Environment Management

Do you get done what you need to get done every day in an environment that's conducive to getting a lot done or is everything everywhere and it holds you back? Hi, this is Grant Herbert, International Influencer and Sustainable Performance Coach, and today, I want to continue our conversation around productivity by talking to you about the second thing that we can control and that's our environment.

Your environment has a great deal to do with your output. If we've continually got distractions going on, if we've got nothing in place, if we lack discipline in the boundaries that we set around getting stuff done, then we're obviously not going to be as productive as we could. So, the first place that I believe we need to work on is the environment of our mind. The brain is a powerful tool. It keeps us alive. It creates a system whereby we can get stuff done. However, it's not an infinite resource. We need to look after our brain. We need to protect our brain. We need to feed our brain with the right things that are going to enable it to do its best job. We can have the best performance car in the world, but if we put a low-grade fuel in it, if we drive around with several things, towing along behind it, if we put it in the wrong gear at the wrong time or we labour it by not coming back a gear to go up a hill or whatever, the fact that it's a high-performance car goes out the window, it can only give what it gives in the best environment.

It's the same thing with the fuel that we put in it. If it's a high-performance car, it needs a high performance fuel, so these things are exactly the same for us and our brain. If we're carrying stuff around that we don't need to carry, if there's extra weight in our mind, if we are doing more than what we should be doing in that one moment of time, if we're dehydrating it for not putting in the good fuel, then it's going to create an environment that leads to overwhelm when overwhelm is the curse of productivity. Because what it says is that, "Alright, I might as well get nothing done" or, "I'll go and do this comfort activity or whatever because I just can't see that I'm going to get all this stuff done." Last week, I talked about getting rid of the to do list. That's old school teaching from years ago and whilst having a to do list, having things written down is better than having nothing, it can actually create that overwhelm because it's a list that says, "Oh my Lord, I need to get all these things done today." So, we set ourselves up with an environment of overwhelm.

The second place that we need to check in on our environment is our physical environment. What do we have that is consuming our bandwidth? What do we have that's getting our attention? What do we have that buzzes and beeps and pops up on our screen or whatever it is? Who do we allow to just walk into our office? All those things create brain switching where it means that we could be focused, which by the way is the best environment for productivity. We could be focused on something and then distracted and now we've got to come back and refocus and that doesn't happen instantaneously. So, we're not able to manage time. We talked about the fact we can manage our priorities and the next thing is we said is that we need to work on our environment. So, let me walk you through a few things that I do. By the way, I don't do them perfectly because I'm a human. There are times when I need to remind myself as I'm doing this for you, that my environment is not conducive to maximum productivity.

So for me, making sure that my workplace is uncluttered. You see people that will say that an untidy desk is the sign of genius. Well, I don't know whether that's true or not, but what I do know is if my desk is untidy and has different things all over it that can get in my field of view, then it's going to create an environment where I'm thinking about when I'm going to get that done. When I work with my clients one on one or in small groups, the first thing I helped them to do around this area is to get themselves a boss, get themselves someone who helps them and drip feeds what they need to get done to them during the day, during the week, during the month, whatever it is. So instead of having like I see all the time, piles upon piles of the next lot of work that I'm going to get through, one piece of work, focus, get it done, give that piece of work on, get a new piece of work, get it done.

So, productivity is a process. So, setting up a process of how we get it done is obviously the best thing that we can do. So, get rid of the clutter, get a system just as we chunk our calendar so that we know what priority we're working on, we need to chunk our environment and have it so that everything's easily accessible when we need it and out of the way when it's not. I remember years ago in my military career, I was a trainer in the military and we used to get assessed to make sure that our level of training was up where it needed to be and that's a good thing. And I remember something that I learned way back then is exactly what I'm talking about now.

If we were, for example, using a whiteboard or back then a blackboard or we were using an overhead projector and some of you might not even know what that is. We needed to write what we want on the board, speak about it, use it, and then get rid of it. And if we didn't do that, we would get marked down because it was distracting. Because whilst we were talking about the next point or whatever it was, people were still focused on that. And that's exactly what we're doing in our environment. And the third area that we need to manage in our environment is our availability. We need to set boundaries around who, how, and when people can come into our space, capable people can encroach on our environment. A lot of times I see companies that have, we've got an open door policy and that's great in its core reasoning, but it's outworking is a major nightmare for effective productivity. "You can come into my door anytime you like, I'm available." Yeah, that's great. That's not what your people need. What your people need is certainty that they're going to be able to get their answers. So instead of being reactive, what I like to do with my team and I teach my clients to do the same, is to be proactive in setting up when and how my team can get me.

So for example, instead of someone just coming to the door and going, "Hey, you've got a second?" and me going, "Yes, fine, come on in and then sit down", which is, by the way, mistake number one. Then what I can do is let my team know that, "Hey, right now my door's closed and that means I'm focused on something." And then later on when my door's open, I've got that as a proactive schedule time that people know they can come and get their answers. So instead of every time they need an answer coming to me, they wait until that space and then they come and get all their answers. Because here's the thing, just like you, your people want to get the answer, get that fixed and move on. Here's the challenge. If as the leader, you are the only one that doesn't have that luxury, then you're not able to lead effectively.

So, what have we talked about today? We've talked about your environment. It's not about time management, it's about priority management. And as we now know, it's about environment management. We talked about the three areas of environment management that I've found work really well. One is to control and manage the environment of our mind. The second is our physical environment, and the third is the environment of availability. Put those three things together, start changing how you do things, and I guarantee you'll get more done in your day. Well, that's it for me for another week. Join me again next week when we talk about the third element in productivity that we can manage and that's our energy. I'll see you then.

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