Next up in our ‘How I Stay Productive’ series, we’ve got one of our own Productivity Ninjas, Matthew Brown. In his interview, Matthew doesn’t just inspire us to Stress Less but he also gives us a nice insight into his daily routines, which, spoiler alert, does include a daily nap.
Occupation: Productivity Ninja
Company: Think Productive
Location: London and thereabouts
Other job titles in life: Flaneur, Percussionist
What’s important about your workspace?
I work from home most of the time, so that offers some challenges. First of all, I need to be a loooong way from the fridge, for obvious reasons. Second, I need to be able to peer through the window at the guinea pigs – Patch, The Scruffmeister and Gerald – as they go about their business in their run in the garden. They usually glare back at me reproachfully, and this provides a spur to stop looking out of the window and Actually Do Some Work.
Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed the most?
Lethargy. It took me a while, but I think I’ve nailed it now. For the longest time, I thought my workplace was my PC and my work was bashing away at it. It was only when I became a Productivity Ninja five years ago that I realized that very little of actual value and impact happens at the PC. It happens when you’re thinking, strategizing, having brilliant ideas, etc. When was the last time anyone had a brilliant idea while looking at their PC?.. Hmmm?…
So I ensure that I have scheduled intervals of Lethargy over the course of the day. The first one happens shortly after lunch when I have a post-postprandial nap. Ten minutes is enough to recharge the little grey cells. Returning to work, post-nap, feels like a new day.
The second interval of lethargy occurs at 6pm. Working from home requires strong boundaries. We don’t want the work-y stuff leaking into the home-y stuff, do we? So I ensure a clear demarcation by removing myself to the Two Brewers for a contemplative pint of Sixpenny Handley Best Bitter and a bag of nuts. I don’t really commune much with my fellow imbibers. I muse. Sometimes I ponder. Or stew – on the cruelties of the world, the remedies that may be available and our role in bringing these remedies to fruition. Then I go home for the home-y stuff, having pondered, processed and locked away the day.
Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
Preparedness. Small confession: whilst my personal productivity is excellent, my personal preparedness is non-existent. I don’t really prepare for anything. I leave all sorts of important stuff to the last minute. Always. And I tell myself that this is because I am an artiste, and to behave otherwise would be to betray my gift. I know this is a lie.
Which five apps could you not live without?
Well, I could live without all of them; they’re just technology. But I find the following useful:
- The Daily Telegraph for iPad – Always nice to have one’s rabid prejudices confirmed in electronic format.
- The Spectator for iPad – Same as 1 above really, and the writing is outstanding. It’s worth the price of entry for the Low Life and High Life columns alone.
- Ted Talks – As part of my morning routine I watch a Ted Talk a day. Always good.
- Pocket Informant – A fabulous combined Calendar and Task Management app. I have used it as my “second brain” for years, and it just gets better and better.
- Yelp – I often find myself in a strange town for work reasons and it’s a great way to locate decent grub or pub.
What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
I have had a steel-barreled Montblanc fountain pen for twenty years. It is immaculately crafted, writes like a dream and always elicits admiration when produced. Also – and this is not a detail – it makes you slow down as you write, and take care.
When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
Morning. I schedule all my mental heavy-lifting for the morning. I know I’m effectively brain dead in the afternoon, so I just aim to do admin-y type stuff after lunch. Work stops at 5:59pm. No exceptions.
What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
Well, I’m rarely tired during the day but I do sometimes struggle to get down to work. That’s usually because there’s something in my head that I’m not addressing. So I pause the work, address the un-addressed thing, decide what’s to be done, stick that in my second brain, then get back to work.
What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
Well, I don’t think people should be stressed by work. I can’t remember who said it, but “if you don’t like the way your life is, change it; you’re not a tree”. So, if you hate your job, screw it, get a new one.
What’s your email regime?
I don’t spend too much time on email. I have unsubscribed from pretty much everything – newsletters, LinkedIn and all that nonsense. I also find that the more email you send, the more you get, so I tend to call clients, rather than email. In answer to your question, then, I process down to zero (twenty minutes) at 09:00, 12:00 and 17:00. I don’t look at email before work, after work or at weekends.
What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
Well, a nap is always good. Alternatively, I will go to my shed and potter for a bit. I have also recently been focusing on absorbing activities. Drawing. Laying floorboards. Ironing. Tinkering with motorcycles. Making jam. Etc.
What’s the secret to your productivity?
I don’t know really. Maybe the idea that work is just not important enough to get stressed about; what matters is what happens when you’re not working. This perspective enables me, I hope, to do the bare minimum amount of work consistent with a satisfying lifestyle.
Got any more questions for Matthew? Leave them in the comments section below.
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