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The Art of Doing Less to Achieve More

The Art of Doing Less to Achieve More - the key to productivity

“You don’t get paid for the hour, you get paid for the value you bring to the hour” – Jim Rohn

Did I RSVP? Maybe a quick cuppa first. A speedy scroll to settle in. He said what?! Ooohhhhhh Mecca’s having a sale!

If your workday is sprinkled with sneaky little time-thieving distractions, you’re not alone. Scientists and other very smart people have spent decades studying human behaviour in an attempt to unlock the secret to focus and productivity. And sure they’ve come up with thousands of great tips and hacks. But what if there was only one thing you needed to do to silence all the distractions, fears, stresses and mental blocks getting in your way – and that one thing was… nothing?

Before we explain, let’s take a little look at the issue. Do a few pleasant distractions and a slightly scatty thought train really pose such a problem?

According to Clockify research, employees experience as many as 56 disruptions per day. When you take into account that it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after an unrelated interruption, it turns out that the average office worker is only productive for two hours and 23 minutes each day. So out of an eight-hour workday, that’s five hours and 37 minutes of each day spent doing… well, stuff that’s not work. Sobering stats – especially if you’re the boss!

Yes, it’s a problem. Distractions and interruptions can wreak havoc on your focus and productivity.

So, what can you do about it?

A quick google will point you to a gazillion approaches, philosophies, tactics and hacks aimed at solving the productivity / focus predicament. From Maslow’s Needs theory and The Pomodoro technique to 90-minute work increments, following the 80/20 rule, silencing notifications, chunking time, batching work, using noise-cancelling headphones… you could try working your way through the endless list and see what sticks.

Or, if you don’t have a few years spare, you could try the deceptively simple solution posed by Performance Strategist, author and keynote speaker Darren Fleming. And that’s to do nothing.

Darren believes that the reason we’re such an unproductive bunch is because we’ve been so focused on trying to fix the distractions outside of us (emails, people, meetings, general time suckers), when we should have been focusing inside of us by fixing our thoughts and reactions to the distraction.

Rather than fighting the internal ‘energetic sensation’ we experience when we encounter a distraction, Darren argues that we need to deactivate that sensation so we’re not driven to follow it. And to deactivate the sensation, all you need to do is sit with it and just let it do its thing. That’s right – just sit with it. Feel the energetic sensation and pay attention to it. Just observe it as it moves through your body. Don’t act. Do nothing.

This goes for anything that’s holding you back. Stressed about your finances? Sit with the energy of it. Feeling like an imposter at work? Just sit with the feeling of it without making a story about it. When something pulls you away from your task, pay attention to what you’re feeling in your body that’s causing your attention to wander, but don’t act on it. Just sit with it.

Darren says that as you’re observing the sensations you’re feeling, you need to trust in the ancient Buddhist principle that nothing in the universe is permanent – everything has a beginning, middle and end. The same is true for the sensations in your body. They’ll rise and eventually fall away, allowing you to refocus on your task, having done nothing more than be 100% present in the moment. It may take 30 seconds, or it may take a few minutes, but it will happen. And by allowing yourself to see the sensations through, you can deactivate the distraction and move on without it triggering you again.

This technique, called Mindset Mastery, combines cutting-edge research and ancient teachings to remove the mental blocks that hold you back – or as Darren explains, it helps you “get out of your own way.”

Simply ‘letting things be’ is a concept wellbeing guru Deepak Chopra also embraces in his international best-selling book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

The fourth spiritual law of success, the Law of Least Effort, is the principle of least action, of no resistance – in Vedic Science, this principle is known as economy of effort or ‘do less and accomplish more.’ It’s based on the fact that nature functions with effortless ease and without intervention – grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Flowers don’t try to bloom, they just bloom. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim. Chopra believes that we should do as nature does, and accept people, situations and events as they are in that moment – and just let them do their thing.

How to successfully do nothing

Darren believes that we’re so used to reacting to distractions that it takes a bit of skill to just observe and ride it through. In his new book, ‘Mindset Mastery: Do Less to Achieve More’ (coming February 2023), he details ‘The Six Don’t’s’ – what not to do when you feel that ‘energetic sensation’ of being pulled away from a task. Darren is happy for us reveal these ahead of his official book release, so with a slight spoiler alert, we present the secrets to successfully doing nothing…

1. Don’t label it. Avoid labelling the sensation in any way at all. When we label a sensation with terms such as frustration, love, anger, excitement or anything else, we are introducing a story. When we say, “I am nervous about presenting” we introduce a story based on a past experience that adds nothing of value to the current situation. It also brings in every other time we were nervous. None of this is helpful, and only serves to increase the noise in your head and the sensations in your body. This makes it harder to just observe.

2. Don’t own it. We own a sensation when we say things like, “This is just how I feel when I have to present.” This is playing victim to what is happening with the sensation. It de-powers you. It then draws you into the story of how this has happened in the past. When we are drawn into the past we are not observing.

3. Don’t judge it. Don’t make the sensation right or wrong. The classic example of this is, “I should be more confident when I present.” When we assume that we should feel different to the way that we do it infers that the way we feel is wrong, which is not the case.

4. Don’t fight it. When the sensation wants to come up, let it. Don’t push it down. It may not be pleasant, but it is inside you. Until you let it come up and experience it, it will remain in you.

5. Don’t justify it. When we justify our feeling of nervousness by saying, “I should be nervous – this is a big presentation!” we are once again bringing in a story. This enables the ego mind to go back to one of its many thought structures such as “life determines one’s experiences”. When we are caught in justifying, we are caught in the thoughts around it, and this does not allow us to experience the sensations.

6. Don’t explain it. It’s tempting to explain the way we feel with a story from the past. “When I last presented to the SLT they tore me to shreds and that is why I feel this way.” Explaining allows us to be the victim and not have to take responsibility for how we are today. While you may have had a less than stellar experience last time, it serves no purpose now. It might remind you to prepare more thoroughly, but you can know you need to be well prepared without having to explain away the sensations you are experiencing.

There’s no doubt that productivity research has heralded some helpful ideas for staying focused and keeping those pesky time thieves at bay. But it’s a bit like playing Whack-a-Mole… you fight the distraction down and it just keeps popping up. So maybe it’s time we learnt how to take the mole completely out of the game. Or hell, not even play the game at all! Tips and hacks are great, but as Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Want Darren Fleming to show your team how they can achieve more by doing less? His Mindset Mastery keynote will give your team the tools they need to eliminate distracting thoughts, be less reactive, remove stress, manage their feelings and become laser focused. Darren’s presentations are always relatable, fun and filled with practical take-aways, making him one of our most in-demand motivational speakers. If you’d like to talk to us about engaging Darren for your next event, get in touch with us now!

16 days of Activism, 365 Days of Action

White Ribbon Day

For more than 30 years, the Global 16 Days Campaign has been used worldwide to call for the elimination of gender-based violence. Kicking off on November 25 every year (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and running until December 10 (Human Rights Day), the campaign is supported by White Ribbon to help eliminate violence against women in Australia.

On Friday November 18, thousands of workplaces around Australia will join White Ribbon Day’s national call to action in support of the Global Campaign, doing their part to help eliminate men’s violence against women.

Violence and abuse against women, including physical, sexual, emotional, cultural and financial abuse, covers a wide range of controlling and intimidating behaviours. It’s an issue not unique to any single Australian workplace – but by providing safe environments for women, driving social change and helping to eliminate violence at work, workplaces are a key part of the solution

White Ribbon Day is your opportunity to be part of a critical global social movement. Together, Australians can turn 16 days of activism into 365 days of action, helping eliminate men’s violence against women – workplace by workplace.

How can you help?

The White Ribbon website provides a number of impactful ways your workplace can get involved, from booking a panel discussion run by White Ribbon educators to organising a White Ribbon Day event. You can also download their Workplace Toolkit for event ideas, social tiles, templates and other resources.

But the greatest way you can help is by igniting a conversation about the issue to help raise awareness of gender-based violence. And one of the best ways to do that is by listening to and learning from those with lived experience of family domestic violence – the victims and the survivors.

We have a number of exceptional motivational speakers ready to share their profoundly personal stories with your team, whose intimate knowledge of the topic will help drive genuine understanding and change in your workplace.

When her 11-year-old son Luke tragically lost his life at the hands of his father, Rosie Batty became a tireless and inspirational crusader against domestic violence. Turning her personal tragedy into a fight to help others, Rosie established The Luke Batty Foundation and launched the Never Alone Campaign, asking all Australians to stand with her and beside all victims of family violence. Rosie’s courageous campaigning earned her the title of Australian of the Year, as well as the Pride of Australia National Courage medal and Order of Australia honours. Her relentless dedication has also seen her inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and named by Fortune Magazine as one of the world’s top 50 greatest leaders.

For over two decades, Kristy has worked with various corporate organisations to help embed family violence policies and practical measures. She has also been instrumental to the Royal Commission into family violence, and provides clarity on the impacts of family violence and systemic inadequacies to Victorian Government councils and taskforces. In recognition of her efforts, Kristy has been inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and is also a proud recipient of an Order of Australia Medal. A courageous survivor, Kristy has empowered many women to speak out, contributing to significant national reform in the process.

Rosie Batty AO and Kristy McKellar OAM are exceptional motivational speakers, with inspiring personal stories guaranteed to ignite important conversations – and help you tackle the issue of violence against women head on. If you’d like us to introduce you, simply get in touch with us for a chat.

How to Create a Thriving Culture in a Remote Workforce

It’s often said that people are the greatest asset in any business. And one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today is creating a thriving culture that attracts, engages and retains the best people. But how do you do that in our new hybrid work world, where connection and connectivity have become so inter-dependent?

Whether by choice or default, flexible work has officially shifted from a perk to an expectation. The Australian Government’s WGEA study found that 92% of employees now want flexibility in where and when they work, while the global EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey reported that 54% would consider leaving their jobs if they’re not afforded that flexibility. And whether they’ve embraced it or just relented, nine out of ten businesses are now committed to offering a combination of remote and on-site work.

Whether it’s the 60+ minutes per day we save on the work commute, the comfort of our old ugg’s or the domestic chores we can slot into our day, many have found plenty to like about remote working.

But isolation, burnout, a lack of spontaneous interaction and a feeling of disconnect are very real. We have a need for human connection like never before, and without the lunch dates and breakroom chats of the office environment, cultivating a good culture and a sense of belonging in a hybrid working environment is a huge challenge.

According to Andrew May, one of the world’s leading performance strategists, “work is no longer somewhere you go, it is something you do.” He believes that “with the massive change and disruption we’ve experienced, comes growth and opportunities to change working models, beliefs and ‘what we do around here.’”

It’s time to seize the opportunity to ‘remake’ your culture and double-down on the employee experience, putting concepts like purpose and connection at the top of the business agenda.

What’s so important about culture?

As renowned management consultant and author Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can have the greatest strategy in the world, but if culture isn’t a huge part of that strategy, your business is never going to succeed.  

Gold standard workplace culture provides job satisfaction, personal growth and fulfilment. It encompasses the way decisions are made, a sense of belonging and loyalty, reward and recognition, communication, staff behaviour and trust, and – when done right – gives businesses a competitive edge.

According to McKinsey research, companies with healthy cultures deliver three times greater total returns to shareholders. A good culture also helps attract and retain the best talent (companies with healthy cultures are 16 times more likely to retain their Gen Z employees) and, just as importantly, culture is the top predictor of workplace satisfaction. And happy workers are 13% more productive than unhappy ones.

So how do you go about creating a thriving culture in a remote workforce?

1. Provide purpose and clarity

A clearly articulated purpose is a powerful thing. According to Glassdoor’s Mission & Culture Survey, 79% of adults analyse a company’s purpose and mission before applying for a job, with over half of them ranking it as more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. Employees are also five times more likely to be excited to work for a company that spends time reflecting on the impact it makes in the world.

The message is resonating with corporates too. According to PwC research, 79% of business leaders agree that their purpose is central to success going forward.

McKinsey research found that people who find purpose at work are healthier, more resilient and more likely to stay at the company. And when that purpose is aligned with their own, they’re more engaged and loyal, reporting work and life outcomes up to five times higher than those of their peers. As Author and social commentator Dan Gregory says, “leaders must align their WHY with the WHY’s of their people”.

But there’s no point having a wonderful purpose if leaders aren’t communicating it, and aren’t clear about how their team can help them achieve it. Stephen Covey created a clever analogy in his book, The 8th Habit. Based on research conducted with over 23,000 employees, he reported that if our organisations were 11-player soccer teams, 4 players knew which goal was theirs, only 2 actually cared which goal was theirs, 2 knew what position they played and 9 were competing against their own team members rather than the opponent. Nightmare.

Clarity helps others understand what they need to do, and why they’re doing what they’re doing.

2. Lead the way

Leadership pioneer Warren G. Bennis once said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”. 

In our hybrid work world, it’s more important than ever for leaders to develop a common vision and goal that enables team members to work together – especially while apart – to help make that vision a reality. They create a thriving culture by providing clarity and direction and then empowering their team members to make it happen.

LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report revealed that communication across remote teams and emotional intelligence ranked as two of the most important skills required for today’s business leaders. Skills essential for creating the right culture with a fragmented workforce and fostering an environment of self-confidence and connection.

Today’s leaders need to be able to cultivate an atmosphere where employees feel that their work matters, that their contribution is valued and that they’re an essential part of the bigger picture. They need to really engage with their team, get to know each individual and what motivates them, create capacity and help them grow and succeed. Dan Gregory relates, saying “leaders must evoke a vivid picture of who you help them to be through the process of executing your strategy.”

Mindfulness and meditation coach Chelsea Pottenger also reminds us that “organisations are built by people. People who need motivation, care and compassion, and whose wellbeing should be as much of a business outcome as profits are.” Thankfully, they’re not mutually exclusive. PWC research shows that every dollar spent on creating a mentally healthy workplace can generate $2.30 in benefits to an organisation. Not a bad return on investment!

Today’s leaders know how to create a happy, healthy culture that’s as good for its people as it is for its bottom line.

3. Make connections count

A sense of belonging, of being part of a team, is one of the biggest benefits of a thriving work culture. But with fewer opportunities for organic social interaction and informal conversation, hybrid arrangements make connecting with co-workers much more of a challenge. Which means you need to make every connection count.

Organisations that prioritise connection reap the rewards when it comes to unifying a hybrid workforce. From building in time for social chats during virtual meetings and scheduling regular check-ins with colleagues, to virtual events, real-time file collaboration (thanks Google) and tech tools like Trello, Slack and Zoom to stay on track, there are plenty of ways to keep teams connected while out of the office.

A McKinsey survey found companies that reported an increase in ‘microtransactions’ – small connections between colleagues, such as opportunities to discuss projects, share ideas, network, mentor and coach – also enjoyed higher productivity. Connection improves engagement levels, and engaged employees are 17% more productive.

To give team culture a real boost, psychologist and best-selling author Dr Amantha Imber recommends building HQCs ‘High-Quality Connections’ (HCQ). HQC’s are shorter-term virtual or face-to-face interactions in which both people feel ‘lit up’ and energised by the connection.

HCQ techniques include: finding uncommon commonalities (you love Kung-Fu movies too? Amazing!), performing a 5-minute favour and asking better questions to get a more meaningful response. Amantha says that while they are extremely powerful, “the beauty of HQC’s is that they don’t require significant time – they can be as simple as a five-minute conversation with someone.”

US management guru Marvin Bower once defined corporate culture as ‘the way we do things around here’ – and, if you’re looking for success in a hybrid work world, it’s never been more important to do it right. While remote work presents some serious challenges, it also provides an incredible opportunity for businesses to remodel their culture into one that people are excited and proud to be a part of. And that’s a recipe for success – as Simon Sinek says, “customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

So how do you create a thriving culture in a remote workforce? It’s a challenge being faced by businesses around the world, and we have some of the most knowledgeable minds in the game ready to share their unique insights. If you’d like us to introduce you to our experts, including Andrew May, Dan Gregory, Chelsea Pottenger, Dr Amantha Imber, Kieran Flanagan and Chris Helder, simply get in touch with us for a chat!