reduce how you respond to stress and generally make you feel better about yourself.  It’s a no-brainer.

If you spend a proportion of your time exercising now, you’ll build up a reserve of fitness, which will reduce the potential for the aches and pains you might otherwise suffer from later in life.

 

  • Doctor. If you haven’t exercised for some time or you have a medical condition, make an appointment with your medical doctor. They will determine what exercises might be safe and appropriate. Suddenly leaping into high-energy exercise could do more harm than good.
  • Walk the talk. Walking is probably the most accessible form of exercise around and cheap! Walk at a brisk pace to increase your heart rate, blood flow and circulation.
  • Sociable. Whether it’s a team-related sport or just something you do with someone else, exercise can be a great way of socialising and making friends, which in turn can improve your sense of well-being. A commitment to others makes it more likely to happen!
  • Chores. It’s amazing how much energy you can expend when vacuuming, dusting, cleaning, polishing or washing windows. You get to exercise and have a nice, clean and tidy home!
  • Gardening. If you have a garden, mowing the grass or weeding will help you get some exercise and it gets you our in the fresh air too.
  • Stairway. Modern buildings are full of elevators. If you take the stairs, you get some important exercise. Even if it’s going down the stairs only, it’s still exercise. Make a habit of it and you’ll start to make this normal behaviour.
  • Cycling. How about peddling to work? Or try getting our into the hills for some mountain-biking. There are lots of road cycling clubs these days for people of all capabilities and ages.
  • Swimming. Whether your excuse is you don’t like to get your hair wet, or you feel self-conscious about your body, once you’re in, you’re just like everyone else. Swimming pools often have slots dedicated to learning or training, so if you’re not very good at it, you can learn. Even a gentle paddle up and down the pool helps to flex the limbs.
  • Make it happen. Schedule exercise in your calendar as though it is an important meeting.

Super Structured: Get Stuck In

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.
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Many times when I visit clients and business acquaintances in their offices, they say things such as “You’ll have to excuse the mess. I should have cleaned it up before you came,” and make a disheartened, sweeping gesture toward the room at large.

 

I always feel bad that for no good reason they are not happy with their environment when meeting with me, because I’m really not one to judge. But even worse, it worries me that they spend their workdays surrounded by clutter and things that they are not comfortable with, things which do not energize or inspire them. I understand that it can be nice to have the papers you need in easy reach, but the inclination to encourage this comfort tends to only create more piles of paper. And if we have created two piles, a third will soon have appeared, and before we know it, the entire desk is covered in temporary piles of materials.

 

The problem with piles of paper is not only the space they require, in that the more piles you have, the less space you have for whatever you are working on right now. The issue is, at its core, actually more about safety and quality. You can probably get rather good at navigating through all your piles, heaps, and mounds of paper, but what happens if you get sick and a colleague needs to locate the project material that you think you know the exact location of? The most common consequence of working among piles is that you are distracted. When you are deeply concentrated on the task you really don’t need to raise your eyes for a moment and catch a glimpse of some notes on the top of the pile on your left. Then suddenly you remember that you promised to call that person you met last week, and immediately you have lost all concentration and have to try to refocus on the task you were in the middle of.

 

What if you keep all the surfaces surrounding you free from clutter, so that you can let your gaze and thoughts wander freely without catching sight of and being reminded of things that distract you? Or, what if the things you see as your eyes sweep across the room are images and texts that inspire you and make it easier for you to complete the tasks you are working on, rather than scatter your attention?

 

You’ll find that the more places you use to store papers in, the easier it becomes for piles to form there and throughout the entire office. If you use many different storage places to choose between (such as binders, magazine files, inboxes, hanging file folders, piles, and so on), you’ll not be entirely sure that you’ll find a document later when you need it. When the number of storage options increases, so does your concern for not finding the material again, and you simply won’t dare to put it away. You need to feel safe and in control, hence you’ll place documents where you can easily see them – at the top of a pile or in an empty space on the desk.

 

TASK

Have a look at where you store your documents and papers. Here are some possible locations.

  • piles on the desk
  • magazine files
  • inboxes
  • hanging file folders
  • piles in the bookcase
  • USB sticks
  • a cloud-based service

 

You can tackle this!

 

Decide on which place or location you want to get rid of. Even if having a few places is preferable, it will still make a big difference if you manage to get rid of at least one of all the locations you currently use.

 

To make progress toward using only a few storage places, clean out three “units” of whatever you are storing in the place you have chosen to get rid of. By a unit I mean a paper, a digital document, a brochure, a report, or something else.

 

For every unit, ask yourself: “Is there a next step associated with this material?” If so, create a to-do task describing that step (unless it is already on your to-do list). Then ask yourself: “Can I throw it out?” If the answer is yes, then do so. If not, file it away in the new designated place where it belongs from now on.

 

Cleaning out your storage and sorting it all into new locations is to be regarded as a project, and therefore belongs on your overview of major tasks and projects. Define a project along the lines of: “Get rid of desk trays” or “Transfer all notes from the phone”. Decide what the next step ought to be and add it as a to-do task to your list. If you think you will need it, schedule time in your calendar when you perform this particular next step.

 

 

GAIN

If you get rid of all the piles you have on your desk, you will be less distracted when you really need to concentrate. If you save digital files in fewer places, you will not have to get distracted by always searching for them. The Harvard Business Review covered a study (Apgar, 2000) which showed that out of an average eight-hour workday, approximately 70 minutes a day were lost and wasted because of distractions. If you can decrease that time-loss by only a tenth (according to the study, seven minutes per day), this is equivalent of 3.5 full workdays in a year. Of course you will not magically have an extra 3.5 empty days in your calendar, but during those seven minutes you can make that extra call, have that little break you definitely need, or exert a little extra effort when working on a task so that the quality of what you deliver becomes even higher.

 

Super Structured: Time Thieves

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.
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I frequently ask the participants of my courses to do an exercise with me where we line up all events that interrupt them in their day and make them lose speed, time, and focus. Some people refer to these as time thieves.

 
In spite of all those years of team building and pleasant Friday coffee breaks, colleagues are often mentioned on these lists. As we are in the middle of a demanding and urgent task, a colleague pops into our office “to just ask something really quickly”. We look up from our task and let go of our deep concentration to answer them, because we want to be helpful. Another time we might be the one who needs a quick answer. We lose our focus though, and in worst case it takes a while before we are back on track – just in time for the next knock on our door.

 
When the internet was still rather new, emailing lists on all kinds of subjects and topics was common and popular. But the administrators of these lists had a problem. Recently added subscribers tended to pose more or less the same questions as existing, older subscribers previously asked when they were new to the list. So there was a steady stream of similar questions, and this was when the concept of FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions – was conceived. The administrator would then send answers to the most frequently recurring questions to everyone, and thereby no longer had to reply to emails containing the same questions.

 
The answers to the questions you get interrupted about do not necessarily need to come from you personally. If you gradually assemble an FAQ document, then your colleagues can refer to it for their “quick questions” without depending on you being available to answer them personally. You will not be interrupted as often as before, and you will be much happier to see your colleagues when they now stop by.

 
TASK

– Open up a fresh document (in whatever word processing tool you use). Write down a question you frequently get and the answer you usually give, e.g. “Question: …” and on the row beneath, “Answer: …”. Make it simple. Don’t mind the formatting too much, you can always go back to refine and adjust later. And it need not be a question you get often. It could also be about things that your colleagues need to do or certain tasks you have delegated to them. Perhaps it concerns “how you want things done” or your answers to a third party that your colleague can communicate with in your stead. If you really cannot think of a single question, then you have still made progress today. Eventually you will run into a question suitable for adding to your FAQ.

 
– Save the FAQ document in a location that is easily accessible to the people it is intended for. If you share documents through a shared file server in your organization, then save it there. Perhaps you have a document management system and this is the obvious location to save it in. Or add it to your Dropbox account, or another of the cloud storage services. The important thing is just that you can reach it easily to update whenever you need to, without hassle.

 

– Tell at least one colleague about your new FAQ and send them a link to the document, so that he or she can find answers to their queries quickly when you are not available.

 
– Keep adding things to your FAQ as you come to think of them.

 
GAIN

 
Eventually, you will have created a bank of information and knowledge. Your colleagues – and perhaps your clients as well – will get answers to their questions much faster and you will get to work in peace to a greater extent. If you should feel uncertain regarding something or forget what you previously decided about something yourself, the FAQ will provide you with reminders and answers as well. If you still receive questions that you have already answered in the FAQ document, simply copy and paste the answer you already formulated into the response. It might not be a completely automated process, but close enough.

Super Structured: Reuse & Recycle

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.

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Have you ever experienced “writer’s block”? Have you struggled with phrasing and formulating an email in which you need to present one of your new products in such a clear and attractive way that the client simply cannot resist it?

 

We write and rewrite, formulate and erase, and phrase it again differently. Processes like these can take quite a bit of time, and if you are out of luck, you get stuck, and instead of progressing, you put the whole thing aside for now and start doing something completely different, even though you keep thinking “I should be writing that presentation” for the rest of the day as your guilty conscience grows.

 

But if you think about it, is it really the first time you have put whatever you are trying to compose in writing? Have you not written something similar before?

 

Few garments are as exquisite as a tailor-made suit. It fits you perfectly, it is fashioned from exclusive materials and it will last for years. But it takes time to create. If you let a bespoke tailor sew your suit, you will go through three stages of fittings during the course of several months. This means that there is only time to create a few exclusive suits, and they cost accordingly. Most of us do not require our clothes to be custom-made. We go to an ordinary store and buy ready-to-wear rather than made-to-measure. It might not fit perfectly and it’s not be entirely unique, but it definitely suffices. As they are easier and cheaper to make, these types of clothes are sold in significantly greater quantities. The same principle applies to the texts you need to write. Either you can reinvent the wheel every time, or you can gain time and effort by reusing what you have previously written. You will finish more tasks and ultimately have more time for what truly matters.

 

TASK

– Find a place where you will save all your brilliant texts, sentences, wordings, phrases, and formulations so that they become easier to reuse. It can be a common text document (such as a Word document), a document in a cloud-based app or even a dedicated notebook in a cloud-synced notetaking app whose name ends with “note”. Do this:

 

– Create a new document or notebook and name it something that feels obvious to you, such as “Useful phrases”, or something else you like better.

 

– Save it among your other digital reference information. But, beware. How easy is it to open this document with pre-written phrases and text? How many clicks away is it? The deeper into a folder structure you place it, the less likely it is that you will reach all the way down for it every time. If it feels too far away once you need it, it is. Think about how to make it easily accessible. Will you create a shortcut in a suitable location? Will you name it something that is even easier to search for and locate?

 

– Find a formulation among all your sent emails that you might be able to reuse. Add this to your “Useful phrases” document for future reference and use it the next time you need to write or phrase something similar.

 

GAIN

If you save reusable text you do not have to stress and sweat every time you need to formulate something similar to what you have previously written. You will reply faster, deliver text with less effort, and be done with the tasks sooner so that you can move on to other things. You will get more work done with less effort.

Super Structured: Reduce Your Distractions!

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.

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The other day I gave a lecture in the newly renovated premises of a large Swedish corporation. There was a high ceiling, the furniture was exquisite and … they had open-plan offices. I asked my host how she gets on with working as a salesperson in such an open environment. She replied: “It has been difficult to get used to. Especially for those of us that have to make many calls a day, and who previously had our own offices where we could close the door when we wanted some peace and quiet. It is easier to get distracted now. Right when you are in the middle of something, a colleague’s phone rings and as he has a popular song as his ringtone, you think ‘Oh, that’s that song…’, and then you’re suddenly distracted and completely off track.”

It was interesting to hear her describe her situation as I perceive this type of office environment in the same way. A thought occurred to me: is there really anyone who enjoys working in an open-plan office? I asked around in my network and received some unexpected answers. About three quarters of the people I spoke to felt that open-plan made their work more difficult as they were easily distracted by all the things going on around them. But, the other quarter experienced the contrary – they felt inspired and stimulated by what others perceived as disturbing distractions and noise. They described how they need to have a bit of movement around them to get up to speed themselves. They were inspired and got ideas when they overheard colleagues talking a few paces away. They were stimulated by the feeling of togetherness and by being able to ask for the opinions of colleagues sitting nearby.

However, for the majority of the people I meet through my work, distractions generally make them less effective than they would be if they could work undisturbed. It is also a question of context: sometimes we have tasks that need to be done right now, and that requires our full attention. When this is the case, we really need to be able to focus.

If you need some peace and quiet from time to time to really focus on a particular task, there are thankfully several things you can do, even if you cannot change your entire office environment in a trice. If you make it clear to yourself right now what you could do to improve your situation, then you will quickly go from chaos to quiet whenever you need to.

 

TASK

Think of three ways you could enable yourself to work undisturbed and focused. These could for instance be:

 

– Closing the door. It’s great to be available to discuss things with colleagues. But that is only true if interruptions aren’t met with subdued frustrations which can be the case if the person being disturbed actually wants to be left alone.

 

– Turning off your phone. If you do not wish to be available for calls, the easiest way to ensure you do not receive any is to turn off the phone. Pretty straightforward, don’t you think?

 

– Closing down any social media you tend to get distracted by. Staying in touch with customers and colleagues as well as being updated on industry news is essential, but maybe not entirely necessary this very moment, when you really need to focus?

 

– Put on your headphones and listen to some music. Or, you could listen to “brown noise”, a synthetically produced noise that, among other things, is used to relieve tinnitus.

 

– Work from home. Your colleagues are far away at the office and you are only virtually present and visible to them if you choose to be.

 

– Work at your favourite café where the environment is a balance between inspiring chaos and soothing murmur.

 

– Log out from your email account. If you are naturally curious (like me) and rarely resist the temptation to constantly check for new messages, you will be able to focus a lot more by simply logging out from your account or shutting down the email program.

 

– Close down your internet connection. If you are continually doing miscellaneous things online when you should be getting on with getting something else done, make sure you stay away by resorting to slightly more drastic measures. Pull the plug.

Super Structured: Take a Buffer Day

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.

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If we acknowledge the progress we make, no matter how small it may seem, we will perceive life in a brighter light.

 
How are you doing so far? Are you keeping the pace you wanted to begin with? Are you moving swiftly and steadily toward having excellent structure? I am sure you have made progress somehow, at least in something. I am giving you a buffer day today with which you may do as you please. If you have fallen behind this is a great time to catch up. If not, then look back at what you have done thus far and notice the things you have already changed and now take for granted.

 

Teresa Amabile, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, has shown in her research that the small “victories” we experience on a daily basis significantly influence what she refers to as our “inner work life”. By acknowledging progress, no matter how small it may seem, you will perceive life in a brighter light, feel better, and become more motivated. She suggests that through registering and visualizing progress somehow, you can make it clear to yourself that you have actually made progress.

 

Think of a way to clearly show yourself that you are moving forward through this structure improvement programme. Will you draw a little mark on the whiteboard for every small victory? Will you check another box? Add another cotton pulp ball to a see-through pipe? Think of a way that motivates you. There is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing this, just do what you feel would motivate you. Through the years, I have nailed various “proofs of success” to my wall, added values in an iPhone app and drawn diagrams, so there are all kinds of ways to illustrate the results of your efforts.

Super Structured: Attend Fewer Meetings

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.

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There was a time in my professional life when I said yes to every meeting I was asked to attend, as long as there was space in my calendar on the suggested day and time.  It was therefore not uncommon for me to have up to four meetings a day, and often in different locations throughout the city. But, lo and behold, I also had tasks to complete which did not have anything to do with my meetings. As the majority of the hours of my working days were spent in meetings and travelling from one meeting to another, I had to resort to doing other tasks in the evenings and during the weekends. It was not a very pleasant or comfortable way of life. I wanted to spend my life doing more than just working, but there was not a lot of time left for anything else.

At the end of each day I always felt rather dazed because I would become deeply engaged in the conversations and encounters I’d had. Having four meetings a day definitely took its toll. If I had accepted fewer meetings in those days, I may have even been more alert during the final meeting of the day, but I rarely allowed myself this space and leeway.

After a few days filled with meetings I could no longer recall what we actually said and decided on, as my memories of these meetings blended together more and more. I knew that while I was in a meeting engaged in a conversation, I was receiving new emails but I was unable to attend to them. I knew that eventually, whenever I had a brief interlude between my overbooked days, I would have to plunge into my emails to address all these messages. I felt even more overwhelmed because I knew that my calendar would still be filled to the brim with meetings, and all the while I was still continuously receiving new emails.

Does any of this ring a bell? If so, then your life will be both more pleasant and efficient if you attend fewer meetings in a day. You will be able to focus more on what you are doing right now and feel less scattered. You will have more time and space to prepare for the next meeting. The quality of the meetings you do attend will undoubtedly be higher, and if you prioritize the right meetings (seen in relation to your goals) then you will reach the goals you are striving for faster and easier, but with less effort.

 

TASK

Decide on the maximum number of meetings you want attend each day. Make this into a rule for yourself: “I will attend a maximum of two meetings every day.” If you want to remind yourself of your rule often, then schedule a recurring appointment (without setting a time for it) in your calendar. Name it something like “No more than two meetings today!” Most calendar programs will place bookings without a set time at the top of the day. This will be a useful reminder when you are asked to attend yet another meeting; as you check your availability on your calendar, you will undoubtedly be reminded of your new limit.

You will not have time for the same number of meetings as before, but this is a good thing. You are thereby forced to prioritize and mainly attend the meetings that really benefit you in your progress and in your business. You will say no to meetings that do not lead to anything (even if it seems nice to attend). At the same time you will make sure that the meetings you do attend really have substance and meaning. You will turn some meetings into phone conferences or conduct the discussions via email. In many cases you’ll find this to be more effective as you will only address the matters needing immediate attention and not easily deviate off on tangents or socialize as you would otherwise.

 

GAIN

If you decrease the number of meetings you have during a workday, you will be more present and attentive during the meetings you do attend. By attending just one less hour-long meeting at least every other day, you will save 125 hours per year. You will be less stressed and able to work with focus on the tasks that contribute to the attainment of your goals. It totals up to almost three work-weeks. And if the meetings that you choose not to attend are the ones that don’t really have an agenda or a true purpose, and where you would have felt as if you had been “taken hostage” as your department’s representative, then you have just made your life considerably better.

 

Super Structured: Schedule some solo time

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.

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I once met the CEO of a medium-sized Swedish company who told me: “I would really love to be able to close my door to work undisturbed once in a while.” Many people I meet suffer from this ailment of availability. We confuse the well-intentioned idea that “my door is always open” with that we always have to be available for colleagues and clients. Of course there are those whose work is all about answering questions and being available for others, but most people also have tasks to do on their own. It is important to allow the time needed for these tasks as well.
By getting better at making the necessary time available for your own tasks, you will find that you do not have to spend weekends and evenings doing them (at times when your co leagues have left for the day and no one is there to disturb you or ask you to attend a meeting).

 
TASK

– Think about how much time you need every week for working uninterrupted on your own, without really interacting with colleagues. One way to estimate the time needed is to look through your to-do list and estimate the amount of time every such task will take (one week at a time).

 
– Look through your calendar and try to think of when it’s usually a quiet time for you during the week, and when you can get some alone-time effortlessly.

 
– Now decide on one, or several set times every week when you will work alone and undisturbed. It can be as little as half an hour, a few hours or even a whole day that you reserve for working alone in your office without any meetings or other major interruptions.

 
– Well done. Now you have made up your mind, all you need to do is to remember this decision and follow it through. Reserve the alone-time you feel that you need in your calendar. You can for instance create a parallel calendar in a different colour that can be turned on or off, and where you see what times you would prefer to work alone. This becomes a template to have a look at when scheduling things in your ordinary calendar, rather than a second calendar to keep track of. Or, add the times you feel you need to work alone in your calendar and name them “Free time”, highlight these by using a different colour than used for your ordinary appointments. This way it becomes easier to stay clear of meetings during these times, and you will not fill up the calendar without including your much needed alone-time.

 

 

GAIN

If you can create a better balance between the time spent in meetings and the time you need to work alone on tasks, you will no longer need to work overtime as often as before. As you probably do not tend to schedule meetings during the evenings, you will be forced to prioritize your meetings and tasks more. However, if you enjoy working during evenings, then schedule your alone-time for evenings instead of cramming them into free minutes between meetings, which will probably only make you more stressed and frustrated.

 

 

Super Structured: Categorize Your To-Do List

The following extract is from David Stiernholm’s Super Structured: How to overcome chaos and win back time.

Using the code ‘SS40′ you can get 40% off this brand new release on the LID Publishing website, but in the meantime, enjoy our picks of David’s best advice over the next two weeks.

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A couple of years ago I spent a few cold days in a city in the north of Sweden. I had the pleasure of holding a course for three groups of managers on structure and an efficient to-do list. When I spoke about the value of just having one to-do list containing all the tasks that take no longer than a workday to complete, one of the managers threw his hands in the air and exclaimed “But that is completely unreasonable! If I were to have just one long list with everything – everything – that I have to do, I would feel exhausted just looking at it!” I have to say that I agreed with him. But luckily it’s quite rare – if ever at all – for you to have to view the entire list at once. That will not be the case if you are working with good structure. By grouping the tasks together in a way that makes sense to you, you can, and you will only need to view a selection of tasks that are relevant at that moment. Rather than seeing all the 168 items on your list, you get an overview of the 12 you wish to complete right now.

You may find that at certain times you only want to view the tasks belonging to a certain project, but right now you want an overview of the tasks you can do while you are on the train, as the on-board internet connection proves to be much more stable than anticipated. At another time you may want to see only the tasks you can do while waiting for a colleague who just called to say he will be 15 minutes late for a meeting.

This is why you should categorize the tasks on your to-do list. The following list suggests some useful considerations for putting tasks into categories:

 

What project is the task a part of?

Often, plenty of our tasks are parts of a project or a larger task. When you want to focus entirely on moving forward on one particular project for the next hour, this categorization lets you see only the tasks that concern that project.

 
Who are you doing the task for?

This can help you to see what tasks you need to complete before you have that meeting pencilled in for later in the afternoon.

 
Where do you need to physically be in order to do the task?

All tasks are not the same and each may need a different location. Think about where each task can be most efficiently completed: in the office, at home, while you are out running errands, in the lab, in the storage space, in building C, in the hotel room, in the car, or at the company office located in another city?

 
What tool or system do you need to complete the task?

The computer, the phone, the internet, the business system, or some other program or device.

 

How much time will the task take to complete?

Is it 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour?

 

You can choose to select by just using one category at a time, or you could use several simultaneously. Perhaps you want to for instance only see the short 5-minute tasks that are on your list and which you could do while on the plane later today. But be careful. If you are not used to categorizing your to-do tasks, then just choose one way to categorize your to-do tasks, and then add more categories gradually. Otherwise you will perceive this method as difficult and complicated, and go back to remembering things instead of writing them down.

In most, if not all, digital to-do list tools you can categorize tasks by checking a category box, using labels, or using tags. If your to-do list is in a physical format, you have several options: you can choose to denote categories by using symbols which you write before every to-do task, you can split your notebook into sections representing the different categories by using tabs or dividers, or you can indicate the categories by highlighting tasks using different coloured highlighters.

 

GAIN

Let us say you divide your list by using five categories. Every time you browse your list for things to do by a particular category, it will only take a fifth of the time it would have otherwise taken. As you are only viewing one category at a time, you will be able to deduce what you can and what you should be doing right now.

If you used to look through your to-do list five times a day and it approximately took a minute every time, you will have gained four minutes per day, which is approximately 17 hours in a year. But these extra hours gained are nothing compared with no longer constantly feeling scattered, distracted, and stressed by seeing all the things you have to do at some point, but are unable to attend to right now. Being able to focus on fewer things while feeling that you have got everything else under control too, is priceless.

 

Become known for your supreme level of cognition

Keiron Sparrowhawk is a successful entrepreneur with leadership experience in the biopharmeceutical industry, and Founder and CEO of MyCognition.

MyCognition is changing lives by improving health (our ability to think, learn, respond and remember) by detecting the cause of learning/behavioural difficulties and providing solutions.

The following article comes ahead of the publication of his new book Executive Function: Cognitive fitness for business on 17th November.

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Would you like to know the cognitive power of your leadership and management thinking? Would you like to be able to assess your leadership profile and that of your executive team, of your key employees and of employees throughout your organisation? Would you like to know what leadership skills from among your team you need to enact under different circumstances, aiming for the overall optimal outcome for the organisation and for your team?

Today, you can do all this. Technological advances in neuroscience will allow you to measure leadership. Today you can assess and analyse the underlying cognitive behaviours that make you the leader you are. You can also apply these assessments and analyses to your teams. This is because we have applied 200 years of psychological research and used the psychometric tests developed over this time to profile different leadership and management profiles.

This means we can measure your ability to plan and organise, to be creative and to inhibit inappropriate behaviour through your executive function. We can measure your ability to find solutions and solve problems through your working memory; your recall and wisdom through episodic memory; your concentration and focus through attention; and your ability to act with speed and accuracy through your processing speed.

This means you can now determine how cognitively fit you are for leadership. You can tell what sort of leadership skills you have to meet the needs of your organisation and the environment in which it operates. As a leader, you will be able to step forward and appoint the best people to tackle the situations ahead, who will work alongside you and others knowing that together, you have the team with the best level of fitness for the job in hand.

Thus, as of today, you can see how cognitively fit you are, and you can determine if you are fit enough to lead.

If this sounds somewhat frightening, there is good news. Through the analyses you can learn to organise your cognition, sharpen your thinking, and consolidate your cognitive core. You can acquire good habits and become resilient to the stresses of modern organisational life. You can improve your cognitive fitness regardless of your age, gender, race or culture.

You will be able to ask yourself: am I the Pilot, using your executive function to plan and organise the company strategy; creative, yet cool in a crisis? Or the Hero, who, with a mastery of working memory, has the solution to the most difficult of problems?

Executive Function: Cognitive fitness for business gives you the insights to understand how you execute and put into action your executive function, your leadership.

Of course with a healthy, vigorous, more robust executive function comes responsibilities. You must now ensure that you serve the people you lead in the best possible way, by being the best you can be at all times. You must be the best of leaders in your organisation, your community and within your family. Are you ready for this?

You will build a team to cover for the possible contingencies that may arise and you will be a strong enough leader to defer to their experience when the time arises. As a great leader you will build for your succession and know the best time to step aside and let another take the helm. You, as a great leader, will then find other opportunities to use your skills. You will be known for your executive function, for the supreme level of your cognitive fitness for business.

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