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Why You Are Working More And Getting Less Done

We’ve all been there.

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.

How Stress Can Boost Your Performance

What is stress?

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.

Here’s how it worked:

  • 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 results?

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.

Bottom line

Changing how you think about stress can improve your health.

Sharon Feldman Danzger

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.