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Contents.

3 Introduction P art 1: Useful ideas about designing your day 10 Managing time and energy 16 Lists 20 Workflow 22 Delegating and outsourcing 22 Habits 24 Neuroscience 32 Planning life (not just work) 33 Happiness and purpose P art 2: How to design your day 38 Design thinking, meet productivity 44 Observation 46 Prioritise first 48 Design the shape of your day 54 Defending your day 60 62 Conclusion: Taking others with you Further reading

Introduction.

This book is about a powerful idea: making the choice to design your day so that you can perform at your best. People who achieve a great deal have always spent time thinking about how they can be more effective. Some of these great minds have left us clues - or even clear instructions as to how they organised themselves and their day to get more done, or more importantly get more of what they wanted to get done. (Well look at some of those inspiring individuals throughout the ebook.) D esigning your day involves a conscious rejection of the idea that you can just work harder. No amount of ego-fuelled posturing can make people work effectively in the long term just by committing ever-increasing hours. Indeed, plenty of research has shown that long hours radically erode productivity.

Your time, energy and thinking processes all impose constraints on what you can do - and when you know and accept this, you can design your day much more effectively. There are many productivity and time-management models out there - and we list many of the good ones in part one of the ebook - but there is no single model that fits everyone. Different brain types suit different working styles and different productivity systems. Were not advocating any particular scheme, just a framework that makes the most of them and helps you to choose the right approach for designing your day.

Designing Your Day

Introduction

The challenge.

Dr David Rock, an expert on applying neuroscience in the workplace, compares the scenario knowledge workers are facing with technology now to the one the first drivers faced 100 years ago. When cars were first used on first used on public roads, it took about ten to fifteen years for rules of the road to emerge: rights of way, traffic signs, speed limits and the like, and until these rules came into force, accidents were common. here are no rules of the road for T the connected age yet. Mobile devices connect us to everyone we know and work with, put the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips, give us limitless possibilities for entertainment and distraction. Its as if were back in those first days of the road again - we have access to these powerful machines, but we dont really know how to use them effectively, safely and considerately yet.

ith news, email and social networks W demanding attention on our screens, it is easy to be distracted by constant busyness without actually achieving much. A constant buzz of emails, calls and meetings can create an illusion of productivity that convinces you that youre working hard, even when youre not actually getting much done. You end up trapped in a responsive mode of working, riding high on the dopamine hits of small achievements - pressing send on an email reply, finishing a meeting having completed the agenda, crossing the easy items off your to-do list - but without really taking control of how you are spending your time, or prioritising it to make sure what you are doing has the most value to you and your employer. Ironically, this is in effect a form of laziness - taking the easy route to a feeling of work satisfaction, without having the discipline and courage to test if that feeling is genuine.

Designing Your Day

Introduction

The alternative is relaxed productivity - a day where you achieve personal and professional goals (or make progress on them at least) without becoming overwhelmed by work or the incoming information you are dealing with. You are focused and effective, without feeling unduly pressured, because you have a clear picture of what you are doing when and why. You respond to incoming information from colleagues and others involved in your work at defined times, and you have the flexibility to adapt your plans to match any changes promoted by others. The scientific evidence is clear: multitasking is a myth certainly in your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that does the active thinking. We actually work on the basis of sequential focus, and that focus can only be applied to a very limited number of ideas at one time. Performing complex tasks is actually a process of addressing a large number of smaller tasks in sequence. Focus is all, and it is precious because it is so easily broken. Maintaining focus and flow will be a core issue we examine in our second ebook, but for now, remember that you need to design your day in such a way that you can protect yourself from interruptions when you need to perform detailed or complex tasks.

Designing Your Day

Introduction

Why design your day?


But why design your day yourself? Why not just learn from others, and copy best practice for productivity?
and communication. Flow also Right now, there isnt any best describes the way that many aspire practice. The old rules and structures to work - fluidly, adapting to changing of working life have been overturned circumstances, but still with a focused by technology. Working tools are direction. It is fundamentally different no longer tied to a particular place. to the industrial-era approach that Pervasive connections, cloud storage has defined so much working theory and flexible devices mean that we until recently. are no longer dependent on E ven place-based concepts like a particular home working or mobile working dont Shifts like this cause dissonance, locale to have really capture the shift thats going on. tension and access to the confusion. Many people take comfort people, information and tools we in familiar, traditional structures, need to do our jobs. Our phones because they are tried and tested. allow us to tap into our documents, They minimise risk. Other people our colleagues, clients and suppliers are naturally risk-averse, and wherever we are in the world. For for them, this is an uncomfortable many, our devices are our new time. The old structures of work are offices, ones we can throw in a bag breaking down, and new ones will take and take with us wherever we go. time to develop. People cling to the old certainties even as they become E ven place-based concepts like inefficient and damaging. Working home working or mobile working in the old office paradigm, tied to dont really capture the shift thats a desk and a standard daily routine going on. Place is no longer a vital leaves employees less efficient, less component of information work. If passionate and, in aggregate, that we work anywhere, we work in the leaves companies less competitive. flow: the flow of information, people

Designing Your Day

Introduction

Competition in the marketplace will eventually drive the traditionalists out of business, and any illusion of structural comfort with them. I n the meantime, though, some people will have to take charge of figuring out how we work in this new era. They will need to experiment, to actively challenge their own preconceptions about work - and those of the people around them while integrating it into their working day. Risky? Sure. Anything new is risky. Challenging? Indeed. There are no clearly marked trails for you to follow, so you have to define your own path without the comfort of knowing the best route - and the likely pitfalls. The rewards, both in terms of increased productivity and competitiveness, are great though, and the satisfaction of being a genuine work-style innovator is immense.

F undamentally, its about being flexible enough to deal effectively with the information, projects and challenges coming at us, but without letting them dictate every second of our working days. Its about having the mental safeguards in place to allow you the focus you need - and about acknowledging those things you cant control - then working around them to control everything else. Its about taking personal responsibility for your time and productivity, not letting it be completely dictated by external factors.

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Introduction

Part 1: Designing your day.


Useful ideas about designing your day.
There is no right way to design your day. While it can be useful to compare and contrast designs with others, or take inspiration from the work routines of high achievers like artists and historical figures, your perfect day, or even just a good, effective day, is something you need to take responsibility for creating. It takes a plan and it takes discipline and determination to execute in the face of everything life might throw at you. W e are going to start with a look at useful ideas that help you design and manage your day.

Managing time and energy.


Designers talk a lot about constraints when they are approaching a brief. For this brief to design your day, the two fundamental constraints are time and energy: how many hours you are awake, and how much energy you have to get things done. Time is relatively easy to plan, but as anyone who has planned a series of back-to-back meetings and then tried to write a strategy plan or something that requires some creative thought can tell you, even without interruptions, not all hours are equally productive. A calendar showing the available hours in the day does not tell the whole story of what energy you have to draw on and what you will be able to achieve. When you think about designing your day, you need to work on two axis - time and energy.

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Managing time and energy

Time.
Diaries are many peoples primary tool for planning their day. They may be electronic now, but this is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. D iaries that you could use to plan your day were first popularised in 1800s Britain by Thomas Letts, a bookbinder. They were intended for merchants to use to record transactions in, but were also a useful way to schedule appointments and tasks throughout the day. Combined with the spread of more affordable and smaller clocks and timepieces, the industrial age gave rise to an obsession with time in the workplace, that continues to this day. In the late 19th century, the assembly-line and mass production was accompanied by Frederick Taylors famous time and motion concept. Taylorism, as it became known, made people think about themselves and their workers like machines, focusing on measurable outputs from words typed to numbers crunched, to items on a to do list checked off. Organisational cultures have often supported this perspective. Time is easier and less complex to measure than the seemingly intangible concepts of energy and ability to focus on creative and strategic thinking, for instance. We plan projects with hours and outputs tightly correlated, though the best project managers build in margins and flex for - among other things - the unpredictable performance of individuals.

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Managing time and energy

Energy.
Like time, energy is a finite resource. If you simply block out the days with meetings and demanding activity like analysis, writing or creative thinking, you are making an impossible promise to yourself. Allocating blocks of time to activities and work with others is useful - and often non-negotiable but the question you need to ask as you chart out the hours is: what will be happening to your energy levels while you are doing this? When sports coach Jim Loehr starting working with business people he was shocked by the difference between their expectations and their actual ability to perform at their peak. When he was working with athletes a key indicator of their performance had been return to resting heart rate - how quickly they could begin recovering from bursts of exertion. The key to an athletes performance is often recovery. If you were to train for a marathon, as well as putting in the miles, you would need to schedule rest days and even easier weeks. And if you ran a marathon, you wouldnt expect to run one the next week - not without your performance diminishing and incurring a significant risk of injury. Rest is key to getting fitter and to performing at your full potential - it lets your energy levels recover and your body mend. Working with your mind is no different. You need times during the year, as well as each week and each day where you can recover your energy levels in order to perform at a high - or even sufficient - level. Sometimes this means actual rest and relaxation taking a walk, having lunch, a chat with colleagues - but you can also recover by doing a different type of work that uses your mind differently - reading for instance, tidying up or doing some undemanding admin. Thats right, the good/bad news is that mundane tasks might actually make you more productive. On a day-to-day level, mental activity can be physically tiring too. The brain uses 20% of our bodys energy, by some estimates. When you think hard you use up some of your supply blood glucose, which is finite and needs to be restored.

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Managing time and energy

The consensus from experts in energy management and brain science suggests you include the following elements when you design your day to make the most of limited stores of energy: More breaks. Short breaks from intense work can help you focus for longer. The trick is to find an optimal rhythm for different types of work. E xercise and moving around. People who have an exercise regime will have more energy. Getting up and moving around your office or going outside for a quick walk can help keep your energy up. Sleep and naps. A good nights sleep is essential for good energy levels, so plan to get to bed at a decent time. If you are low on sleep, naps - even short ones - are hugely effective. Snacks and meals. Eating well and having regular healthy snacks can help maintain your energy levels. Unhealthy foods, especially sugar, will cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar. More holidays. Taking holidays is an important part of managing your energy. Some experts suggest that more long weekends and one-week holidays are better than taking a couple of longer breaks. Focused bursts. A more efficient way of using your energy is to focus on one task or a series of similar tasks in a burst. Some people use timers to help trick themselves with a mini-deadline.

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Managing time and energy

Knowledge workers.
In 1959, management thinker Peter Drucker famously coined the term knowledge worker to describe people who were paid to think rather than perform physical labour. Working with your mind was not a new thing, of course, it was just with the advance of automation and the growing communications revolution, becoming something a lot more people were doing. As Drucker noted in the opening of his seminal article Managing Oneself in Harvard Business Review in 1999: Historys great achievers - Napoleon, da Vinci, Mozart - have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers. But they are rare exceptions, so unusual both in their talents and their accomplishments as to be considered outside the boundaries of ordinary human existence. Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves.

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Managing time and energy

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Managing time and energy

Lists.
Besides diaries, calendars and timeplanners, the other perennial tool for managing your day is the list. Task lists can probably tell you as much about a persons personality and working day as a glance at their office or the contents of their bag. Lists are by turns compulsive, reassuring and sometimes overwhelming; used as organisational life-rafts and abandoned as impossible burdens. People organise their to-do lists on paper, in apps, spreadsheets. From a neurological point of view they relieve the mental burden of trying to hold several tasks in your working memory and allow you to concentrate on prioritising. Even if you have a task list on the go, starting again can be helpful: a new list can be like casting fresh eyes on the problem of what to do next and how to get everything you need to do completed. Sometimes this sense of a new perspective can be boosted by trying a different method of list-making - using a white board or index cards and Post-its to visualise and reorder what needs to be done.

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Lists

GTD - the ultimate to-do list?


A time management classic that spawned something close to a movement of devotees as well as hundreds of apps organised around its principles, Getting Things Done (GTD to its fans) by David Allen took the idea of the to-do list to its logical conclusion: a watertight system for managing everything. Everything you think of as a task or project goes into an inbox to be processed into different buckets to be attended to, or simply filed for future consideration. The system takes some setting up Allen recommends a weekend, at least, to get things in order - and requires discipline to make it work. As with many time management systems though, many who have tried it take away a few key, valuable lessons and principles that help them greatly. Its recommended reading, but here are a few key learnings: Two-minute rule. If you are putting something on your list that would only take a couple of minutes, you should do it right now. Next action. The emphasis should always be on asking what next? Adding a whole project to your to-do list is sometimes unrealistic and can become a mental block, because its too big to tackle you avoid it. Rather than noting down write presentation we should have plan presentation process or begin research for presentation. Weekly reviews. Allen advocates taking time out during the week to clear clutter from inboxes and lists and review how things are going. This appointment with yourself approach, scheduled in your diary is a great way to keep any week on track.

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Lists

Lists

The ultimate to-do list : Thomas Edison.

If you want to see a really big, ambitious to-do list, take a look at Thomas Edisons from one day in 1888. It is scrawled over five pages, is titled Things doing and to be done and includes projects such as deaf apparatus, artificial cable, electrical piano and ink for blind.

Workflow.
Workflow will be familiar to web developers and users of some enterprise software platforms, but on an individual level, it means finding the most efficient personal process for completing a task - a kind of personal production line.

You can develop and optimise your personal workflows for the simplest of tasks - whats the quickest way to clear an email inbox, for instance? Probably not email by email, in date order. You could triage, deleting non-urgent mails to make space, replying to high priority individuals and requests, adding to-do lists and scheduling time for tasks where required, then scanning for other important/time-sensitive mails, and finally scanning and filing or deleting the FYIs and round robins. For a more complex task, say writing a presentation, a defined workflow with phases that allow you to do a good job with the right tools can be beneficial.

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Workflow

For instance: Research. Gather new knowledge and pertinent data, using online research, contacts and resources like social bookmarking. Decide on insight. Review what youve learned and list your key insights and points you want to get across. Craft your story. Outline how you want the presentation to run. Pull together visuals. Develop slides and/or other supporting materials for your presentation. Refine. Proof and sense-check - this should include having someone else give feedback. Deliver. Give the presentation. Share. Post materials online if appropriate and/or send links/ documents to attendees. Review feedback and process. Take time to look at any feedback and think about what could be done better next time, both in terms of content/delivery and your workflow.

Delegating and outsourcing.


Obviously, one way to clear your to-do list is to get other people to do things for you.
No matter how experienced someone is, delegation takes discipline and planning - and it is the up-front investment in these aspects that too often deters us from delegating to others. We have all been told the how and why of delegating at some point. Making a habit of it, developing systems for deciding what and how to delegate and who to are the challenges. For a useful reminder of the essentials of delegating, read Harvard Business Review contributing editor and business consultant Amy Gallos blog post: Why arent you delegating?

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Delegating and outsourcing

Outsourcing your work.


Just a logical step further than delegating tasks is the idea of personal outsourcing.
Organisations routinely outsource things that are not a core competency, but it is completely feasible for individuals to outsource tasks to others - it just takes some organisation. Personal outsourcing and virtual PA services are common now, but the concept was popularised by Tim Ferris in a book called The Four Hour Work Week. Ferris advocates lifestyle design, developing career plans with mini-retirements and - of most relevance to designing your day - elimination of tasks and work which someone else can do more cheaply than your time is worth. While few people may have successfully followed all of the recommendations of The Four Hour Work Week, its focus on what you want your life to look like and ruthless attitude to minimising low-value tasks is something many of us could learn from. Going too far. Famously, one over-zealous personal out-sourcing effort came to light in early 2013, when a US security software developer was discovered to have hired someone in China to his work for him. The difference between his salary and the cost of this made it worthwhile. The deception didnt exactly liberate the US developer however, he still spent a lot of time in the office, albeit surfing the web idly, rather than doing anything useful with his time.

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Delegating and outsourcing

Habits.
A habit is a process which has been repeated often enough to root itself in the brain (the basal ganglia, to be precise) meaning it can be performed without much conscious effort.

Habits are why you can do something like listen to a podcast or audiobook while driving without putting yourself in danger - the mechanism of driving is locked into the basal ganglia, leaving spare cognitive capacity to listen. I ts this outsourcing of repetitive tasks to a more energy-efficient part of the brain that makes habits an incredibly powerful tool to apply to your working life. Identify things which you need to do repeatedly in a constrained but automatic way, and make them habits. Research suggests that habit formation can take a long time months in most cases - but building the right patterns into your day allows you to do so without committing much effort into the process.

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Habits

Outgrowing bad habits.


Conversely, designing your day gives you the structure you need to break bad habits.
O ne bad habit many people have is checking emails the moment that they wake up. Without giving themselves a chance to wake up properly and make plans for the day they can find themselves in a minor state of crisis or problem-solving. At one of the designing your day workshops we held, someone suggested that a better habit to grow would be spending a little time reading some articles they had saved on their tablet. Many of us have already established a habit of opening our e-mail app whenever we look at or use our phones, and that means were committing time to that activity without making a choice to do so. That might be OK - if dipping in and out of e-mail is important in maintaining your ow - but if its a distraction, it needs challenging and breaking. Thats why the review stage of designing your day is so important. Without that you cant identify and break habits that are stealing time away from you. W hen youve identified them, you can work out what the structure of the habit is and, in particular, what triggers the behaviour. Once you know that, you can grow a new habit to replace it.

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Habits

Habits.

The original habits of a highly effective person: Aristotle.

We might call Aristotle the original over-achiever. He studied almost every subject of his day - including physics, anatomy, geology and astronomy - and made his mark on all of them. Philosopher, polymath and teacher of Alexander the Great, Aristotle noted that excellence is not an act, but a habit - a clue to his personal management, perhaps.

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Habits

Neuroscience.
We are in the middle of a revolution in the understanding of how our brains work.
As neuroscience - a field which combines several disciplines, including psychology, chemistry and philosophy - expands what we know about our brains, the lessons are beginning to be applied in the workplace. We have gathered some insights that will be helpful in designing your day. To find out more about this fascinating subject, take a look at Your Brain at Work, by Dr David Rock and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Thinking is expensive As discussed in the section on managing time and energy, the brain uses about 20% of our blood glucose each day, most being consumed by the prefrontal cortex, a small section at the front of your brain responsible for conscious thought. When you think hard about something you use up glucose and deplete your ability to think about other things. The more decisions you make, the harder it gets to make them. We need to complete things One of the reasons that finishing tasks - or reading books, or articles - is so satisfying is that it closes a loop. Leave something undone and your mind will return to it again and again, burning more precious energy. This applies as much to an unfinished expense report as to an email that needs a reply, or a bulb that needs replacing at home. This is the reason why so many of us love lists, or more precisely, ticking items off on lists. Toward and away modes The brain has two basic mental states - toward and away. The former is positive, open and engaged, while away is negative, defensive and withdrawn. If you feel threatened or too stressed, your ability to think well is limited. Asking yourself which state you are in during different times of the day can help you control this. If you are in an away state and need to think clearly or creatively, you should do anything you can to change your mood to a toward state.

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Neuroscience

The Goldilocks brain Dr David Rock talks about the Goldilocks brain where things have to be just right to achieve peak performance. In order to operate at your best, you need to be in a positive state, but you also need to be stimulated by a potential reward or threat. So while stress and the away mode can limit your thinking, you sometimes need a little bit in order to motivate yourself to get on with things. Our subconscious supercomputers The conscious mind uses a very small fraction of the brain. If you let it, your subconscious can do a lot of problemsolving and thinking for you. The trick is to relax - as Don Draper advises his protg in Mad Men, in order to come up with a creative solution Just think about it deeply, then forget it then an idea will jump up in your face. When you are designing your day, you can think of breaks and mundane tasks not just as an opportunity to allow your brains energy levels to recover, but also for high quality thinking to go on in the background.

No multitasking Many of us have heard that multitasking isnt such a good idea, but we still do it anyway. The problem is two-fold: it makes us look very busy and we literally get slightly high on the hormone (dopamine) our brain gives us as a reward for answering email or using our social networks. The problem is, it is an illusion - we are getting less done and we are doing it less well than if we did one thing at a time. Our brains operate best sequentiallytackling one task after another. Multitasking is best described as what coach and McKinsey adviser Caroline Webb called procrastination in disguise.

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Neuroscience

Neuroscience.

Thinking on the move: Charles Darwin.

Darwins prodigious output as a scientist relied on lab work he performed in the morning. In the afternoon he would walk circuits of his gardens Thinking Path, while he reflected on his work and thought deeply. The evidence from neuroscience suggests that this is an extremely effective strategy for helping get the most from your brain. In his book, Brain Rules, Dr John Medina says that we evolved to walk many miles a day and think best when we get lots of this kind of mild exercise.

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Neuroscience

Planning life (not just work).


Designing Your Day is obviously a book with the business of work at its core. When you look at a design for your day - a timeline or a diary page, for instance - work will be at its core, but the other things that fill up the rest of your day should be considered as well.

The idea of work/life balance is troubling to some, because it seems to set the two things in opposition, when they are part of the same day, the same person. Work and life outside of work support one another in so many ways. When you arrive at work alert, engaged and healthy, ready to perform, to be the best you can be, it is because you are a whole person - supported by home, a social network of family and friends, your own interests and passions, and a healthy lifestyle. Your non-work life supports your work and also makes demands on you - you need to make sure you have allocated time and energy to everything that is important to you.

The idea of balance is also a tricky one. Sometimes you need to throw yourself into your work completely, at an unsustainable level, in order to make the most of an opportunity or to respond to a crisis. This is normal and necessary, but when you are designing days where work has squeezed out family time, social life, exercise, you have to be aware that this can only go on for a short while. Dr David Rock and Dr Daniel Siegel have a model for how this works from a neuroscience point of view, called The Healthy Mind Platter. In the same way as you would make food choices to ensure different types of nutrition are represented in your diet, Rock and Siegel suggest you need to have different types of thinking - including socialising, play, exercise and focus - in order to reach your potential.

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Planning life (not just work)

Happiness and purpose.


Knowing yourself starts with having a clear idea of who you are - your past, the skills you have built, the experiences you bring to bear - and where you are going.

Like any well put together organisational strategy, making the right decisions about where to put your focus and where to allocate resources is far easier if you have a clear idea of what your purpose is. H aving purpose is not just sound advice for life, it has a bearing on your practical effectiveness each day. Knowing why you come to work and how that fits in with your idea of who you are lowers anxiety, making a toward state easier to achieve, which in turn makes you more effective.

Over the past decade or so a body of thinking has emerged about the importance of happiness at work. Some individuals and organisations - famously Zappos put the happiness of their people right at the heart of their strategy. Some Scandinavian countries have a word arbeijdsglaede to describe happiness at work, its a shame that word doesnt exist in more languages. The evidence is that happiness makes you more productive, more creative and more resilient. Happiness shouldnt be a bonus, it should be the foundation of a productive day. It begins with a personal sense of purpose.

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Happiness and purpose

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Part 2: How to design your day.


Useful ideas about designing your day. The critical idea in this approach is not about making grand, lifechanging commitments, but rather making small changes one day at a time and learning from your ordsuccesses and failures. esign one day. Review it. D Design another.

How to design your day.


The days quickly turn into weeks and months until you find yourself in a radically different place than when you started, but without setting yourself up for the sense of failure - and likely project abandonment - that a sweeping resolution brings.

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How to design your day

The key principle is stepping back: taking time out of the process of work to prioritise, plan and finally review effectiveness day-by-day. This structure gives you the freedom to concentrate on those things that are most important. Successful people dont have more time, energy, or freedom than the rest of us - they just use what they do have better. Begin each day with a set of questions: What do I want to achieve today? What do I need to achieve today? H ow much time do I have available? Where do I need to be? O nce you know what matters, you can plan your day to make it likely that it happens. You wont always succeed in implementing the things you design into your day exactly as you wanted, but thats OK. Learn from that failure, and begin again tomorrow. Each day is, in effect, a prototype - but its a prototype of a product that will never be finished.

As you get better at reviewing your day, every day, it becomes easier to see what activities are making low-value contributions to your life - and consciously try to plan them out of existence. You trade low-value activities for high-value ones, and make your working day substantially more effective within the same time constraints. However, nothing can liberate you from those constraints. As we explored in part one, we all have time, energy and personal limits on what we can achieve in a working day. The aim is to take those constraints and use them as a structure to build the rest of your day around. Instead of being limitations you push against, they become a constructive and accepted part of your working day. Knowing your limits is a critical factor in design. Design always has an aim. Your aim for designing your day is sustainable productivity.

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How to design your day

Design thinking, meet productivity.


Brilliant minds and thousands of hours of their thinking have been invested in designing the world in which we work. The devices we use, the chairs and desks we sit at, the vehicles that transport us, the buildings and public spaces we move through - all of them have been shaped by designers and the method of design thinking. Why not apply the same processes to how you work - to creating more effective habits and routines and what we talk about at Nokia as a smarter everyday?

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Design thinking, meet productivity

What is design thinking?


You may be aware of the concept of design thinking, or at least have heard it mentioned, but lets pause for a moment and understand exactly what it is and why we can use it in our everyday lives.

The Wikipedia entry at the time of writing this ebook describes design thinking as: the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analysing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. That lays out a good case for why you should take a design approach to how you shape your day, optimise the way you use your time and energy to get things done. The problem of how to stay focused amidst the roar of distracting demands and make the right calls about where to spend your attention through your working day is ill-defined, but through a process of analysis and trying out solutions, you can find better ways to work (and live).

Tim Brown is one of the founders of IDEO, a leading design consultancy. He and his firm have played a large role in popularising the idea of design thinking and applying it to business problems. In late 2012, on his blog , Tim suggested applying design thinking in our lives, concluding his post with the tantalising provocation: Think of today as a prototype. What would you change?

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Design thinking, meet productivity

Five-step design thinking process.


Lets take a look at a simple model of how the design process works and then some key ideas designers use that you can apply to designing your day. The design process might be mapped out in the following stages once a brief or challenge has been set:
Discovery. Observe and try to understand what is happening in the current situation. Use empathy to understand why people behave in the ways that they do. Develop insights about the challenge. Define the challenge. Based on what you understand about the challenge, the people and the behaviours involved, work out the best way to describe it. Asking the right questions, using the right language to frame or reframe the challenge is crucial to developing an effective solution. Ideas. Develop ideas - as many as possible, without restrictions - about possible solutions to the challenge. Think about what the best possible solutions might look like. Prototype. Select an idea and try to make it real as quickly as possible. For product designers this means building a model, no matter how rough, so that they can see how it works. Website and software designers will create barebones versions of the product. Service designers may start storyboarding what the customer experience will be like or mocking up physical locations. Test and Iterate. Create and test working prototypes. Each new version - called an iteration - is an improvement on the last. If you were designing a product or a piece of software you would say at the end of this process that it was time to ship the product or put it on the market. For the purposes of designing your day, you can probably say that you will always be iterating, adjusting to some extent how you design each day.

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Design thinking, meet productivity

Discover

Define

Ideas

Prototype

Test and iterate

Three more useful concepts from design thinking.


Designing Your Day 42

Create the right conditions. Marko Ahtisaari, Nokias head of design, talks about creating the right conditions for innovation as being essential to his design process. In practical terms this means having the right people in the room, the right atmosphere and the right tools to hand.

Design thinking, meet productivity

Learn from failure. Designers expect to fail during the process of finding a solution. In fact failure is vital to the process of finding the best solution. When days dont work out, when plans go awry, you should look for what you can learn from the experience and what you can improve next time around, rather than feeling bad.

Constraints are liberating. We might think that creative minds like designers cant stand being limited by process. In fact they crave that structure, seeing the process and acknowledgement of constraints as essential to creativity. Designing your day around the constraints of your work and personal life can still leave room for creative and strategic thinking.

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Observation.
To design your own day, first you have to understand how you work. This may be more difficult than you think. Somehow we can have the ability to both be incredibly critical of ourselves (I am terrible at staying focused!) and overly flattering (If theres a deadline, Ill hit it, no matter what.).
Be dispassionate. Be as dispassionate as possible, as if you were analysing the actions of someone you had never met before. Try to be relatively non-judgemental and simply curious: I wonder why I leave all of those windows open on my computer all of the time? Why do I add something I have just done to my to-do list and then cross it out? List your insights. Based on your observations, list some insights you have about yourself. What do you do well? When do you do it? What are the things you need in order to be able to work well? Where do things go wrong? What are habits that work well and which get in the way? Get feedback. Talk to a trusted colleague or friend and ask for their impressions of you at work. Do they think you are well organised, happy, effective? Where do they think you could improve? If you have listed some insights about yourself, ask them if they agree.

Observing how you work requires a little rigour. Here we have gathered some approaches which might help: Keep a work diary for a few days: Note down the things you have done in each hour. You might also make a note of your energy level, and how happy and motivated you feel. Use a scale like marks out of ten to give some consistency. W rite a timeline. Sketch out the 24 hours of the day and note what you do in each. When you sleep, travel, read, the types of work you do, when you take breaks, etc. Bad day/good day. Based on your notes or from memory, create a timeline or free-form visualisation of what a bad day looks like. Whats not working? Whats getting in the way? Then try showing what an ideal day looks like: when you are really getting great work done, have enough time for family and friends, and get a good nights sleep.

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Observation

Use your Mornings wisely, its when you have the most energy.

Nooooo! Email is not the best place to start the day.

GET UP
Relax or reect on the day ahead.

07:00

CHECK EMAIL & SOCIAL MEDIA GET UP


Your body doesnt stand a chance on a caeine and sugar hit.

EAT BREAKFAST AND READ

BREAKFAST ON THE MOVE

TRAVEL / CHECK EMAIL


Being able to spot what is really urgent is a skill. Most things will wait.

TRAVEL / EMAIL / SOCIAL MEDIA MEETING

PRIORITISE AND PLAN THE DAY

EMAIL

LUNCH AND GO FOR A WALK

13:00
14:00

LUNCH / EMAIL / SOCIAL MEDIA

Instead of defaulting to email, default to looking at priorities.

RECHECK PRIORITIES

PROJECT WORK

MEETINGS

EMAIL
Email and meetings can rule your day if you let them.

EMAIL AND ADMIN

MEETING

REVIEW THE DAY

EMAIL
Exhausted and demoralised, you need a drink! But alcohol may disrupt precious sleep and lead to poor food choices, making it less likely youll be on your A game tomorrow...

Exercise may seem like a burden, but the rewards speak for themselves. Time well spent.

TRAVEL/SOCIAL MEDIA

18:00
19:00

DRINK

EXERCISE

TRAVEL/EMAIL/SOCIAL MEDIA

EAT DINNER
Switch o relax and re-charge.

EAT

PHONE IN DOCK, SCREENS OFF

TV/EMAIL

BED
Sleep is the most important factor in having good cognitive function it should be the priority

24:00

BED

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Observation

Prioritise first.
Prioritise prioritising- Dr David Rock. If you take just one piece of advice from this book, from all of the works on managing yourself and your time, it is that you should put prioritising first on your list.
L ists are the obvious place to start with setting priorities, but often to get a fresh perspective you need to try something new. If you have a massive list of things to do, marking them A, B and C will only get you so far. Try writing a fresh list, allowing yourself only a handful of priorities. Some prefer to use a visualisation approach, rearranging index cards, or getting things up on a whiteboard before sitting back to consider which things should receive the most attention. W hatever methods you use, really effective prioritising means being ruthless and realistic with yourself about how much you can achieve.

The more habitually you return to setting priorities, the more effective you can be. When things get a little crazy and you arent sure what comes next, it should be your cue to take time out and set or reset your priorities. O ne of the things that neuroscience teaches is that the brain has evolved to be lazy, or more kindly put, to avoid activities that consume a lot of resources. Planning and prioritising - or re-prioritising - seems like hard work and so we will try to avoid it, muttering Ill just get on with it and diving head-first into the first task in front of us, or that old fall-back of the mindlessly busy person: email. K nowing what your priorities are takes an effort of will. It takes discipline to focus on the task and then to complete it, but it is essential.

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Prioritise first

I n their book, Willpower, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney tell the story of a psychologist asked to speak at the Pentagon to a group of elite generals about time management. They asked the audience to define their personal approach to being effective in 25 words or less. The only useful response came from the only female general in attendance: First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down. Now thats focused prioritising.

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Prioritise first

Design the shape of your day.


Lists tell you what to do, calendars when to do it and priorities tell you which things really matter. To help all of these things work best together, you need to use two approaches: chunking and shaping.

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Design the shape of your day

Chunking and shaping.


Chunking Chunking means grouping together similar tasks - say, making phone calls, filling out expense claims, and even more cognitively demanding tasks like writing, research and analysis. It is a very efficient way of working, because using your brain in a certain way on a series of similar tasks allows you to stay in the same mode, as it were, rather than having to shift into a new one. The term chunking is also used in the psychology of learning and project management, to describe the breaking down of complex tasks into smaller ones. It is much easier to take on a simple task than a slightly unknown larger project, so its better to plan your task lists in chunks where the next action is what you focus on. Larger projects belong in your planning and prioritising time. I n designing our day, you should look to exploit the benefits of both kinds of chunking. Shaping Following the logic of chunking your time and tasks, a method for designing the shape of your day should emerge too. Remembering the insights you developed from observing your day, as well as your ideas about what a good day looks like, you can plot out what kinds of things you need to do and when in order for the day to run as well as possible. Thinking about when your energy levels are highest, whether you are a morning person or a night owl, you can plot out what types of activity belong where in the day. If you are at your most creative and focused first thing in the morning, you should shape your day to get you to your desk and writing, planning or whatever as soon as possible. You also need to block out time for breaks - short ones and longer ones for meals - as well as factoring in time for exercise, socialising and spending time with your family. Sounds challenging, doesnt it? Well no design problem is without challenges, but by devoting time and energy to those challenges you can develop better ways of doing things.

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Design the shape of your day

Design the shape OF Your day.

Day designer: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)


As well as being a founding father of the United States, a President, a distinguished diplomat, a scientist and an inventor (of bifocal glasses and the lightning rod, among other things).

Franklin might be regarded as the godfather of designing your day. He structured his ideal day in a thoughtful, measured way as you can see from the table opposite. You will note that his day was untroubled by email, childcare, commuting or other concerns of the modern knowledge worker. (Although he did fret about interruptions nonetheless.)

Despite this there are real insights to be gained from the close reading of his routine. Creating zones for types of work when you are at your most productive, chunking similar tasks together, taking breaks and planning time for the rest of your life are all things that make for a well-designed day.

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The Challenge

The morning question, What good shall I do this day?

5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5

Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness; contrive days business and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study; and breakfast.

Work.

Read or overlook my accounts, and dine.

Work.

Evening question, What good have I done today?

6 7 8 9 10 11 1 2 3 4
Sleep. Put things in their places, supper, music, or diversion, or conversation; examination of the day.

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The Challenge

Trying this for yourself.


There are a number of ways you can design the shape of your day. Its up to you whether you use a white board, an electronic diary or just a blank sheet of paper. In the spirit of innovation, maybe try different ways of planning on different days to find whats best for you.
Try some radical ideas to see what they look like. What if you worked in the evenings and early mornings and exercised and socialised in the middle of the day? What if office hours started at 1pm? You may not end up working like this, but the thought experiment may be useful in shaking you out of a rut and thinking about what different approaches you might take to your day.

If you are using an electronic diary, you can set up a new calendar just for this activity. This will allow you to block times for types of activity in a different colour to your actual calendar appointments, and to switch views between your schedule and your design for the day. On paper or a whiteboard, start by sketching out a timeline for all twenty-four hours of the day. Then plot out things that need to happen all the way along it. Dont be afraid to cross or rub things out and try again. A nother method would be to use index cards or sticky notes representing time blocks and moving them around along a timeline to see how you can develop different shapes of the day.

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Design the shape of your day

Reviewing and redesigning.


Just as you need to build time into your day to prioritise, you also need to set aside a few moments to review, reflect and revise your prototype.
No system will ever be immune to improvement, and the challenge is in forcing yourself to step back and examine your work objectively. W hat worked well for you today? Did you achieve everything you set out to do? Could you have done more? How do you feel now that the day is over? The process of asking these questions at the end of each day should become a habit, the mirror of the prioritising and planning session at the start. Through repeated analysis you will quickly notice patterns emerge. If the same problems surface time after time despite your best efforts, then a process of elimination will soon allow you to identify the real cause for concern. I f you find that you frequently fail to meet all of your goals for the day, then perhaps the larger problem lies with you taking on too much work, so the issue will be prioritisation. If your plans are often scuppered by an unexpected development, then work will be required to make your system more agile and easy to adapt. A s you perpetually improve your prototype of the perfect day you will assemble the parts one by one. Through the process of working you test it, break it, and rebuild it again in an improved form, discarding what doesnt prove itself to be valuable. With each new configuration, the framework will grow stronger, and your confidence in what can be achieved will grow exponentially. S ometimes reflection, redesign and prioritisation are all part of the same meeting with yourself. Dont be afraid to rip things up and begin afresh. Youll be surprised by what you discover when you do.

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Design the shape of your day

Defending your day.


Having invested time and concentration in designing your day, it is now necessary to protect yourself from the temptation of reverting back to bad habits. Time gained by cutting away unnecessary tasks can just as easily be squandered elsewhere, and the chaos of the wider world can frequently be too great to ignore.

Nobody works in a vacuum. Situations evolve, and your day needs to be robust enough to evolve with them. As your daily processes are refined and improved upon you will need to remain agile and adapt often. Roll with the punches, but stand firm on what you know to be most important. Dont allow your priorities to be hijacked. W ith the best of intentions, you can only defend your day so far. Ultimately you are working towards an ideal that will fail in small ways many times, running up against problems. However, there will also be small victories that mount up over time and can bring powerful changes to you, your team and your organisation as a whole. Pushing back in a positive way and asserting control can become a powerful habit. L ets look at some of the main things that can get in the way of your day going to plan.

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Defending your day.

Distractions.
In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman tells us that the best way to not allow us to be distracted by habits like checking email is to stop the chain of events as early as possible.
The moment you open Facebook, Twitter or your email inbox it is very hard indeed not to notice seemingly fascinating or urgent messages that require your attention, then open them, then reply, then move onto the next one. The best solution for avoiding common distractions is to create the right conditions and habits for focused work, or to put it simply: remove temptation and work on a routine for deflecting distractions. Turn off alerts and apps or programmes that arent essential to the task in hand. Get notes and files from any emails that you need before starting your task. Unless you are expecting an urgent call or text, turn off communications devices and set phones to flight mode. I f you are in an office environment where people may interrupt you, give signals that you are focusing on work, perhaps even tell neighbours that you will have your head down for an

hour or two while you work. A pair of headphones, even if you arent listening to music, can help as a signal. If someone does wave or interrupt, let them know you are focused and can talk in however many minutes. If colleagues are used to interrupting you, then adapting to a new workstyle can be as much a habit-setting exercise for them as for you. U ltimately, if it is impossible to remain uninterrupted at your desk, it may be a sensible idea to retreat to another space for focused work: a caf, a meeting room or break-out area. Developing distraction-resistant working isnt a case of a quickfix, it is something to work at. Like the whole project of designing a better working day, you need to persist, try out different tactics and develop effective habits.

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Defending your day

Meetings.
Meetings are obviously a vital tool for any team to stay in touch, compare thoughts, and plan for the future. However, when mismanaged it is all too easy for meetings to become overlong, disorganised distractions from the business they are intended to support.
O nce meetings begin, there are some simple questions that we all know but sometimes forget to ask, and their going unanswered can result in a baggy, less effective session. Who is chairing the meeting, keeping it to time and its objective? Who will share actions? What are the key objectives? If no formal agenda has been set, take a couple of minutes to do that. Conversation that is off topic or deserving of more time should be politely deferred to a future meeting. A side from these traditional rules and structures for meetings to help them run well, the age of always-on connectedness brings new challenges. Colleagues can drift off from the discussion, looking at email and other work behind laptops or on phones. O ne useful tip to avoid this pitfall and retain the focus of your team is to promote the practice of declaring technology in use at the table. If somebody is using a laptop to take

S o how can you make meetings work for you? As with so much in the process of designing your day, it can often be a case of asking the right questions, both of yourself and colleagues. F or instance, is your attendance essential for this particular meetings success? If the answer is no, then perhaps a phone conversation or even an email could achieve the desired result in a fraction of the time. Is your attendance required for the whole of a meeting? If not when can you join and leave? A well-planned and chaired longer meeting should be able to give you a time slot. I s the meeting itself necessary? How long should it be to achieve the objectives? People default to an hour or round up to hours because that is how diaries are laid out, but a ten minute huddle to reach a decision, or a twenty minute update on news might work just as well.

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Defending your day

notes, have them say so at the beginning of the session, so that others know they have their full attention. If someone needs to check email for an urgent client message during the meeting, they should say so up front, and reassure colleagues that they arent just responding to anything that pops up in their inbox. This eliminates confusion as to who might not be fully focused on the discussion, and discourages distraction. Why not switch off your mobile phone and encourage others to do the same? More focus on getting the business of the meeting finished efficiently may mean that it can end sooner, and then everyone can give their other work full attention. (As we saw in the neuroscience section, multitasking is extremely counter-productive.) A nother useful strategy is to make a point of booking your meetings at odd times, for instance ten past the hour.

This can encourage people to arrive on time and prepared, and give them time for a break if they have back-to-back meetings all day. L astly, dont get stuck in a rut. If regular Monday morning roundtables are proving unproductive, try scheduling in a midweek lunchtime, or even last thing on a Friday. Stepping out of established habits will provoke thought and engagement from those involved, and lead to shorter, more valuable meetings for all. W eekly meetings can become a bad habit if they outlive their usefulness. Adding an agenda point every few weeks to briefly discuss if the meeting is still useful or could be shorter is a useful discipline to keep.

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Defending your day

Email.
In discussions about productivity and managing time email is often cast as the most villainous of all distractions. This is of course very unfair. Theres a reason that email is everywhere: it is incredibly useful.
Find a new default setting (for yourself) Email is the default activity for many people. They reach for their phone to check it when they wake up, while waiting for their train, walking between meetings. Its a habit, and perhaps not a useful one as it can raise stress levels (psychologists says constant checking of email or social networks can create a sense of false urgency or anxiety) and stop you from taking a rest or reflecting on things that have just happened in a meeting. Habits that might be useful could include reading, a relaxation exercise or reviewing your plan for the day and priorities.

B laming email for your misfortunes is the modern equivalent of the proverbial poor craftsman blaming his tools. Tools need to be used skilfully and methodically to achieve the best results, and email is no different. S o here are a few headlines and tips from the many experts and advice we have come across on how to achieve mastery of email, rather than letting your inbox dictate your day.

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Defending your day

Schedule time for email. Many people recommend scheduling times to check email and sticking to them as an effective counter to the temptation to check your inbox every few minutes. Everyone needs to find what works for them, but a quick triage for urgent messages at the start of the working day - resisting the urge to respond to non-urgent ones - followed by a focused burst of clearing messages and replying to messages at the end of the morning is a recommended approach. Email bankruptcy. Ask people how many unread emails they have in their inbox and its not unusual to get answers of 10,000 or even 20,000. The concept of inbox becomes fairly meaningless at this point and it is fair to say that if you have this many unread you may have lost control of your email. A solution that some resort to is email bankruptcy: tacitly admitting that none of these will now be replied to and deleting the lot to start over. With caveats about deleting urgent client messages or emails from your boss, it can be incredibly liberating to start over, free from the psychological burden that that ridiculously high inbox number brings.

Inbox Zero. Suggested as an approach by David Allen in Getting Things Done and expanded upon by Merlin Mann, the idea is simple. Email inboxes are not surrogate task lists or file storage systems - every time you focus on your inbox it should be cleared to zero. Emails need to be replied to, added to proper filing systems, forwarded, delegated, ignored or filed for later reading. Inbox Zero is a highly effective way of ensuring that mails are not forgotten and cutting back on procrastination, because emails that demand action and are dealt with quickly.

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Defending your day

Conclusion: Taking others with you.


Thank you for reading Designing Your Day, we hope it has been useful to you. There is so much to explore on the topic of how to design a more effective day. As we have discovered, you could spend all your time thinking about how to get things done, but you would neglect actually getting on with your work.
E very now and again we simply need to check ourselves against the fundamentals of how to design your day. In all of the things we looked at, three principles stood out: Purpose. You need to check your days design against what your purpose is - what you want to achieve with your work, where you are headed in your life. Prototyping. If every day is a prototype, you learn and improve with setbacks and failures, rather than being disheartened. Prioritisation. The most important task in your day is setting priorities. When things change or you arent sure what comes next,your return to prioritising.

Taking the decision to design your day, to make each day a little better than the one before, is a project in the first instance. It requires an initial investment of time: to read, reflect, plan and to implement changes in your everyday life. A s we have tried to make clear, the real power of thinking about how to design your day is about turning these good intentions, insights and ideas into habits, a routine that slips into the background and becomes less effortful.

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Conclusion

Beyond this approach, there is one further dimension to the idea of designing your day: other people. Few of us work in isolation - we have colleagues, wider organisations, industries and communities that we are part of in our working lives.

We hope you have enjoyed this book. For more about this and other topics in the Nokia Smarter Everyday programme, please find us at: @NokiaAtWork www.linkedin.com/company/nokia

Sharing your approach and including colleagues in discussions isthe logical next step from taking responsibility for the design of your own day. Imagine the potential of sharing good habits, of building designs for the ideal day for a whole team, of building a movement within your company of people who think deeply about how everyone can get the most from their days. Best of luck to you in designing your day. Let us know how you get on.

www.nokia.com/global/ business/nokia-for-business www.nokia.com

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Conclusion

Further Reading.

Brainpickings. Maria Popova, http://www.brainpickings.org/ Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. John Medina, Pear Press, 2009. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Creates New Alternatives for Business and Society. Tim Brown, Collins Business, 2009. The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness. Dr Steve Peters, Vermillion, 2012.

Design Thinking . Tim Brown, http://designthinking.ideo.com Flex: Do Something Different. Ben Fletcher and Karen Pine, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2012 The Four Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Tim Ferris, Vermillion, 2011. Getting Thing Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity. David Allen, Piatkus, 2002. The Healthy Mind Platter, Dr David Rock and Dr Daniel Siegel. http://www.mindplatter.com/

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Further Reading

Inbox Zero. Merlin Mann, http://inboxzero.com/ Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker, http://hbr.org/2005/01/ managing-oneself/ar/1 The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Free Press, 2003. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change. Charles Duhigg, William Heinemann, 2012.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Stephen Covey, Simon and Schuster, 2012. Thinking Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman, Penguin, 2012. Why arent you delegating? Amy Gallo, http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2012/07/ why-arent-you-delegating.html Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus and Working Smarter, All Day Long. Dr David Rock, Collins Business, 2009. Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength. Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, Penguin, 2011

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Further Reading

#smartereveryday @nokiaatwork