Abigail Ireland specialises in enabling high-achieving individuals and businesses to take performance to the next level - yet do so with more energy, more focus and less stress.
Abigail has coached, trained and advised leaders, individuals and teams across Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. She has worked with clients in all sectors, from banking, finance and professional services through to technology, luxury goods and healthcare.
By taking an integrated approach - incorporating Mind, Body and Business factors - Abigail provides the strategies and structures to build high-performance habits. Her proprietary peak performance programme is designed to provide everything you need to function at best. Her work is based on a comprehensive blend of science, research, psychology, experience and continuous testing.
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[00:00:29] Abi: Your brain's getting confused going, "is this the place where I sleep? am I going into wind down mode? because as soon as I sit down on the sofa, that's relaxation time, or are you telling me because I've got the laptop that I need to get in to get up and get focused?"
[00:00:41] Abi: We're still in a situation where people seem to be running around all the time. Never having enough time, burning out, not having work-life balance, all of those things that we should be able to have.
[00:00:51] Abi: I used to like having lists, but then I ended up with lots of different lists or the list would just keep multiplying and I redo the list the next day and spend more time creating the lists than actually getting the work done.
[00:01:01] Scott: In this episode with Abigail Ireland, we discuss how your brain gets confused when working from home and what to do about it, the simpler, and more effective alternative to, to-do lists and much more.
[00:01:14] Scott: Hi, Abi, welcome to the podcast. Really glad to have you here for the benefit of our listeners. Would you mind just introducing yourself, please?
[00:01:22] Abi: Sure. Hi Scott. Great to be here my name's Abi Ireland and I run a peak performance consultancy called Understanding Performance.
[00:01:31] Abi: This particular business focusing on peak performance, I have been doing for the last six years and before that I had a career in banking. So for around 10 years before I left and ventured out on my own and over the last few years, I've pretty much trained and coached people all over the world, , in all different industries and love what I do.
[00:01:52] Scott: And what triggered that transition for you from banking, where you naturally helping people whilst you were doing the day job and then decided to go out alone and make it your own business?
[00:02:02] Abi: Yeah, I think I've always wanted to do my best, from an early age, I was always wanting to do better than I thought I could. For example, when I was at school and it was, you need a pass mark of something to just pass I was never thinking about that pass mark it was always just, "how can I be the best I can be?" Or "how can I get the best outcome?"
[00:02:21] Abi: It wasn't about the bare minimum. I think that kind of went through in terms of my career when I was in banking, I always wanted to have my own business at some point. And I didn't particularly know what exactly that was going to be, and that's why I did a degree in business and it kind of went from there.
[00:02:38] Abi: So I was working in Australia, in banking and I got really into my fitness and my health whilst I was out there cause I was in Sydney and it's just that kind of environment where everyone is into their health. And I did, I started studying and doing my personal training qualification.
[00:02:52] Abi: I did nutrition coaching. I got really into that. And that was whilst I was in banking. And I remember back in 2008, when I was very early on in my career, I had looked into nutrition. And finding out more about that all the way back then. And it was just something that I never did at the time, but it was obviously always at the back of my mind.
[00:03:11] Abi: After I left banking, it was thinking "I love doing the fitness side, I love business, I love learning about nutrition, I love learning about the mind". I couldn't do all of it separately and mishmashed it together into what I do today. In terms of peak performance, and it's really looking at it from three strands.
[00:03:27] Abi: It's how do you be at your best in terms of your mindset, your psychology, and then looking at your physiology. So rest, sleep, nutrition, exercise. Human performance, essentially the things that make up human performance, and then looking at it from a productivity side. So the business side, how do you actually make sure that you manage yourself as effectively as possible at work?
[00:03:48] Scott: And have you seen, COVID having a big impact in your clients in terms of their health and their wellbeing? I know personally I've been going to the fridge a bit too often since I've been working from home. So how's that been for you in terms of your customers maybe needing more help from you?
[00:04:03] Abi: Definitely. Yeah. COVID has made people realize how important those non-work things are such as your health, connection, being with other people, looking after your mental health. Headspace, all of those kinds of things. And I think because people have slowed down and started to recognize that, or step into that more, they then want more of that going forward.
[00:04:25] Abi: Even if we go back to a full-on, back to the office environment or in this hybrid way of working. I think it's still going to be something that people have front of mind. Whereas before we were in this rat race, everyone was just doing what they need to do. Busy, busy, busy, not necessarily productive.
[00:04:40] Abi: And I think over the last couple of years, people have really taken more of a focus in terms of "actually in order to be at my best, I need to look after myself". And you mentioned Scott eating and going to the fridge. We all do it. I think I've done it as well. But the most important thing is recognizing actually, "what can I put in the fridge to make sure that I'm not picking out things that are not good options?
[00:05:00] Abi: And I think people have started to be more savvy about that and recognize if you want to be productive. If you want to perform at a high level, you need to consider everything in a holistic way.
[00:05:10] Scott: I'm guessing that includes, as you mentioned earlier, sleep being one of the biggest factors, you can just be screwed for the rest of the day, frankly, if you don't get a good sleep in my experience.
[00:05:19] Abi: Yeah. I've read studies, which basically say, if you don't have enough sleep the impact is almost worse than, drinking and your alcohol levels being over the limit. So sleep has a massive impact. And only last week I noticed that myself, I had quite a late night getting some work done and I went to bed just before midnight, which is for me quite late. Normally I'm kind of like 10, 10:30 wanting to get to sleep. And I went to the gym the next morning. I was rubbish. Couldn't even lift enough. Couldn't do as much as I would do another day. And then this week I had a really good night's sleep and it made a big difference and, you know, sleep is something I'm focusing on a lot this year because I think sleep is one of those under estimated factors. We do it every day. We don't think about it, but it's probably the one that matters the most more than nutrition and an exercise I would say if anything.
[00:06:07] Scott: And do you think there's been a shift in the recognition of that? Because I know there used to be and probably still is in some areas, this whole culture of "I'm so busy the work is super important. I only need a few hours sleep and I just work late all the time. I just commit and I get on with it."
[00:06:24] Scott: It used to be seen as a bit of a badge of honor. Do you think that's changed?
[00:06:27] Abi: Yeah, it's the long hours, the late nights, it's definitely becoming less of a focus. And, we're seeing even in the UK, the trialing of four day weeks now being something that's starting to get traction. So we'll see how that goes. I remember even when I was in banking and in earlier days in my career, I was working long hours, late nights, and you'd be looking at Excel financial models at midnight, which was not the best thing to be doing because I could've come in the next morning and had much more focus and been able to do that better than dragging things out when it's late at night and you're feeling really tired.
[00:07:02] Abi: But I think there are still pockets where people think "oh, I work long hours and this shows that I'm, in a, in a really important job", but, things are definitely starting to change.
[00:07:13] Abi: Unfortunately, there is still not the recognition. There's a recognition that, oh yes, sleep is important or nutrition's important. Or looking off to your mind is important at a surface level.
[00:07:24] Abi: But when it comes down to organizations actually implementing this, very few, still do it. You know, companies like Google have sleep pods in the buildings.
[00:07:32] Abi: And sometimes people who are great at and not having a lot of sleep during the night are really good at power napping as well. So they still get the sleep somewhere a lot of the time. And if not short term, it will be in the longer term that people are going to start to notice the negative impacts on health and wellbeing.
[00:07:51] Abi: So I think it's something that we need to be very aware of at an early age and at an early stage.
[00:07:56] Scott: And how much do you think companies are still putting pressure on employees to work those long hours? It's kind of expected of them because my career before was mostly public sector and it was, there was a good work life balance. Very rarely did I have to work late or a weekend.
[00:08:11] Scott: But if I did, it was usually of my own doing, because I just wanted to get something done or had a deadline, but it wasn't the norm. Whereas I've got friends who, even now they're expected to work those extra long hours, weekends, be on call, take calls when they're on holiday. And that just seems alien to me.
[00:08:27] Scott: This doesn't seem healthy and I'd say to them, "so you're getting paid for these extra hours you're doing?" "oh no, no, I don't get paid. It's just, just kind of expected." Did you see that in banking? And you see that with clients? Is that still the expectation because you're paid so much money, you're expected to do more than you're actually, you know, scheduled to do?
[00:08:46] Abi: A hundred percent did experience that myself and sometimes, you know, what Scott sometimes it was my own doing, I was trying to be a perfectionist. I was trying to make something really, really good. Maybe I was trying to learn something. So it took a bit longer in those earlier years. So definitely some of it was self-inflicted, but, there was, there were expectations because if you were client facing, for example, and a deal had to be done. And there was a deadline, for example, the client was going on holiday. And so the deal had to be done before their holiday, which was great for them. Not great for us. You would have to sometimes work late nights or the weekend, cancel your plans, come into the office to get things done.
[00:09:24] Abi: It wasn't ideal in the earlier years, it was okay because you were learning and it was exciting, but I think as time goes on, you think this isn't sustainable, eating badly, all of those kinds of things come into it, you know, late nights in the office having takeaway. And there are definitely more options nowadays, but there are a lot of companies, unfortunately, that know that people are going to get to a point where they can't do it anymore, but they know that people are going to also join the organization. So they're kind of factoring that in and it will hopefully change over time because people have had huge health, repercussions from really long hours.
[00:09:57] Abi: There is actually a term in Japan for people who die from overworking " Kiroshi" and that is surprising. The fact that it is, it's obviously something that happens, but that's happened in Western society as well. I think there was one case where someone who worked in a big investment bank, young person did die from overworking. They were working straight, no sleep for over 24 hours.
[00:10:16] Abi: Companies are starting to recognize "actually we need to do more to make sure that people aren't in these situations and as younger people are coming in as well, they're more likely to speak up and push back on those things compared to probably when I started in my career where you just kind of did what you just did, what needed to be done without really thinking about that.
[00:10:34] Abi: There's more awareness these days. Most definitely.
[00:10:36] Scott: Yeah. And you hear about the great resignation and people saying, actually, if you're not offering remote work, I'll go somewhere else. And I guess that would also tie into people's expectations on what's a healthy job and a healthy work environment.
[00:10:49] Scott: It's quite worrying to hear what you said that companies are factoring in this turnover that, "oh, well, we can burn these people out 'cause it'll be all right. And then we'll get some new people, some new blood in, and then we can burn them out as well" and go through this continuous cycle. That's just really not good.
[00:11:03] Abi: At the end of the day, a lot of companies are focused on the bottom line and, uh, that is also changing. But as long as they have that mindset of "we can replace people", then it's very hard to convince them to focus on sustainable high-performance over high-performance, but there is a risk of burnout and people just leaving or burning out, leaving the organization.
[00:11:24] Abi: So it's about convincing people actually. "Do you want people to stay? Do you want good people to stay? do you want to squeeze as much out of them as possible and then have to recruit a whole new load of people later on?"
[00:11:36] Scott: What would you say is the biggest challenge you're seeing right now with the companies that you're working with?
[00:11:41] Abi: The most challenging thing for companies at the moment is firstly, in terms of the ways of working, it's going to this hybrid model. People going into a new, it is a new way of working for a lot of people where some people are fully remote. Some are coming to the office. Some are some days in the office, some days working from home and just trying to get the balance right between making sure that everyone is connected as possible.
[00:12:03] Abi: People are able to work in a way that everyone can move towards a common goal together. Whilst trying to communicate effectively with everyone in those various different ways. I guess that's one of the biggest challenges. It's that unprecedented time we're in at the moment and also uncertainty, of what's going to potentially come next.
[00:12:20] Abi: We're in a world where I think there was a lot of uncertainty on many different levels. And so in terms of. Thinking about all of the different elements that are required for top performance. It's "how do we get our teams to work well together? How do we accommodate the different generations that are in an organization these days ?"
[00:12:39] Abi: I don't even know the different generations in terms of gen Z millennials the baby boomers everyone is an organization at the same time. Then you have different types of organizations that are coming in and different ways of working. So I think one of the biggest challenges is thinking, "how do we please everyone at the same time?"
[00:12:56] Scott: Yeah, that sounds like a challenge.
[00:12:59] Abi: yeah. Big challenge
[00:13:00] Scott: They'll want to work in different ways. They learn differently. Use technology differently. It'll be quite varied.
[00:13:06] Abi: Yeah. So there's a lot to it when you're thinking, " how do we create a high performing team?" Because there are so many different preferences. People want to also work in the style that suits them best, which makes complete sense. And a lot of the work I do is around thinking about the way you work.
[00:13:22] Abi: What time of day do you work best? When are you at your most productive? When are you in that slump mode? It's all about your chronotype and really everyone is different, but at the end of the day, companies have structure. So you need to have times where everyone comes together, or everyone is in the office at the same time, perhaps to create that team spirit.
[00:13:41] Abi: And that's where we need to think about "how do we do that in the best way possible?"
[00:13:46] Scott: cause you certainly see in the media most days, there's something about one company has decided to do the four day week, as you just said, or one company is saying "all of you , you need to come back to the office as soon as possible!" I think Alan sugar said something the other day in the media?
[00:14:00] Abi: I saw that. He said everyone was lazy git. I think something like that. I was surprised. And I think it's a shame that someone like Alan sugar has that mindset, because I don't know about you, but I definitely don't agree with that. Face time you have to be in the office to be working and coming from someone who had a computer business, it's weird that he thinks you have to physically be somewhere to get something done. It would have been the case 30 years ago when we didn't have. Internet connection at home and, the ability to work from home, but that kind of legacy mindset's really interesting that it still is coming through today.
[00:14:34] Scott: And how have you found it personally that going from an office nine to five or nine to 10, depending how hard they had you working to being self-employed how's that transition been for you?
[00:14:44] Abi: I love it. I think what I've realized the most important thing for me is autonomy and having control over my life and that freedom to do things and doing things like today, having doing this podcast and on Friday, I'm doing a photo shoot and next week I might do some email marketing content.
[00:15:01] Abi: There's all different things. You're not limited, essentially when you are running your own thing. And you get to work with great people, you get to choose who you work with as well, which means one of the selling points in terms of clients, but also who you collaborate with who you meet with.
[00:15:16] Abi: It's all out of choice. And for me, that's one of the most important factors is having that freedom, having that choice to do what I want to do. So, yeah I love it.
[00:15:25] Scott: So, what about the downsides? What are the challenges you're finding?
[00:15:28] Abi: One of the biggest downsides to working for yourself. And it's probably what also led to me starting this business. Is not having a boss to tell you what to do. In fact, you are your own boss, so you can sometimes be your worst boss or the best boss. I can give myself time off but also I can put a lot of pressure on myself to get a lot of things done.
[00:15:48] Abi: And then I don't have someone to actually push me to get those things done by certain deadlines. So really it's about thinking about creating that self-discipline when you work for yourself and everything I do around performance and productivity is based on what I've tested, what works for me, what doesn't work for me sharing with my clients.
[00:16:06] Abi: But the dynamics of what I do blends really well into my personal life. So everything I do in my personal life, Exercise, choosing what to eat, how I test and experiment with sleep. For example, all those kinds of things feed into my work. And then my work, the more I learn myself and the more I do with my clients, the more I can use that in my personal life as well.
[00:16:27] Abi: I kind of love the way that the two go together, but the biggest challenge would have to be. If you love what you do, you will motivate yourself to move forward. If you don't love it, you could easily give up. So I'm just glad that I love what I do.
[00:16:41] Scott: So I'm similar to you. I'm self-employed and have been for about a year now and yeah, the, the being your own boss thing. And being a good boss and a bad boss yourself is it's quite dangerous for me cause I'm a bit of a procrastinator. So I think, "oh, I'll have a rest day today and I'll do that tomorrow."
[00:16:58] Scott: So having the self-discipline to do the stuff that you don't want to do, like I've got accounting to do, paperwork vs the stuff you actually really enjoy doing. So, yeah, it's tough not having everyone else to do that for you, unless you want to outsource it as you said, but that can be quite challenging.
[00:17:13] Abi: Yeah, I think in the earlier years, when I started my business, I was trying to do it all myself. Then you realize you are wearing about 20 hats. You're the accountant, the marketing person, the sales person, the content creator, the facilitator. You're everything. You can't do it all. But it was valuable to do that stuff as well.
[00:17:32] Abi: So for me, I'm always someone who wants to know how something works. So before I outsource to someone else, I need to understand a little bit about it, to think. " Could I do this myself? Is it a good use of my time? Is it better to outsource?" And aligned to that whole concept of productivity. And Scott you will be doing this yourself.
[00:17:48] Abi: It's thinking. "What is one hour of my time worth it? Am I better off outsourcing versus trying to do something myself?" So things like bookkeeping, I now do not do myself. I send the receipts and everything, that was taking a lot of my time. And it was also one of the tasks that you need to think about what energizes you and what drains you.
[00:18:07] Abi: So things like doing my accounting was really draining me was not fun, was not enjoyable. And now I don't do it anymore. It just makes me feel a lot better. So I feel like I've got more head space to focus on what is going to drive my business forward in the future. But yeah, outsourcing is a really good thing to do as much as you can, but you don't have to do it immediately.
[00:18:27] Scott: Yeah. And there's plenty of places you can outsource now with sites like Fiverr and Upwork. And, you know, I, I like to dabble with graphic design and I spent a while playing around with some logo ideas for the podcast, but I'm not very good. So I decided to outsource the design to someone on Fiverr and it costs me 25 quid and I saved hours of time, for something that wouldn't have got anything anywhere near as good as what I've got now.
[00:18:52] Abi: It's seeing the connection between. What you enjoy what you're good at, what people are going to pay for what your skill set is, all of those things together. And making sure that you focus on that because otherwise you can spend literally 90% of your time on things that are going to drain you on things that aren't moving your business forward and a year can pass.
[00:19:12] Abi: I spent ages just trying to redo my website, but I've got to the point where I'm now thinking," just focus, outsource when you can, and just focus on what's important to you", and then you just feel good as well. You're aligned to your purpose, you doing something, you enjoy it, it propels you. So it's almost like a snowball effect. It makes you move even faster and bigger and better essentially.
[00:19:32] Scott: I'd just like to go back to the remote work and hybrid working again. There's probably a lot of people listening that have been going through this transition or, or their organization's still trying to work out the best way to make this hybrid work set up. So I just wonder if you got any tips for people that may be struggling a bit with a, either a hybrid setup or a fully remote setup.
[00:19:55] Scott: You get different views from people. Some people think it's the best thing ever to happen to them. And some people are struggling. So yeah, if you've got any tips to share with those people that may be struggling?
[00:20:04] Abi: For me, I think it's always about variety. I think whatever you do, you can get complacent over time and lose that productivity. So even when I first started working at home versus working in an office or somewhere where there's an open plan and there are lots of people around.
[00:20:19] Abi: I was great at first. And then over time, things start to creep in like, you start going to the fridge five times an hour, or you start to do all sorts of other things going on to YouTube or seeing other distractions or going and having a chat with someone else in another room or whatever else.
[00:20:35] Abi: And for me, I think it's about pattern interrupt. So having a switch of scenery to make sure that you are as focused as you can be, and also thinking for different types of tasks. Think about the settings. So for example, if I'm trying to do something where I'm going to deep work, deep focus, uh, just working on some content, for example, I'm happy to sit in the office and just do that.
[00:20:57] Abi: But if, for example, I need to do something creative. I might go, "actually, I need to go outside. I need to go for a walk. I need to be somewhere where the room looks a bit more colorful and creative to stimulate my mind in some way". And so. Changing scenery for different things can be really helpful. I've had times pre pandemic, and even now where I think I just need to clear my emails, but it's one of those tasks that just seems to go on forever.
[00:21:21] Abi: So sometimes I'll go to a cafe, just take my iPad. Clear the email. And not look at anything else. It's, that's just the time to do that and I heard someone say something really good. I don't know who it was, so I can't quote them, but someone had basically said they take their laptop to a coffee shop or something, and they do the clearing with emails, or they do a specific task, but they don't plug it in.
[00:21:41] Abi: So, you've only got as much time as your battery will last and so it gives that sense of urgency. So you're not going to start getting distracted and doing all sorts of other things. You just focus on that one task, but compartmentalizing, I find to be really useful.
[00:21:56] Scott: So for someone who's entirely remote, then you would suggest, going to places like coworking spaces or coffee shops, rather than just being sat at home. Hopefully people still aren't struggling on their dining table getting a bad back. But I know during the pandemic, everyone had to find somewhere to work in the house.
[00:22:14] Scott: Some are fortunate. They had a room already they could convert, some were just doing it on the sofa. I was even on a few video calls with people that were just sat up in bed. One time someone was still in their pajamas.
[00:22:24] Abi: Oh, wow. That's so funny. But that's one of the worst things anchoring is really important as well. So it's something I talk about a lot thinking about the workspace that you have, even if you have to work at the dining room table, don't work from the same chair that you would then have your dinner or your lunch or your breakfast one, because your brain is very good at anchoring to specific places. So if, for example, you sit on the sofa, you sit in bed and you start using your laptop. Your brain's getting confused going, "is this the place where I sleep? am I going into wind down mode? because as soon as I sit down on the sofa, that's relaxation time, or are you telling me because I've got the laptop that I need to get in to get up and get focused?"
[00:23:02] Abi: We're not going to be good at either thing. If we're doing that and kind of sitting on the sofa so best thing to do is think a hundred percent of your time on the sofa in bed is for relaxation and use a different space for work. And then you can create better boundaries as well. Otherwise your brain might start to go, "oh, you're sitting in bed, it's time to work" and you're not gonna be able to sleep well. And then that has repercussions the next day. So really clear clarity about those boundaries, goes a long way.
[00:23:30] Scott: That was really helpful. And I didn't know that, and that explains why I appreciate our lesson is cannot see, but there's a drum kit behind me and I use this room I'm in for work. And I've always been wondering why I've spent much less time playing the drums during COVID one. I've been at home more. And it's clearly because I associate this room with work and when I'm not working, I don't want to sit in the room anymore.
[00:23:52] Abi: That's interesting.
[00:23:53] Scott: So that's really opened my eyes to why I'm not playing the drums, but there's nowhere else to move them to. So I don't know what I'm going to do about that.
[00:24:00] Abi: So simple thing. What you could do there is have almost a change of scenery in terms of having a screen or something. So you've got a great background, but you could have a screen up or something where you go "The screens coming down. It's now drum time" , "The screen is going up it's work time". And so even in terms of what you can see when you're on camera, you can see the drum kit behind you.
[00:24:21] Abi: It's a nice talking point, but it's about thinking, what can I do to make that space over there for relaxation and this space or the screen can hide your computer. So you actually don't see the work, anything like that that can help will, will definitely help your brain not to get into that thining.
[00:24:38] Scott: That's really helpful. I'll try that. Or a giant blanket.
[00:24:42] Abi: I was speaking to someone the other day and he has something called a drop top company. So it's basically like a picture frame and you can bring it down and it becomes the desk for when you're doing work.
[00:24:52] Abi: And when you've finished your work. You put it back up and it just looks like a picture which is really clever for then changing a room. So it's not always a workspace and you completely forget, you know, you can have a picture of your cats or your kids or your family on the picture, but then when you open it up, it's work.
[00:25:10] Abi: When you put it away, there's nothing that reminds you to trigger the brain to go, oh, it's work time
[00:25:15] Scott: so, what would you sayare the things that make people less productive, you hear a lot about being more productive, what are the things we're actually holding people back in your experience?
[00:25:24] Abi: One of the most interesting things that I discovered recently, I did a LinkedIn survey, and I just asked people what makes you really unproductive, what impacts your productivity? And interestingly, I had things like meetings, managers, notifications, all those external factors that you typically think get in the way of you being able to just get your head down and get things done.
[00:25:46] Abi: The last thing I had was my own monkey mind, essentially. So your own internal factors that get in the way, perhaps and 42% of people put that down as the reason. And I was quite surprised it was so high. Cause I would have thought those external things such as the meetings or too much work, that you can even do in the time we're going to be the things that impacted productivity, but it was a lot of it's down to ourselves.
[00:26:08] Abi: And so if it's down to ourselves, it means we can do something about it. It's in our control. And a lot of people don't realize how much is in their control. So things like being able to say "no" manage expectations, work in better ways. And with the work you do, Scott in that agile way of working, a lot of that will feed into it.
[00:26:28] Abi: People tend not to then take control. They know that it's up to them. They know it's because of themselves. And yet we're still in a situation where people seem to be running around all the time. Never having enough time, burning out, not having work-life balance, all of those things that we should be able to have.
[00:26:43] Abi: If we acknowledge that it's up to us, it's in our control.
[00:26:46] Scott: And what do you think is behind that in terms of what's holding people back? Is it the busy-ness distraction? Cause I know I do it and the people I've been training recently, it's easy to jump onto easier tasks, like deal with some emails than the hard piece of work that requires you to put a lot of effort in.
[00:27:02] Scott: Alan talked about it on the last show. Forgotten the term that he used to describe it, but you choose an easier task so you can achieve something rather than, than the hard task, because that's the thing you should really be working on. That's the high value thing, but you choose the easier path.
[00:27:16] Abi: Yeah, we all do it. Keeping busy makes us feel like we are being productive. And there is a big difference between busy and productive because essentially being productive means we do something that has an impact. We end the day feeling accomplished in some way. And best thing to do is think about. Doing that challenging thing or the thing we're putting off do at first, there's a term called eat that frog. Essentially if you eat the live frog, have the low frog first thing in the morning, nothing else will be as bad. And basically what I always say is put that most important task into the calendar. First thing, get it done or start on it. Even if it's five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes a day over a week, that's going to be 15 minutes a day is going to add up. It's going to be over an hour a week that you're making progress. You're going to have around five hours a month where you've moved towards something, rather than this all or nothing approach we tend to have.
[00:28:05] Abi: We go, "I'll wait until I've got all the time. or I'll wait until I have a full day where I can work on this task" and it never happens so incremental chipping away at something is much more effective.
[00:28:17] Scott: Yeah, I've certainly found when I've managed to eat the hypothetical frog in the morning. Even if the rest of the day hasn't gone to plan, I've still been kind of buzzing for the rest of the day. Cause I did that really important thing this morning. And you can remember that. So it was hard, but I did it, it was only an hour's work potentially, but I found that I get a lot more done later in the day because I was riding on the wave of that small success.
[00:28:40] Abi: Yeah, you feel great at the end of the day, you feel that sense of accomplishment. And a lot of the time we finish a week and you look back and go, "what do I do this week? I don't really know what I did, but I was really busy" and that's what a lot of us do. You speak to someone you go "how's your week been" and "how are you getting on?"
[00:28:56] Abi: "Oh, I'm just really busy." That's the kind of default phrase we all fall into. And over the last few years, I've been very conscious of not using that phrase because busy to me is not a positive thing, even though I feel that I'm always at capacity. A lot of the time, I think being busy. Does not connect to being productive.
[00:29:17] Abi: So we've got to be smarter about how we use our time and really over time, what can happen is we actually end up doing less, but having a much bigger impact. So doing that kind of 20%, that leads to that 80% of results. If we work in a smart way,
[00:29:32] Scott: So one of the things that I know some people struggle with is there's all sorts of different ways to manage your time or try to, to-do lists there's apps for your phone and productivity planners and all sorts of stuff. What have you found is the best thing that works for you and your clients?
[00:29:48] Abi: there's so many different things that you can use. And even to the extent of bullet journals, where people are designing their own pages every day. And to be honest, I always think sometimes we over-complicate things. And if you really want to get something done, get it done.
[00:30:01] Abi: For me lists are great for people who like to tick things off. And I used to like having lists, but then I ended up with lots of different lists or the list would just keep multiplying and I redo the list the next day and spend more time creating the lists than actually getting the work done.
[00:30:15] Abi: One of the best things that I started to do over the last few years is basically every time you get an email where there's an action that you need to do a big action, for example, rather than ignoring it or leaving it in the inbox and thinking" I'm going to look at it later", take the action out and put it into your calendar somewhere to actually do it.
[00:30:33] Abi: So you've allocated time to get it done. So it's no longer forgotten in the inbox, but you're actually going to plan to get it done. And the other really good thing to do is to take your to-do list and move it completely into your calendar, which means that if you have a list of five things you want to get done in a day, when you put them into your calendar and schedule them in, you actually can see whether they are doable to fit in.
[00:30:56] Abi: In the time that you have, and more often than not, you'll realize that you've over committed. If something's going to take you two hours to do, or you've estimated two hours, it might even take you two and a half or three hours putting in contingencies for all of these different tasks that we have is going to be really important.
[00:31:11] Abi: But by taking the to-do list and putting it into the calendar we're making it come to life a little bit more. So you know where you're using your time effectively. And not just having meetings in the calendar, because at the end of the day, your time is your time. So whether you've got a meeting here and a meeting there, and then a gap in the middle, which is for your to-do list, often those gaps get filled by other things.
[00:31:32] Abi: If you don't put your to-do list into your calendars for me the to do list in the calendar, plotting it in and scheduling is one of the best things you can do to manage yourself more effectively during the day.
[00:31:42] Scott: Brilliant. I've tried all sorts of different things myself and found that I keep coming back to just putting in the calendar seems to work. If I'm working on pieces of work that are specific, I use Trello as a way of organizing work. But I've seen people with post-it notes all over their desk and different lists.
[00:31:59] Scott: And "which list is that on again?" You lose the point of trying to be more productive. You get sucked into the whole productivity porn, shall I say? And there's loads of people quite obsessed with it. And there's loads of videos on YouTube and all sorts, but yeah, keep it simple usually works.
[00:32:14] Abi: And things like apps. They're great if they are simple and they are useful, but if they are more complicated to learn how to use, and you're not even seeing them because they're on the phone, then you're looking at your phone, you get distracted. I'm not sure how effective it is, but everyone's different.
[00:32:28] Abi: That's the key thing about productivity. Everyone has a different, what works for me approach and you've got to experiment. And if something doesn't work for you, don't force it. Just go. "This hasn't worked for me. I've tried it. I've tried it enough." Realize it doesn't work. "I'm going to go back to doing something else" and finding peace with that.
[00:32:47] Scott: If you had one book you could take with you on a desert island that you'd recommend to our listeners, what would it be?
[00:32:53] Abi: A tricky question because these days I just read a lot of business books, and personal development books. I know that's a bit boring. I really like the Alchemist . It's a story about a boy who goes on a quest to find something it's a really nice story with lots of different layers and learnings, key learnings from it.
[00:33:11] Abi: I probably should listen to it again. I listened to it on Audible because I liked the storytelling on audible, but, it's a nice story to remind you of what's important. And sometimes we're kind of seeking something that when we, we have it all along, essentially.
[00:33:24] Scott: Thanks Abi that's great. I'll make sure I put a link to that book in the show notes.
[00:33:30] Scott: So if anybody wants to work with you, how do they get hold of you?
[00:33:33] Abi: My website is www.understandingperformance.com. And you can also find me on LinkedIn just to Abigail Ireland I should be one of the first people on there, hopefully. But you can find me in those two ways, so on my websites or at Abigail Ireland on LinkedIn.
[00:33:49] Scott: Brilliant. And I'll put those links in the show notes for the listeners as well. Abby, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been great to have you.
[00:33:57] Abi: Great to chat to you, Scott. Thank you.
[00:33:59] Scott: A big, thank you for listening to the Rebel Diaries show. Your time is precious, so thank you. It is appreciated.
[00:34:06] Scott: We've got more amazing guests lined up so be sure to subscribe for next week's episode.
[00:34:10] Scott: The full show notes and links to things we've discussed can be found on the website, www.rebeldiaries.net.
[00:34:16] Scott: Finally, it would really help us out if you can spread the word with your friends and colleagues about the show.
[00:34:21] Scott: Take care, be a rebel and deliver work with impact.
A big, thank you for listening to the Rebel Diaries show. Your time is precious, so thank you. It is appreciated.
We've got more amazing guests lined up so be sure to subscribe for next week's episode.
The full show notes and links to things we've discussed can be found on the website, www.rebeldiaries.net.
Finally, it would really help us out if you can spread the word with your friends and colleagues about the show.
Take care, be a rebel and deliver work with impact.