So, you’re running a business, a side-hustle, studying or building a career in a competitive sector that requires you to stay ‘on’ all the time; all while managing a social life, family life, love life, a home, bills, and somehow trying to find time for yourself too.-

How do you do that without going insane? 🤪

And how do you stay productive the whole time too? 🤔

I’ve found the following works really well for me, and I wanted to use this weeks’ newsletter to share it…

Intense uptime & downtime

This is an idea I’ve been practicing for a while now which understands two things:

  1. Task switching costs ~40% of your productivity (info here)
  2. ‘Downtime’ is an important part of doing great work during ‘uptime’

What I’m suggesting here is simple: Do intense work when you’re working. Then, when you’re not, switch off, intensely.

You might prefer to call this practice ‘purposeful action’ or ‘focused activity’ or something similar, but the word ‘intense’ triggers some kind of emotion for me that makes it feel a little more powerful, and therefore something I’ve taken more notice of in my day to day activities.

I often remark that it’s highly likely I have undiagnosed ADHD, with a mind that’s all over the place, all the time, thinking about different subjects constantly which can be fantastic for dynamic working and relationship building (vital to Yena as a business) but a nightmare when trying to get something done.

It means that I’m also likely the sort of person who needs to ‘feel the fear’ to get something done. Some of you will know that this newsletter often gets done at about 5-to-midnight on a Weds before being scheduled for ~6:30am the next day 😅 as that ‘forces’ creativity in my writing, but leaves gaps for silly spelling mistakes & grammatical errors. 🙈

So now I work in ‘mini sprints’ where I’ll work intensely on certain things, ignoring almost everything else until that task is done. ⚡

Sounds like the sort of thing everyone does already, right?!

Well no, actually. Not anymore at least. With the invention of the smart phone, smart watch and connected apps on your laptop/PC, it’s so, so difficult to avoid the buzzes and beeps that can cost us so much time in switching between tasks.

So how do you implement this to be more productive, focused… and happier?!

My instructions are simple:

  • Either list, or know your tasks (I say ‘know’ because some people love making lists which end up being a bigger distraction for getting the stuff done they already know needs doing – people should trust their own brains more. They’re quite powerful things don’t ya know!). Plus, if you forget it, was it really that important anyway? #delegate 😉
  • Listen to your mind & your body and react accordingly (within reason) – if you’re not ready to work, don’t work. Practice some intense downtime instead.
  • Understand that trying to balance both at the same time produces sub-par work – people don’t send brilliant emails while half way through Breaking Bad re-runs. It’s also hard to understand who’s who in GoT while scheduling social posts. So much better (& faster) to do both separately and purposefully.
  • Indulge in it for a little while to test – I don’t know if it will work for you, but I do know that it works for me. So treat this as a disclaimer but also as a ‘give it a go or you won’t know’.

Here’s how I’ve implemented it and the results I’ve seen

Running an organisation with so many moving parts is something I’m a glutton for, truly, as it satisfies my need for variation. But it’s not efficient. So time management is something I’ve worked on quite a lot to ensure I’m able to deliver on everything I’ve promised. Sometimes I still slip up but I’m way better than I used to be and this practice is the reason why.

The main change for me (and most I talk to about this) is that it stops the heavy feeling of guilt when not working.

As someone who has lots of people relying upon them – staff, hosts, members, partners, suppliers, etc – it’s easy to feel like you have to be attached to your phone/laptop at all times and have to be available 24/7 (very much not true), which has literally meant that I took no holidays for 2 and a half years, and even ended up working on Christmas Day. 🙈 Not good.

Now, I listen to my brain & body and react accordingly. If I’m feeling productive, I work and take advantage of a no-doubt double digital % increase in productivity by taking advantage of my brain being fully switched on, ready, and focused on mini-sprints of tasks. ⚡

I work in silence/alone a lot because that’s when I really get things done and again, no guilt about that because I know I’m doing better work, in the interest of the company, everyone we serve and myself. The office joke is that I’m anti-social but they know it’s what I need to get things done and respect that.

Then, when I feel fatigue start to set in, I’ll take time out, forget work complete and do something to distract me away from that like watch a film, indulge in a series on Netflix, pop a console on (Fortnite or Spider-Man currently on the PS4). 🎮

The biggest part in this whole process though is not trying to do both at the same time and knowing that if I tried to, I would blur the lines between work and play and by default, I’d be average at best, at both.

How can I get a good newsletter written if I’m thinking about food? And likewise, how can I get the Victory Royale on Fortnite if I’m trying to send emails?! 😂

Let me know how you get on with your intense work/play routines and if it works for you. I’m curious!