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10 Effective Techniques To Cut Your Working Hours In Half

10 Effective Techniques To Cut Your Working Hours In Half

One of the biggest things people in our incredibly busy and fast paced lifestyles today yearn for is free time. Whether it’s to spend time with family, friends, or by ourselves, we all need more hours in the day. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave work early every day and have more time for yourself without having to sacrifice your pay or productivity? Ah, to have more time to enjoy your life!

If you’d like to know how you can optimize your work life, put in fewer hours a week and still be productive at work, we’ve got a few tips for you. Here are quick and easy techniques that together can cut your working hours in half, affording you more time to do the things you love.

Remember, being productive and efficient is really more about working smarter, rather than working harder.

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1. Plan your day the night before.

Every night before you go to sleep, create a to-do list for the next day. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A list of three to five core objectives that you intend to accomplish the next day will do. Focus on what’s necessary and what will push you to meet your objectives. This way you won’t have to spend hours trying to figure out what’s important and what you need to do next. As Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week advocates, spend 20 percent of your time plotting the things that will bring in 80 percent of the results.

2. Keep your workstation neat and organized.

This should go without saying. You need to keep your workstation neat and organized to ensure you operate more smoothly. Organization creates more time in your day and plays an important role in how much you accomplish. Spend time arranging your desk in a way that you can easily access what you need fast. Get rid of stuff you don’t use and keep only those items that you need and use often. Even if you have to invest a few hours in getting organized, do it. It will pay off in a big way.

3. Come a little early to work.

The early morning hours when it’s nice and quiet is a good time for productivity. Many people say they can leave two hours early if they add an hour at the beginning of the day. Arrive at work early and you will reap similar benefits. Besides, do you really need eight hours of sleep per night? Train your body to only sleep six hours a night so you can wake early before 6 a.m daily and prepare for work. You’ll create more time in your day.

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4. Work your best hours.

Just because early morning is a great time for productivity doesn’t mean it’s the only time. Figure out your most productive time of day and milk it. If you’re most productive 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., work then. If you hit your peak in the afternoon when most people are shrugging off, work then. Don’t feel constrained to work the traditional early bird schedule. Work your best hours to safeguard your productivity. It doesn’t make sense to work when you’re the least productive just because others work best then.

5. Stick to your day’s to-do list.

Many people create wonderful daily to-do lists, but don’t actually follow through and stick to them. Don’t be one of those people. Create your daily to-do list and follow it. Efficiency says to start with the most important or most challenging project of the day first so you can tackle it when you’re the most productive. Make it urgent and get it out of the way then move on to the smaller, less challenging and more pleasant tasks.

6. Focus intently on tasks.

A study examining the practice habits of musicians discovered that a violinist who practices intensely for four focused hours gets more done than those who practice for seven hours but less intently. This finding typifies most other endeavors in life, including work habits. Focus more intently on the hours you put in at work and you’ll be likely to need to put in fewer of those hours. Value your “focus time” at work and be frugal with that resource.

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7. Stop multitasking.

Focusing on tasks intently means no multitasking. When you multitask and try to do 10 things at once, you destroy your productivity and end up doing none of them well. The human brain is not designed for multitasking. Multitasking hinders the brain from processing and retaining information as it should. Often you’ll have to go back and reread or redo something just to complete it well. This wastes time and slows you down. Do one task at a time and stay present. You’ll do it better and much faster this way.

8. Limit interruptions.

Every interruption, however brief, means you have to spend time regaining focus. That is lost time that you won’t recover. Limit your accessibility when working and stop checking your phone every five minutes and your email every 10 minutes. Let people know you are not to be disturbed during your “focus time” at work. You can give them a schedule of “open-door office hours” when you are available to engage with others and respond to issues. This way you’ll protect your focus and avoid distractions.

9. Respond to e-mails in batches instead of immediately as they came in.

E-mail is a big time suck in the office. It can take you hours to compose and answer all the messages in your inbox. Cut the hours you spend a day on e-mails and also prevent e-mail distractions by lumping the messages and answering them in batches instead of immediately as they come. For instance, read and compose e-mails on three set times in the day, such as 11 a.m, 3 p.m and 10 p.m. You’ll notice it will take you significantly less time to clear out you inbox and send all necessary e-mail.

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10. Track your time and repeat what works.

Productivity and efficiency is a matter of experimentation. What will work for you might not work for another person. Therefore, it is necessary that you track your time and know not only how you are spending your time, but also which techniques are helping you save time. When you find something that works, repeat and strive to improve it. In the same breath, review and change what doesn’t work. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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