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From mastering to holding effective meetings, the ability to communicate affects productivity, success and the ability to achieve larger company goals and visions. Since a lack of communication is one of the most significant complaints that employees have against their employers, it’s imperative for businesses to become successful communicators in order to beat out competition and become leaders in their industries.

Whether you’re working in upper management or starting on your first day, equipping yourself with the right communication tools and skills will make you a more impressive leader, team member and contributor to the company. Get started on your path to effective communication with help from these tips.

And take a moment to check out more of our productivity advice to help teams and their leaders become productivity ninjas.

Encourage cross-departmental conversations

Even if you know how to perform your own job well, a solid understanding of other departments and the company as a whole is needed for adequate communications when participating in projects or problems that span outside of your skillset. In fact, this article by HBR argues that horizontal, or interdisciplinary, interactions among personnel is crucial to creating products that your customers want and is an essential piece of the global communication and innovation puzzle.

So what are some simple solutions?

Company-wide assemblies are an ideal environment for presenting big-picture goals and achievements. These meetings could include an internal quarterly review, a universal training program such as a productivity seminar or HR sessions on new employee benefits or tools. Highlighting different departments and talents is also a great platform for team members to practice their meeting facilitation skills.

Depending on the requirements of each position, open floor office spaces or lounge areas are another solution to facilitate natural and diverse conversations between members of the company. As an additional benefit, providing these spaces for employees has been known to bolster communication regardless of each person’s hierarchy in the company while encouraging creativity and production during work hours.

Harness the power of communication technology

While business technology has rapidly changed the business landscape and made work more productive for many, using the wrong or ineffective communication technology can actually contribute to confusion and wasted time instead of reducing it. We all know the headaches, mistakes and inaccuracy that come along with technical difficulties, confusing features and poorly constructed user-interfaces.

Since many if not all businesses rely on communication through phone lines, Voice over IP can result in more efficient dialogue management between both internal staff and customers, leaving your team members with more time to actually focus on their work. This communication tool, equipped with call center management and call-routing capabilities, also gives your team the ability to make on-the-fly calls through tablets or cellphones while away from their desks.

Project management software is another powerful tool designed to streamline communication and enhance your team’s output. With many services offering project planning for deadlines and important dates, team collaboration and time tracking and internal reporting, these tools ensure that you and your teammates stay on the same page during every step of your process. Online tutorials, resources and eCourses on our Productivity Ninja Academy provide a great foundation when learning how to master these tools and become more productive while using them.

Learn how to effectively email

Emailing with a tone that is both amicable and concise without appearing unprofessional or curt is an essential skill when perfecting your business email etiquette. Relatively recent studies have revealed that 93% of the methods we use to communicate are nonverbal, so it’s unsurprising that so many of our work-related emails are misinterpreted. Avoid the delays in your workday that come with reexplaining your emails by checking for these common mistakes:

  • Think about the established relationship you already have with the recipient. How might that specific individual react to what you’re sending?
  • See if your language is too brief or too fluffed up, as both can be sources of confusion.
  • Double check who you’ve decided to CC or BCC in the email. Carbon copying higher ups or others in particularly private emails can embarrass the receiver or be read as passive aggressive.
  • Cut out overused punctuation, especially exclamation marks. Chances are you either use them too much (and risk appearing unprofessional) or not enough (and might come across as upset).

Additionally, it’s important to remember that not one tone or voice will be the most effective method of communication when you’re emailing, depending on the person with whom you are in correspondence. The age, personality and background context may all affect how your audience reacts to what you’ve sent them. One easy rule to remember is to match the tone, punctuation style and word usage used by the sender, as this can help them feel more comfortable during your conversation and help ideas become more easily understood and shared.

How does communication affect your job? How could it be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

By Michayla Reston

Michayla is a business communications online content specialist who writes on business technology and trends.

Before You Go...

Want to improve your teams communication skills? Check out our productivity training suit and get us involved in your next Team Away Day.

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Think Productive Blog by Productivity Ninja - 3w ago

We frequently hit busy spans which make us hope for more than 24 hours in a day. As a Productivity Ninja, you will know, no matter how many hours you spend at the office – the work never stops. Keeping that in mind, it’s important to use your time to rest and recharge. But are you giving your sleeping patterns as much attention as you invest in your projects? 

Chances are, the answer is no. The recommended amount of sleep for those over 20 years old is seven to eight hours, uninterrupted. Can you remember the last time you had a decent quantity and quality of sleep? A morning where you don’t have to drag yourself out of bed, won’t just improve your mood but also your productivity, wellbeing and overall health. As with all habits, we need to take it step by step and not just snap our fingers and get a full eight hours of sleep…

Here’s how to start… 

1) Set up a Schedule
Make a schedule and determine at what time you have to go to bed to get around eight hours of sleep. Talk about it with your partner so that you can work on it together or agree with a group of friends that this is your new resolution and go for it. Keep each other informed and support one another. Ease into it by going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier every evening, until you get to the preferred time and make it your new routine. You know that something becomes a habit when you do it at least, 30 times.

2) Bed time routines
Know which activities make you tired before going to bed and which activities stimulate your brain. You want to fall asleep relaxed, so make sure you put together a routine which will help you wind down.

3) Create no tech zones
Tablets and phones keep us distracted throughout the day, so let’s make sure they don’t get to steal our attention at night as well. Put all your electronic devices out of your reach. It’s too tempting to use when you think that you can’t sleep anyway and hours later you would have missed your opportunity again to get a good night’s sleep.

4) No more midnight snacks
Don’t eat anything before going to sleep. Your body will be more occupied with digesting the food you ate than with sleeping. As most of you know, sleeping also means recovering, so to a certain degree we are literally new people after sleeping. So put away those late night snacks.

5) It’s OK to fall off the wagon
Like Graham Allcott has taught us before, we are ninjas not superheroes. It can go wrong from time to time. We learn by falling down and getting back up again. If it doesn’t go according to plan and you stay up later than usually, then it doesn’t go according to plan. It can happen. Make sure though that you learn something from those mistakes. Where did it go wrong, what do I find difficult, how can I adjust my routine so that it works better in the future? Those are the questions that we need to ask ourselves. It’s also important to keep focusing on your goals. What you want to achieve is your real stimulant. You have to remember that it’s not only about beautiful dreams, it’s also about your health and wellbeing.

By Callista Vink
Callista oversees Think Productive Western Europe‘s social media and blog content.

This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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We all go through more stressful and less stressful times of the year. In those more stressful times, it’s so important we’re able to really recognize what’s causing us stress specifically, rather than saying it’s work in general. Below, we’ve explored some of the most common causes of stress, based on what we’ve been hearing in our time management training. Along with exploring those stress areas, we, of course, also suggest some solutions. It wouldn’t be a Productivity Ninja blog post, without some solutions, eh?!? So, let’s dive right into it…

1) Looming Deadlines 

The work never ends. Even if you manage to meet your first set of deadlines, there will be new projects and more deadlines on the horizon. If we don’t find a way to manage our time and attention, we are more likely to increasingly feel stressed. And let’s face it, we don’t just leave the thought of deadlines at the office, they very often follow us home. That’s how we find ourselves thinking about work at 10pm, when what we should actually be doing, is switch off and relax.

One way to make sure you can switch off after work, is relying on a system which will keep you on track and remind you of your main priorities. The Weekly Checklist, which is mentioned in our productivity training and the Productivity Ninja book, gives you that space to take a step back, review and assess your progress and next steps. Once you introduce the weekly review to your routine, you’ll be able to rely on that weekly slot where you can plan ahead and look back, making sure everything is on track and react if anything’s falling behind.

2) An Overflowing Inbox 

Just thinking about the number currently flashing next to your inbox, might already get your heartbeat speed up. In our time management workshops, we often hear people determining stress factors connected to and their inboxes in general. Naturally, that’s where we’d recommend our , but there are also some quick-wins you can implement straight away…

If even thinking about opening your work emails is already causing you stress, it’s definitely not the best way to start your day at work. It has become a habit to arrive at work, fire up your computer and immediately check your emails. That’s exactly how our inbox becomes our default to-do list, which it is not. Read through this blog post, and tomorrow, when you get to work, try one of the alternative ways to start your day outside of your inbox.

Once you’ve implemented your new morning routine, you can start reviewing how you use email in general and look at improving your own and how you can start processing your emails rather than checking them.

3) Non-Stop Meetings 

When was the last time you had a day without any meetings? Chances are, it was a long time ago but it was a glorious day for your productivity. When our calendars are filled up with back to back meetings, it can be difficult to find the time to actually get work done. Which, in return, will just add to our every day stress.

Before accepting the next meeting invitation, ask yourself:

  • Is the topic of conversation important and timely?
  • Can you, personally, add value?
  • Is progress going to be made or is this merely to catch up?

Only when you’re clear on the agenda and outcomes, should you respond to the invitation. It’s become a bit of a default to just accept any meeting invite in your inbox. From now on, take a step back and really think about whether you should accept, say no to the invite or whether it should be a meeting for everyone involved in the first place. Don’t shy away from suggesting alternatives to meetings. Chances are, everyone else will have a just as busy calendar as you have and, therefore will be happy to see some of those catch up meetings disappear.

Did we miss anything? What’s causing you stress at the moment? Let us know in the comments below. 

By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive’s Head of Marketing and the voice behind our social media and editorial content. You can connect with Hannah directly here or on LinkedIn

Before You Go...

Now that we’ve explored some potential causes of your stress, it’s time to focus on switching off and relaxing. We’ve shared some easy ways to relax over on our blog.

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Think Productive Blog by Productivity Ninja - 1M ago

Relaxing seems like an easy enough task to do without even thinking about it. But in today’s always connected world, even a Productivity Ninja might not always be able to relax. We are often occupied with thoughts about what we have to do the next day, or even the things we should have already done yesterday and today, that truly switching off  becomes non-existent.
Here are some ideas on how to stress less and relax more… 

Unplug

Remove yourself from any type of technological devices that could make your relaxing time, a working time. In our time management training, we often discuss with our participants, being ‘at work’ doesn’t just mean being at the office, anymore. With portable devices, such as mobile phones and laptops, we’re constantly connected and only a tap away from just checking our emails. From time-to-time, we all require a day dedicated to being completely switched off. At the end of the day, the saying goes: Out of sight, out of mind! So, lock away your devices, switch off your internet access and enjoy a day of offline bliss.

Naps

Sometimes, the most needed form of relaxation is to sleep. A 20-60 minute nap during the day can help you feel replenished. Listen to your body – if you feel sluggish, try an afternoon nap, rather than another dose of caffeine. Just make sure your nap doesn’t turn into REM sleep, as that can leave you feeling even more tired for the rest of the day. However, a nap is a great way to rest and relax, as it has been shown to increase performance.

Chamomile Tea

A beverage that provides multiple benefits, and the main one being that it helps dealing with stress and anxiety. It cannot be emphasized enough that chamomile tea not only helps to lower stress, but also contains antioxidants which contributes to fighting against chronic diseases, and it tastes nice too! So, it really is a win-win-win. What are you waiting for? Brew yourself a cup right now.

Read

There is nothing like a good book that takes your mind away to another world. The imagination is a great place to escape to. In a study conducted on volunteers at the University of Sussex, reading was found to be the most effective method of relaxation compared to other methods. It was shown to reduce stress levels by 68 per cent, the highest result, in contrast to other techniques of relaxation. Bare in mind when choosing your book to choose something which will help you switch off and not “secretly” continue work. If you’re still looking for book recommendations, why not have a look at ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja‘, ‘How to be a Study Ninja‘ or ‘Work Fuel – The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition‘?

Go for a Walk

If you prefer to be more active, a walk may do the trick. Even more so if it comes with a nice scenic view. However, if you are from the city, a walk around your local park can be just as effective in helping you learn how to relax. It can help boost endorphins, which makes you less stressed and lighten your mood, plus it’s also a light form of exercising.

Write

Whether it’s a story, or some form of journal writing, the opportunity to write down all your worries and thoughts, will do miracles to your stress levels. If it’s specifically frustrations you’re trying to get rid of, write it all on a piece of paper and then get rid of the pages. Writing is a creative outlet for you to manage your thoughts and emotions. Let your creative juices flow!

These are just some ways to really unplug and relax. What’s your go-to way to truly relax? Let us know @thinkproductive

By Rosie To
Rosie is one of Think Productive’s summer interns, supporting our marketing team. 

This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Before You Go...

We only get the chance to truly relax, when we can trust that our Productivity Ninja skills and our second-brain. Only when we know our projects are up to speed and everything’s put in place for us to take time off, can we really shut off from work. Luckily, we tackle all of this plus more in our productivity training.

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Whether you’re on the road a lot, like our Productivity Ninjas, or you’re often running from one meeting to the next – skipping meals and grabbing food on the go often becomes the norm. Having said that, making poor choices on the road, is also often the main source of sabotage while we’re implementing the Work Fuel Way

When we’re already hungry and stressed, we seek out the path of least resistance, a snack from a vending machine, a shop en route to the next appointment or a coffee-with-baguette grab. While this will fill a gap in the short term, it’s far from convenient – you’ll find yourself feeling hungry again after a short amount of time and this is anything but Work Fuel.

You eat good food if you see, have and own it! Simple. It’s no surprise that sales of fruit and vegetables increase if they are placed at the till point. Practice Ninja preparedness and have the right food to hand. No matter whether that’s in the fridge at home, at your desk at work or in your bag if you’re on the run.

Be Prepared – Bring Portables

The portables are foods that are convenient to carry, durable and quick to pack. Here are some examples:

1) Vegetables & Fruit – Chop them up, pick up a bagged salad, a box of cherry tomatoes or pack of leftovers from last night’s dinner. Pick up a pack of berries, buy a bag of apples at the start of the week to keep in the car, or chop a few different fruits, add to a jar and pop in your bag.

2) Eggs – The ultimate fast food. Eggs are the ideal food to satisfy cravings and help you to feel mentally focused, while also providing plenty of other essential nutrients. Boiled eggs are an ideal snack to eat on the go along with some chopped vegetables like peppers, tomatoes or carrot sticks. Boil six eggs at a time – they keep for a week in the fridge unpeeled.

3) Greek Yogurt – Pop it in a jar and top with nuts and berries and bring from home, or just pack it separately, but ready to assemble. You can even buy to go, with a bag of nuts and a piece of fruit, and use the yogurt pot to eat from. A perfect airport snack.

4) Smoothies – These can be pre-made the day before, refrigerated and put in a heat-protective container to take with you. It’s not suitable for air travel hand luggage as it’s a liquid, however, a top tip if you have check-in luggage is to freeze the smoothie the night before, and store it in your luggage in the hold. By the time you arrive at your destination it’s a chilled, nutritious meal. One less thing to worry about on arrival.

Finally, perfection is the enemy of progress and you can’t be spot on every time, especially when on the road. But what you can do each time is do the best you can with the options available. Consistency beats intensity!

By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive’s Head of Marketing and the voice behind our social media and editorial content. You can connect with Hannah directly here or on LinkedIn

Before You Go...

Love the look of the new Work Fuel book? Join us for an evening of drinks and nutritious nibbles to celebrate the launch of Work Fuel: The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition. Authors Colette Heneghan and Graham Allcott will take you through some key insights, tricks and theories from the book to start you on your way to incorporating healthy eating habits into a busy lifestyle.

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As we know from our time management training, if there’s one mutual feeling that everyone experiences – it’s stress. Sometimes, it tickles us in small waves that we can easily overcome. Other times, it strikes us like a raging storm leaving all in a gasp of air. The World Health Organization (WHO) says stress has become a “World Wide Epidemic.” Amidst high-stress levels, yoga is a sigh of relief.

But, what causes us stress? From technology to the workplace, reasons are innumerable. Due to technological advancements, we are constantly bombarded with information digitally. Modern tech has gained a permanent presence in our lives that we have become addicted to the point that it has started to impact our peace of mind and sleep. This in turn leads to stress build up throughout the day, leading to a vicious cycle of stress accumulation.  Along with digital stress, workplace tension is increasing at an alarming rate. Longer working hours, jam-packed schedules, deadlines, etc.  Stress is often accompanied by a sense of powerlessness.

Yoga is well-demonstrated to reduce stress and its effect on the body. The yoga postures taught during  yoga teacher training in India, for example, focuses on three aspects – body, mind, and soul. The body movements reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol, help with heart rate, foster mindfulness, and ultimately promote peace -physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Here are some poses to get you started…

1. Child Pose – Balasana 

The child pose can be as soothing as a massage. As it is a forward bend, it has a deeply calming effect on the internal and external system.

How to: Kneel on the floor. Sit on your heels with your big toes together and knees as wide as the hips. On an exhalation, drape your torso between the thighs. Keep the back straight. Keep the arms on the floor alongside the torso, palms up. Rest the forehead on the ground and eyes closed.

2. Easy Pose – Sukhasana 

The meditative yoga posture for relaxing and soothing the mind. With repeated practice of this pose, you move into a relaxed internal state.

How to: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. Cross the legs at the shins, with the right shin in the front. Lay your hands on the knees, palms up and fingers in Gyan mudra. Elongate the spine.

3. Standing Forward Fold – Uttanasana 

A synchronized forward fold and deep breathing exercise, to offset the sympathetic nervous system. It also releases hamstrings thus making your body free from tensions.

How to: Stand straight on the floor. As you inhale, raise the arms up alongside the ears, and do not bend the elbows. As you exhale, fold forward, reaching down with your arms; try to touch your toes with your fingers or rest the palms on your calves. Keep the back straight during the fold.

4. Thunderbolt Pose – Vajrasana

When we are tensed, our body constricts. The thunderbolt pose creates a broad back and aids your digestion which tends to get disturbed when we’re stressed.

How to: Get on your fours. Sit on your heels on an exhale. Gently rest the top of the feet on the ground. Sit tall and engage the core muscles. Keep your hands over your knees, palms down. Hold the pose as long as you feel comfortable.

5. Corpse Pose – Savasana

This yoga asana calms the nervous system and body by melting the tensions.

How to: Lie horizontally with the face and torso facing up. Keep your legs straight and heels apart. Keep the arms alongside the torso, palms facing up. Close your eyes. Breathe and feel tensions discharging from the body. Stay in this pose for 5-15 minutes.

Combine the practice of yoga postures with controlled breathing and meditation for unparalleled serenity.

By Bipin Baloni
Bipin Baloni is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a traveler in India. He organizes 200-hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh. Bipin conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India across various different cities. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.

Before You Go...

Learn how to manage the tension between getting the good work done alongside the expectations, the quick wins, the emails and the interruptions. Learn to manage your attention, rather than your time and embrace the 9 characteristics of a Productivity Ninja in our full-day workshop.

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Whether you’re still trying to shake off some of that holiday weight, your schedule doesn’t seem to have room for the gym or you’re looking for a new way to hit the afternoon slump – deskercise is the way to go! As a Productivity Ninja, you don’t just take care of the work on your desk, but you also look after yourself. Here are our favorite ways to keep a healthy lifestyle, even if you feel like you’re chained to your office chair. 

Keep Hydrating! 

Ever felt sluggish at work, but immediately felt re-energized after drinking a big glass of water? It’s not a coincidence. Rather than dragging yourself to the kitchen for the 50th coffee of the day, which will make you feel much worse after the initial caffeine boost has worn off – opt in for some cold water. As a rule of thumb, it’s suggested to drink 6-8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day, with some adults requiring even more.

We’ll stay here while you’re refilling your water bottle….

Keep Moving! 

As well as building the below exercises into your daily routine, also try and walk as much as you can within the day. Does it look like a nice day outside? Why not walk to or from work today? Have a 121 catch up coming up with a team member? Boost your meeting skills – grab them and do a walking meeting instead of sitting down in a stuffy meeting room. Try and opt for taking the stairs as much as you can and include as much standing up in your daily routine, as you can. If you don’t have a standing desk, introduce stand up meetings or do all your phone calls stood up. These small changes throughout the day won’t go unnoticed by your overall health, wellbeing and productivity.

If you want to go the extra mile and maybe also get some of your other team members involved – here are some easy to follow exercises.

1) Seated Leg Lifts

Whilst seated at your desk, lift one or both legs and hold it there for five seconds, then lower your leg(s) back down to the floor without letting them touch the ground. Then repeat for 15 reps. A way to do a secret workout without many people knowing and not having to leave your desk – plus you can add weight to your legs (rucksack/handbag/briefcase) to increase the pressure and workout.

2) Standing Calf Raises 

Standing up by your desk, steadily alternate between standing on your toes and rocking back onto your heels. This is great for improving circulation and also your balance. If it feels a bit challenging in the beginning, feel free to hold on to your desk while switching between toes and heels, until you feel more confident.

3) Shoulder Raises 

Raise your shoulders up toward your ear, hold for 10 seconds, and relax. For an even bigger stretch , do just one shoulder at a time, then alternate five times each. These are great for relieving tension in your neck.

4) Back Twists 

To start, sit in your chair and place your right arm behind your right hip. Twist to the right side and hold or 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Aim to do three on each side.

This is a great way to relieve tension in your back.

5) Wall Sit 

Wall sits are a great way to build strength and endurance. Stand with your back against the wall, bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Sit and hold for 30-60 seconds.

As you get stronger and more advanced, try and cross the right ankle over the left knee. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch.

This exercise is perfect to get the rest of the team involved. You can even flex your competitive muscles and see who can do the longest wall sit in the office.

For more office fitness inspiration, check out the following resources:

Staying Healthy at Work Infographic
Yoga Exercises for your desk
33 Exercises for the office


By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive’s Head of Marketing and the voice behind our social media and editorial content. You can connect with Hannah directly here or on LinkedIn

This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Before You Go...

Now that we’ve given you some exercises to incorporate into your day, let’s take a look at your nutrition. What we eat and how it’s making us feel, is tightly connected with our energy and productivity levels. You don’t have to weigh every meal and say goodbye to treats you’re looking forward to all day – small changes along the way will make all the difference. The Work Fuel Way is the way forward – but see for yourself.

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The best-selling Productivity Ninja book series has a brand new addition: Work Fuel – The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition. The new book is all about boosting performance, improving focus and eating your way to success by making smarter food choices. The Work Fuel approach is underpinned by science, easy to understand and live by, while still having a profound long-term effect on your energy and productivity. To give you a bit of a taster of the new book and set you on the right path for Nutrition & Hydration week (March 11th – 15th), here’s a summary of the nine essentials of the Work Fuel Way. 

1. Be a Fuelie 

Good food is brain fuel.

Let’s start with the most obvious thing. ‘We are what we eat.’ Or rather, our brain performs relative to how well we feed and support it. Perhaps you describe yourself as a foodie. Perhaps you don’t. Either way, we hope to inspire you to become a ‘fuelie’. A fuelie is someone who recognizes the benefits of increased energy, lower stress and a healthier body. Armed with this mindset a fuelie consciously and consistently makes simple food upgrades.

2. Lunch is not for Wimps 

It’s time to ditch the ‘al desko’.

Gordon Gekko in the famous film Wall Street defined the 1980s’ high-octane work ethic. “Lunch is for wimps” was a phrase that cut through into mainstream culture. The sad thing is, it’s utter nonsense. Deliberately depriving your body and brain the nutrients you need to think properly, and surviving on coffee alone, doesn’t make you cool, it just makes you a caffeine-fuelled erratic human. It certainly doesn’t make you better at your job. Take a lunch break, it’s an investment in your afternoon.

3. Don’t eat food with its own jingle 

Eat food made from plants, not food made in plants.

Steer clear of the jingles. What’s happened over the years is that the idea of being healthy has been hijacked by marketing people. They’ve adopted a two-step strategy to increase their profits:

  1. Tell us something is bad
  2. Tell us their product is low in the thing, or the alternative to the bad thing, and therefore the solution.

Be a fuelie: if food needs a marketing team to convince us it’s worth eating, it’s probably not worth eating.

4. Eat the rainbow

Banish the Beige.

One of the simplest ways to ensure your plate is full of nutrients is to look at the colors on it. We’ve all heard of ‘eat your greens’, but what about all those reds, yellows, purples and oranges? Different-colored vegetables tend to contain different nutrients, so a rainbow on your plate will help ensure you’re not missing anything out. Simply adding a handful of something colorful to an existing dish to ‘rainbow it up’ is enough to extend your range. Think a half a dozen cherry tomatoes, a handful of spinach, grated carrot or a forkful of sauerkraut. A few seconds of thought, but a massive upgrade. What extra color can you add to your next meal?

5. Be Label-savvy 

Adopt the five ingredient rule.

If you check the label of porridge oats, it will usually say ‘Ingredients: Porridge oats’. That’s it. Single-ingredient foods are generally the best fuelie choice, because they’re the source food, meaning less processing and manipulating. Similarly, all non-label fresh foods like tomatoes, aubergines and apples are single ingredient foods. These are your go-to food choices. Seems obvious, but you will be surprised how many cupboard staples have a lengthy, complicated ingredient list. Once you start getting into a long list of ‘emulsifiers’ and ‘flavoring agents’ you know it’s not going to be a wise choice. If you are buying food in a packet, check the label and count the ingredients, under five and it’s probably an upgrade.

6. Be Ninja Prepared 

You eat good food, when you have good food in the fridge.

One of the common problems with trying to lead a healthier lifestyle is that we’re busy. It can be hard to find easy, convenient options that are also nutritious. When you’ve been working all day, it’s late and you’re tired your willpower is down and the propensity to succumb to brain zapping food is at an all-time high. Productivity Ninja preparedness, as you’ll know from our time management training is all about thinking ahead. It’s like giving a gift to your future self, having good food in when you get home late or packed in your work bag/desk if you’re not. Don’t leave your future self in the lurch, as you will be as busy that day as you are now. Gift your future self with better quality options to set yourself up for more energy and resilience.

7. Choose Consistency over Intensity 

The tortoise beats the hare. The micro beats the macro.

In evaluating your lifestyle choices, remember it’s not what you did today, it’s what you generally do that matters. It’s all about balance. Too many people think that detoxing in January makes up for eleven months of indulgence. And too many people also feel guilty when they have a piece of cake, even though they’ve been filling their body with nutrient-packed food all week. Don’t beat yourself up. Do small things consistently.

8. Think ‘nutriful’ before ‘beautiful’ 

Your food is fuel, and it doesn’t need to be on Instagram.

Over the past few years, society has glamorized food to the point of fetish. We prefer to focus on ‘nutriful’, not beautiful. The point is that you can throw together nourishing, tasty ingredients into a salad bowl in less than five minutes. Life is not a dinner party. You don’t have to see a beautiful Instagram ready meal every time you sit down to eat. It’s far better to see a ‘nutriful’ plate instead.

9. Human not Superhero 

Don’t use up your willpower at home.

There is a huge freedom that comes from embracing the fact that we are human, not superheroes, particularly when we’re struggling to break free from old habits. Here’s a quick human trick for starters. Don’t use your willpower at home. It’s the place you spend the most time, so don’t give yourself choices to make. If you’re the kind of person that hears the biscuits calling them from the cupboard (like me). Do yourself a favor and don’t let them into the house in the first place!

By Graham Allcott & Colette Heneghan
Graham is the founder of Think Productive, a speaker, author and one of the world’s leading providers of business productivity workshops and coaching.

Colette is a speaker, author and coach and founder of Optimum Living. She delivers workshops covering topics such as nutrition for energy, thriving leadership, understanding and managing stress and the power of sleep.

Before You Go...

Spend a whole day with Think Productive’s founder and author, Graham Allcott. The aim of the day is to give you all the tools you need to develop a sustainable, practical, systematic way to approach your work. Together with lots of productivity tips and new systems to work with, you’ll also leave the upcoming one in March 2019 with a brand new copy of his latest book ‘Work Fuel – The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition’.

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This might seem unorthodox, as we’ve all been told otherwise, but perfection is your enemy – not your friend. Perfection can seriously stifle positive momentum and is generally a pointless waste of time. That’s why Productivity Ninjas avoid perfection at all costs. Continue reading to find out why perfection is productivity’s enemy and how you can shift your mindset. 

First, let’s talk about the idea of perfection. If you’ve been on one of our time management workshops, you’ll know how valuable your time and attention are. We’ve all been there – reading through the same three sentences, checking thesaurus for a “more intelligent way” to articulate the same idea over and over again…but is this really the best use of our attention? Rather than spending hours on trying to perfect your output, embrace the state of flow and ship a hundred new things. At the end of the day, those last minute changes rarely make any difference, so might as well accept the imperfect.

Speaking of imperfect – let’s face it, we all are!


Productivity Ninja, Not Superhero

Although we might sometimes appear to be, Productivity Ninjas are not superhuman. As a Ninja you’ll develop a reputation as someone who delivers, someone who is reliable, makes good decisions and takes their work seriously. But not as someone who is perfect. We are all prone to screwing up now and then – no matter how organized, how intelligent, or how seemingly perfect we are (or are trying to be). And that’s OK.

One of our favorite parts of the ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja‘ book is this reminder:

“We can aim for perfection and fail. Or we can aim for Ninja Zen-like calm, ruthlessness, weapon-savviness, stealth and camouflage, unorthodoxy, agility, mindfulness and preparedness, and succeed.”

The choice is yours, but why set yourself up for failure?

Making Mistakes & Learning From Them 

Throughout various Productivity Seminars, we keep on hearing people associating making a mistake with failing. We all make mistakes from time to time – that’s part of being human. Those mistakes don’t define us and our work, the way we react to them and move forward does.

It’s time to switch our mindset when it comes to making mistakes. Mistakes aren’t necessarily a closing door for future possibilities. Now, obviously if you keep on making the same mistake over and over again without ever switching gears, some doors will eventually start closing. But mistakes actually provide us with the opportunity to work on correcting them and make it better than what we have previously planned. If things go wrong, don’t just abandon your plans just because it didn’t work out. Use this time of uncertainty as an advantage to develop yourself and your skills. Apart from the obvious area in which a mistake has happened, it might also shine light on other areas which we didn’t notice needed improvement. All in all, it’s a great place to be in – if we accept it, practice Ninja agility and are ready to move forward.

If you reflect on your mistakes, learn from them and avoid making the same ones again, you can easily move on. Use your mistakes as a way to showcase how dedicated you are towards conquering them. Prove to people – but most importantly, to yourself and your own confidence – that you are strong enough carry on. This is merely a reminder of us being human, not a reflection on our skills.

Embracing the Anti-Perfection Mindset 

For many years we have internalized that all we need to be aiming for is perfection. Will you accept our challenge to move away from it and embrace being human instead? Here’s how you can get started…

1) Set realistic goals – A project or a set of actions feels more in control the more clarity you have around it, not the more you have done it. Before you get started on any task or project, take a step back and ask yourself: “Am I clear on what I need to achieve here?” If there’s even a shadow of a doubt, go to your manager or consult your team. Diving into work and desperately trying to stay afloat and achieving goals without gaining clarity first, is a recipe for disaster.

2) Slow down – In today’s world, we’re constantly connected, always checking emails and on the move from one meeting to the next. Whether it’s in our , facilitation training or our productivity training – we always hear a collective sigh when discussing the pace of today’s workforce. It’s time to slow down. As soon as we take the time to really engage with the people around us and the work in front of us, we’re instantly less likely to make mistakes. Plus, we’re also much more likely to actually enjoy the hours we spend at work.

Something to listen to...

On his podcast, Beyond Busy, Graham got to chat to award-winning author, speaker and journalist Carl Honoré. Quite fitting to our above tip, they chat about the concept of slowing down and how we all need more of it in our lives.

3) Ask for help – You don’t need to know all the answers. You don’t have to possess all the skills. There are people around you who can lend a helping hand or a brain to be picked. Instead of staying quiet and stressing yourself out about tasks you can’t complete or questions you can’t answer – ask the people around you. You’ll be surprised how much calmer your life is once you accept help. Obviously don’t forget to return the favor when the time is right!

Now it’s your turn! Shake off the need to be perfect and embrace being a Productivity Ninja instead.

By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive’s Head of Marketing and the voice behind our social media and editorial content. You can connect with Hannah directly here or on LinkedIn

This post was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Be one of the first one’s to hear about new workshops, events, our favorite productivity tips and news by signing up to our monthly newsletter list.

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In late January, several hundred people gathered in Conway Hall in London, invited by Action for Happiness to an evening with the original Productivity Nina, our founder Graham Allcott. The theme of the evening was “Beyond Busy: Worry less, achieve more, love what you do”. Our Head of Business Development, Caitlin Fox, took a front row seat and shared some of her highlights with us below. 

Productivity isn’t purely for an exclusive club of ‘gurus’ That’s why Graham started off his talk by assuring everyone in the room that they won’t be stuck being talked at for 90 minutes about the life changing magic of to-do lists. Instead, we jumped straight into a sample of the 9 Characteristics of the Productivity Ninja.

The 9 Productivity Ninja Characteristics

Join our online learning platform, The Productivity Ninja Academy, and gain access to lots of resources and eCourses to learn more about the 9 Characteristics of a Productivity Ninja.

As always, the highlight of these sessions for me is the section on Ruthlessness. It’s all about protecting our attention, being selective what we say ‘yes’ to and when it’s time to say ‘no’ to others and ourselves.

“Ruthlessness isn’t just about how we process information; it’s also about our ability to protect our time and attention, focusing only on the things that add the greatest impact, even at the expense of other things that are ‘worth doing’.”

For me, learning to use this characteristic in my work has been truly life-changing, and I always find it interesting to see how other people take it on. Graham makes it clear at the start that being ruthless is not about being rude – but rather learning to value yours and other people’s time and attention.

Personally, I see the real value of Ruthlessness in learning when and how to say no- something that’s not easily done, especially not for those of us who are guilty of volunteering for anything and everything! This is a common problem, as I soon found out when Graham invited us to chat to our neighbors about what we’d just heard. Some found it difficult to be stern about their capacity without being rude, while others around me felt they wish their colleagues were more ruthless to avoid eventual disappointments. The main take way from our brief chat was that ultimately, the discomfort fades and especially so when the results of guarding our attention in this way come to fruition.

Although I’ve been working on strengthening my own Ninja Ruthlessness for a while, getting the chance to review some of the frameworks I’ve been trialing and hearing about new ones has been beyond valuable.

This has only been one of my own highlights. If you couldn’t make it to the Action for Happiness event in January or even if you could do with a little refresh – check out the full talk below. Besides the 9 Characteristics of the Productivity Ninja, Graham also chats about the 3C’s of Attention Management, which he uses to schedule his days and so much more. But see for yourself!

Beyond Busy - with Graham Allcott - YouTube

What’s your take-away from the talk? Let us know in the comment section below!

By Caitlin Fox
Caitlin is Think Productive’s Head of Business Development and is in charge of organizing our events and public workshops. You can connect with Caitlin directly here or on LinkedIn

Before You Go...

Tempted by the above talk? Like the look of those 9 Productivity Ninja Characteristics? Let’s get you all set up with a new workflow system and get you feeling more in control about your work. Grab a ticket to one of our upcoming Public Workshops and become a Productivity Ninja.

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