[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]This post was written by Nelson Wang and first appeared on Quora.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”21108″ style=”vc_box_circle”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Nelson Wang is the founder of CEO Lifestyle where he helps entrepreneurs build a profitable, sustainable business. He founded 3 companies, traveled to over 100 cities, 19 countries, written an Amazon resumes bestseller, built 4 top 100 apps in Lifestyle, Business and Entertainment and his writing has been featured on Forbes, Inc., Business Insider, Fortune, Time, The Huffington Post, PopSugar, Thought Catalog, LifeHack and Quartz. www.ceolifestyle.io[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
All of us strive to get the most out of life. Here are my Top 10 time management tips on work, life hacks and life lessons which helped me to start two companies, build 4 top 100 apps in different categories, have my articles featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Fortune and Inc and write a book on Amazon that hit #1 in the resumes category with over 40,000 Kindle downloads.
1. Say no to 1 hour meetings
“I love 1 hour meetings,” said no one ever. 1 hour meetings are often unnecessary. You can usually accomplish in 30 minutes what you thought you needed an hour for. 30 minutes will force you to be concise and on point.
2. Do the Steve Jobs walk
Steve Jobs often did some of his most important meetings while going for a walk. I do this all the time. First, doing meetings in conference rooms can feel very stiff. Second, getting people outside of their everyday environment may get them to see things from a new perspective. Third, being physically active during your meeting could help you think more clearly. So open the door, get some fresh air and go for a walk.
3. Visualize your success
Imagine 3 groups of basketball players.
*The first group would practice shooting free throws 20 minutes a day.
*The second group wouldn’t practice free throws but would visualize themselves making free throws.
*The third group would not practice or visualize at all.
What are the results? There was a significant improvement in the second group. In fact, they were almost as good as the first group. By the way, this is a real experiment that was conducted by Australian Psychologist Alan Richardson.
So if you want to get that new job, imagine yourself prepping for the interview, nailing it and signing the job offer. Visualize what you want your future to be.
4. Listen first before speaking
Seek to understand first. How can you make an intelligent remark on something if you haven’t taken the time to observe what’s happening first? You have two ears and only one mouth. There’s a reason for that.
5. Give credit where it’s due
People can’t stand it when someone takes credit for something they didn’t do. Don’t be that person. Recognize others when they do an awesome job. It creates trust among teammates and will you further as a company.
6. Set goals
If you don’t even know where you’re headed, how will you create the plan on how to get there? Set your destination first and then set sail.
7. Celebrate progress
The journey to your goal could be a long one. So make sure you take the time to celebrate your progress along the way. Eat a nice dinner. High five your teammates. Strike a gong. Do a fist pump. Yell out from the rooftops. Because success is worth celebrating.
8. Figure out your why
It’s a such a great question that isn’t asked enough. Why does it all matter? Figure out your why and that’ll be the fuel for your motivation. Whether it’s supporting your family or making an impact on the world, figuring out your why is critical to taking your work to the next level.
9. Understand your strengths and amplify those
You’ll be naturally talented in certain areas or you’ll practice a skill enough to become an expert at it. Therefore, focus your energy on amplifying those strengths rather than trying to be mediocre at everything. Better to be an expert at a few things than a mediocre jack of all trades!
10. Work smart
Why are we doing this? Does it have to be done this way? Is there a better way to do it? How can I get a better return in less time? Keep asking questions like this.
Working hard is great. Working smart and hard is even better. #WinningCombo
This post was written by Nelson Wang and first appeared on Quora.
Nelson Wang is the founder of CEO Lifestyle where he helps entrepreneurs build a profitable, sustainable business. He founded 3 companies, traveled to over 100 cities, 19 countries, written an Amazon resumes bestseller, built 4 top 100 apps in Lifestyle, Business and Entertainment and his writing has been featured on Forbes, Inc., Business Insider, Fortune, Time, The Huffington Post, PopSugar, Thought Catalog, LifeHack and Quartz.
Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t have enough time or that you haven’t accomplished a fraction of what you’ve planned for your day? Well, whatever be the case, chances are that either you are not fully engaged or you need to be more productive at work. One way to make it happen is tracking every minute being spent at work and using that information to improve your time management skills.
In this article, you’ll find the list of ways in which better time management and time tracking can help you boost your productivity. But first, let’s start off by discussing the various challenges that might be the root cause holding your productivity back. So, here is the list of some of the most recognized factors that usually affect your productivity level at work. Let’s have a look at them.
Poor work management
Lack of delegation
Working against the internal clock
If any of these situations resemble your daily work routine, now is the time to put a time tracking tool in place.
Here’s how you can improve your productivity with time tracking
With an advanced time tracking tool, you can:
1. Develop a sense of accountability
The biggest advantage of time tracking is that it helps you and your team to develop a sense of accountability and urgency during the work process. It gives you the ability to organize and manage tasks across a project based on their priority. This way, it helps you to focus on one task/activity at a time and give your complete attention to what needs to be completed first.
2. Stay focused
With time tracking, it is less likely that you’ll invest your time in anything else apart from your work. This will help you to remain focused on your tasks and projects. As a result, you will be able to get your work done faster and more efficiently.
3. Ensure efficient utilization of time
You think you’re being efficient with your time. But is the same being reflected in your work? The simplest way to find an answer to this question is by using time tracking. With time tracking, you can see how you much time you have spent working on a task from start to finish. This information helps you to consider the possibility of being more productive at work by utilizing your time in the most efficient manner.
4. Eliminate potential bottlenecks from the project
In every team, there are members who take more time to complete their tasks and assignments as compared to others. Now, there can be two reasons – one, they are very dedicated and two, they have too much on their to-do list. Having a time tracking tool allows project managers and business owners to develop a better understanding of everyone’s time and work. It helps them to identify potential bottlenecks in a project and take necessary steps to improve the overall performance.
5. Experience a sense of satisfaction
Seeing your tasks and projects get completed as planned is an amazing feeling. And with time tracking, you can actually experience it each day. You can schedule tasks, allocate time, and at the end of the day, you can see how much you have accomplished from your list. this gives you satisfaction and motivates to finish everything on time as efficiently as possible.
A couple of time tracking tools you can try
Tracking your time at work is a serious matter, but it does not need to be complicated. In fact, there are ways in which you can make time tracking more effective and simpler. You can grab a feature-rich time tracking tool or software and start keeping a record of what you are working on, what time you start working on a task, when did you finish the task, and most importantly, how much time did you spend working on that task.
With time tracking becoming increasingly popular in the industry, more businesses and teams are considering the idea of having a dedicated time tracking tool in place to improve their productivity. since there are hundreds of time tracking tools, apps, and software available out there, making the right choice could be difficult. But there are some popular time tracking tools in the market that stand out from the crowd because of their easy-to-use interface and native time management features. For example Timeular, ProofHub, Toggl, Harvest, etc.
Using time tracking at work is a really smart choice. It is undoubtedly one of the simplest ways to improve your productivity and achieve the much desired work-life balance. With the right tool or software in place, it only takes a few seconds to know where you spent your time throughout the day and how can you be more efficient with your time. It makes you think twice before wasting time at work and keeps you focused towards your goals.
Want to improve your productivity? Go ahead, give time tracking a try!
Vartika Kashyap is the Marketing Manager at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2017. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E®, a time coaching and speaking company that partners with individuals on the journey from guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to accomplishing more with peace and confidence. Her first book was published by McGraw Hill, her second by Harvard Business Review, and her theird book by FaithWords. Elizabeth has appeared in Inc Magazine, TIME, Forbes, The Chicago Tribune and on NBC, ABC, and CBS. She is an expert in time management and productivity. Let’s hear more from her in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Elizabeth focuses her time management and productivity coaching on three key elements to time management: (1) clarifying action-based priorities, (2) setting realistic expectations and (3) strengthening simple routines.
Clarifying action-based priorities: Make sure you know what your priorities are and set up an order of your priorities. And then you need to translate those abstract priorities into tangible actions you can put on your calendar.
Setting realistic expectations: Learn how long certain activities take and be realistic. If you constantly overestimate how much you can get done every day, you might feel like you’ve failed while the only thing you’ve done “wrong” is that you set wrong expectations.
Strengthening simple habits: Every habit (both good and bad) has the power to compound in impact over time. For example, daily planning or weekly planning or even deciding when you exercise or how you make decisions about what you’re going to eat can help decrease the amount of time you have to spend on things because it’s already predetermined.
Juan: Elizabeth, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Juan: Elizabeth, can you tell us a little bit of a kind of paradigms or structures that you use with your coaching clients that could be useful for our audience?
Elizabeth: Yes. I have written three books and my first book is called “The Three Secrets to Effective Time Investment” and I really in that book broke down what I consider to be the three key elements that I think are really important and so I’ll just outline those briefly here.
The first is around clarifying action based priorities. The second is around setting realistic expectations and the third is around strengthening simple routines.
If you follow those three areas, you’re really going to be in a place of having effective time investment and investing your time in what actually matters to you. Not just getting lots of things done.
Juan: That’s perfect. So, walk us a little bit through how that works. You’re, you’re being intentional about what you spend your time on, your setting up routines for it, strengthening the routines and what was the second one?
Elizabeth: Setting realistic expectations.
Juan: Realistic expectations. Can you walk us through how you do that?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. So, the first is to clarify action based priorities and so I’ll talk you through exactly what that means. To me it’s obviously common sense, but to everyone else they probably haven’t heard of it. So it’s a two-step process. One, you want to be clear on what your priorities are because particularly in the culture we live in with so much technology, if you’re not clear on what want to accomplish, other people are more than happy to spend your time for you. So you want to make sure that you know, like, this is my priority to get done at work today or this is my life priority and that you have set up an order of priorities.
And then what makes them action based and this is really where a lot of people make mistakes, is that you need to translate those abstract priorities into tangible actions you can put in your calendar.
So, I’ll give a few examples. So, a lot of people listening to this podcast are entrepreneurs or people maybe with an entrepreneurial spirit. And in order to do that, you need to think about things like business development or strategy, but that’s very abstract compared to getting your inbox to zero or you know, accomplishing this project. And so, what you have to do is to translate that into an action. So, for example, I spent one hour a week on Wednesdays working on brainstorming ideas or reading articles in my field, or I’m talking with people about what I’m coming up with. And so, by translating that priority into an action in getting it in your calendar, you actually get a lot farther, a lot faster.
Juan: So, a question that I’d like to ask on these recordings is actually figuring out what your structure is to figure out what goes on your calendar and what doesn’t. Do you have a process for understanding of something should even go on your calendar or not when you’re creating those tasks?
Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s a great question. A good thing to understand about me is I do time management coaching with people around the world, all different jobs, all different situations. And so, I just want to preface this by saying it depends, so I’m not someone to say everyone has to do it this way, but here are some general principles that I’ve found are really helpful for many of my clients. Um, so number one, if it’s a meeting you committed to, please get that on your calendar. You’d be amazed how many people try to just keep everything in their head, even calendar appointments. And so the more you can get on your calendar with reminders, the better. Secondly, there’s a couple of other categories of activities that I find to be really helpful for most people to have as a placeholder.
If there’s certain recurring routines like we had talked about, strengthening simple routines that you really want to see in your life, I highly recommend you get those on your calendar.
So, for example, I’m a huge advocate of weekly planning and daily planning. Have a recurring event, you know, Friday afternoon at 3:00, to do your weekly planning or have a little tickler even for 15 minutes to do your daily planning for leaving work. Or at the beginning of the day. So, for my clients, especially when they’re learning their routines, I want to see those as recurring events in their calendar because A, it helps them remember to do them in B, it reminds them, oh, it’s gonna take time to get those done. And then another category in this goes along with a part of setting realistic expectations is if you have a larger project, so I’m talking maybe something more than one hour, so like one hour or more, I recommend that you try to find a space on your calendar to get that done. Does that mean it will necessarily get done on that exact day, in that exact hour? Maybe, maybe not, but the idea is that if you have this larger project, you look at your calendar, there’s no free space like you’re in back to back meetings or you have all these things going on. It’s not going to get done, you know, or it’s not going to get done until late at night. And so, I recommend for those bigger projects, you find time, you try to get a block in your calendar because otherwise it’s just too easy to not have time in then beat yourself up because you’re not getting it done. Or secondly forget that that’s really important and just revert to answering email or doing other smaller tasks and then gets none of your day and be like, oh no, I never worked on that proposal and be really stressed out.
Juan: You probably find that this happens a lot with top performers and people that get perfection paralysis on something so they know it’s really important and because it’s so important, they want to batch it together and then do it when they have five, six, seven hours to knock out the proposal or the website or whatever the thing is. And so, it ends up not getting done at all because that time has never scheduled in advance. So, you never. You will never magically have the six or seven hours to work on that big project. And funny enough, some of the biggest things actually end up not getting done because we’re just waiting for us to magically … exactly for the perfect time to get it done.
Elizabeth: Exactly, exactly. And it also helps you be realistic if you see, I love to spend six hours, but when I look at my calendar, there’s only three, so I just need to do the best I can in three hours, make it happen and that’s good enough.
Juan: And that’s getting us into the second pillar for how you view time management, which is the setting of realistic expectations. Can you walk us a little bit through that one?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. So in regards to that, I find that a lot of people really struggle with guilt and really struggle with overwhelm because they don’t have any realism around how much can fit in a day. And so, what that’s about is setting yourself up for success. So, if you’re a top performer, you do want to stretch. I’m not saying be lazy or don’t try hard or any of that, but you don’t want to set yourself up to feel like a failure constantly because you told yourself you’d get, you know, 40 hours of work done in eight hours and they were like, why can’t you get it all done? I’m so stressed out. So with this set realistic expectations, what I encourage you to do is either block in your calendar or if you prefer not to do that, when you do your daily to do list, try to do a little estimated time beside each item and then just see how it adds up and if you’re finding that you’ve got eight or 10 hours of work, but you also have four hours of meetings.
You might need to pare down your expectations of what you can accomplish in that day so you can actually feel good about what you get done and/or delegate or renegotiate expectations on that.
Juan: And Elizabeth, you probably find that it’s really important to even define what success looks like before you get into the scheduling and face of things. Right? So, before you even try to put the expected time, it’s actually figuring out what it is that you want to get done. It’s not answering emails for two hours or three hours because they were adjusting everything for the length of time. It’s actually for how many emails you want to knock out or conversation started or prospects that you follow back up with and then you put the expected time for however long you think it’s going to take to get back to 40 people, 50 people, whatever. Right? Otherwise, you’re constantly, like you said, you’re constantly going to be a feeling disappointed and guilty because you’re not getting to this unrealistic thing that you never actually defined what success for that project would look like. Right? And that just adds so much stress for these top performers and professionals that want to. They’re pushing themselves to the limit, but if you’re not defining success and you’re not able to be a good steward of your own time.
Elizabeth: Right, exactly.
Juan: I’m moving onto the third pillar that helps you do time management. We have clarified action based priorities. We have setting realistic expectations and then finally walk us through the routines.
Elizabeth: Yeah, so strengthening simple routines is basically about how to make your life easier and it’s funny because most of my clients are spontaneous people, so their natural desire is to go with the flow, like they don’t want routines, you know, they want to just like see what happens. They want to be reactive and they tend to be super smart and super talented so they can actually get away with this for a long time, but what anyone finds when you hit a certain level in your career, your business, your life, that eventually you get to the point you can’t act like that and not be stressed out. And so the idea of strengthening simple routines is that there are little things we can do, whether it’s daily planning or weekly planning or even deciding when you exercise or how you make decisions about what you’re going to eat.
That can really reduce the number of decisions that you have to make in a day and really decrease the amount of time you have to spend on things because it’s already predetermined.
You’re like, okay, I already know Monday morning this is what I do, or I already know this is when I work out or I already know like this is when I answer email and so instead of having to think, oh, what do I want to do next? Or like, oh, when am I going to exercise or how am I going to know what I’m doing for the day? You just know. And it really, I really think strengthening simple routines is one of the biggest capacity building exercises that people can do.
Juan: What do you do, Elizabeth? When a client comes to you and they say, well, my genius zone is a little bit of this organized chaos. It is just having the creative time that on my face I just get to do and less structure. What do you do there, do you say then just scheduled that creative time?
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s totally fine. The thing about planning and the thing about routines is it allows you to have more of that freedom and creative time because you’re not just constantly stressed out and you’re not like just barely making deadlines. You’re more free to have that creative time.
It’s not that everything needs to be structured, but you just need to figure out what are the key elements you need to have in your life in a day to day, week to week basis to be able to not be stressed about stuff that should not be stressful.
Like you shouldn’t be stressed out because like every night you have no food to eat because you never figured it out either going to the grocery store or like getting grocery delivery.
Juan: That is amazing. So let’s do a bit of wrapping up and show notes for everybody listening right now. These are some of the top principles that help Elizabeth work with top performers all around the world to maximize their time. The three pillars are to clarify action based priorities, setting realistic expectations and strengthening simple routines. To clarify action based principles, she translates everything and every goal into actions, and then she puts those tangible actions on the calendar. To figure out what goes on the calendar, she works through prioritizing meetings and daily and weekly recurring habits. Number two, on the setting realistic expectations, Elizabeth makes sure that clients are not dealing with guilt and stress because of unrealistic expectations by defining what success looks like for every project, and then reverse engineering how long each of those tasks will take and scheduling them in advance so that the clients are not caught off guard. And then the third pillar is to strengthen simple routines, so not everything needs to get structured, but you shouldn’t be stressed out by things that catch you off guard. So this is just being intentional about things that have to get done on a daily or weekly basis to make sure that clients and top performers are able to maximize their creative time, but that creative time is scheduled in advance and it’s not just crossing your fingers and waiting for the perfect moment to happen.
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly.
Juan: Elizabeth, anything I’m missing out? Does that pretty much sum the three pillars that you use?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I think that’s a great, great summary and what I would say is also not to get into all or nothing thinking, so not being like I have to have the perfect day or the perfect plan or the perfect routine or do my routine every day or I’m a failure and none of it works. Like just let yourself have these support you, have the structure work for you and it’s okay if you get off track one day or you get distracted, just get back on track as quickly as possible and it really can help you be a lot more successful and a lot less stressed.
Juan: There you go. Productivity masterminds. Give yourself some grace when you mess up. It’s okay as long as you keep anchoring yourself to productivity and maximizing your time. Elizabeth, as you continue to grow. Where’s the best place for us to stay in touch with your career and what you’re working on?
Elizabeth: Well, the best one place would be my website, which is reallifee.com.
Juan: Perfect. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing this with us.
If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again and you can’t control it, you’re not alone. In fact, it isn’t a bad thing for most people to procrastinate to a certain degree – but procrastination has affected some people chronically and destroy their relationship, career, and life.
Many factors cause us to procrastinate. However, I’m only going talk about one of the many. This article may only take you 2 minutes to read. So here comes the first test for you: stop procrastinate and start reading.
The Lizard Brain
One of the biggest factors behind procrastination is the way our mind is wired to crave for instant gratifications and perfections. We want fast, good results and pleasures without putting in the work. This then translates itself into our work and life:
We can’t start writing because it takes a long time to complete an article.
Training for strength is a long journey that most people ended up never stepping into the gym.
You procrastinate on cleaning your room because you perceive it is going to take up a long time.
Most people try to fight this behavior with external motivations, cruel punishments, and sheer willpower. The problem is, this part of our brain (which is what I like to call the lizard brain) is evolved from the beginning of the first land species–the reptile.
The lizard brain had kept animals (and us) safe for around 300 million years, while the newly developed human brain only has its history of 200,000 years. Trying to enforce willpower and self-disciple to our lizard brain is like a baby fighting an MMA champion.
How The 2-minute Hack Stops Procrastination
The 2-minute hack works like this:
When you find yourself procrastinating, forget about the task you need to get done. Then, think about the first 2 minutes of that task. For example:
To write an article, the first 2 minutes is to write a paragraph.
For hitting the gym, the first 2 minutes is to put on your sports shoes.
In order to read a book, the first 2 minutes is to read half of the page.
After you figure out the first 2 minutes of the task you’re procrastinating on, do it. The rule is simple, if you don’t feel like to continue doing it after 2 minutes, you’re free to stop without guilt.
In most cases, you will finish the things you’ve been procrastinating for long after the first 2 minutes.
Why It Works
Activation energy is a term widely used in Chemistry, describing the minimum quantity of energy that a reacting subject must possess to undergo a specified reaction. This same term is applicable in our daily productivity.
The 2-minute hack isn’t any magic.
To get ourselves to start doing something, we need energy that is bigger than the task. However, many healthy habits are challenging to start because their required activation energy is high and hence the resistance is high.
The 2-minute hack lowers the resistance because instead of thinking about the big to-do you need to get done, you’re focusing only on the first 2 minutes of it. When you complete the first two minutes, the momentum will carry you forward to finish the entire task.
Why Small Action Wins
I have to admit that I lied. This article isn’t a 2-minute read. But if you’re reading this now, you just experience how effective the 2-minute hack is.
There is no way for us to win the fight with our lizard brain. So instead of fighting it to force yourself doing something, work around the corners.
When you think of the great things you want to achieve, acknowledge that they don’t happen by themselves, and they certainly don’t happen overnight. The best way to get where you want to be isn’t visualizing your way to it, the only way to get there is by taking action.
And you don’t need significant action either, all you need is just a small tiny action that put you a step forward, 2 minutes at a time.
This post was written by Dean Yeong and first appeared on his blog.
Dean Yeong writes on DeanYeong.com, where he shares lessons and thoughts on how we can perform better and achieve more by optimizing our mind, body, and environment. To receive fresh ideas and techniques on mastering the art of becoming better, check out his weekly newsletter.
You’re finally ready to start working. You’ve made your coffee, checked your email, scanned the news, and you can feel the cogs of productivity beginning to turn.You jot down a few lines, crunch some numbers, or get the template made. You are a powerhouse of efficiency, and nothing, we repeat, nothing can stop you.
Until that is, an email from the boss hits your inbox. A banner alert on your phone chimes. A coworker pops in to let you know, that for the third time this week, there’s cake in the conference room.
Why are you working more hours and getting less done? It comes down to one word, or lack thereof — organization.
Not to be confused with its easily conquerable enemy, distraction, organization is an elusive concept for some while it comes as naturally as breathing for others. And it’s more important, subtle, and over-arching than you thought.
It’s only with organization; of thought, of pattern, of routine, of self; that you are able to tackle that aforementioned nemesis, distraction.
Let’s look at 5 things you can do to defeat common downfalls of organization.
1. Know Yourself
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you require a quiet room free from the distraction of others, or thrive in a community co-working space? Tuning in to those personal preferences and adjusting your working schedule accordingly will do wonders for your productivity. For example, once you finally resign yourself to the fact that morning hours are your most productive, you’re able to adjust and reorganize your schedule accordingly. Errands, phone calls, tidying up, etc, can then be re-assigned to the evening so you’re not wasting your most productive time on less pressing matters.
2. Disconnect and Unplug
We get it, you have a demanding boss who expects you to be reachable 24/7, even at 2:15 on a Sunday morning. Regardless, you have to find a way to unplug. Only being able to focus for ten, fifteen minutes at a time before another email or text message comes in is the most virulent cancer to productivity in the modern age. Try setting up and auto-response or letting colleagues know in advance that you will not be responding to emails for the next two hours.
3. Make a Plan and Stick to it
Especially for those who are juggling multiple projects or have limited hours to spending working, creating and sticking to your work plan is vital. If you are spending the first fifteen minutes of every session trying to figure out just what it is you’re working on, needless to say, you are not making the most of your time. At the end of each session make note of where you left off and what you’re hoping to accomplish next time.
4. Give Yourself Less Time
Ever notice how when you’re busier you’re able to get more done? That’s because when you know you have all week to tackle a big project, that big project is going to take you just that — a whole week. When you’re juggling multiple deadlines and projects you work more efficiently to get them done. Give yourself self-imposed time limits. Telling yourself you are going to work tooth and nail for the next 8 hours to finish isn’t just cruel — it’s not realistic.
5. Take Care of Your Body
A healthy body and mind lend to a healthy work routine, trust us. A physical body that is exercised, well rested, and nourished will aid in mental acuity and focus. While we’ve all done the heavily-caffeinated all-nighter in college, we’re adults now and need to properly care for ourselves. Carve out some time in your busy schedule to connect to your body and you’ll find that focus you’ve been grasping after comes a bit more easily.
Working well and utilizing your time effectively is a skill, and like all others, something that gets better with practice. Identifying your weak spots is the first step in answering, “why am I working more hours and getting less done?” Next, take an honest look at your work habits and self to pinpoint where you can be more organized. Using the above list as a template and applying the five points to your life is a great place to start. We have a feeling you’ll be purring along as a well-oiled efficiency machine in no time.
We are always looking for new ways to be productive. But why is it that we are unproductive in the first place?
People tend to chalk it up to the following:
Not enough sleep (or not enough coffee)
Too many “priorities”
Poor time management
I don’t think these are the real reasons though. What I’ve noticed is that there is a trend in people who are “unproductive,” one that hides beneath the surface of more easily recognizable patterns.
The reason many people are unproductive is this:
They are afraid.
When they are given an assignment, or they start a project that stretches slightly outside their comfort zone, they end up finding every excuse not to work on it. Why? Because they aren’t confident in their skills to execute, and so they choose easier tasks that provide them with a more immediate sense of accomplishment.
What ends up happening is they spend all day working on the little things on their to-do list, just so they can check them off and feel “productive.” But by doing so, they end up avoiding the one task that will actually move them to where they want to go–whether that be within a specific project, or even their career or life. The difficult tasks are the ones that stretch you, that make you feel uncomfortable. They are the ones that force you to grow. The people who embrace this, move quickly. Those who don’t, run forever in place.
If you look around at any workplace, the reason why people avoid certain tasks doesn’t have anything to do with “the environment” or “not drinking enough coffee.” It comes down to the fact that they don’t know how to do what is being asked of them, and instead of risking being wrong, they avoid it all together.
That’s the real reason people are unproductive. They don’t want to fail.
How do you combat this?
The way I have learned to overcome this bad habit is through handwriting my to-do list every single morning. First, I look at yesterday’s list, and anything I didn’t complete, I write down for today. Once I’ve done that, I add whatever other tasks were just put on my plate, and then once I have everything in front of me, I look for what is most important based on where I want to go and what I want to accomplish, and I circle it–and I tackle that first.
What I’ve noticed through doing this is that certain tasks will somehow appear on my to-do list over and over.
By handwriting it, I start to take notice when I’m writing and rewriting the same task. That’s when I have to ask myself, “Why am I avoiding this? Because it’s hard? Because it’s boring? Or because I am afraid to do it?”
Case in point, three years ago, when I first started working at Idea Booth as an entry-level copywriter, any time I was tasked with calling someone on the phone, I avoided it. I was very shy and far from confident in my abilities to speak coherently over the phone to someone of stature. Day after day I’d rewrite the simplest of tasks on my to-do list, eventually realizing the only reason I wasn’t doing this thing that would take me less than five minutes was because I was afraid. It’s not that I didn’t know what needed to be done – I knew exactly what needed to be done. I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it, and so I avoided it all together.
This is the root of not being productive: fear. This goes for art, business, school, and effective communication of all kinds. We tend to avoid that which scares us.
Forget the “productivity matrices” or the “productivity hacks.” If you can’t pinpoint and get over the things that scare you, all you’ll end up doing is crossing off a bunch of easy tasks on your to-do list that don’t actually get you to where you want to go.
If you truly want to move the needle, if you actually want to be productive, you have to be willing to do what scares you.
This post was written by Nicolas Cole and first appeared on his blog.
Nicolas Cole is an author, Top Writer on Quora, and the founder of Digital Press. His work has acquired over 30 million views online, and has been published in Time, Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, and more. He is best known for writing about creativity, entrepreneurship, productivity and personal growth.
Do you ever find yourself jumpy, anxious, and overwhelmed with a million thoughts racing through your head? Is the feeling so overpowering that you become paralyzed and unable to take action? The monkey mind.
The origins of the monkey mind date back to the buddha. The expression is used to describe the inability to quiet our mind when there are many thoughts, ideas, and worries swirling around in our head. Our tendency to multi-task and our addiction to technology exacerbates the problem.
Some symptoms of the monkey mind include inability to sleep, exhaustion (maybe due to lack of sleep), memory issues, and inability to focus. Now that we’ve identified the problem and the symptoms, what can be done?
Three ways to tame the monkey mind
By practicing these strategies on a daily basis, you can quiet the monkey mind:
Taking a few minutes each day to sit quietly or follow a guided meditation helps to quiet the mind. When meditating, you breathe in and out through your nose. The idea is to inhale deeply and exhale slowly, focusing only on your breath. This is where you might say, “but there are a million thoughts flying through my head.” Exactly…that’s the monkey mind! If you have tried meditating before and thought you were not doing it correctly because your mind wandered, give it another chance. Your mind is expected to wander and it is in no way an indication that you are doing it wrong. Let the thoughts drift to the side, with no judgment, and bring yourself back to focusing on your breath. As you do this repeatedly, you strengthen your ability to focus. Imagine how this can help you throughout the day when you are trying to concentrate and other thoughts fly into your head. If you have trouble meditating on your own, try a guided meditation such as insight timer.
Do you ever find that when you are in a meeting or waiting in line at the supermarket your mind starts wandering to (and stressing over) what you have to do later that day? We have all been there. You have so much to do before leaving the office…when will this meeting end? E-mails, phone calls, quarterly reporting…why is that vice president still talking? Or, perhaps you are still stewing because the barista at Starbucks got your coffee order wrong this morning. Either way, you are contaminating the time you are in. Your participation in the meeting is marginalized because you are not focused on the content – you are busy worrying about other things. The monkey mind has taken over again. Wherever you are, be totally present and try to only focus on what is being discussed. This conscious state of being is mindfulness.
3. Attitude of gratitude
According to research, repeated thoughts create neural pathways. The more you identify positive things in your life, the deeper and more pronounced those pathways become. Consider keeping a gratitude journal. I started one last summer and have already seen a change in my overall outlook on life. At the end of each day, i write three things for which i am grateful. Over time, this daily practice trains your brain to look for the positive in things…it becomes a reflex. So, even if you feel like you were born or raised a pessimist, you can start to see your cup as being half full and even overflowing. Summary The combined daily practice of meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude brings a sense of peace and order, keeping the monkey mind at bay. The more you practice, the greater your ability to focus and react calmly in stressful situations.
Sharon Danzger is the founder of Control Chaos and author of ‘Super-Productive: 120 Strategies to Do More and Stress Less’. Her firm helps clients improve personal productivity and performance through corporate training programs and individualized coaching.
In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress, she defines stress as “what arises when something you care about is at stake.” We all have our own interpretation of what causes stress and react differently to stressful situations. Whether it’s work, politics, debt, a health crisis, divorce, death, or parenting, stress is everywhere. Does any adult live a stress-free life? Your genetic makeup also provides a pre-disposition to certain stress responses. If your parents freaked out in a traffic jam, you might too. Overly anxious about medical test results, assuming the worst? Your parents may have modeled this behavior.
What would life be like with no stress at all?
Really – take a minute to think about it. No tension, no strife. Would a stress-free life really make you happy or would you find yourself bored? Part of the excitement of life comes from overcoming obstacles and challenges. Of course, we would all prefer not to deal with sickness and death. But think about the small daily stresses that can really wind you up? Can you interpret those stressful situations differently?
Research on stress
Jeremy Jamieson, a researcher at the University of Rochester used the Trier Social Stress Test to measure whether a mindset intervention could alter stress response.
Participants were told they will have to give a 5-minute impromptu speech on their personal strengths and weaknesses in front of two judges.
They had three minutes to prepare and were going to be filmed.
Following the speech, they were given a timed math test. They had to calculate the answers in their head and respond out loud while being harassed by the tester.
Sounds pretty stressful, right? The Trier Social Stress Test was developed in Germany in the early 1990s and is widely used as a reliable method for stressing out any human in psychological experiments.
Here is how Jamieson used the experiment to measure how mindset changes your stress response:
Prior to giving their speech, participants were shown a brief slideshow:
one group received information that explained that when you feel stressed (body sweating, heart racing) it hinders your ability to do well;
the other group saw slides explaining that when you feel stressed (body sweating, heart racing) your body is preparing you to perform at your best.
During the speeches, the panel of judges provided discouraging non-verbal feedback (eye-rolling, arms crossed, sighing, etc).
The filmed speeches were then reviewed and rated by an objective third party.
The intervention did not impact how stressful the participants found the experience; they all found it stressful. But those who saw the slides explaining that the stress response they were feeling would help them perform, were more confident in their abilities to cope with the challenge. Those who were primed to view stress as a challenge, not a threat, were: more confident, smiled more, adopted expansive postures, and exhibited fewer signs of anxiety. Overall, they gave better speeches.
What can you do?
Based on Jamieson’s research, we know that you can alter your stress response. Simply telling yourself (and believing) that the stress you feel is a challenge, not a threat, enables you to harness that surge of energy and perform better! For many years, you have been told that stress can be a danger to your health. In her TED Talk, McGonigal talks about the data to support that it’s not stress that kills people prematurely, but rather the belief that stress is harmful to your health. You may not be able to reduce the stress in your life but you have the ability to control how you respond.
Changing how you think about stress can improve your health.
Sharon Danzger is the founder of Control Chaos and author of ‘Super-Productive: 120 Strategies to Do More and Stress Less’. Her firm helps clients improve personal productivity and performance through corporate training programs and individualized coaching.
In our life-long quest for efficiency and productivity, we’ve poured over hundreds, maybe even thousands of personal blogs. With our productivity device Timeular Tracker we’re helping over 20,000 users track their time and improve how they work (you can check it out here). We ourselves follow several leading blogs and while they differ in philosophy, organization, and style, they certainly all know how to inspire. Read on for our top six productivity blogs to follow.
Twenty minutes or so on Leo Babauta’s blog is all it takes to start making plans to become a serious yogi, cut out all sugar, write that novel you’ve yet to start, and declutter your home, top to bottom. Where other blogs mentioned here rely on a sort of “go gem em, tiger” attitude, Babauta instills a quiet, assuring confidence that makes you want to drink green tea on your back porch with him. He builds credibility with his readers through an impressive list of accomplishments ranging from quitting smoking to waking up early to running an ultramarathon. His tips and suggestions are oft-rooted in meditation, mindfulness, and willpower, but he also relies on simple consequences (tell a friend you’ll give them $100 if you don’t…) as powerful motivational tools.
In his self-titled blog, James Clear, explores the behavioral psychology behind habit and productivity through real life application and interviews. We like his ability to present science-backed information and data in meaningful real-life ways through linking them to successful people. One of his most popular articles focuses on the UK’s professional cyclist team’s General Manager, Dave Brailsford’s, plan to win the Tour De France by improving everything they did by 1%. Spoiler alert: They win the next two Tour De Frances. In addition to having home-run content, Clear’s website is great. Like, really great. There’s a very natural and intuitive flow about the organization which highlights his best articles and arranges them by category, and all his tips are very hands-on and powerful. Not to be missed!
Looking to improve productivity in all aspects of your life? Head to lifehacker where their encyclopedic website provides tips and tricks across the spectrum, from culinary skills to financial management to mental and physical health. Their colorful images and playful, easy to read style encourage delving deep into the archives, so, fair warning! We’ve found it’s best to head to lifehacker with a specific goal in mind, for instance how to create better deadlines, to avoid distracting yourself on your quest for productivity.
Head to Scott Young’s blog for some serious productivity inspiration. He has over 1000 article categorized under topics like “Social Skills,” “Discipline”, “Business,” and “Career,” as well as some truly impressive projects; Want to see someone who learned four languages in one year? Markedly improved his portrait drawing skills in thirty days? Learned MIT’s four year Baccalaureate computer science degree in ONE YEAR? Scott’s your guy. His awesome feats help you dream big and then make it happen with his specific tips and guidance. He writes in a way to encourage his reader to always be looking for ways to improve their everyday life – think Tim Ferriss-esque goals but even more specific and, at time, obscure.
Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek has been a fixture on our bookshelves and in our lives since it first hit stores in 2007. It regularly comes up in “have you read?,” / “you must read…” conversations, and his blog is no different. He is THE guy when it comes to lifestyle design and productivity. His blog is an eccentric collection of thoughts, musings, advice, interviews, and personal tales, much as you’d expect from a master of five languages, national Chinese kickboxing champion, and bestselling author, of which he is all. Ferriss is often the subject of his own writings and it’s this direct personal experience that make his call-to-actions that much more powerful; “If I was working too many hours, not making enough money and I changed things, why can’t you?” This simple but compelling argument will have you planning to join the new rich in no time.
Time and money have a lot in common; they’re both resources, that require some planning, and they often seem to disappear before your eyes. You wouldn’t attempt to create a budget without first reviewing your spending habits, right? Similarly, the first step to better managing your time is knowing how you already spend it. Here at Timeular, our aim is to help you discover just that. Our Timeular Tracker together with our productivity software will handle the time tracking, while over at our blog you’ll find tips and tricks to living your most productive life. As religious readers and followers of the top blogs and experts for years now, we realized we’ve amassed some pretty valuable things to say on the topic. And we want to share them with you.
When it comes to productivity both in and out of the workplace, technology is sort of a double-edged sword. While it can certainly make life easier, it can also create distractions that ultimately eat away at your productivity. Your smartphone alone provides ample opportunities to check social media, take a Candy Crush break and participate in the never-ending group text. So, when it comes right down to it, is technology improving or decreasing your productivity?
As you can imagine, the answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no. Measuring productivity, especially against quantitative benchmarks, is difficult. What we do know is that taking a minute to check your Twitter feed amounts to a loss of time that far exceeds 60 seconds. The biggest problem with distractions is that they derail your thought process. It can take some time to get back on track.
In fact, Gloria Mark, who studies informatics at the University of California, Irvine, found that for every 30 seconds of distraction, you are losing 30 minutes of concentration. It takes a full half-hour to return to the original task with total focus. Your mind isn’t just wandering and checking out for a few seconds. It is taking a full lunch break every time you get distracted.
The Myth of Multitasking
The main reason that it takes us a full 30 minutes to regain focus after just one minute of distraction is that
humans were not designed to multitask.
In our modern, fast-paced world, we have come to accept the myth that not only is multitasking possible, but that is it an essential skill. In reality, humans were designed to focus on one task and despite centuries of evolution. This fundamental trait has not changed.
According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, ‘When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” The idea that humans can simultaneously hold two thoughts or tasks in their head is simply false. This explains why we are so easily distracted in the face of pervasive technology.
The Consequences of “Multitasking”
Unfortunately, buying into the myth of multitasking can have far-reaching consequences that go beyond a simple decrease in productivity. When you become distracted by technology while trying to complete a task, your body will increase production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Studies have also shown that multitasking causes IQ drops similar to those in people who have ingested marijuana or missed a night of sleep. Giving into the urge to read that email or check your phone may actually be affecting your health.
How Our Productive Time Disappears in the Face of Technology
When it comes to losing productivity to technological distractions, you might be wondering where exactly employees are spending their time. Here is a list of the top three sources of technology-based distractions that are eating away at productivity:
In a 2015 study from Inc.com, participants stated that Google was their number one source of distraction. It is all too easy look up a piece of information and get lost down the rabbit hole. You might start by checking a fact for work and end up researching vacation spots. Or who was eliminated on last night’s reality TV show.
It should come as no surprise that social media is the second most popular form of distraction among employees. While social media accounts provide businesses with a powerful tool for connecting and engaging with existing and potential customers, it also creates a slippery slope of distraction.
Last, but not least, email easily makes the cut for the top three sources of distraction. If you are toiling away at a mundane task, it can be hard to resist stopping what you are doing when a new email pops up in your inbox. While only about 14% of all emails people receive are actually important, worth reading and responding to. Workers spend approximately 28% of their work week dealing with emails.
It is difficult to determine just how much these distractions add up to in lost time and productivity. Much of what we know about how much time workers waste on social media or other technological distractions comes from surveys were participants self-report. Obviously, workers are likely to underreport how much time they spend distracted. Subsequently, the numbers vary from 30 minutes to four hours a day depending on the study and who was surveyed.
Is There an Upside to Being Distracted?
Maybe. Technology puts us in contact with a constant stream of new information. Whether you are reading promotional emails, scanning the latest news and trends or connecting on social media, you are ingesting massive amounts of content. You never know where the inspiration for your next big idea might come from and engaging on such a large scale might just provide you with the right spark.
Back to Our Big Question
Is technology more or a distraction than a tool for productivity? We believe that the answer comes down to how you use technology and how you incorporate new tools to combat the effects of constant distractions. There are several strategies you can use to make sure you’re getting the most out of using technology:
1. Establish clear boundaries and schedules
Block off certain periods throughout the day for checking email. You might consider setting aside 30 minutes at the beginning and end of the day so that you can spend the bulk of your time focusing on completing larger projects. Also, let friends and family know that you will only be able to respond to texts during lunch. This will avoid a constant stream of messages that probably aren’t all that important.
2. Set limits for your social media time
If you need to be on certain accounts for work, be sure to use your time wisely and stay on task. Again, set a 20-30 minute window for completing any social media tasks so that you can move on to other projects with a clear head.
There are also some tools on the market that can help you avoid distractions and stay on task, like our time-tracking tool. It helps you keep track of how much time you spend on specific tasks without interrupting your concentration and workflow. As the Timeular Tracker is a physical device that you simply flip to start and stop tracking your activities, you don’t need to interact with any software while you are focussed on other tasks. This lowers the risk of getting distracted.
The bottom line
Yes, technology can be a distraction that can diminish your productivity. However, technology has also made the modern workplace more streamlined, efficient and accessible than ever. We believe the trick, as with any double-edge sword, is to use it correctly so that you don’t end up getting cut.