It’s Monday again and it’s time to get s*** done! ⏱
Monday #Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 quick ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
Today’s guest is Anna Pelova, Founder & CEO at Your Influence, a company focused on content marketing for #blockchain and #tech companies. Anna is a #DigitalNomad from before it was cool. Traveling around the world to meet brilliant entrepreneurs and write her book – “Average of Great”.
1. You’ve been a so-called digital nomad since you were 16. Was it a coincidence or a conscious decision? What are the pros and cons of living such a lifestyle?
▶ I think it started with a movie, I watched that was about Richard Branson traveling around the world with a balloon. I was infatuated by the idea to go on a round the world trip, but I thought I had to be a millionaire to do that. Perhaps it was a mix of both. I went to study in England when I was 18 and I was alone. Meanwhile, I was making extra cash making logos and selling copywriting service but it wasn’t enough to support myself with that so I had to work in a shop and in catering. The #digitalnomad money I made paid the rent every now and then. My ambition was to work for a big advertising agency and that dream got shattered when I first went to New York, two years in my Bachelors degree. I saw what consumerism did to people, linking all the neon ads to all the morbidly obese people that I saw. It shook me and I realised that I am better off using my creative skills for a good cause. Later on, I did a work and travel program in San Francisco and I once more realised how bad I wanted to travel. But this time was different. I traveled to Hawaii and Vegas with two other students in the same program while our American colleagues who were making more money were telling is they also wanted to do that but they didn’t have the money. “You make a lot more than us per hour, what do you mean you don’t have the money?” The answer was “bills and debt.” I then knew I didn’t need that much money to travel, I just needed freedom and creativity. After that moment of epiphany, everything important life choice I made revolved around my desire to travel.
2. Is it difficult to stay productive while being constantly on the road? What are your best tips for those who are / consider to be digital nomads?
▶ It’s very difficult to stay #productive while traveling and those Instagram pictures of laptops on the beach with a “today’s office” caption are very delusional. The glare on your computer screen and the nice weather make it impossible to work outside. I once went to Bali with the intention to spend a month writing my book but ended up riding a scooter and exploring all day, checking out the yoga studios, eating, and getting ridiculously sunburnt (it took more than a year for those white short marks to disappear from my legs). There are so many productivity hacks and advice out there but you have to find out what works for you. What type of person are you? Are you spontaneous or a planner? A tidy or a messy person? Do you thrive in order or are you the master of chaos? I am spontaneous, messy, and I thrive in chaos. And there is nothing wrong with that. I am sick of “productivity experts” telling me I should be something, I’m not. There’s no way a calendar can rule my life. There is no way I can just become a morning person – my body hurts real bad if I have to get up at 6am and I have been this way since I was a kid (except that time when I was doing the keto diet and I automatically started waking up at 4am, and even then it didn’t fit my lifestyle as I starting falling asleep at 8pm).
You have to really spend time with yourself and know yourself to find out what works for you. Here is what has worked for me:
- I always get up without an alarm, unless I have a call or a meeting but I rarely schedule things before 11am.
- I pace myself: I stay in to do work and am anti-social for a week, and then I take the next week off to go out, explore, and have fun. Who said we have to work for 5 days, take 2 days off, and repeat? You don’t have to conform to these outdated templates. I can work non-stop for a month and then chill for a month. I am very productive when I go from one extreme to the other. Balance requires movement, it’s not a place of stillness or a final destination you reach. Realising that you can choose your own work pattern and schedule can be liberating.
- Work less hours, but have laser focus when you do it: work is not about time, it’s about focus and energy. The less hours you work, the more energy you have which makes you more focused. I can do 8 hours of work in 2. When it comes to productivity, I believe that less is more.
3. How important is planning and prioritisation? Do you have a specific process or system you follow? Give me the secret sauce!
▶ I never plan or prioritise properly but I do use Trello to clear my head and map everything that I need to do – from the laundry to the job that pays me the most. Sometimes, I would do the least important tasks first, if they take a few minutes to complete, just to clear my brain’s RAM.
4. What do you do to motivate yourself when you are feeling unfocused or overwhelmed?
▶ I watch Netflix, go to the SPA, read a book, sunbathe… This is something that I call “empty space”. If I feel unfocused and overwhelmed then I go to my empty space and surrender to the feeling. It sounds counterproductive but it reality it can be very beneficial. If you have a flu, you don’t force your body to go to the gym, you stay in bed until it passes. The more you resist it, the longer it’s going to take to heal. So when my procrastination urge kicks in, I fully surrender to it. It allows me to come back with more focus and energy.
5. In the last few years – what habit or belief have you acquired, that helps you to be a better professional today?
▶ Investing money to travel the world and meet mentors. Initially, it broke me down psychologically. Lots of old beliefs and patterns had to be cleared. I even worked with a psychotherapist to release these on a personal and professional levels. We are conditioned with so many bullshit beliefs and some of them can be toxic. So now I constantly question my belief system, teaching my mind to accept that there is no right or wrong. And this is key. Imagine an argument between two people claiming that the other person is wrong. They are both right. There are as many realities as there are people, and they are all valid. Our brains are computers and they determine if something is “true” or “false”. But what if we run two separate programs simultaneously, one accepting every statement as “true” and the other one classifying all our beliefs as “false”?
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
I can’t pick just three. It’s a combination of the books your read, the people you meet, and the places you visit. I wish I could tell you “read these three books and it will make you a better leader” but it never works like that. There is an app I use called Scribd that I recommend – it’s like Netflix for books and it allows you to read as many as you can. Average of Great: the book that I am writing has influenced me the most because it makes me go “in the field” to get the information that me and my readers will benefit from.
If you have any questions to Anna, please leave your comment below!
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