productivity

Productivity by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

I’ve been writing my column on productivity for CILIP Update for almost a year now, and I’m really enjoying writing it and getting comments from people – it seems to be encouraging people to try new ways of working, sometimes with real day-to-day benefits for them. I’ve been getting really good feedback and I’m so pleased. My columns so far (also available on my Publications page) have included:

I’ve tried so many different tools and ways of working and am always interested in finding ways to improve, so I’m glad I can now use some of the things I have learnt to help others on their journeys to a more productive way of working. I came across a blog post from Lifehacker a little while ago inviting people to share their own techniques, and thought I’d take the opportunity to use their questions to share mine.

Location: West Midlands, UK.

Current gig: Evidence Based Researcher for Evidence Base, Birmingham City University (also currently on part-time secondment to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals as a Future Skills Project Worker).

Current mobile device: iPhone 4S and iPad (I also have a Nexus 7 but rarely use it).

Current computer: iMac at home (this is my main computer), PC at work.

One word that best describes how you work: Flexibly.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without: Omnifocus (to do list manager), Dropbox (to sync documents between devices), Google Drive (for collaboration), Evernote (for meeting notes and image capture).

What’s your workspace like? I work from a variety of different places, but my main workspace is at home in our spare room which is fitted as an office. I share it with my partner and have plenty of desk space (my space is to the left of the computer as I’m left handed), and a set of drawers. I don’t really need much physical space as most of my work is electronic, but I like to have clear space around me to help me work more productively (currently I have some tickets on my desk waiting for me to sort claims for and even just those are driving me mad!). Here’s what my desk looks like at the moment (mine is the computer to the left – spot the essential glass of Ribena!):

Home office

Home office

What’s your best time-saving trick? Inbox zero. Before I start working on anything each day, I sort through my inbox and move everything to the right place. That way I know my calendar and to-do list are completely up-to-date and I know exactly what tasks I have to do. Then as all my tasks are in one place I can focus on prioritising things to focus on based on importance and urgency, and won’t get distracted by looking through my inbox. It really helps me in terms of knowing what I should be working on, and now that I have a process in place for organising my emails it saves me lots of time.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager? Omnifocus. I particularly like the iPad app and am currently using the beta version of Omnifocus 2 for Mac. The one downside is that it’s Mac only so no good when I’m in my office at the university which has a PC. I always have my iPad with me though so access it from there. I live in the Forecast view so I can see at a glance what I have on that day – tasks and appointments in my calendar.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My iPad. I take it everywhere with me and use it at meetings, for working when away from home/office, and for keeping me connected (and able to work) whilst travelling. I seem to really enjoy writing on the iPad so often use my iPad to write blog posts and to transcribe interviews.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Within my team I’m the one who tests out new tools/software/techniques to see which might work for us and I often take on this sort of role in other projects I work on. I love trying out new things and figuring ways of using them to save me time or help me stay organised.

What are you currently reading? I’m reading Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? What it takes to be an authentic leader (for the Library Leadership Reading Group), and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

What do you listen to whilst you work? I listen to a variety of different playlists on Spotify. I use music most when I’m writing (e.g. research reports) and absolutely love this GTD playlist for when I need to focus. Instrumental soundtracks are perfect for this and I often end up looking up music I hear in films and TV documentaries.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert. I need to have time to myself to recharge, and now always build time to do this during conferences.

What’s your sleep routine like? Not so good. At times I struggle to sleep at night and often spend a good 2-3 hours trying to get to sleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see __________ answer these same questions. Emma Cragg – I know she shares an interest in trying new tools and ways of working to improve productivity and I’d love to hear her tips.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? That you should stop beating yourself up about things because you can’t have it all. This blog post by Jenica Rogers is really excellent advice, and something I need to remind myself of often. There was a lot of great advice in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book too, much of which I think about regularly.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’d be really interested in other people’s response to these questions (partly maybe because I’m nosy, but also because I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other). If you decide to blog your own responses, you can get the questions from the blog post on Lifehacker, and please share a link in the comments on this blog post once you’ve published your own How I Work.

I travel quite a bit and need to be able to work on the go. Fortunately I have a tablet and a smartphone so between the two devices I pretty much always have access to my email, social media, documents, and note taking apps. I take notes digitally at meetings, use mobile devices to work out where I am and how I get to where I need to be (by foot or by public transport), create presentations on my tablet, present from my smartphone, contact people in various different ways via them (email, social media, Skype, and even occasionally SMS or phone calls) and use them for entertainment purposes too. I use mobile devices a lot. I love them.

However, I do have a frustration; the battery life. The tablet isn’t so bad and can last a day of heavy use without being charged, but the smartphone struggles. I therefore usually carry a charger with me when I’m working away for the day. You’ve perhaps seen me huddled next to a plug socket at events or sitting right on the edge of a row just to get a little bit of a top up of power (yes, I realise I sound like an addict!). I was therefore delighted when I was invited to test a portable charger. I bought something similar a couple of years ago, but it was very bulky so I found it easier to carry a plug. This one, the Innergie PocketCell is really light and compact.

Innergie PocketCell

Innergie PocketCell

In the box you get the charger itself and a short connector which has three different types of adapter: Mini USB, Micro USB, and 30 pin Apple connector.

Innergie PowerCell cable in box

Innergie PowerCell cable in box

To charge the PowerCell, you simply plug it into any USB – either one on a computer, or a USB plug – using the cable (it has a Micro USB input). It has blue lights on the side to indicate whether it is charged or not so you can check the level and see when it is fully charged – the image below shows it at 2 blue lights (out of a maximum of 4).

Innergie PocketCell lights

Innergie PocketCell lights

Charging a device seems really quick – I haven’t timed it from empty to full but even just 10 minutes charging increased my iPhone battery from 52% to 65%. I have a new iPad so unfortunately it doesn’t have a connector for this but I have tried it with my own USB to lightning connector. It does work with the iPad but the charger seems to get hot so I’ve only used it for a quick boost.

The one downside is the short cable. It’s a tricky one as obviously a shorter cable makes it more portable and in most situations is fine for a portable charger, but it can make charging the battery tricky. I previously reviewed the short cable, and although it isn’t as much of an issue in this product I’m still not a huge fan – I’d like it to be a little longer so that’s it’s still portable but means you can have a little bit of distance from the plug socket so that it can fit onto shelves or the floor rather than hanging when it’s charging.

Innergie PocketCell charging iPhone

Innergie PocketCell charging iPhone

Overall, I’m really impressed with the Innergie PocketCell. It’s very portable and means I may no longer have to hunt out plug sockets everywhere I go. I’ve been carrying it around with me and found it a really useful thing to have – I haven’t had to worry about preserving my use of mobile devices as I know I have extra power there if needed. As mentioned, I received this to review – it’s currently available on Amazon for £70. I have to confess this is more expensive than I thought it would be (I previously bought an external battery for around £25), however the Innergie PocketCell a really good bit of kit, and much better than the external battery I bought, so I would definitely recommend it if you’re in the market for an external battery.

I’ve been working for CILIP in my part-time secondment role for the Future Skills project for a couple of months now and we’re making good progress. I’ve had a number of people ask questions about where things are at and what will be happening when, as well as people wanting to provide feedback to help shape the support for the new Professional Registration. I thought it would therefore be worthwhile to share where we’re up to at this point, what else will be done, and where you can help.

Julie and myself first worked on the assessment criteria, and have refined those with help from members of the CILIP CPD team and the CILIP Qualifications Board (soon to change their name to the Professional Registration and Accreditation Board). We got feedback from some candidates, mentors and candidate support officers, made some minor tweaks, and then launched the criteria at the beginning of this month at CILIP Umbrella. I spoke to some people about them and the general feedback so far is that they’re much clearer and show progression from one level to the next. Thank goodness – that’s certainly what we were aiming for!

Following that, we began to consider the process and detail of each of the levels of Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership and Fellowship) as well as Revalidation. Again we met with members of the CILIP CPD team and the CILIP Qualifications Board to address the current issues with each level and what we could do to address them or make guidance clearer. It has been really useful to get the perspective from the assessors – they’re the ones who know where people fall down on their applications so hopefully we can help provide guidance to reduce this. We were also able to observe a Qualifications Board meeting which was really interesting and gave us that broader understanding to feed into our work. The assessment process is being streamlined in the new scheme (at the moment it’s a complex process). It’s been very reassuring to learn about the process and the way applications are handled – I had no idea there was so much to it! We’re working on the handbooks now that we have agreed decisions on things like word count, format, and processes, and we’re currently collecting feedback from a group of users on the first drafts to help ensure the handbooks are fit for purpose.

One of our next priorities is working on training and support. We’re collecting examples of best practice in terms of the training that has been provided around CILIP qualifications in order for us to make some recommendations for future training on professional registration. Last week we launched a short survey to help us with that. If you have received training as a candidate, mentor, candidate support officer or mentor support officer, please help us by sharing your thoughts in our survey. It will only take a few minutes to complete and is available until Friday 26th July at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/cfstbp.

We’re also looking at the content for the website, much of which will supplement the handbooks. This will include information on elements of Professional Registration to use in practice – things like mentoring (from the perspective of a mentor and a mentee), reflective practice, and development planning. We’re hoping to collect some case studies to share on the website too. In the first stages, we’re looking for case studies from those who have completed Certification, Chartership or Fellowship so if you would like to be contribute to that please contact jo.alcock2@cilip.org.uk.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the key changes for Professional Registration, or would like further guidance about what this means for you, please visit the page on the CILIP website: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/jobs-careers/professional-registration/professional-registration/important-messages-about

I’ve recently started a part-time secondment to CILIP to work on their Future Skills Project. You may already be aware of the project, which has been working on the recommendations from the Defining our Professional Future report to review the CPD offering:

The Future Skills Project is reviewing CILIP’s qualifications to ensure every member gets the recognition they deserve from their employers and society for a unique suite of highly valuable, relevant and endurable skills.

This review has created the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), the revised model for delivering Accreditation of academic and vocational qualifications and the suite of CILIP qualifications.

The two Future Skills Project Workers (one of whom is myself), are now working on preparing the material to support Professional Registration (i.e. Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation). We’ll be working on the recommendations from the project board and the information collected during the project (focus groups, surveys, etc.) but I’d like to pose a few of my own, more specific, questions to ensure what we produce is relevant and useful to current candidates and potential candidates. One of the first tasks I’m working on is thinking about what information needs to be in the handbooks provided by CILIP to guide you through the qualifications (see the current Certification handbook, Chartership handbook, Fellowship handbook and Revalidation handbook). I’d be interested in your views – please feel free to respond to any or all of these questions by commenting on the blog post or you can email me directly.

If you are currently working towards a CILIP qualification or have recently completed one:

What information in the handbook or on the CILIP website did you find useful in helping you complete your qualification?

Were there any resources outside of the handbook that you found useful? (e.g. book chapters, websites, articles, blog posts etc.) What did you find so useful about them?

Was there anything missing or unclear from the handbook?

What guidance would you have liked to see and in what format? (For example, we’ve seen mention of things like flowcharts for the process from start to finish, checklists of what you need to do and when – what would you have found useful?)

If you have considered a CILIP qualification:

Did you read the handbook? What did you think? Was there anything else you would have liked to know?

If you chose not to work towards the qualification, was there any information (or lack of) which contributed to your decision?

I’ll be working on the Future Skills project for the next three months and may well be asking for more feedback on things along the way, but if you have any comments or suggestions at any point, please email me. We really want to make sure that what we produce is clear, easy to understand and genuinely useful.

I'm not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion...

I’m not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion…

Earlier this week I attended a training session on persuasive speaking, hosted by Future Faces Birmingham. It was delivered by Mimi Hughes of Business Voice. I wasn’t too sure what to expect to be honest, but it proved to be an excellent workshop which I learnt a lot from, particularly about speaking skills.

Mimi began the event by getting us to think about what we mean by persuasive speaking and when we need to persuade. We concluded that in almost any working relationship, we need to utilise persuasion skills – to get people to listen to us, to work collaboratively, or to delegate work, as well as the more immediate examples such as selling, negotiating, or asking for a promotion/payrise.

We were then introduced to the three main components of persuasiveness:

  1. Presence
  2. Message
  3. Mechanism

We also discussed personal impact and presentation skills which are important in all three components.

Mimi then asked some very brave volunteers (she referred to them as ‘Have a go heroes’ which I liked as a term) to come to the front and speak to the rest of the room about their organisation. They only had a minute to speak and they were recorded, and then we all watched them back (see what I mean when I said they were very brave! In return they got some really useful feedback). This exercise was all about presence and the following tips were shared with us to help improve:

  • Opening lines and the way you start are key. Your audience makes a subconscious judgment before you have even spoken
  • Body language very important – stand squarely on to people and straight (keep confident)
  • Don’t stand behind desks or flip charts – need to show your presence
  • Your voice needs to reach out to people furthest away from you (you can practice this by projecting your voice against a wall and gradually moving further back)
  • Need to pause between key points – pausing is key in persuasion
  • Don’t use preparation words before each sentence (Ok, Right, Um) – know what you’re going to say and start on the positive words
  • Look like you’re interested in what you are saying in order to be interesting to others
  • Let your hands move if they want to – good to use your hands as they give out energy
  • Settle your hands in a comfortable middle position where they can move easily from (ideal position is joined together at the waist, not too low or behind you)
  • Movement is good as it adds energy – though needs to be definite, not just shuffling from side to side
  • Moving the face also important to show enthusiasm
  • Um and err are not too intrusive as long as they are not used excessively, though pausing is better
  • If you want to move when you start speaking, take a step forward not backwards
  • It’s good practice to engage with people as they enter the room and encourage people to respond to your greeting (ask for their name and what they do/how they are) as it helps breaks down barriers
  • Shaking hands and making positive eye contact is also good as again helps break down barriers
  • Good to tap into something your audience are familiar with and tap into their emotions

We then focused on the message element and how to tailor the message to maximise its effectiveness. Mimi emphasised the importance of focusing on the key idea(s) you are trying to get across, and considering how to ensure the audience (in broad terms, this could be just a one-to-one conversation) will take that away. In order to achieve this, the audience needs to be able to repeat the message and the best way to get to this is to keep the message clear and brief. In presentations, Mim recommended only aiming to talk for around 10 minutes, and dedicate longer time to Q&A to extend the dialogue and cement the message. We then completed an exercise preparing the key messages about our organisation using the following model:

Model for constructing message

Model for constructing message

In the model, the roof is the conclusion you want people to walk away with (you may mention what this is, but you may not). You want the audience to walk away with the conclusion based on the evidence you provide them with through the three pillars, which act as the different messages you deliver. Three is an ideal number, though you can manage with 2-4 (as can a building). 1 isn’t really enough to get them to believe in the conclusion, whilst too many will make the messages less memorable and weaken the argument. We did this as an activity with our own organisations and two more ‘Have a go heroes’ presented about their organisations using this model. You’ll probably also have noticed that Mimi practices what she preaches as our whole workshop was based on this model with the three components of persuasion as the three key messages.

We also discussed how to handle questions, which is a key part of helping get your message across. The main things here were to listen very carefully to the questions, and think about the answer you are going to give before speaking. You want to aim to “build, bridge, and reinforce” in your response so that you bring it back to your key messages and help cement that in their minds. You’ll also need to stay focused and keep it brief but tailored to the audience. If you don’t know the answer to the question, be cautious about winging it – if you don’t know enough to do so, be honest and tell the person you’ll find out and get back to them (and make sure you do). We also discussed hostility and Mimi warned us to be careful as we may be seeing nervousness and recognising it as hostility – generally, people won’t be hostile, and if they are, let it wash over you.

We briefly discussed the mechanics, such as using presentation slides only to illustrate the key messages but keeping the focus on what you’re going to say; making sure you have the right people for group presentations (some may need to be there to respond to questions but don’t need to present as too many can dilute the message); not leaning on lecturns or tables when speaking as this comes across as too relaxed and like you’re not really interested; and listen carefully in two-way conversations and again try to link what they are saying back to your key messages.

Mimi ended the workshop by sharing some exercises of things we can do to help improve our persuasive skills by improving our presence, message and mechanism. Some of them may seem a little silly at first (she got us up on our feet flopping our bodies over to help our posture, and reading stories aloud to practice our pitch and pausing), but I really think they’re going to be useful tools in helping improve my skills.

What next?

I’m currently preparing some conference presentations and webinars and found this workshop really useful for helping me plan these further. It’s caused me to reflect on the best way to use my allotted time, the materials I develop to support what I’m going to say, and the way I hope to present myself. I was really pleased to learn that it’s OK to use your hands when you talk as I naturally do this a lot and was worried it came across as too much arm flailing. Mimi reassured us that as long as it is natural, it’s very rare for it to come across as too much. One thing I know I need to work on is pausing. I tend to speak very quickly in normal conversation, and even moreso when the adrenaline is pumping and I’m giving presentations. I fill what little thinking time I allow myself with ‘um’ as well, so I’m hoping to practice talking more clearly and pausing when presenting key points to help them stand out.

I also have a training session next week on making presentations and giving briefings, so I’m hoping some of what I learnt in this workshop will be repeated and it might help it stick!

Running woman

I look just like this when I run – happy, relaxed, no hint of tomato face, flyaway hair or flailing limbs (clearly a lie)

This weekend I ran 5k. Believe me, no one is more surprised about this than I am. I’m not a runner. At all. Eight weeks ago I struggled to run for 3 minutes, but now I can keep going for more than 30 minutes. One day I decided I wanted to improve my fitness so I thought I’d go out for a jog, and decided to give the Couch to 5K (C25K) programme a go – I used a C25K mobile app. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the full programme but out I went and I actually quite enjoyed it. I went out three times a week, stuck to the programme, trusted it and made progress. And this weekend, at the end of my eight weeks, I ran the full 5k. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fast, but I did it. The process has taught me so much about myself and I wanted to share that. This blog post isn’t about telling everyone to get out there and run (though it is surprisingly enjoyable), but what I learnt during this process applies to so many things in life and it was good to have those reminders.

  1. If you set your mind to doing something, and it’s a realistic goal, you can do it

I honestly didn’t think I was ever likely to be able to run for over 30 minutes, but I believed the c25k programme and stuck to it. Each time it got a little harder, I went out with part of me thinking I couldn’t do it, but I went out regardless, put my trust in the programme and my body, and I managed to complete every single one of the training days.

  1. Sometimes, having people who don’t think you can do it can be a really useful thing

After my second run (where the majority is still walking rather than running), I got back and my partner joked, “Well you’ve done it twice now, is that it?”. I do go through fads so it was a valid comment (and also to be fair to him he is incredibly supportive of anything he knows I want to achieve). That comment however seemed to change my blasé approach to the programme. Suddenly I had a challenge; to prove to him, and myself, that I can stick to things and can improve my fitness. IT IS ON!

  1. You’re probably more capable than you think

How often do you think you’d like to do something but decide not to try because you don’t think you’d be able to do it. Next time you find yourself in that situation, I urge you to commit to trying. I bet you can do a lot more than you think. I honestly never thought I’d be able to keep running for that time or distance, but it actually only took 8 weeks. You won’t know if you don’t try so give it a go, and believe in yourself.

  1. Lots of small, incremental developments can lead to much greater progress

Common sense, I know, but sometimes it just seems like a goal is so far away, yet if you break it down into tiny progressive steps, you’ll have achieved the larger goal before you know it. I take this approach with many things – I have a number of large projects on the go but I break each of them down into smaller tasks which help get me towards the bigger goal.

  1. Learning a new skill or achieving a goal is incredibly fulfilling

I love learning new things. Over the past year or so, I’ve taken up a few different hobbies, and the one thing they all have in common is learning new skills. Every knitting project I do for example, I learn how to do something new, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Running has taught me a lot about myself – mind and body – and getting to the goal of being able to run 5k was a fantastic feeling.

So what aims do you have? How are you going to get there? You can do it, I know you can!

Closing the contract

Closing the contract

Yesterday evening I attended a Future Faces event on negotiation skills. We received a brief presentation and then had chance to do a group challenge based on a case study. I found some of the things covered in the presentation really useful so though I would share them.

I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this joint event with CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) – I’m not involved in sales or purchasing, and I’m not in a position to be able to negotiate my salary (two of the examples on the event blurb) but I hoped it might give me some tips and develop some generic skills which I might be able to apply to other contexts. I was therefore very glad that the event started with an overview of how we might be able to use the tips and techniques from the session in other contexts in both our work life (such as negotiating better deals/terms, not just financial negotiation) and our personal life (for all purchases and agreements).

The presentation from Jo McDowall from CIPS on negotiating took us through the phases of negotiation:

  1. Preparation and planning
  2. Opening
  3. Testing
  4. Movement
  5. Closing

She then gave us some tips on how to prepare and plan for negotiation. This included understanding your own requirements (what you need, not what you want), researching the other party to understand potential negotiation points, deciding on your targets (what you would like in an ideal situation, your realistic expectations, and what you would accept as a fallback i.e. minimum), and recognising any assumptions. Again it was highlighted that you need to consider all aspects of the deal, not just price. Using the example of buying a car, you might want to consider your ideal, realistic and fallback options for things like servicing, warrantee, accessories, full tank of fuel, payment terms etc. Jo highlighted the importance of beginning negotiations with your ideal situation, and shared an anecdote with us;

If you don’t feel embarrassed by what you ask for, you are not asking for enough

I can certainly see the logic behind this (after all, sometimes you might get what you want!), though in reality I know I’m far more likely to go in with a realistic negotiation rather than an ideal one as I feel really uncomfortable asking for too much. Definitely something to consider though – what are you willing to sacrifice and what are you not willing to budge on?

We were also taken through the planning process for the stages of negotiation:

  • Opening – The more you ask for, the more you get
  • Testing – Never accept the first offer
  • Movement – Aim to get maximum wish list whilst giving away little
  • Closing – Don’t take no for an answer

The group challenge got us to apply this learning into a real life example. It was an interesting task though sadly there wasn’t much time to discuss it in detail. I was glad we had the opportunity to consider how to apply what we had learnt though, and consider how the ideal, realistic and fallback situations could work in practice.

Do you have any tips for successful negotiation or additional things to bear in mind?