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Getting to Personal Flow

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Personal Flow

One of the things that we’ve been developing recently at Asian Efficiency are the ideas behind Team Productivity. And the big secret, is that Team Productivity begins with Individual Productivity – or Personal Flow.

I was putting together some talks for our newer AE team members earlier this month, and thought that it would be interesting to jot down a few points for our blog readers as well. These are geared in particular towards new AE team members (who are all remote/in different timezones), so our project-specific examples have been left out, but you’ll find them useful as well. In no particular order, here are the things that we teach to new AE team members!

Isolation is Great for Focus

Isolation

Isolation is really, really good for getting focus.

You can achieve isolation either physically or virtually. Physically means locking yourself in a room or picking a location (like a library) where you won’t be interrupted.

Virtual means that you create your isolation with you wherever you go. Put on some noise-canceling headphones, use Internet-blocking apps and other tech tools so that even if you’re sitting in the middle of a crowded Starbuck, you’re still in virtual isolation – and focused on your work.

No Interruption is Not Isolation but it’s Related

No Interruptions

Not having interruptions isn’t the same as isolation, but the fewer times you are interrupted while working on something, the more fluid your train of thought is going to be and the easier the task will be.

There is a lot of psychology around interruption- work that has been developed by coders and developers. But generally speaking…

  • Set your IM client to do not disturb.
  • Put away your phone, email app, and anything that has a push notification.

These two things alone will kill 99% of interruptions.

Breaks Keep You Balanced and Your Brain Flowing

Take a Break

Here’s are two simple break schedules that you can use:

  • Take a 5 minute break every 25 minutes.
  • Take a 10 minute break every 50 minutes.

Apart from that, take a longer break for lunch (1-2 hours), and make sure that you eat lunch away from your computer, or at least close the lid to your laptop during lunch.

If you want to work both mornings and evenings, you need to make that daytime break longer – so that you’ll have restored willpower and faculties for your second session.

Also, take time off on weekends – it can be tempting to push more but you really do need the time off. If you absolutely must, get up early on Saturday/Sunday and churn through some stuff, but then enjoy the rest of your time!

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep

Sleep is crucially important so make sure that you work out how much sleep you need and make sure you get it.

For most of us, this is 6-9 hours – you’ll need to experiment for a week or so without an alarm clock to see what works best for you.

If you’re working late, sometimes it’s better to sleep in and get a fresh start the next day – the work will still be there, don’t worry!

Also, listen to Better Sleep for the fastest way to get this sorted.

Have Something Outside of Work To Do

Hobby

Everyone should have something outside of work that they enjoy doing. It can be the gym, sports, cooking, hobbies, or just going out. Whatever it is, make sure that you have at least one, and that it occupies at least 5 hours of your time each week.

This is for balance purposes, and will make you more effective when you are working.

Always Be Reading

Reading

Your work and output is often only as good as what you input into your mind.

If you’re constantly inputting new things… there will always be new ideas flowing.

This is why we like to say work 35/5 – 35 hours of core, concentrated work, and 5 hours of learning, every week. Always be reading. If you need book ideas, check out the Recommended Reading page, or ask another team member.

80/20

80/20

80% of productivity is in the big principles, like those outlined in the Productivity Blueprint. The rest – the tactics – is the 20% that is just icing on top. Things like shortcuts, lifehacks, quick time-savers are cool, but they are not what makes you inherently productive.

Structural Productivity

Structural Productivity

I wrote a comprehensive guide to Structural Productivity a while back. This was really for you (AE team) guys. So read it and implement it.

You want to work out your Zone Times/Hero Mode times for yourself and make yourself unavailable during those times – just remember to leave some crossover time for the people you’re working with too.

In fact, start with your Hero Mode times and work everything around that. Make those Hero Mode hours the peak of your day, and adjust other events (gym, food etc) accordingly.

Also, regulate your working hours. Yes, it may seem a bit “office-like” but having a regular routine Monday-Friday is actually a good thing, and frees up your time more than just working “when you feel like it”.

Exercise and Fitness

Exercise

If you don’t work out or play a sport, I suggest you start.

I personally like barbells and heavy lifts – they’re simple, awesome, and something you can do for life. And they won’t make you big and Arnold-looking unless you eat A LOT. If anything, they’ll probably trim you down and burn off any excess body fat.

Sports are equally as good.

So why do we exercise and how does it help our personal flow?

Exercise is a habit – and one that you usually see results from, very quickly. It helps you build a results mindset – that you can put in work, and see results. And this carries over into the work that we do as well.

Exercise can also be quiet meditation time – where you just move in-flow, and where your brain and body are percolating ideas for the next thing you have on your plate.

Exercise also makes you physically fit, which gives you more potential physical energy to work with. Physical energy gets converted into mental energy which is what we use to do great work and produce awesome things – so the more of it you have, the better your work, flow and productivity will be.

Nutrition and What Food Does to Your Body

Nutrition

Food is the other half of the energy equation.

The main thing here is to know what different types of food do to your body, energy levels and productivity.

For example, most of the time, carbs (pasta, rice) will make you sleepy, especially in big portions.

Protein usually makes you full, but it’s really hard to eat a lot in one sitting.

Fats are foods for your brain – they literally feed your brainpower.

Tip 1: If you don’t take Omega 3 fish oils, start. 4-10 a day. After a couple of days you’ll notice a significant increase in mental clarity and processing power.

As with most things, we all respond differently to different types foods. Work out what it is that you eat regularly and see what it does to your metabolism and body and mental processing – and take notes.

Tip 2: Drink lots and lots of water and/or tea.

Tip 3: Eat more green vegetables than you think you’ll need. They help with energy levels.

Mindset

Mindset

Remember that productivity is a habit and that everyone can be productive, with the right strategies, tactics and tools.

If you ever need help with anything – just ask in HipChat. Chances are someone else on the team has had the same problem before and worked it out.

In Closing

For our readers – any questions, comments, thoughts? Ask away!

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1 Comment

Posted by Simon White  | August 23, 2014 at 7:10AM | Reply

Many thanks for a very comprehensive article! I’ve always found your advice to be useful and immediately practicable.

I’ve been taking omega 3 fish oils for a while now, though the ones I take (Seven Seas) state ‘one-a-day’ with an unknown recommended daily allowance. I was wondering what research was behind your recommendation of 4-10 a day, whether through reading or anecdotal.

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