How to Approach Work Like an Olympic Athlete

This Friday we got thinking about all those Olympic athletes and their training regimes. Experts at attaining peak performance athletes understand the importance of mental health, physical health, when to push it and when to relax.

Why does this matter to us desk jockeys?

Well, productivity is a hot workplace topic – according to the CIPD “…output per hour worked is still nearly 2% lower than it was at the start of the recession in 2008.”

So, the importance of knowing when we’re most productive is key not just to business growth, but also personal success.

Here are our tips for performing at your best, whether at work, home or taking the next step in your career.

1. Know your rhythms

This means both workplace rhythms and personal ones.

Creating routines that help, not hinder, your productivity will give you a productive edge. Tweet: Creating routines that help, not hinder, your productivity will give you a productive edge. @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView goo.gl/340Rsv
Getting down to that detailed report on Friday afternoon surrounded by ever more relaxed and chatty colleagues when you’re champing for the weekend probably won’t work, for example.

2. Make the most of time pockets

You know those 10 – 15 time slots where you’re waiting for a client / travelling to a meeting / experiencing a lull?

Well, it’s a good idea to have a list of small tasks you can complete in a few minutes – you know those little things that hang around on your To Do list taunting you.

Tony Crabbe, author of Busy: How To Thrive In A World Of Too Much advises that this ‘machine-gunning’ approach to work can be useful when we feel overwhelmed, as short tasks are easily completed and the designated time slot gives you a deadline and sense of urgency.

3. Block book interruptions

Whenever you’re interrupted it takes time to get back into the swing of things again.

So, instead of asking Sheila in accounts three separate questions, if they’re not urgent try keeping a list and ask them all at once.

That way you minimise interruptions on both sides as well as the likelihood of getting into three separate chats – after all workers also said their biggest time drain at work was chatting to colleagues!

4. See the bigger picture

Sometimes you’re not productive because the task at hand just doesn’t float your boat – reconciliations anyone? Yep.

Instead of leaving a rubbish task to deadline pressure try taking a bird’s eye view instead. Tweet: Instead of leaving a rubbish task to deadline pressure try taking a bird’s eye view. @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView goo.gl/340Rsv
When you see how a task fits into your overall work or project, and how integral it is to doing your work well in the long run, you’re more likely to feel inspired to bite the bullet.

5. Work in smaller chunks

We mentioned about stockpiling tiny tasks to fill small slots of time, but what if you’ve got a mammoth project oodles of time and nil enthusiasm?

One way to tackle a task like this is to start small. Try allocating 25 minutes as in the Pomodoro Technique, say. Begin it, eat into it, get a handle on it. Find the Pomodoro tomato timer here.

You’ll be surprised how hard you can focus when you know it’s just for a short time. Plus, often, once you start you can’t stop!

6. Change it up

Staring out the window or at that blank wall can be enthusiasm sapping.

Why not take some work to a cafe? Simply go sit in a quiet meeting room? Or ask about working more flexibly?

If a change of scene isn’t an option you could try listening to upbeat music or creating a more conducive background noise via an ambient noise generator like Hipster Sound – all the benefits of the cafe without the people, or the food…

7. Take a break

As we said at the start of this tip list. No-one is productive 24/7 and neither should they be.

So, if you’re feeling a bit off maybe you need to step away from the work and recharge.

It might sound like an oxymoron but breaks can help you recharge, reduce your negative self-talk, and warm up to tasks that you’re resistant to completing.

For more on the importance of breaks and how the workplace is behind athletes in valuing downtime as part of the productivity cycle check out Huffington Post Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Arianna Huffington, speaking at the Upside of Downtime Forum 2015 here.

Like Albert Einstein said often the best ideas come when you’re not actually at work. Tweet: Like Albert Einstein said often the best ideas come when you’re not actually at work. @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView goo.gl/340Rsv

8. Write a list the night before

Business guru Marie Forleo swears by writing a list before bed each night listing 3 things she’s going to do the next day. Yep, not 100 things. Just. Three.

That way you’re ready to go when you get back to work, instead of being victim to the first email that hits your inbox.

If you’re a paperless kind of person try TeuxDeux to keep track of your three actions.

9. Switch it off!

Social media updates, emails, phone calls all cause attention deficit. One way to deal with information overload is to schedule. Tweet: One way to deal with information overload is to schedule. @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView goo.gl/340Rsv
Try checking your email at certain times of day as per your productivity rhythm, for example, and switch off notifications. While apps like Unroll.me allow you to assign chosen email subscriptions to come at a time to suit you in one email roundup.

While tools like Boomerang for Gmail let you decide when you send and receive email messages; as well as sending you reminders to follow up.

10. Move it!

Being sedentary isn’t just bad it’s killing us says James A Levine author of Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You And What You Can Do About It.

He suggests that standing and stepping away from your desk can help improve blood sugar and blood pressure levels, while also helping us to de-stress, thus regaining a sense of personal power and improving your productivity!

Oh, and maintaining your health!

Next Steps: When do you feel most productive? How do you get inspired at work? If you’re looking for a new challenge let us know!

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