Several months ago I was behind on writing my new book, understandably my publisher was starting to gently apply the pressure to get it finished.
You see I am cursed. Cursed with the concentration span of a goldfish. Cursed to continuously start new things before I have finished the last job. I came to realise that my inability to ‘complete’ has been seriously holding me back.
“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.” ~ Confucius.
Whilst in a recent meeting with Carl Reader, who himself has published a couple of books, I asked how he managed to find the time to focus on writing whilst also juggling with the demands of running a growing business. “It’s simple.” he told me. When he needs to get on with a chunky piece of work, he travels.
He went onto explain that when it comes to creating content, he is more productive on a train than in his office, and will often schedule meetings with his clients based further afield, making full use of the journey time.
This got me thinking about my own productivity and how ineffective I have been with my own time, especially when travelling.
Weeks later I met with Paul Shrimpling, a prolific content creator for the accountancy profession who took me to a lovely delicatessen in Derbyshire, which boasts the best breakfast in the county (It really was good). He shared that he regularly visits there to write, because he is more productive than he is in the office, the ambient noise, the poor telephone signal, no interruptions, all allow him to concentrate, distraction free.
In Paul’s case he is creating the conditions for focused work, and has conditioned himself to be really productive whilst in that environment.
I am sure we have all experienced those moments when we are simply in the zone, when our work seems effortless and we soar through our backlog of outstanding tasks, but what I wanted to know was could I create the conditions to be in the zone more often?
Over the years I have met some really successful entrepreneurs but what always impressed me the most was their ability to ‘get the job done’, to implement, essentially their productivity.
Successful people seem to make every second count. They are organized & task oriented with the ability to focus on one job at a time. This is the behavior I needed to emulate.
So… knowing I had several meetings in my diary a fair distance from the office, I decided to go by train instead.
You may have noticed by the way that Trainline for Business is supporting the Champions site. I confess we are fans and have been using the site since its launch. Travelling by train can be really costly for a small business so the savings from Trainline are really welcomed. However, for this particular exercise I found that by planning ahead, I managed to get first class tickets for the price of economy and figured this would be an even better environment to work.
So off I went on my various travels, and here is what I discovered…
At first I found myself in a carriage with two people intent on sharing their conversation with the whole train. Now whilst this was annoying at first and amusing at times I remembered an app on my phone that plays ambient noise like rainfall, or the ocean which blocks out the rest of the world. For me this works better than music because the moment a good track comes on I’m singing along and focused on that instead (Seriously… a goldfish!).
On my first trip I hadn’t planned ahead and identified the tasks I needed to complete, in this case writing my book. Most of my research was stored online and I was in and out of reception. So lesson learned and I was more prepared for the 2nd trip.
Another area of planning ahead, and a benefit of the Trainline app was booking my seat in advance which resulted in a window seat with power. You can now switch between business and leisure profiles and even better than that, using a mobile ticket… no more queueing at the ticket machine!! I can’t tell you how many times I have nearly missed a train trying to find my booking code.
By my third trip I had noticed I had already conditioned myself to be productive in this environment. Even on shorter journeys now I am able to switch into productive mode and blast through a piece of work.
So here are my five top tips for being productive on the move….
1 – Invest in Back Up Power
One of my most inspired impulse purchases last year was an additional USB power charge for my phone. Small and compact and provides another 2 charges in case of an emergency. Remember to charge all of your devices before you set off also!
2 – Synchronize Your Data
I have now migrated most of the data I need to apps I can use across all of my devices. Using Google Drive or Evernote has meant I am never left wanting for meeting notes, mind maps or to-do lists.
Remember to make a local copy just in case you are without an internet connection, you may even choose to switch off access to avoid those pesky notifications and allow you to remain focused.
3 – Control Your Environment
When travelling your environment can be unpredictable, but I am reminded of the saying ‘Control the Controllables’. You never know who is going to sit in the adjacent seat so remember your headphones! The ambient noise app I use is called Relax Melodies but there several out there which help you block out the world and concentrate.
4 – Plan Ahead
Aside from the obvious things like booking an appropriate seat with power, or a flight/train with Wi-Fi if required, planning also includes having access to the resources you need to complete a task, knowing your travel itinerary.
Schedule all of the time sensitive stuff in your calendar as well as your travel details (Flight details, addresses, contact numbers etc.). Again the Trainline app will keep you up to date with real-time information on delay timings and platform numbers
A few more apps to tell you about;
CityMapper – Helps you plot your route across major cities using all modes of transport
Near Desk – Helps you find co-working spaces across the UK and saves you money (Check out the free offer on the Goodies page).
Some projects definitely lend themselves more to being worked on whilst travelling. If I find myself driving a familiar journey and know the reception is good, I schedule calls. Obviously hands free and voice activated 😉 But I would never do this at an airport with boarding announcements every couple of minutes.
5 – Manage Yourself
When on the move your eating habits can change, sometimes quite radically. I know I have in the past favoured more convenient options over healthy. Eating big meals in restaurants can sit heavy on the stomach and make you more lethargic. So if you know you have things to do, it may be a good strategy to select the healthier option.
The same is true when it comes to being properly hydrated, especially when flying. Caffeine and alcohol can cause swings in your energy levels and I must confess in the past I would overdose on good coffee; then wonder why I was crashing later in the day. By changing my habits, I noticed a considerable change in my concentration levels.
There we have it, a few changes I made thanks to a little inspiration from two very productive people and I am glad to say I finished the book which is out later this year.
Not only have I changed some of my habits and become more focused, I can now create the environment I need to be distraction free when a deadline looms. Miracles do actually happen!