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How to get more done in less time

There's a few ways to crack the efficiency code in advice. You can hone in on the right tech stack and bring automation in where appropriate. You can also drive efficiency in the way you and your team operate by improving your cognitive energy and performance.

Imagine getting 2-3 extra hours of high productivity every day from everyone in your team (including you). What impact would that have on your business output? Our guess is more advice delivered faster, more clients, and more revenue. To learn how to harness our cognitive energy to get way more done in less time, we brought in the expert - Vanessa Bennett. We've summarised the biggest takeaways from her XY+ web event below.

Get 2-3 extra hours of productive output every day

Becoming a high-performer requires a mindset shift, and the best way to do this is through self-directed neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change shape and to change itself.

- Vanessa Bennett

Our brain is wired to keep us alive (survival). It's not wired to help us do amazing things (thrive). What is helpful from a goal perspective, is very different to what is helpful from a survival perspective. If you're not consciously directing your thoughts to build the neural pathways that support your goals, unfortunately, the more defensive pathways (caused from unhelpful thoughts) take charge and work against what you're trying to achieve. Here's three tips to flex your self-directed neuroplasticity muscle:

#1 Be super clear on your goals - Let's say your goal is to increase your fees by 20%.

#2 Recognise your current thought process. What negative beliefs are you holding onto which are not aligned with the goal you're trying to achieve? Keeping with the same example, you're probably telling yourself a bunch of reasons why you can't increase your fees - "Clients aren't really going to pay an extra 20% for my advice". 

#3 Replace negative beliefs with helpful thoughts, and the best way to do this is by finding evidence to support your goal. In this scenario, find some really clear reasons why people would pay the increased fee, and focus on that. One example might be to look externally at other advisers who are charging 20% more than you now and bring that evidence into your own business and belief system.

How to amplify the cognitive energy of your team

If you are a leader, these four tips will help you amplify the collective cognitive energy of your team to achieve 2-3 extra hours of high productivity from each individual. Even if you are a small team of three, extrapolating this value out each week is the equivalent of hiring an extra staff member!

#1 Right tasks at the right time

The first step is helping people do the easy stuff everyday. If people are feeling overwhelmed, it's really hard to get them thinking 'helpfully'. Match your team's cognitive energy to do the right tasks at the right time. This will help individuals feel more successful, and free up more time in the day for bigger tasks that require more cognitive energy.

#2 Lead by example

Create the environment where your team can feel psychologically safe and can flourish. Leaders need to be exhibiting the kind of behaviour that encourages high-performance and leading by example. If leaders are constantly complaining, not doing the right tasks at the right time, not thinking 'helpfully' - this behaviour becomes the 'norm' within the business.

#3 Set clear expectations

There needs to be a level of accountability for everyone in the business. Leaders need to set clear guidelines for each person's role and responsibilities within the business. If work isn't done, or if there's confusion as to who's responsibility something is, your team is going to use up a lot of unnecessary cognitive energy trying to figure out what's going on.

#4 In and outside of work

Research shows there's quite a lot of spillover of stress between work and outside of work. If people are really stressed outside of work, it's likely going to spill over inside of work, and vice versa. There's so much more evidence now to show as a leader, it's in your best interest to realise and accept you are managing adults with adult problems. If you can help your team understand how to deal with life situations in a helpful, solutions-focused thinking way, both inside and outside of work - this when the magic happens. If you're not confident in doing this, bring in a third party coach or consultant who can help. Doing nothing won't alleviate the problem.

How to lead a high-performing virtual team

As the remote team environment continues to grow, there are several nuances leaders really need to be aware of to help their teams flourish in a virtual environment. For a lot of people, getting all of their work and meetings done online can take a lot of cognitive energy. These four quick tips will help leaders lead high-performing teams in a virtual environment:

#1 Reduce ambiguity

Our brains hate ambiguity. When presented with unknown's, we go into overdrive to make sense of a situation. Think about a Zoom meeting and the things that can be ambiguous. Some people have their cameras on, some people have the cameras off. Those with their camera on are wondering why another person has their camera off. Are they not interested? Are they doing other work in the meeting? Did they not brush their hair? In a physical meeting room, this ambiguity doesn't exist.

You want to reduce ambiguity as much as possible so people aren't having this kind of chatter happening in their brain while trying to concentrate on the context of the actual meeting or the task at hand. Set some clear expectations for scenario's where ambiguity can become apparent.

#2 Check in with people

Some people are loving working from home. Others can't wait to get back in the office. As a leader, touch base with your team individually, and in a way that suits them. Even just asking how they're doing shows them they are valued and you care. And if they are struggling, look for ways to help them, or find the right people who can. 

#3 Clear communication 

It's imperative everyone in the team understands the needs of all stakeholders. What are the individual needs of people? What are the team needs? What are the business needs? To perform optimally as a team, is a daily huddle online a good idea? Is a weekly face-to-face meeting in the office required? Are there certain days people are required to be in the office? 

This is a great opportunity to ask each individual (when you check in with them) what their needs are, and then have a discussion with the whole team to decide together. You'll get far better buy-in from the team when they feel they have been heard and are part of the decision process.

#4 Setting clear boundaries

Working virtually is new territory so many people are trying to navigate, and surveys are showing a lot of people are actually working harder at home. When they would usually switch off after leaving the office, they're actually sitting in front of their computers longer in the day or accepting emails, Slack messages or phone calls after hours. As a result, some people are experiencing working from home burnout.

From a cognitive energy point of view, most people have about 4-6 hours a day on average (max) to do the heavy tasks and heavy thinking. Set clear boundaries with the team so everyone knows when they should be 'switching off' and when team members can be contacted.

Let's recap

We all have the same amount of time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you look at someone else and think "how to they have the time to do all of that?". The reality is, you can be that person who is able to get so much done.

As an individual, it starts with changing your mindset and creating new neural pathways and constructive mental habits. As a leader of a team, it's up to you to lead by example and implement the strategies to bring out the best performance in others. Being 'so busy' is not a badge of honour. Striving to be a high-performer and working efficiently is. Follow these principles (or reach out to Vanessa Bennett who can help), and you'll be on your way to doing far more in less time.