How to Get More Done

On a scale of 1 to 10, how productive were you last month?

If you think that number is too low, this article is all about how to get stuff done without making life into a route march.

We all have things that we want to achieve – from making real our beautiful dreams of an ideal future through to changing the lightbulbs in the hall (why do they keep burning out?).

Last month saw me reach new peaks of personal productivity (starting from a low baseline).

Somehow I’ve managed to market and sell our flat, find a house to buy, get plans and a builder to renovate this house, find a place to rent, start moving our flat, prepare for our baby to arrive, write my first e-book and keep growing the coaching practice.

I’ve probably been somewhere between a 7 and 8 out of 10 for most of this time.  It’s felt like quite a trek and fun has gone a bit by the wayside.

Frankly I’m a bit knackered now, and this week, productivity is probably down closer to a 4.  More time has been spent sitting in the park in the sunshine, or looking at a blinking cursor (it took 28 minutes for this article to get started).

This period of frenetic productivity followed by a lull has taught me a couple of important things about getting things done:

1) Action leads to confidence (leads to action)

I’ve never felt very confident about picking up the phone, particularly to ask someone to do something they might not want to do.

Our house move couldn’t happen without calling virtually hundreds of estate agents, lawyers, surveyors and other people.  It forced me to take action.

Each call got a little less horrendous and by the fiftieth one, I was quite enjoying it.  My mobile phone bill testifies to the fact that I now love picking up the phone.  Taking action built my confidence and allowed me to do even more.

2) Self-discipline feels good

Self-discipline is a slippery creature to pin down.  It allows us to do the dirty work and tough challenges that can move us forward to our goals.

Yet it can disappear in the blink of an eye.  Suddenly the Come Dine with Me omnibus becomes the most important televisual event of all time, certainly more important than sending those vital documents to the lawyers.

I’ve found that self-discipline is like going to the gym.  You have to start where you are and you can’t suddenly lift three times your own body weight.  By building up slowly and getting a little more done each day and week (and forgiving yourself when you screw up), self-discipline can get stronger.

Like exercise, it also feels good.  When you make a commitment to yourself and keep it (despite the temptation to read the sport section of the newspaper again), your self-esteem takes a little boost.

3) All work and no play makes Phil a dull boy

Having spent a lot of my life doing just enough to get by, it was intriguing to be a super-achiever.

Frankly, it probably made me into quite a boring person.  When you are building gant charts for moving your stuff at 11pm, you know you have a problem.

I think I may have neglected some of the activities and people that bring fun into my life over the summer.

Finding this balance and time to recharge can actually make you more productive (and certainly keeps you sane).

If you want to get more stuff done, here are some suggestions for ways to build up your productivity:

1. Identify your number one time-wasting tactic.  Tomorrow morning when you wake up, make a commitment to yourself to reduce or eliminate it from your day (eg I won’t check Facebook today).  Keep this promise to yourself and you’re showing respect for yourself.
2. Set yourself three monthly goals for October that you’d really like to achieve (be discrete and tangible).  Identify your reward for doing them.  Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable.  Commit and make them happen.
3. Commit to something new and fun – a course, time with friends each week, just reading a book for 30 minutes each evening.  Keep that promise to yourself.
4. If you are being held back by an untidy office or house, put together a plan to clear it up.  Even 10 minutes a day can clear a problem quickly
5. Keep track of how much real work you do in the office this week.  Aim for a 10% improvement the week after.
6. Set and commit to some goals you’d like to achieve before Christmas and make a plan for making it happen.  Keep your goals somewhere prominent and tick them off as they get done.
7. If you’ve been overachieving for a long time and it’s starting to wear you out, think about what you can de-prioritze and replace with something more fun.

Go take and action and get stuff done!

Photo courtesy of orcmid (Flickr Creative Commons)

Do you Work to Live or Live to Work?

Has your life slowed down for the summer?
Have you managed to fit in some quality time with friends and family or headed off for some well earned R&R?
I hope you’re taking a little time to look after yourself and prepare for your next adventure.
Here at Less Ordinary Towers, things seem to have been more hectic than ever.  We’re expecting our first child in December which is super exciting, but is already causing some sleepless nights (as the bump grows).
This also necessitates a relocation to accommodate the new arrival – so a summer of talking to estate agents, lawyers, surveyors etc. etc.
On top of that, we’ve been extraordinarily busy with a stream of new clients ready to take on their big career challenges and start amazing businesses.
It was very appropriate that last week I was invited to the studios of the Guardian newspaper to debate the question “Should you work to live or live to work?”.
It’s a great question for you to ask yourself.  To listen to the podcast click the link below (my interview starts around 13 minutes in).
Given everything that going on, I’m not sure exactly of the answer for me!  I do know that work should bring excitement, challenge and fulfillment and add to your quality of life, and that is what Less Ordinary Living is all about.

Ebbs and Flows

Is it possible for an entire nation to slow down all at once?

Here in London, it feels like we’ve been taking it easy since April.

Between Easter, the Royal Wedding and our May Bank Holidays, we’ve had an endless stream of days off work.  Couple that with the warmest spring on record, with lots of sunshine and a vacation mood has prevailed.

I think people here have twigged that not working can be quite the enjoyable experience.  Rush hour has been a bit less rushed, people are ambling rather than striding, eating has moved a bit more al fresco.

Personally, I’m loving it – it’s quite different from the usual endless rush to get things done.  It feels like an ebb in the endless flow tide of life here.

It’s natural

Of course, this contrast is quite natural.  Nature provides a clue of the importance of ebb and flow in life.  The different seasons provide a cycle for the natural world – different times for growth, seeding, mating and resting.

Each aspect provides a vital link in the chain of continued life – if you’re a squirrel the hibernation is just as important as the times of frantic foraging for food.

It’s easy in this 24-7-365 world to assume that the pedal needs to be constantly on the metal.  There’s a fear that if we’re not at full steam ahead we might fall behind and never catch up.

Yet we are far more multidimensional.  We have complex bio-chemical systems that need care and maintenance to keep us physically and mentally healthy.  Our bodies naturally go through cycles of fitness, and illness which impact our lives.

We also have a wide range of needs, desires and motivations for acting.  We need the basics to survive physically, a range of mental stimulation to survive mentally and then have more complex drivers that bring happiness and fulfilment.

Life is not a simple game of do as much as you can – it requires ebbs and flows to run smoothly.

A little respect

Respecting our ebbs and flows means not trying to boil the ocean and do everything at once.

There are times of peak activity when we can focus on particular aspects of life that rise to the top.  In these times we really do feel a flow – taking on big challenges seems natural and rewarding.

At other times, there’ll be ebbs – moments when it is important to recognize the need to slow down or de-prioritise a certain area.  Like a farmer with a fallow field, sometimes we’ll need to leave an area of life to recover for a while before we can return to it.

For me, this less busy time has provided a great lesson in ebbs and flows.  At first I tried to push hard with work to keep growing the business, but it just felt sticky and difficult.

Rather than continuing to bash my head against the wall, I’ve focused on other aspects – finding a new associate to prepare for the next spike, and starting to write my first book.

Slowing down a little has let me re-prioritise other aspects of life.  I’ve been able to spend more time with family than ever and am loving that so much.  I’ve focused on exercise and meditation and feeling more centred and focused.

It’s been easier respecting the natural flow rather than struggling against it.  By tuning in to what I’m feeling a bit more, I start to get better feedback on what is working and what is a no-no.

Similarly watching the way the world is responding to my actions, there are clear signals as to when to twist and when to stick.

Taking cues internally and externally has helped to find a better balance and avoid frustration.

Take a moment to think over the ebbs and flows you’ve experienced in 2011.

What are they telling you?

Are you ebbing of flowing right now?

Which areas of your life are coming easily?

Where are you stuck?

What is most important at the moment?

Enjoy your flows, and ride those ebbs – they are guaranteed to be less ordinary.

Welcome our new Associate – Hedeel Mahdi-King

Less Ordinary Living is growing.

It’s my pleasure to introduce the new addition to our team, Hedeel Mahdi-King.  Hedeel has a range of experience from years in the city to running her own business.  She’ll bring her talent and knowledge to the team.

Here she is in her own words…

I’m absolutely delighted to join Less Ordinary Living.


I guess it’s no surprise I’m taking this step; I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family and was always up to my elbows in every aspect of running a business, right from the research and development stage through to the ‘what to do when things go a little off-plan’ stage.

I’ve paid my dues and spent six years working in they City as a corporate lawyer.

I’ve also spent some time running my own business, and seen first hand the challenge and excitement this can bring.

Over the last few years I’ve worked with a variety of people to help them turn their ideas into living, breathing businesses.  I’ve also helped established businesses grow and/or diversify.

Recently I’ve worked with people from professions such as law, banking, architecture, catering and e-commerce move into completely different careers such as agriculture, design and build, personal styling and event organisation.

My passion lies in helping others achieve a life they want, and most importantly, a life that they love to wake up to each morning – challenges, stretches and all!

I specialise in:

-    working with individuals who feel trapped take stock of their lives and create a more fulfilling reality (from small tweaks to complete revamp!).

-    helping people who want to be self-employed make the transition.

-    working with people to turn their ideas into living, breathing start-ups.

-    helping independently owned companies grow, diversify or consolidate their offering.

The buzz for me is in helping clients become more aware of their choices and helping them to make more positive, exciting, and yet still entirely pragmatic decisions.

All that’s left to say is that I look forward to working with some of you soon.


Effortless Success!

Don’t believe the hype.

This is the type of headline that bombards us every day.  Frankly they really get on my wick.

The world is full of miracle cures for happiness, crash diets and flashy new products that instantly boost your sex appeal.

Making lasting changes takes more than changing your brand of deodorant.  It takes planning, motivation and commitment.

Spring into Action

Spring is in the air, bringing a sense of renewal and opportunity. It’s  time to dust off the cob-webs and re-boot a few life programmes that are not working.

If you know it’s time to change, here are five ways to get things moving in different areas of your life (commitment definitely required!):

1)   De-clutter your life – if your house is turning into a landfill site and your paperwork has taken over the table.  Set an objective (for example to clear out the spare room by the end of March) and commit 10 minutes a day to making it happen.

2)   Introduce a new virtuous habit – whether it’s a morning walk, 30 minutes exercise 3 times a week or taking 10 minutes quiet time to breathe every day, start something that can make your life better.  Here are some more ideas on how to do this.

3)   Audit your career – set aside an hour to honestly assess how you are making a living.  Think about what you enjoy, what gives you meaning and purpose, how your work fits with your life goals and what you’d like to be doing in 5 years time.  For a helpful test to see if work is working click here.  Here are some ideas on how to start changing things.

4)   Learn something new – what have you been fascinated by for years and done nothing about?  What skill would you love to learn (yes, origami does count).  Find a course and go learn!

5)   Get out there and meet people – if you’ve been hibernating, it’s time to shake off the sleepy dust.  Join a group, find an event, sign up for on-line dating (if you’re single!), call up your friends and re-activate your social life.  It’s ok to get out there. More on friendship here.

The advertisers would have you believe that the key to your happiness is a shiny new product.

The reality is that the power lies in your hands.

If you want something, get out there and make it happen.

Photo credit: Robert S Donovan (Flickr Creative Commons)