Get started in the right way with these productivity hacks for 2021


When people think of New Year’s resolutions, productivity at work is usually pretty high up on the list. Alongside cutting out junk food, quitting certain vices and learning a new skill. 

At Intelligent Talk, we like to think that any day is a good day to make positive changes and we don’t need a New Year to make it happen!

We understand the appeal, especially after the year we’ve all had (Even TIME magazine declared 2020 the “worst year ever”). We’re all looking to the new year as a way to make a positive change in our lives.

However, with 80% of resolutions being broken by February it seems like we could all use a helping hand to make meaningful change that last the year and beyond.

Although we may still be facing COVID-19, lockdowns and a lot of economic uncertainty, it’s still possible to create positive change.

So, if you’re looking to boost your productivity, here are our favourite ways to go about it.

1. Remove the need to be motivated in order to be productive. 

Usually, when considering productivity, the first thing that comes to mind is motivation. We all tend to think that productivity needs to start with a rush of inspiration and energy in order to do things.

This isn’t necessarily the case. All productivity actually requires, is action.

Waiting to be motivated can cause a lot of frustration and friction as we wait for the ‘perfect’ time to work on something, we end up giving way to procrastination and guilt.

If instead you tell yourself, this will only take a few minutes, once you sit down and start the rest will flow easier.

2. Newton’s First Law of Motion.

It is more difficult to start than it is to continue. If you’ve ever started going to the gym, you’ll know how true this is. Once you have incorporated your new habits into your routine, you become more productive and they are much easier to maintain.

3. Incentivise completing your to-do lists.

Human beings work with impulses. And much like Skinner’s rats, you can become more productive by adding more pleasure to the action you want to do, or painful consequences if you don’t do it. For example, you can listen to your favourite music whilst completing a task or reward yourself once certain objectives are complete.

This can also work on the flip side, set yourself forfeits like doing 10 push-ups if you don’t hit certain deadlines or targets you’ve set yourself.

4. Follow the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule essentially means that 20% of your actions produce 80% of your results.

For example, if you have 10 things to do, identify the 2 goals that will bring you closer to your overall goal and which can wait a little longer. It’s essentially prioritising in it’s most basic form.

5. Substitute old habits with new habits.

When dealing with habits it is much easier to substitute an old habit than to create a new one or break an old one completely. For instance, if you are trying to cut down on caffeine – instead of stopping from drinking coffee completely, replace each cup you would normally have with a cup of tea or water instead. 

6. Use the Pomodoro technique.

This time management technique uses a timer to break up your work into intervals with a short break in between. 

Traditionally using blocks of 25 minutes, this can be adapted to suit your needs with the idea being that you focus solely on one task during that block and nothing else, once the timer rings you take a short break to refresh yourself before starting another timer and block of activity. Once you have completed four blocks, you take a longer break. You can find more about this technique here.

7. The 2-minute rule.

If something takes less than two minutes, do it now. A simple, yet effective way to clear those smaller tasks that often get put to the side.

8. Stop multitasking. 

As our lives continue to get busier and busier, most of us have looked for ways to get more done by multitasking.

Technology has made it easier than ever to multitask, but constantly multitasking can lead to a reduction in overall brainpower and memory problems.

9. Track your time online.

If you work online, or from home, it can be incredibly easy to get distracted and off-track.

Social media and other distractions are only a click away. Making it all too easy to check Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or other apps and websites that time can be wasted on for hours.

Apps such as Rescuetime can help you audit your day to tell you where you’re really spending your time.

It may feel like you’re putting in 8 hours of work but after a closer look, you may notice that’s not the case at all.

Keeping on top of your distractions can be a great way to ensure your time is spent more productively. 

10. Procrastination happens – make the most of it.

Procrastination is natural, sometimes the harder we try to be productive, the harder it becomes. 

Sometimes the best thing we can do is embrace it. Embracing it doesn’t necessarily mean giving in to it completely though. Instead of being sucked into a Netflix show, watch a TED Talk. Instead of reading inane Facebook updates for 20 minutes, read a blog post (we’ve got plenty here). 

Being gentle with yourself reduces the pressure that can cause burnout and a decline in mental health. Allow yourself a few minutes of distraction then refocus and get back to the task at hand.

Applying even one of these tips will help you become more productive, save you time and allow you to focus on the things that really matter to you in 2021. 

We’d love to hear if any of these tips help you, or if there are any you would add!

Published: 11th January 2021

The final push – How to stay motivated in the run up to Christmas.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s also a huge productivity killer and being motivated isn’t always the top priority.

The Christmas season is a time to celebrate and enjoy yourself, but – can you do this while staying productive at work?

We’ve put together our Top 5 Tips to stay productive, without becoming a grinch!

Plan Ahead: 

The first thing that can do wonders for your productivity is planning. December is here so set aside a little time to note down that all-important to-do list. It’s so satisfying to cross something off your list and helps keep you on track when you can see what is still left to do.

Don’t Over Commit: 

It can be tempting to take on one last project before the Christmas break, but nothing kills motivation more than an unachievable goal. Use your list from step one (check it twice!) and make sure you have enough time to add a new commitment if not, it can wait until the New Year!

Enjoy It: 

The best way to keep yourself and your colleagues motivated during the festive season is to enjoy it! Arrange small ways to celebrate together – have a festive feast in the office where everyone brings their favourite Christmas snacks or if you’re working remotely, arrange a virtual Christmas party or arrange a remote Secret Santa.

Engage With Your Customers: 

Christmas is the perfect time to really interact with your clients. Send out Christmas cards, check in with a pre-Christmas call or consider an interactive social media campaign: It’s the ideal chance have fun and strengthen relationships!

Wrap It Up: 

We’re not talking gifts here! Knowing you’re coming back to work with a list of goals you’d like to achieve in 2021 can give you that much-needed boost to get you through to the end of the year. You know you’ll have a headstart for getting back into the swing of things!

Jingle all the way…

… to a motivated and fun end to the year! Remember to take some time off to decompress, but don’t lose sight of yours and your clients’ goals too! Think about what you want to achieve, and we’ll be right here cheering you on and bringing in the holidays with a big plate of mince pies!

Have you got any more tips for staying motivated during the festive season? We’d love to hear them – let us know in the comments!

Published: 21st December 2020

Fighting the winter blues..


Anyone who works in sales will tell you, it can be tough!

Sales is still hard work in summer but when the sun is shining and it’s light until 10pm everything just seems… better.

As the days get shorter with gloomy mornings and darker evenings, let alone with lockdowns constantly looming, you might feel yourself going into ‘hibernation mode.’ With the grey, chilly weather, you might not be feeling your best. 

The ‘winter blues’ is a real thing – it’s characterised by feeling more down, sad, or just less energised than usual. 

So, how can you get rid of that ‘blah’ feeling, banish those winter blues and keep making sales like it’s still the summer of ‘19?

It all starts with your morning routine.

Now, we’re not going to reel off how you should wake up at 4am and you’ll be instantly better than everyone else through moral high ground alone, like those many, many LinkedIn posts we love to hate.

But having a decent routine will improve your morning. 

If you’re getting the first part of the day right, then chances are the rest of the day will follow. Next thing you know, you’ve strung a few of these good days together and you’ve built a great habit of positivity!

That means a more focused, prepared and energetic you! In sales, we all know that is what’s best for you, best for business and best for your clients.

To achieve this, your morning routine needs to focus on your physical health, mental health and the day ahead.

Once you’ve broken down your routine into these categories it’s easy to achieve something for each one, no matter how small and fit it into the time you have.

Physical Health:

This year, our physical health has been difficult to maintain with the gyms being closed, lockdowns and working from home for a lot of people.

By introducing a small change into your morning routine, you can boost your energy and create a healthier habit than shuffling from the bedroom to the living room to work.

  • Drink water as soon as you wake up. Come on, this should be common sense by now. Your brain is 78% water, you want it to perform, you’ve got to keep it hydrated!
  • See the light. There’s not much sunlight around at this time of year, so it’s important to get that sweet vitamin D where you can – open those blinds, sit by the window, get out for a walk if you can. You can also bolster your intake from other sources such as your diet. Vitamin D helps encourage the production of serotonin, the happy hormone.
  • Eat healthily. If you’re struggling to get up in the morning, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients. A balanced breakfast will set you up for the day.
  • Exercise. You don’t have to go run a marathon or lift weights for an hour and a half – if you do, amazing! But for most of us a small period of activity will have a dramatic impact. Walk the dog, do some star jumps, find a quick work-out on YouTube and follow it. Whatever you enjoy, do it!

I know you’ll probably feel like just curling up on the couch with a share bag of Doritos this winter but it’s good to keep as active as you can to combat the winter and lockdown blues. 

Building healthy habits will keep you positive, you’re achieving something good for yourself and also releases serotonin! 

Mental Health:

Mental health awareness has probably had its best year yet, with celebrities sharing their experiences, viral hashtags and a huge number of campaigns, we’re slowly but surely turning the stigma on its head and realising that mental health is just as important as physical health.

Whether it’s working from home, isolated from your family and friends that chips away at it, being on furlough, a dip in business, or working as a key worker through a pandemic – everyone’s mental health has been affected this year.

Taking a few moments each morning to bolster your mental fortitude will help keep you going at full strength, so you can carry on being the best you can be, despite the circumstances.

  • Make your bed. William H. McRaven, a retired US Navy Admiral famously gave a speech detailing the benefit of making your bed. You can watch the full video here. “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task. And another. And another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
  • Meditate. I’m not talking about sitting cross-legged in a field with flowers in your hair, so you can stop sniggering. Take a few minutes in the shower to clear your head and order your thoughts. Have a moment to yourself while the kettle boils or whilst you’re getting dressed, be mindful and focus purely on the task at hand. There are countless studies that show mindfulness and meditation improves focus, mental health and general wellbeing.
  • Keep in touch. Making sure you keep in touch with your family and friends helps you feel more connected to the world and less isolated. This goes for your colleagues too, with so many of us working remotely it can quickly feel like you’re not part of a team anymore. Drop a voice note over to a loved-one first thing, book a virtual lunch break with your colleagues to have something to look forward to or arrange your morning Zoom team meeting to start a couple of minutes early so you can have a natter and a coffee together like old times!

The Day Ahead:

The final part of your morning routine focuses on the day ahead of you, it sets the pace and tone for the day leaving you feeling in control.

  •  Plan your day. This subject has been done to death but spending a couple of minutes to order out your day, plot in your breaks and refresh yourself on any meetings you have will ensure you are prepared for your day, not rushing around without focus or twiddling your thumbs not knowing what your priorities should be.
  • Eat the frog. This means, identify what your hardest/most time consuming/off-putting task of the day is and get it done first! When you get the worst things over with first thing, the rest of your day will feel a lot smoother and easier.
  • Do something for yourself. Read a chapter of the book you’re currently reading, listen to your favourite song, spend an extra minute with your loved ones, play with your dogs… whatever it is, set aside a few minutes to do something for yourself and your day won’t feel so overwhelming. Raising your mood before starting a busy day kick-starts a positive mindset that will last much longer than the activity itself.

You might find some of these tips a little unorthodox or like you don’t have time to fit three extra things into your morning routine but once you start, you’ll realise that you have more time than you think.

These are just some suggestions, whether you have 30 minutes or two hours – try different things, change it up or create your own! The best morning routine is one that works for you, adds value to your day and doesn’t feel like a chore.

A lot of things have changed this year, out of our control and a lot of the time for the worse. 

Let’s all take this opportunity to change something for ourselves, for the better.

If you’re looking for more ways to stay motivated – check out another of our blog posts on motivation here!

Published: 1st December 2020.

We’re sorry to remind you…


We're sorry to remind you, the year is nearly over.

But if your financial year is aligned with the tax year, then your year-end is just under two months away. You will no doubt now be in the final sprint to the end of March. 

It can be a fraught time – counting down the days left to achieve the year’s targets, whilst at the same time, pulling together your plans for 2020/2021. 

If you’re home and dry with your numbers, fantastic! But if that year-end figure is proving to be rather elusive, now’s the time to take action. Here are some thoughts that may help ease the stress and prevent you from breaking that dry January pledge in a big way in February!  

Firstly, use any resources that you have at your fingertips 

Resources such as our previous blogs ‘Why your sales process sucks’  & ‘Dealing with moving goalposts’. They give advice and tips on getting your processes right and hitting those targets when you need it most. 

Now’s the time to have a really good look at your pipeline.  

 Be honest with yourself – have you let anything slip through the cracks? If so, you may find those elusive nuggets of sales opportunities are right in front of you. If the initial groundwork has already be done, there could be the chance of some quick wins. A bit of additional effort might be all it takes to push them across the line. It’s worth bearing in mind that many prospects will be working to the same financial timings and may have budgets they need to use before year-end or at least get a jump on next year while the financial planning is in full swing at this time of year.. 

Think about quick wins versus large wins.  

You need to carefully weigh up where you should be focusing your efforts, and the likelihood of deals dropping into place. On the one hand, smaller deals usually have faster completion times. But whilst you might be able to nail them down sooner, you’ll need more of them to fill a large gap in the figures. It might be one large deal is all you need. Great if it happens – but do you have the time to pay it the attention it needs and can the decision on it be made with enough speed to secure it before the end of March? There are no rights and wrongs; you need to look at your own opportunities and choose the route that you think has the most chance of delivering the revenues you need. 

Finally, is it worth bringing in some outside help?

We all like to think we can do things alone, but sometimes the right support can make all the difference when the pressure is really on. Whether it’s a specific skill you need to help you with a tricky prospect or some admin support to free up your time to focus on selling, take a frank look at your challenge areas, anything stopping you performing to the best of your ability, and ask for the help you need. 

What are your tips for a year-end boost to get you over the line? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Published: 04th February 2020.

Motivation: How do you beat the post-holiday slump?


be the boss, beat the holiday slump, motivation

We’ve got some good news and some bad news

The bad news is, summer is nearly over. We’ve had our last bank holiday – and what a scorcher it was. The good news is, it’s only about three months to Christmas! Before we know it, we’ll be ordering the turkey and digging out the tinsel. But what about these few weeks in-between?  What happens to motivation?

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