Being an entrepreneur who is working from home all the time, Chris shared some great insights you can apply yourself, or share with your team and help them organize their days to achieve maximum productivity.
Check out the video, or read the full transcript below.
Workpuls: Hi everyone, Bojana here from Workpuls and welcome to another episode of Workpuls Productivity Talks! Today I have with me Chris Kaiser, he is the CEO and founder at Click A Tree and Bed’n’Tree. We will be talking a little bit about productivity, of course, as we always do. So Chris tell us first what is it that you do? What does your company do?
Chris Kaiser: Hey Bojana! Hey everyone listening! Thank you very much for having me. I am excited to be here. With Click A Tree our mission is to make sustainability as simple as possible, so we currently offer the planting of trees via the internet. With a few clicks of your mouse you plant trees. And we are constantly working with new companies to embed planting of trees into everyday habits. So we are now working for example, with a sushi restaurant, and every time you go and eat sushi they plant a tree. We are working with email providers and everything you write emails there is trees being planted, so that’s the kind of direction we want to move in.
Workpuls: And… B’n’Tree is connected to services such as Booking, where people actually book something for their travels?
Chris Kaiser: Yes, correct, B’n’Tree is our tourism brand as you can probably tell from the name. We work with booking.com, Expedia, SkyScanner, Trip Advisor.. Basically all big brands in the tourism industry. Every time someone goes travel, and they start the booking on our website, we receive a marketing numeration for referring that client and we invest that money into planting trees. It costs you exactly the same, there is no extra charge for the user because it takes from the marketing budget, if we wouldn’t take the money then booking.com would put it into TV ads or Google ads, or something like that. I personally think it’s best invested if we plant trees with.
Workpuls: Definitely. How did you actually get an idea to start doing something like that?
Chris Kaiser: It’s slightly unusual because I had the big pleasure to work in very close contact with elephants in Thailand for five years. And the biggest problems the pachyderms are facing there is deforestation, unfortunately, because of infrastructure, agriculture and now climate change. We are losing millions of trees everyday and hence, I decided, “Look, it can’t be difficult to reforest our planet, planting trees is a trait as old as humanity and we just need to generate income.” And because I have been working in tourism for over 10 years, I know that there is a lot of money going around. I thought we can take some money from there, less of course, tourism doesn’t necessarily have the most sustainable reputation at the moment. There are a lot of people looking for ways to make their travels a little bit more eco-friendly so that’s how we got started with B’n’Tree and because a lot of other companies approach us, like say the sushi restaurant or IT consultants we opened Click A Tree because it's a more versatile brand. Bed’n’Tree is quite limited to tourism and Click A Tree can be anything you can think of.
Workpuls: That’s a very good initiative. I think it’s something we all definitely need, we all have use from, is having more trees. Thanks for introducing yourself and what you do. I would like to get some of your insights on productivity and start from the basics. What would you say that productivity is?
Chris Kaiser: Productivity in my opinion is to use your time as efficiently as possibly because time is the one single thing we all share equally. We all only have one life. Some might live a few years longer, others live a few years shorter but we can’t buy time no matter how rich you are. No matter how poor you are, you don’t necessarily have less time. So it’s the one thing that’s equal for every human and the better you use that time, the more you can achieve with your life. Whether that is, going on more holidays, making more money, having more impact on the planet, spending more time with friends and family, whatever it is you find useful, the more efficient or productive you are, the more you can achieve.
Workpuls: And in terms of business and running a business, do you think that productivity can be measured and how can it be measured?
Chris Kaiser: It can definitely be measured, yes. You can set certain KPIs and set targets, and you can say: how many words does this person write per hour, for example. That can be a productivity tracker. What I find very useful is to track productivity in terms of results so instead of saying, “You are the social media marketer, you need to create 10 social media posts every week.” I think it makes a lot more sense to say, “You need to increase our social media following by 10%.” Or you need to increase the click through rate on the website by 5%, or whatever it is that actually matters to your business. So you make a difference between being productive, actually achieving something or appearing to just be busy and spending your time in front of a screen. I think that’s the very important difference to make.
Workpuls: Yeah, okay. You shared some five tips initially in the first email. Can you talk a little bit about them?
Chris Kaiser: Sure, more than happy. The one initial tip to make your day more productive starts the day before, it always helps to pre-plan your day. If you would look into my office, you see there is a massive whiteboard there on the wall. I note down everything that needs doing every evening before I knock off, I have to pass the whiteboard and then I make a list of what I will do tomorrow, first thing in the morning, second thing, third thing and so on. And that way, A) I got out of bed a lot quicker because I know I have something to do and I know there is meaning to my day and don’t get time to snooze for another hour or something. And B) in the morning, I don’t waste my most valuable hours, the hours where I have the most energy on making decisions or what should I do today, should I do this, or should I do that or whatever but I already have a plan in mind. And thirdly, planning ahead also helps your brain to get into the right mood because overnight maybe your brain starts thinking, “Okay, tomorrow I have to write this important pitch – what could be a good reason why this customer should buy from us or something like that?” And you already have most of the answers in your head just by pre-planning your day. It takes time and it’s every evening.
When you start the morning, of course fully energized and keen to make the world a better place. I find it very helpful to start with the morning mantra, other people might call it the self pep talk. Whenever you shower or you get dressed or whatever it is, just tell yourself how awesome you are, how good you look. Be grateful for the fact that you are healthy, especially, during the current times and then mentally stimulate yourself to be the most productive self you can be. And for that it also helps to visualize your goals, why are you doing what you are doing, why does today matter and what kind of long term plans do you have; and that way you know why you are doing what you are doing. Instead of just sitting in front of a computer doing it because your boss tells you so or because you think you have to sit in front of the computer because every entrepreneur does. That truly helps.
Also to make the most of our morning hours I put all distraction aside, my phone is on flight mode at least until 10 am. I don’t start my mobile internet before mid-day because I don’t think that WhatsApp message or something can be as important. Calls are important but text messages never are. They can be important but they are not urgent, put it that way; if they were then it would be a call. And when I switch on my phone at 10 o'clock, I get a notification of all the calls I have missed and then I can call these people back and sort out whatever needs sorting out. And text messages can be dealt with in the afternoon or the evening when you are not as energized or productive anymore anyway.
Then the structure is of course super important, it ties in with the planning ahead, depends on how you want to start your day. I found it super distracting to start with emails because emails are basically other people’s problems, and they rely on you. It is better to have a clear plan on doing something, what pushes your business the most like preparing an important pitch for example to research some prospect, and things like that. Whatever it is that your business needs the most should be done in the beginning because you A) have more energy, but B) also because it already gives you a sense of accomplishment which energizes you throughout the day and by 10 am you feel like, “Oh, yes I master these two big tasks already. Whoa! I could basically knock off and already had a successful day.” And every hour you work after that feels like an extra hour and you feel like a superstar or super hero in the end.
And last but not least, I highly recommend you knock off on time, set yourself a limit. Shut down your computer by 6 pm or something. There is more to life than work, whoever dies has never regretted to spend more hours in the office. And also do you need time to calm down, to relax, to enjoy what you are creating, to spend time with family, to read a good book, to go for a walk, to do sports, whatever it is that makes you happy. But make sure you do a lot of it because as mentioned initially we only have one life and it’s up to you how you use it, how to make the most of the time and it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of fun every now and then.
Workpuls: I like all the tips. But with the last, I think a lot of people right now are having that problem because most of us are currently quarantined. We are working from home. A lot of people are working from home for the first time and it can be tough to just set yourself apart from that computer and finish working, and this is like. “I am done for the day,” or once the kids are in bed or when the dinner is over, whatever. You can easily find yourself opening up your laptop again to see what happens.
Workpuls: Because it just seems to be much easier to turn the switch off when you leave the office. But when your office is at your house it’s much easier to get back to work. So, I think it’s really important. Overall, but especially now, it’s really important for people to know when to say enough. It’s not important, it doesn’t make any sense pursuing this because it's already eight, 10, 12 hours, whatever it is, you’re not going to do anything good after 14 hours of work. So, yeah, that's a good thing. The tips you share are good tips that are mostly towards individuals, if you would like to get this approach to your employees, or your co-workers or your team, how can a manager go about that and get their employees to start applying some of these tips. What do you think are the most important things managers can do in those cases?
Chris Kaiser: My favorite approach, that’s the one I got taught by my mentors and former bosses, and that I am applying in the company now is to live the example. To show people that what you are preaching actually works and that makes your time more productive. I don’t think that there are many people who don’t like productivity, especially if you have the results driven approach. If you tell someone, “Look, you need to increase your social media following by 10%.” If an employee needs five hours to do that but you show this person a way to do it in three hours. I am telling that person: “Okay, you achieve your goal, that’s it. Go knock off, spend the evening with your family.” I don’t think anybody would find that a bad idea so I think teaching other people productivity is something a lot of them like, unless of course, you force them to just sit 40 hours in front of the computer for example. I don’t think that makes sense and it doesn’t motivate employees to be productive, because I can sit in front of my computer for 40 hours and get close to nothing done. I can also sit in front of the computer for three hours and get close to everything done and feel good about myself and give myself an extra rest.
Workpuls: That makes sense. It seems like a more flexible approach generally to the workplace and to the working hours, is something that motivates people a lot. Like we have seen the tests people have been doing with shorter work weeks, shorter work days and all of that. And somehow almost all of them resulted in increased productivity, in better results, and even though people who were working shorter hours. You probably know that for yourself, at some point you are going to have a blockage. You won’t be able to do any work, but still you need to be there until five or six o'clock, so you’re just going to sit there in front of your computer until five or six o'clock even though you are not going to do anything useful during those hours but that’s the working hours, that’s the working time so that’s how it going to be. This what's happening right now, I think it’s going to help us all shift towards more flexible work spaces everywhere. If people go back to the office and start working from the office again, I think employers will have a lot more understanding of the things that can and can not be done during the work day and how long it takes to do something and how can a flexible work environment be created in a better way.
Chris Kaiser: Yes, fully agreed. So, ashamed it took such a crisis to make that shift but if we can get something good out of it you know then that’s better than nothing.
Workpuls: And another thing I want to ask you is... Okay you, said obviously lead by example and more flexibility is there. But, what’s the first step a manager should take when they decide, “Okay, I want to help my employees increase productivity. I want better productivity, better efficiency, we need to do better.” What’s the first thing they should do?
Chris Kaiser: Communicate, I guess, talk with your staff. A) that you want to do it, and B) explain to them why you want to do it. Be open, be honest, tell them that it’s good for the company because productive employees are good for the company, because in the end they have a higher return on investment than not so productive employees. But on the other hand, also showcase them how it benefits them, tell them that if you can hit certain targets, maybe they can get a day off extra per week or something like that. Or you can give them the bonus payment or they can get a certain percentage of the extra income you generated, whatever it might be give them some incentives to be productive. Ideally, employees should be incentivized to work for you anyway because you offer them a job and in the perfect world you are a cool boss and you have a great company to work for, and great work ethics. But in a not perfect world, there might be some employees who just need incentives which is perfectly understandable, I guess we all love incentives and give them some. Let them know what’s in it for them and they will love you for it.
Workpuls: Okay, good. Cool, I like that. And tell me, are there any methods such as time blocking or time boxing again, I don’t know, the Pomodoro technique or whatever it is that you tried, that you personally like or use within your company?
Chris Kaiser: I did try the Pomodoro technique, it sometimes works surprisingly well and other times just doesn’t work at all. This thing that when you start a task, I sometimes get into this zone and just want to get it done. You are hammering away on your keyboard or something and the ideas just flow out of your brain, then I have an alarm clock disturbing me. I am like “aghh” smash that phone on the wall or something because that flow is hard to achieve so I think it helps with the maybe less exciting task, maybe something like emails for example. Nobody really likes to do a technique like that and you also remind yourself to take breaks, go outside, breathe some fresh air, stare into the blue sky, whatever it is. And then there are other tasks where you get into flow for a design, it might be designing this great new artwork, or for writers it’s getting the text on or whatever it is for and where you want to get into that flow and for that, the only thing that has helped me is getting started. Once you get started you understand it’s the one thing that excites you and you just continue doing it anyway because you love it so much. The most difficult part is to overcome this writer's block sort of thing when you send from the white sheet so I just started to write some nonsense, anything to topic related that comes out of my head I will write and that way I get going. And if the next day I find that the first few sentences were gibberish I can still go and delete them or rewrite them if I want.
Workpuls: That makes sense, I completely understand. I usually they don’t start off writing on a computer. I always have a notebook and a pencil, and I usually just start and I don’t even write a full sentence. I just start writing and as I am thinking about it, I realize, “Okay, so it’s going,” but the juices are there and then I start typing. It’s something I found that works for me but I completely understand why you have problems with the Pomodoro technique, and it’s the same for me. Because when you get into the zone, you get into the zone and if somebody breaks that zone, that’s it, like I am breaking everything. I am breaking the phone, alarm clock, everything. Even though I do enjoy it, I do love it. It’s not that, it’s not every day but you can get yourself in such flow that you can get sometimes and imagine having an alarm clock or anything disturbing you. I totally understand, make perfect sense. Do you have any other tips that you haven’t mentioned initially regarding productivity, for individuals or for managers before the end of the interview?
Chris Kaiser: Oh yes, there is a huge tone I would love to share. I am a native German we basically get productivity bread into us with mother’s milk. Well, that’s the stereotype anyway. What I always found very good is eating healthy, I can’t get myself to eat healthy everyday because sometimes junk food is just way too tempting. Today for example, I had salad and soup for lunch and you just feel great, even in the afternoon you can get stuff done which often is not the case when you have fatty, greasy meal. You just sit there and wait for the time to pass, you might as well go to bed and sleep, that helps. And one super important thing that saves me a huge tone of time is that I stop following the news ,so I am not reading newspapers. I am not watching news on TV or something. If I need information I can Google it. I can Google exactly the information I need, but I don’t need to sit in front of TV and watch the stuff that they present to me. Of course, it is unfortunately often rather negative. It is often rather sensationalist because that’s what drives higher audience numbers and that puts you in this state of fear and you think everything in the world is bad but it isn’t; our world is amazing. It’s quite fun and currently we are in a better state than ever before. We have lower unemployment rates worldwide. We have lower unalphabethical rates worldwide than we have had ever before, so I think we are doing okay. And also after the crisis I think things will, it will take a while to recover of course, but overall our world is beautiful and we shouldn’t let any news anchor tell us otherwise.
Workpuls: I love that. Right now it’s also very important, because the news right now aren’t really anybody’s friend, I would say. In the beginning of all this, I was following the news because I was trying to get information on when are the close downs, when can I get out of the house because of the quarantine and everything, and after three or four days I realize that was draining so much of my energy. Right now I immediately like, sometimes after working the evening I would either, like as you said Google it, go to a news outlet that I trust, to their website, check the news, see what they are saying, can we go outside or not. Or somebody, one of my friends will text me eventually to tell me, “Hey, look like we can not go out during the weekend.” And that’s it. I don’t need to sit through an hour and a half conference to know all that.
Chris Kaiser: Exactly, I guess you get the most important information by talking with friends, as you say by researching specifically, so that can save you easily an hour or two every day. If you want to calculate it by the days in life then, whoa that’s a lot of time.
Workpuls: It’s easy to get swamped in the news website especially. When you get on it and you see one title and you see another title and you are just jumping from news to news. At some point you are reading whatever about how to do a DIY project in house, you are never going to do and like, “What just happened?” You spent two hours not doing anything that’s actually good or productive for you.
Chris Kaiser: That’s the one thing we can probably learn from inside because they are masters at keeping you on the inside, giving you these flip articles that we don’t continue to read for whatever reason. If you are in content marketing then sure, check the news pages but just for learning, not to waste your time.
Workpuls: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. Any other tips or...?
Chris Kaiser: I guess we covered a good lot, yeah.
Chris Kaiser: There is always more I guess, like things, dress properly for example, I always work in uniform even from home. When I started working from home three years ago, I loved to sit in my sweatpants on the couch, until I realized you don’t really get anything done and I design a uniform for myself which I wear every day now even in home office. It saves me the energy of deciding in the morning what I should wear because it’s a work day so wear a uniform and it makes you feel “worky”, and you also do work. Another 6pm I can strip that uniform off and slip into my sweatpants and chill on the couch if I want.
Workpuls: Yeah, I get that. I get everything. I completely get everything. It’s perfect, I loved it. Thank you so much once again for taking the time to participate in this interview. It was lovely talking to you. We got to cover a lot of tips I think a lot of people will be able to implement so that’s pretty cool. And yeah, that would be all for today's episode of Workpuls Productivity Talks and we will speak soon.
Chris Kaiser: Perfect, thank you Bojana. The pleasure being on was all mine. Keep up the great work and I will speak to you soon. Thank you.
Workpuls: Thank you, bye.
Workpuls Productivity Talks is a podcast about productivity brought to you by everyone’s favorite time tracking software - Workpuls. With every interview we’re bringing you new tips from people who are experts on productivity, but also from managers and founders who have found a way to really master productivity in their teams.