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The Guide to Productivity That Will Change Your Life

The Guide to Productivity That Will Change Your Life

“If only I were more productive,” “If only I studied more,” “If only I took action.” Sounds familiar?

I think I already heard these ifonlystic whinings, and quite often. And “If only” I had a penny each time I heard one of those whinings, today I would be a millionaire! You can stop this useless, disempowering and prejudicial behavior. You can take action and change everything.

The importance of wanting the change

If you want to see results, first of all you need to do is to desire the change as intensely as you need oxygen to breathe. In other words you need to dream of it! So, the first thing you need to do is to change your mindset and understand what you really want, what your goals are, why you want to be more productive and where you want to go. The second step is thinking that if we look for what triggers our emotions and makes us excited and passionate about our future, we will find the right motivation, which is everything we need in order to obtain what we want. And it makes us unstoppable.

The importance of keeping your mind clear

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open for everything.”
— Shunryu Suzuki

I love this quote. It’s so true and useful. It reminds us of the importance of leaving as much space as we can in our mind, in order to use our brain efficiently. The first step towards productivity is being relaxed and always having both short-term and long-term plans well-organized. But in order to be relaxed, you need an “external storage” where you will keep all the detailed information about what you are going to do. In the next paragraphs I will explain better what I mean with “external storage”.

Guide To Productivity

    Image: Brain Power

    Overloading your brain, keeping all that information in mind, will cause stress, pressure and anxiety. Not only is it inefficient, but it will also prevent you from being productive and getting things done. So never forget the importance of keeping your mind stress-free.

    The tools of highly productive people

    As promised I’m going to explain what I mean with “external storage”. The “external storage” is the combination and coordination of some efficient tools that you can use to be more productive and organized.

    Post-Its Notes

    Write your 3 most important daily tasks on 3 post-its and stick them on your computer. It’s very useful.

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    Productivity

      Image: Post-It Notes

      The daily to-do list

      You probably already know what a to-do list is. It’s a very efficient tool to get well-organized and to motivate us to complete our daily tasks. It’s a list with all the concrete actions we need to take during the day. But, why is it so useful? Well, you have to fill your days, being as productive as you can, in order to achieve your goals, and a to-do list will help you getting things done and increasing your self-esteem as well. Plus, it’s very important that you cross all the items off your list, every day. If you can make this your daily goal, you will achieve a lot in the long run.

      Here’s an example of a to-do list:

      September 9, 2015
      – Meditation
      – Appointment with mortgage broker 30 min
      – Gym 1 h
      – German course 1.5 h
      – Completing Report at Work
      – Lunch with business partners 1.5 h
      – Writing article on personal blog

      Productivity

        Image: Keyboard Light

        The agenda

        It’s very similar to the daily to-do list, but in this case you will put all the items in a chronological order and you will put each item at its scheduled time.

        For example:

        – 1 pm – Lunch with business partners
        – 5 pm – Gym
        – 7 pm – German course

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        The weekly to-do list

        The weekly to-do list is very similar to the daily one. There are just a few differences. You write it before the week starts, and you write on it all those tasks you intend to complete during the week, but you still don’t know when exactly. Every day you write your daily to-do list, you will refer to your weekly to do-list, in order to make sure to cross all the weekly tasks off the list. Remember to be specific on the weekly list too. For example instead of writing “Go to the gym”, write “Go to the gym for 4 days”.

        Here’s an example:

        – Gym x 4 times
        – Buy German Student Book
        – Talk to Ann about Lauren’s birthday
        – Go to the Post Office
        – Studying for Marketing Exam

        Productivity

          Image: Business Planning with Plan-Too

          The Silver Page

          Sounds interesting! But, what is that? The silver page is a good tool to get well-organized in both the short and long-term. It will greatly improve your productivity, especially if you will combine its use with the above mentioned tools (daily and weekly to-do lists).
          It is a page where you will write down all the ideas and goals that you intend to reach in the near future. Here you don’t need to be very specific, you only have to write down ideas. Remember to update the page frequently, and to refer to it every time you write down your weekly to-do list.

          Here’s an example:

          – Write a book
          – Take the GMAT exam
          – Take the French DELF Certification
          – Look for a new job
          – Buy a house
          – Learn to play tennis

          How to use the tools

          Transferring items from the Silver Page to the Weekly To-Do List

          Every time you will move an item from the silver page to the weekly to-do list you will “bring it into reality” – very exciting! – so before doing that you will have to “transform” each item in one or more actions, and write those actions next to the item. For example, the silver page item “take the GMAT exam” will be translated as “buying the GMAT book,” “starting a GMAT course,” “studying 4 hours a week.”

          So, all you have to do is to pick up one or more actions every week from the silver page and transfer them to the weekly to-do list. Here you won’t need to be specific, you will only need to copy the actions from the silver page to the weekly list. They will automatically become weekly items.

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          Tools Productivity

            Image: Post It Notes

            Transferring items from the Weekly To-Do List to the Daily To-Do List

            You will do the same thing with the daily to-do list. But in this case you will need to be more specific. For example in a daily list, the weekly item “starting a GMAT course” will become “first GMAT lesson at X English School.”

            Transferring items from the Daily To-Do List to the Agenda

            Very simple: all you have to do is write the to-do list items on the agenda next to the respective hours, on the right daily page.

            Agenda, Productivity

              Habits For Productivity

              Set A Timer

              Setting a timer while working or studying is a good way to get things done. Maybe you already know the “Pomodoro Technique“, a time management method that breaks down work into some 25-minutes sessions and it separates them into 4-5 minutes breaks.

              If during these 25 minutes you manage to stay focused and you don’t allow anything to distract you, it is really efficient. Once you get used to it, you can switch to the “Orange Technique“, breaking down the work into several 30-minutes sessions, without changing the length of the breaks.

              Productivity Set A Timer

                Image: Stopwatch

                Wake Up Early

                If you become a morning person you will definitely improve a lot your time management. Setting your alarm earlier than usual, you will have more time in the morning for some rituals that help productivity such as drinking water with some lemon juice, having a great breakfast, working out, meditating, and you will have more energies and a stress-free mind during your day.

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                But, don’t set your alarm too early. Instead, wake up five to ten minutes earlier every day. Let’s say for example that your purpose is getting up at 6 am. If you are used to get ap at 8 am you have to progressively get used to wake up earlier, so the first day you will set your alarm at 7:50 am, the following day at 7:40 am till the day you will finally wake up at 6 am.

                Consciously Ignore Procrastination Instinct

                “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
                – Christopher Parker

                I can’t stress it enough: procrastination is the worst enemy of productivity. And it’s a disempowering mental behavior that if we want we can neutralize and avoid. Procrastination is that stupid but convincing voice in your head that gives you excuses such as: “Maybe I don’t need to do it today,” “Let’s skip class,” “I can postpone it to next week,” “In the end I don’t have enough time, so it’s better if I postpone this project.” The secret to eliminate this attitude is to recognize it and consciously ignore it. It’s not easy, but it’s something you can learn with practice.

                “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
                – Pablo Picasso

                Learn As Much As You Can About Productivity

                Learn Productivity

                  Last but not least, a very useful habit is reading a lot about productivity. You can buy a good book, read some articles on the internet, or be inspired by some quotes. For example you can search on Google, Yahoo or Bing keywords such as “Productivity,” “Time Management,” “Quotes About Productivity,” “Quotes about Success,” “Quotes About Productivity and Tenacity” etc… This will help you feel motivated and be more efficient in the long run.

                  Image: Learn

                  Featured photo credit: Backside Of My Desk via flickr.com

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                  Sira Masetti

                  Productivity Blogger

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                  Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                  8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                  8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                  How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

                  Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

                  When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

                  Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

                  What Makes People Poor Listeners?

                  Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

                  1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

                  Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

                  Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

                  It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

                  2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

                  This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

                  Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

                  3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

                  It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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                  I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

                  If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

                  4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

                  While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

                  To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

                  My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

                  Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

                  Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

                  How To Be a Better Listener

                  For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

                  1. Pay Attention

                  A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

                  According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

                  As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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                  I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

                  2. Use Positive Body Language

                  You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

                  A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

                  People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

                  But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

                  According to Alan Gurney,[2]

                  “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

                  Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

                  3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

                  I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

                  Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

                  Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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                  Be polite and wait your turn!

                  4. Ask Questions

                  Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

                  5. Just Listen

                  This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

                  I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

                  I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

                  6. Remember and Follow Up

                  Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

                  For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

                  According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

                  It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

                  7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

                  If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

                  Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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                  Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

                  Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

                  NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

                  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
                  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

                  8. Maintain Eye Contact

                  When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

                  Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

                  By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

                  Final Thoughts

                  Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

                  You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

                  And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

                  More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

                  Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
                  [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
                  [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
                  [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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