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We organized a talk on productivity. Here is what we learned from it.

RAISE Ventures

Last week we organized a talk on the theme: “Work-life balance and productivity: how to find your own magic bullet”. Rather than an umpteenth list of tools or miracle methods, the idea of this talk was to share some tips on how to find a good level of performance while preserving a proper life balance.

We invited three superstars in this subject matter :

  • Jérémy Coron: expert in neuroscience applied to professional performance and creator of the holistic skills discipline
  • Laura Bokobza: Business Sparing Business Partner for executives at La Redoute, Orange, AT Kearney and many others
  • Jean de la Rochebrochard: author of the book Human Machine and Managing Partner at Kima Ventures

The event was moderated by Vincent Puren, former director of Maddyness.

If you missed the talk, don’t worry! The replay is available at the end of this article. Here is what we learned.

Routine is the key to better productivity

Fitting the different moments of our day into a routine allows us to be more aware of the time we need to carry out a task. According to Laura, “productivity is not doing more stuff, but doing it smarter”.

Routine allows us to stay focused. It segments our tasks into different phases. For example, Jean organizes his routine around three flows:

1) a productive flow to work alone ;

2) an interactive flow to work with other people ;

3) an inductive flow dedicated to personal reflection.

To organize their routines, our three guests admit to being calendar maniacs. Laura even schedules her leisure time with her son and husband. On the other hand, Jean likes to leave gaps in his calendar. It allows him to keep time to be more productive and deal with emergencies.

Our guests also agree on the notion of freeing up the buffer memory to remain productive in defined periods of time. They stress the importance of processing everything and especially of knowing how to say no to certain things. As Jean says, “saying no is freeing your mind”. To do this, Laura uses Notion as her second brain and has turned off her phone notifications. Thus, she remains in control of her time: she decides when she does what.

✅ Adapt your tasks to your energy level

Everyone has energy ups and downs in their day. We are all biologically different and it would be useless to strictly follow the model of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or even Laura and Jean. We often tend to impose complicated tasks on ourselves at a time when the body is not ready to receive them. Some people are like Ferraris, they can move forward very quickly over short periods of time, others are more like diesel-powered cars, they take longer to get going but can last for longer periods of time.

If you know how your body works, you can adapt your tasks to your energy level. You can schedule in your agenda defined periods for main phases with very complicated and energy demanding work (ups) and reserve secondary slots (downs) for simpler tasks such as emails or administrative work.

Struggling with tools and routines can therefore be explained by the decorrelation between our energy level and what we want to do at the same time. To know your chronotype i.e. the times of the day when you are most productive, Jeremy has created a test inspired by the book When by Dr. Mickaël Breuss and available at the end of the article.

⚔ Choose your battles

Jean points out that the best entrepreneurs he meets are often those who have the sense of priority. According to him, this means entrepreneurs who are aware of the person they are dealing with and the level of responsiveness that person expects. “During a fundraising, if an investor makes a request and it takes you 24 hours to respond, you clearly send the wrong signal.”

Laura adds that knowing how to prioritize also requires humility. We must recognize that we cannot be good at everything. According to her, our daily work can be broken down into three broad categories:

1) The tasks we do great and love to do ;

2) The tasks we do relatively well or that are too expensive to outsource. These tasks should be organized so that they take up the least amount of time possible and should be done at worthless times (i.e. secondary slots) ;

3) The tasks where the level of energy we would put into doing at an acceptable level is not compatible with our organization. Either we don’t do these tasks at all because they are not necessarily useful, or we can delegate them.

🛌 Sleep and nutrition: why you should not neglect them

95% of people need 8 hours of sleep but almost everyone thinks they need less.

Jeremy reminds us that sleep serves three main purposes:

- Recovery from physical tiredness

- Deconstruction of unnecessary memories in the brain

- Building important new knowledge

These three tasks are grouped into two main phases: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, where knowledge is built, and slow wave sleep, where knowledge is deconstructed and physical recovery is achieved. The slow wave sleep phases appear at the beginning of the night and the REM phases at the end of the night. If we miss the beginning of the night, we will recover less physically and if we miss the end, we will consolidate our knowledge less well.

We do not take enough time to sleep but we also do not take enough time to eat. We often imagine the cliché of the entrepreneur or the executive who eats up a sandwich between two meetings. But this can have a bad influence on our productivity.

Jeremy explains that when the body receives a sugar spike, it considers it as an aggression and releases a hormone called insulin which destocks the sugar in the blood. But insulin does its job so well that it lowers the glucose level below its normal threshold in the blood. So by going from one sweet product to another, we go from peak to peak and we eventually get tired and less efficient.

Jeremy advises us to prefer natural, unprocessed products that come from the earth and to avoid all bread, white pasta and cakes.

🧠 Free yourself from the mental workload

We should impose on ourselves moments dedicated to our personal life and others dedicated to our professional life. For Jean, his family is his anchor. It implies a set of constraints around which he organizes his day. For instance, he makes himself stop working around 7:00/7:30PM to be able to enjoy time with his family.

Jean told us : “To be able to dissociate the two, I start the landing before the end of the day” . It implies stopping the appointments from 5PM onwards to be able to deal with the last emergencies. The rides between the office and home can also serve as a decompression chamber.

Despite this, our guests admit that they find it difficult to stop thinking about their professional life during their personal life moments. Like many entrepreneurs and managers, they admit to suffering from the mental workload. Jeremy says that the brain is an organ of anticipation. The mental load is real since our brain anticipates in the worst possible way. To alleviate this concern, he advises to write down our problems and all the actions to solve them. Our brain will then have the feeling of knowing where it is going and stop brooding over the work to be done.

✋ Stop feeling guilty and know when to give in

One thing our three speakers agreed on during this talk is that combining professional performance and personal fulfillment is far from being easy.

Laura summarizes: “We shouldn’t feel guilty about the fact that it’s not easy”. If we continue to make the effort to find a work-life balance, knowing it is not perfect but that we are progressing, it is already a big step forward. Above all, we must not let ourselves go. We must stay aware of the time and the people around us at the risk of waking up one day not knowing what we have done with our life.

Jean likes to tell himself that it’s not a big deal. “Sometimes we have to relax and let it go”. Like defining our time limits, we must understand our own emotional limits and know how to stop beyond a certain level.

To conclude, being productive doesn’t mean mastering everything and knocking out hundreds of tasks a day. Stop overthinking about things that aren’t worthwhile and focus on the essentials. Being productive also means knowing how to give in sometimes.

RAISE Ventures team.

Resources:

📺 The replay of our talk

💌 Laura Bokobza’s newsletters that share best practices, and tools, and save time in monitoring: in French, and in English

🧠 Jérémy Coron’s website with all the resources to make your brain explode

Jérémy Coron’s program for defining your chronotype and building your “chronoproductivity” schedule

📖 Jean de la Rochebrochard’s book Human Machine to always strive to become the best version of yourself

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