Alastair Majury on Eight Tips To Improve Productivity

Alastair Majury
4 min readJan 14, 2018


Alastair Majury Delivers Great Performance for his Clients

Alastair Majury was listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast about “How to be More Productive”.

It struck that so many of the tips of how to be productive are in place at many of my previous clients and companies that I have worked for, but also at the same place where I experienced “reverse ageism” that these tips were not put in place.

So this to my mind shows how important something as intangible as culture is to a company.

Why do people find productivity such an interesting topic?

I think it’s because our experience matches so poorly with our expectation. We’re living through this age where they keep on telling us, “Look, we have all these devices for you now.” We have e-mail, and we have a communications revolution, and we have computers in everything that you can possibly touch, and the idea should be that life gets easier. And instead, it’s just getting harder and harder. And that doesn’t seem like how things are supposed to go.

Anyway without further a do here some of what I considered to be the key findings from this podcast.

There’s actually a big tension and a difference between efficiency and productivity. There’s actually a big difference between being busy and being productive.

Here are eight key tips on how to be more productive.

  • Motivation

We trigger self-motivation by making choices that make us feel in control. The act of asserting ourselves and taking control helps trigger the parts of our neurology where self-motivation resides.

  • Focus

We train ourselves how to pay attention to the right things and ignore distractions by building mental models, which means that we essentially narrate to ourselves what’s going on as it goes on around us.

  • Goal-Setting

Everyone actually needs two different kinds of goals. You need a stretch goal, which is like this big ambition, but then you have to pair that with a specific plan on how to get started tomorrow morning.

  • Decision Making

People who make the best decisions tend to think probabilistically. They envision multiple, often contradictory, futures and then try and figure out which one is more likely to occur.

  • Innovation

The most creative environments are ones that allow people to take clichés and mix them together in new ways. And the people who are best at this are known as innovation brokers. They’re people who have their feet in many different worlds and, as a result, they know which ideas can click together in a novel combination.

Absorbing Data

Sometimes the best way to learn is to make information harder to absorb. This is known in psychology as “disfluency.” The harder we have to work to understand an idea or to process a piece of data, the stickier it becomes in our brain.

  • Managing Others

The best managers put responsibility for solving a problem with the person who’s closest to that problem, because that’s how you tap into everyone’s unique expertise.

  • Teams

The most important attribute of a high-performing team is not who leads it or who’s on it or how many people or where it is. It’s psychological safety.

There are five key tips for top performing team.

  • Psychological Safety

Which means that everyone at the table feels like they have the opportunity to speak up, and they all feel like each other is actually listening to them, as demonstrated by the fact that their teammates are sensitive to nonverbal cues.

  • Dependability

Dependability is the notion that you tell me to do something, I’m going to get it done, and you can rely on me to get work done.

  • Structure and Clarity

Actually two things but they sort of relate. Basically the idea is: people should know what everyone’s job is and that should be a shared understanding across the team.

  • Meaning

That the work should be personally meaningful to every person in the room.

  • Impact

That team members need to think and believe that their work matters and actually creates change.

Whilst these tips are pretty obvious. But that doesn’t mean everybody uses them, such as the place where I suffered from reverse ageism.

There are other tricks a good manager should think about. For instance:

Having regular one-on-ones — which is obvious, like you should have one-on-ones with your team members. Turns out most people don’t ’cause they are not that fun, they’re kind of boring, they take time. But when you do them, your team performs better.


Making sure everyone in your team feels included — Obvious, kind of logical, we should do that, but not everyone does. If you think about meetings that you may have been in, there is often somebody sitting off to the side that sits quietly for the whole meeting and never says anything. Rarely does the person leading the meeting say, “Hey you know, we haven’t heard from Frank during this entire meeting. Frank, what do you have to say?” Or “Gail, you’ve been silent this entire conversation, do you have a perspective?” And so having a checklist that says, “Are you checking on these things, are you calling out the quiet people?” goes a long way to making teams more effective.

So those are some tips on how to improve productivity and how to form a good team.

Do you use these tips?

Have you got any tips of your own you would like to share?

Alastair Majury resides locally in Dunblane, and is an IT Consultant working across the country. Alastair is also a volunteer officer at the local Boys’ Brigade company, a charity which focuses on enriching the lives of children and young people, and building a stronger community.



Alastair Majury

I am a Chartered Member of CISI, which is the UK’s leading securities and investment professional body. Alastair Majury resides locally in Dunblane.