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Use these productivity-boosting tactics

And why to avoid “empty calorie” activities

Welcome to For Leaders, your go-to source for essential leadership insights and perspectives shaping today's world.

In this week’s newsletter:

  • Strategic Summaries: Key insights and takeaways on the importance of time management

  • Words of Wisdom: A powerful leadership quote to inspire

  • Leaders’ Library: What we’re reading this week

A curated community of leaders.

Strategic Summaries

A weekly roundup of the most interesting, useful and thought-provoking articles to help you be a better leader. This week we’re focusing on time management.

Be judicious with your mental energy. Vanessa Van Edwards talks about her top 10 leadership skills, one of which is spending your time wisely.    

Our take: An important part of time management is knowing how to take a break. We know we need to give our brains a rest throughout the day, yet we often spend our down time on “empty calorie” activities.  

These are activities that use up valuable brain energy (e.g. scrolling through social media) but don't accomplish much. When we go back to the task at hand, we don’t feel refreshed.  

Why do we gravitate towards these “empty calories”? It could be that we’re tired, we want to stop working but feel guilty for taking a real break, or we’re procrastinating doing something we dread. 

Effective leaders learn to be purposeful with how they use their mental energy. 

Key takeaway: Ways that you can take a real break to refresh your mind include exercise, meditation, yoga, and creative activities. Come up with your own options so you always have a go-to when you find yourself itching for some “empty calories.” 

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Batch related tasks together. Doctor and YouTuber Ali Abdaal talks about 9 time management tips to help you be more productive.  

Our take: Ali shares some practical advice about time management, ranging from the principle that 80% of results come from 20% of inputs to the concept that tasks expand to fill the time you allocate to them. 

A particularly practical tip for busy leaders is called batching (from Tim Feriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek). Essentially, take all your related tasks in a day and batch them together at one time, or several times throughout the day.  

For example, dedicate a time to reply to your emails instead of breaking up your day every time a new message comes in. This allows you to choose when to switch your attention by grouping context-related tasks together. It’s an efficient tip that helps your brain focus. 

Key takeaway: Time management is about having more control over your time. By using tactics that organize your day, you can become much more productive. 

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The discipline equation. Founder and investor, Steven Bartlett, talks about why time management techniques often fail.  

Our take: Steven counters the proliferation of time management tips out there by saying that a “secret ingredient” underlies all successful attempts at time management: discipline. 

He’s created an equation that helps you understand why it’s easy to do some things in your life, while other things seem impossible. 

Here’s the equation: the reason for doing something (or your why) PLUS the psychological engagement you get from doing this thing MINUS the psychological disengagement you get from doing this thing (ie. the friction).  

Key takeaway: Having a strong why can override doing a task you don’t want to do. For things where your why is uninspiring, techniques like time blocking can be helpful – if you’re not internally motivated to do something, create a block of time in your day when you must get it done. 

Words of Wisdom

One weekly, impactful quote for leaders.

“You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time.”

– Brian Tracy

Leaders’ Library

Every week, we share an interesting long-form piece of content to contemplate.

 If you’ve heard of circadian rhythms – the internal cycles that affect things like sleep – then you might have heard of a chronotype: it is the behavioral manifestation of these. It’s a person’s natural inclination for the time of day they prefer to do certain tasks. 

Dr. Breus, author of the book, The Power of When, is a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in sleep. He’s put together a convincing argument that we can work with our inner “clock” to be more productive, healthier, and happier. 

While the research is solid, it bears remembering that everyone is different, not only genetically but also because of their environment and life situation. There are only four categories of chronotypes, with advice for each one, so don’t take these general recommendations as individual advice. 

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week with more powerful leadership insights and inspiration.

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