In the new year, we also have the pleasure to speak to more of our Productivity Ninjas and get an insight into what’s behind their productivity. We don’t just deliver excellent Time Management Workshops, but we’re also a team of wonderfully productive people. This week, we’ve talked to our Head of Client Experience, Cara Delaney, and she shared the tips and tricks which keep her focused and gave us an insight into how she practices mindfulness. But enough from us, over to you, Cara…
Occupation: Head of Client Experience
Company: Think Productive
Location: London and Brighton
What’s important about your workspace?
Clear, clean and comfortable! I work from home a fair bit and have made a concerted effort to limit as many distractions as possible. Having a dedicated workspace helps. Each morning I set mine up at the kitchen table, where it is light and bright. Sometimes I go to a coffee shop or bring my laptop into another room for a change of pace and scene.
Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?
I am the king of procrastination. Unorthodox and mischievous approaches that trick me into working have been a revelation and helped to boost my productivity. I try to up the ante by giving myself imaginary deadlines during the day. Or I pretend I am a lawyer working by the clock (to charge my imaginary client). I have also imagined I am a protagonist in a Hollywood film, to add a certain gravitas when I am doing more menial tasks and also to help me tackle something I feel apprehensive about. Anything to appeal to the inner play-actor really.
Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
Mindfulness. I don’t think this is ever something you nail (unless you are Buddha). Thinking is compulsive. It is also addictive. Being “in the present” and “quietening the mind” sounds so obvious, and yet is quite hard to sustain. It is possible to become more aware, but I see this is an on-going practice. For me, meditation works best in the normal and the everyday by really listening to people and focusing my attention on one thing at a time.
Which five apps could you not live without?
Nozbe – my second brain tool which is key to helping me stay calm and in control.
Google Maps – I’ve recently moved to London and I use it pretty much every day to help me decide the best way to get from A-B.
WhatsApp – to keep in touch with family and friends (more meaningful than Facebook). I am not involved in so many groups that it feels overwhelming.
Calm – I use the 3-10 minute guided meditations most days to help me to create mindful habits and improve my concentration.
White Noise – When I need to focus, I pop in the headphones and turn on the white noise to tune out any distractions.
What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
A Moleskin diary. I like the overall design and the layout of the weekly calendar on one side and the notes page facing. I use the monthly summary for basic forward planning and for an overview of the month and year ahead. This year I am going to try using the stickers they provide as handy visual pointers to different categories of appointments (ahem – geek!). I suspect this could tail off by mid-February.
When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
Between 7.30am-12pm (depending on the night before!) It then dips, before picking up again from 6pm – 8pm. A 9-5 does not get the best of me – which is why flexible working is great!
What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
For me this is usually mid to late afternoon. I take a break, head to a coffee shop and work on any admin based tasks that I have batched together and saved up for this purpose. Ticking them off feels like a sense of achievement.
What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
Making time for friends and family and things I love to do.
What’s your email regime?
I process my emails 3 times a day and keep Outlook in off-line mode for the rest of the time. I try to do the same with Slack. The team know to call or WhatsApp me if they need me urgently.
What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
Working from home, it’s important I leave the house. I like to go for a walk or go out for lunch and often swing down by the canal.
What’s the secret to your productivity?
Sticking to my weekly checklist review first thing on a Monday and using Nozbe as my second brain tool. It took me a while to get into the habit, but it really works!
Follow any of Cara’s productivity tips yourself? Have any questions about mindfulness?
Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch @thinkproductive
By Hannah Urbanek