Sleep – how much is too much?

Today’s post is a video. Why not I thought, share a video on how much sleep is too much and too little. It goes in line with how productive you can get.

Whilst I normally get between 6-7 hours of sleep and power-nap during the day if I can, others need 8-10 hours to function. I get up at 5 am yet I am also going to bed at 10 pm. And weekends are usually when I try to catch up on some extra hours and get up at 7 or 8 am whilst still going to bed at the same or similar time.

Hope you enjoyed this one.

How many hours of sleep do you get?

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Information Overload

Information overload, after the last article on energy levels, is kind of self explaining. I remember my first job 10 years ago where I used faxes and my phone to do most of the work. I used email and the web a bit. Now I use Skype, What’s App, Twitter, Email and have to keep on top of 20 newsletters, industry news, my Linkedin feed, my RSS feed of over 100 subscriptions and manage my day job. Wow. Plus of course my usual internal meetings, external meetings, more emails, RFPs, newspaper and other things.

In summary: there are too many information out there. None of us watches TV without having a 2nd screen device at hand, checking your social media feed on Facebook or Twitter, texting with your friend. The attention span is smaller than some children’s just because we doing too many things at the same time. This is energy draining.

I remember well opening up chat windows with customer service reps, then drifting to another website, making a call and the chat windows were closed. Oups. People suggest to sell your TV, prioritise your life and get rid of all distractions. I am not sure if that is necessary or if like anything, “consumption in moderation” is the answer.

Energy: finding a quiet spot where you don’t get distracted by emails so you can finish this important article or RFP is important. Being able to close the door to a room and work on things that need your full attention. Switching off your emails during holidays or even going offline during a train journey. Enjoy some “me time” whilst being on a flight, no calls or emails and just chilling out. Or use the time to really focus on something that needs finishing at work.

But of course it also comes down to day-to-day tasks. Setting up email filters for newsletters, calendar invites, general information and regular updates that then get moved into folders to look at later. Or email folders based on priority or tasks or projects. The 2 minute rule to deal with any email as long as it only takes 2 minutes do it immediately. Being proactive by turning emails on 3 times a day only: morning, lunch and evening.

Those are the nitty gritty details, so when you are on the road and check your emails or you want to have a quick look into your inbox, then anything sitting there is relevant. If you are working with SalesForce or any other CRM system, then there is no need to have any emails in your inbox. It should all be in SalesForce, your tasks and your todos, so no more emails needed. Inbox zero is another topic which I probably dedicate a whole post to.

And if you had those days where your head is spinning and you get more information than you can handle? No, don’t have the aforementioned glass of wine. Go for a run or relax your body and/or your mind through meditation. Charge up your batteries and calm down. You can still deal with your emails in the morning, no need to finish them daily if you cannot. Rather delay your email a day but make it better than just answering for the sake of getting it out of your inbox. Quality goes over speed and quantity of emails. Does that make sense?

And if you are working with Outlook or Gmail or Mail or whichever programme you have: there are plenty of tips out there, add ons, and hacks to make it more productive. Use tools like notes, tasks and calendars. My favourite is Evernote, about which I will write a lot more soon too. Block out time to drain your brain, where you sit down and write everything you are thinking of out of your head to make space for your head to do what he does best: thinking.

Keep information to the minimum and most relevant and make sure you have access to your brain power.

Energy and information overload go hand in hand. Because with information overload you end up losing energy.

When did you last have an inbox zero and what are your thoughts on the best hacks for your email system?
Which is the best email filter you ever set up?
How do you prioritise your emails and tasks?

Latter is key to productivity, particularly if you cannot stay on top of the information you receive. So we will deep dive into that too.

More exciting things to come!

Any topics you suggest or would like to hear more about?

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Take a break to be more productive

Ok – we have already covered quite a bit. Starting with the end in mind, having a trusted system, having a to-do list. These are basic principles of productivity. And there are lots more to explore. To structure all of them a bit, I made a mind map. It covers my ideas, it covers my book and its chapters, as well as the 7 habits and some mention on best people to work with, energy drain and a lot of brainstorming on “mention”, e.g. things people that write about productivity find useful. I was thinking of sharing it here but not yet, it is still work in progress.

But one of the major ones on there, at least to my mind, is energy drain and information overload. This might actually go hand in hand. One of the leading advocates of this is the Energy Project. For Tony Schwartz and his team it is all about losing productivity due to working without breaks. The problem in our culture is that we are working more and more. We are taking less and less breaks and wonder why we are working 16 hours a day and feeling tired and not productive at all. We measure quantity over quality, input vs. output if you like.

As Tony suggest we need to change our habits. Take a break after every 90 minutes, recharge, go for a walk, don’t eat rubbish food and sustain high energy levels. Whilst doing that you increase your output and you might actually finish your tasks before the end of the day. But instead most of us ignore signals coming from our body. We are fueling up on coffee until we feel sick, adding sugary drinks and sweets to our diet to gain short-lived energy. We don’t sleep or only badly due to the caffeine we had and waking up not fully rested.

It is a vicious cycle we are entering. We are working non stop, washing our day and stress away with a glass of wine in order to calm down, sleep less than we are supposed to in order to fuel our energy the next morning with plenty of tea and coffee. This just isn’t working in the long run. Hence we need to be on the look out and see what we are doing to refuel during the day.

Naps would be good, or a quick meditation session in the board room when no one else is there. There aren’t enough companies offering sleeping pods yet and napping at your desk is still not acceptable. Some companies offer massages, free yoga classes or in Germany they now want to introduce a law for emails not being pushed to mobile devices after work.

It is about finding the right balance at work to keep an energy level that is sustainable and productive. This goes in line with what we eat, drink and how we sit, how much we sleep, what the office environment is like, whether we have height adjustable desks to stand half of the day as it is recommended, whether it is acceptable to start work earlier and finish earlier to fit it in with your lifestyle and child care, and there are many more factors that should be considered to make people happy workers, healthy workers and balanced workers.

This right balance is key to productivity.

Following that we get on to the next topic: information overload.

I will dig deeper into the Energy Project’s work later on, but it is a very holistic approach to productivity, exploring breaks, life-life balance and diets as well as attitudes.

For now, make sure to take regular breaks and keep fit.

Maybe you could comment below, when you last took an hour lunch, not eating your sandwich at your desk?

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Should we start with the end in mind?

Yes, we should!

One of the 7 habits of highly effective people is….Start with the end in Mind. Start with the answer.

Do I have an end in mind for tidWOWs? Yes I do. My aim is to provide you with tools, advice, coaching and content around productivity and personal development. I do that whilst still having my day job. However, I spend about 3 hours commuting each day, and I am very productive. I write articles all the time, so writing about something I enjoy for people to gain from, is a pleasure. It isn’t work or a task.

I ended the last post about trusted systems and processes. About trusted places where you put things so you find them easier later on. That is about order in your cupboards, wardrobes, how you store your food in the fridge to how you have a trusted place for your thoughts. As with everything in life, you have something you work towards to. A project, a career move, a new job, a pay rise, a holiday (of a lifetime), a trip, a new hobby, a routine.

Whatever it is, you already know it. You have this picture in your mind what it looks like, you might have a sound or smell associated with it? The beach in Thailand you will be holidaying on, or the new TV you buy with the pay rise. Whatever it is, make it something to really go for. A really big, colourful picture, a goal! Visualise it. Put it on your wall or on your desktop or your phone and look at it, remind yourself that is why you get up in the morning.

You want to develop a passion for this “item”. You want to live for this item.

Now, with this end in mind, have a look what you need to do to achieve it. What steps do you have to take to achieve that goal? Steeping stones. What does it take to make things happen?

And you will realise that you will break things down in smaller tasks. Into small little todos. Tiny todos. From needing to remember to get a vaccine for the holiday, the passport renewal, the toothbrush, the sun screen, …..

And did you ever try to keep that all in your brain. To keep this all totally stored in your brain whilst still concentrating on your day job, going shopping or playing football.

That is where a trusted system comes in. A todo list that you can put things into, by category even.

Todo list holidays:
– vaccine
– passport
– …

Todo list shopping:
– milk
– eggs
– …

Todo when out and about:
– check on latest magazines
– pick up firing wood
– …

Todo when offline (plane for instance):
– read latest paper on productivity
– answer the emails in my inbox and clear up
– do expense report
– …

Todo when at home
– repair cupboard door in kitchen
– door stopper garage
– …

As you can see, a todo list is a trusted system. For all your notes, for all your todos, categorised by location or by project or both. It keeps your brain clear for its main task: thinking.

So it isn’t only important for you to know where you hang your keys or where you are putting your loose change, it is also important for you to have a system to organise your thoughts and todos. As otherwise you will forget things. And the more important something is, e.g. getting back to a client or remembering someone’s 50th birthday, the worse are the consequences of forgetting it.

Hence begin with the end in mind, then break it down to tasks you putting into your trusted system.

Does that make sense?
Do you have a trusted system?

Let me know of your experience.

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