When it comes to productivity, we can’t think of any better than our very own life design coach, Ashley Suelyn. We asked Ashley for some of her tips to help us get started on our journey to unleash our potential. Keep reading to find out more about all things time management and productivity!
Tell us more about you.
I’m currently the chief of staff in SOCAR. I also run my own start-up, The Real Planner, which is a social innovation firm aimed to help people increase their lifestyle quality through productivity and wellness classes. Aside from that, I am also big on the women and youth empowerment front. I am the board of advisor in Lean In Malaysia as well as Emerging Leaders Asia and a homegrown organisation, called Command Tech, which aims to get more people in the younger generation to learn how to code.
I am a big fitness enthusiast, therefore I try to indulge in many types of sports like tennis, golf as well as rock climbing, and I am also a spin cycle instructor at Flycycle. On top of that, I am very big on mobility workouts and gentle stretches. Advocating this also means that I advocate for good wellness routines throughout the day.
Can anybody truly master time management, or is it only for certain personality types?
When it comes to time management, I don’t believe that it needs more variables other than the regulation of energy levels, perception of time itself as well as our own expectations of our capabilities. A lot of these different behaviours and habits that succumb to on a day-to-day basis would affect how we “master” time management, and certainly personality types affect these variables. But, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Multiple other variables that affect time management aside from personality type, too. So, the key here is to understand yourself really well, what your personality is, how you view expectations, how you manage your energy levels and what is your perception of time. Beyond these factors, there are smaller, minor variables that you can also take into account when discovering the strategy that works for you. The approach that I like to advocate for is through experimentation and more importantly, experimenting long enough to truly see whether or not it works for you. If we were to take meditation as an example, don’t try it for 5 mins and say “it’s not for me”. The key is to give it a real shot. So, try it for 5 mins everyday for a week to see how you really feel about it, then maybe even try it for another week. If you still don’t like it, then yeah maybe it’s really not for you.
How does the blueprint of a productive, organised person look?
Based on different personality types, there are different strategies that you can use to achieve the type of time spent that you want. A lot of us like to compare ourselves to perhaps a different personality type without even realising it because we watch their Ted talks and read their books. Maybe these authors and speakers have advocated for waking up at 5 in the morning, but generally you are built as a night owl. So, clearly that strategy itself would not work for you and the last thing you should be doing is comparing yourself, beating yourself up or even feeling guilty that you are not disciplined enough. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you; it is only a matter of picking the right approach and the right strategy that works for your day-to-day routine.
How important are outside factors to our work-life (like sleep, food or exercise)?
Factors that can affect our work life, or affect our day in general, would hinge on things like sleep, nutrition and moving our bodies, like exercising or some gentle stretches at the bare minimum. I can’t emphasize sleep enough! We keep thinking they’re three different pillars that support a good lifestyle but I’d like to challenge you to take a step back and think about sleep as the bedrock foundation, and food and nutrition as just an extension of it.
If I have to choose just one, sleep always comes first. Let me give you an example: When you’ve slept four out of eight hours, thinking that you have slept for 50% of your required sleep amount. It’s not true because the need exponentially is met when you sleep longer. So, perhaps 50% of the requirement means sleeping past 6 hours. The idea here is the longer you sleep towards the 8-hour mark, the better it is for you. Maybe you sleep 7 hours and sleep an hour in during the weekend. However, a lot of us replace sleep with an early morning jog, hike, yoga or meeting up with friends over a nice meal. We give up our eighth hour of sleep for that thinking “Surely this is more beneficial because I’m hitting all 3 components equally, right?”. Well, again going back to the science of sleep, it’s not equal after all. I’d suggest that you prioritize different factors in your life and realise that there are different weightages to them as well.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice that I’ve received is “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”. It’s a very cliché quote but if you really break down that quote, you’ll realise it’s true. When you connect backwards each time you feel lucky, maybe it’s not luck in itself after all, but it is the fact that you were aware when an opportunity came to you and have already made mindful preparations leading up to seizing that opportunity for yourself. So, I think when it comes to getting the best advice, I always like to overprepare. Overpreparing is better than underpreparing and if you can let that sink within your belief and understanding, then procrastination becomes the enemy. You procrastinate less and less because every moment leading up to when you meet that opportunity is your current available time. So, you wouldn’t take the time that you have before any big presentation, speech, assignment or any important task for granted.
What’s your pro-tip on staying motivated?
When it comes to staying motivated, it is very closely related to how we manage our energy levels. We utilise our energy levels well when we optimise it based on how we feel at that moment. Our circadian rhythm, which is our energy levels, fluctuates up and down every single moment of everyday. Whether you like it or not, there’s no linear way of approaching energy levels. Within the same hour, you could feel extremely lazy and extremely motivated at the same time.
So, realise that energy levels come like waves in the ocean. You want to catch the highest peak of the wave when it comes and that’s when you’re able to convert all of that energy into motivation, and use that motivation to act and execute. Be mindful, aware and sensitive when your circadian rhythm rises above and falls below the baseline. And if it does fall below the baseline and you feel a little tired, exhausted or just a little lazy, that’s completely okay. Understand what you can be doing at that moment that is most productive in terms of proactive resting because when energy level dips, it’s also important to pick what lazy activity you like to do. For example, Napping is really proactive but scrolling endlessly on social media is not as proactive if you go past that 5-10 min mark. As soon as you feel like you’re recovering past that energy dip and you’re slowly increasing the energy level again, you should then be able to have the discipline to convert that energy level into motivation to do actions that are closely related to your goals.
If you wish to connect with Ashley and/or find out more about her work, you can find her Instagram linked here!