Thursday 25 April 2019

The one trick to getting more things done during the day - productivity and life coach

Ciara Conlon (46) is a productivity and life coach. A former software engineer, she reassessed her life on maternity leave. She lives in Skerries with her husband, Ockie. They have three sons - Jordan (22), Kai (14) and Troy (12)

Ciara Conlon
Ciara Conlon

For years, I tried to get up early and exercise first thing in the morning. I'd do it for a while, and then I'd stop. It just didn't go with my personality. I understand personalities, especially with my work as a productivity and life coach. It was important to understand myself, too.

Now, I get up at 6am and I meditate. I'm not a morning person, and I have spent 10 years trying to hone this habit. It still doesn't work perfectly, but meditation is the key. It makes it easier for me to get up. Every day is different, but I always start with 20 minutes meditation. I get up, go into the bathroom and then get back into bed to do it.

I get bored quickly, so I vary my habits. I listen to different guided meditations, ranging from Deepak Chopra to Gabrielle Bernstein. Meditation starts the day in a positive way. When I don't do it, I see the difference. Then I write in my gratitude journal - be thankful for three things every day.

I have three boys. The eldest is in Vancouver, and in the mornings the other two need to be dragged out of the bed. My husband gets up at 5.30am, and is in the sitting room, doing yoga. His name is Ockie, and he is from South Africa.

Next, I walk the dog. It's a 20-minute walk. I do it no matter what the weather. The dog needs to be walked. We have a golden retriever, and he is whining around the place, looking to get out. The walk is a calming experience. I don't think about planning the day. I am just present, absorbing these sights and smells around.

Having these morning routines sets you up for the day. When you've achieved something in the morning, you feel better about your day. The power in sticking to the routine is that your day goes much better. It's easier to stack a good habit on another one. I have porridge for breakfast. We eat healthily. One of my teenagers complains that we are one of the healthiest families in Skerries.

I'm a leadership and productivity coach. I also do life coaching. My day varies between running workshops and coaching. I could be doing one-to-ones with a CEO, helping organise workflow and workspaces in a good way. A lot of the work I do is corporate, but I do work with small businesses as well.

Also, I've written two books - Chaos to Control and Productivity for Dummies. Most people who work in small organisations spend their day reacting. They look at their emails and spend all day reacting to all the things that other people want them to do. I ask them to make very simple changes to their current way of working. I want them to be proactive, to plan, and to put their own priorities first.

The trick for productivity

Not starting your day with emails is a very simple thing, and everybody has heard about it, but they are not living it. People still do it. It just knocks you off course. I do it myself sometimes, and then you find that it's 11am and you haven't done any work. You want to do some real work and achieve something. I also teach people to say no, to recognise that their time is important, and they need time without interruptions. They should batch-process emails at certain times during the day.

When I go in, I see everybody scrambling - going from one meeting to the next and not working strategically. A simple tip I give them is to start their day with their calendar; to use their calendar for planning their own work, as opposed to meetings. So they plan out their priorities.

Productivity is about recognising what is important to you and getting it done. It's about achieving your goals, and they can be anything in life - from organising your home, to starting a business. Basically, it's about making life work for you.

Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with all the things they have to do. I used to be like that. I'm not a naturally organised person and my brain doesn't work that way, but I have introduced systems and routines that make my life easier. It was all about getting rid of clutter.

I started to clear out my wardrobe and my kitchen. All that clutter affects your subconscious. I got organised physically, and then mentally. You have to ask yourself: 'What do I need to do? What do I have to do? What would I like to do?' I'm a great believer in writing things down. If you are carrying all that around in your head, you are minimising the processing power of your brain. It's all about personal productivity.

The overall priority with life coaching is happiness. I can be gentle, but I also try to push people. I tell them to take responsibility. You have to figure out what are the excuses. What is holding you back? A lot of the time, after people do life coaching, they end up changing careers. That's what happened to me. I used to be a software technical support engineer. I've designed a new programme this year, called Design a Life You Love.

In the evenings, we try to sit down and have dinner together. But some nights, the boys have football training. I make a lot of people jealous when I tell them that my husband does most of the cooking. I have to be careful. I cook the odd time, so that he doesn't lose the passion. I go to bed at 11pm. I like to read in bed.

Before I go to sleep, I look at my vision-board, which is at the foot of my bed. It's a visual representation of my goals and what I want in life. I know that some people get up at 4am. That's fine, as long as you go to bed at 9pm. I need my sleep.


In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Ciara's Public Productivity Workshop is on March 9 at Red Cow Moran Hotel, Naas Rd, Co Dublin

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life