The mindset of a ninja offers us some very useful ways to approach our work. Over the next several months we will introduce you to each of the Think Productive Ninjas. All reflective of a characteristic to nurture and improve upon to become more productive in our day to day lives. We aim to help you boost productivity, reduce stress and remain calm by nurturing your inner ninja.
This is the third in a series of posts defining the Characteristics of a Productivity Ninja…
A Ninja needs to be light on their feet, able to respond with deftness to new opportunities or threats.
Anything that requires a lot of shifting of thinking, quick reactions and decisions will of course need our proactive attention. And as we know, this is a finite resource. Our ability to react quickly and appropriately to new challenges really comes down to two things:
1. Our own mental ‘reserves’ or capacity to spend more of our days in proactive attention mode without getting tired. People do this temporarily through the use of caffeine or other stimulants, which is fine to an extent and in the short-term, but we need to think more sustainably than that;
2. Our ability to bring in other resources to aid this process – other people, more time and better technology. Keeping light on our feet.
If we need to react, we need to be ready. Under-commit, don’t over-commit your schedule: It’s always very tempting to bite off more than we can chew. At the start of the week or month, keep space and time in your calendar ready and able to be filled by the things you don’t know exists yet. That might sound obvious, but one look at how packed your own schedule is in the next few days will prove that it’s much easier said than done. This clear space is truly your ‘response-ability’.
Grown into, don’t grow out of. with any organizing system you use, think one step ahead and develop systems far in advance of the capacity you need. For example, if you’re going to have an upsurge in business and new clients coming on board, managing client contact information on a scruffy Excel spreadsheet that’s bursting at the seams will slow you down at the crucial point.
Investing the time before you need to into developing a super-hot database will seem unproductive at the time, but is actually the smarter move. In London, the Victorians built the sewers and subway lines to be ten times the required capacity. People complain about the subway system now, forgetting how ahead of its time it really was and how wise they were to think so far ahead in terms of the additional capacity requirements. All I can say is, thank goodness they did that for the sewers!
Spotting an opportunity or threat, wherever it arrives from In order to react and respond well, we need strategic vision. We need to spot opportunity even when it knocks very softly at the door and see threats coming whilst they’re still relatively in the distance. Again, this takes some preparation and research and there are some useful shortcuts to use. Networking, for example, is a great way to keep your ear to the ground.
Usually, those people who naturally resist the idea of being organized are the very same people who experience the greatest mindset shift from getting their paperwork, projects, email inbox and everything else under control. It’s immensely calming if you do it regularly, but probably even more so if you don’t normally experience it very often.
A messy desk, out of date schedule, or bag full of receipts can play havoc with your productivity. Purge your space, bring your lists up to date and streamline your schedule– you’ll thank yourself next week.
This is an edited extract from How to be a Productivity Ninja. To read more buy the book
Left wanting more?
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Mental Agility– What we can learn about productivity from baking (blog post)