Advertising
Advertising

5 Productivity Tools To Work Smarter, Not Harder

5 Productivity Tools To Work Smarter, Not Harder

Modern day life constantly demands our time, attention, and energy. We put pressure on ourselves to juggle more tasks as we increase our workloads to get more things done quicker. Instead of accomplishing enough to be satisfied, we are often left feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, disconnected, and unfulfilled.

This frantic lifestyle not only diminishes the quality of our results, it’s also impossible to maintain. Something has got to give eventually and if it’s not your relationships and happiness, it will become your health. Just like a car needs regular maintenance to perform well and batteries need to be recharged, our bodies need nurturing, rest, and rejuvenation.

Although working burnout style is an easy habit to slip into when you have a lot of tasks to accomplish, research shows that workers get no more done when they work 50-hour work-weeks than when they work 40-hour work-weeks. So, what does that say for working 70 plus hours a week? These extra unproductive hours are usually spent engaged in disruptive activities such as answering emails, phone calls, and unnecessary meetings, or recovering from stress, lack of sleep, and sugar or caffeine lows.

The best way to balance out our demanding lifestyle and become more productive at what we do, including work, is to manage our energy. Do more activities that recharge you and give you energy, so you can can be more successful in what you choose to focus your energy on.

Advertising

While building up an executive marketing and design career over the past 14 years, I have successfully been able to accomplish all my work tasks within a 40-hour work week. This left me time for rest, travel, hobbies, building relationships, and being a competitive athlete. I did this by managing my energy outside of the office, so when I was at work I had the energy to be more productive and successful.

Here are five energy management tools and activities you can do to create more clarity, productivity, and success in your life.

1. Start your day right.

How you start your day has a big influence on how productive you are for the rest of the day, and I’m not referring to how much coffee you drink. Setting a relaxed mindset and making sure your body and brain receive adequate nutrition is vital for productivity. If you wake up with worry, fear, or any other troubling emotions, do what you can to get back into a calm state. Remember you choose how you feel; no one else can dictate that. Express your thoughts in a notebook, meditate, or exercise to get the tense energy out.

Next, feed your body and brain healthy food. Aim for natural non-processed food that isn’t going to give you a sugar crash later on or encourage junk food cravings. Feed your body and mind what it needs to create success.

Advertising

2. Visualize success.

Visualizing success paves the pathway to tangibly achieve success. Just like athletes visualize their race over and over in their heads, visualizing your day going well energetically and mentally sets you in alignment with your goals.

Each morning, create a plan of how you want your day to go by visualizing all your goals. Visualize the main tasks, meetings, or conversations of that day going well. Play out the events in your head one at a time using only positive thoughts and emotions.

At a neurological level, our brain doesn’t know the difference between what actually happens and what we visualize. The brain reacts very similarly to both real and imagined experiences. That’s why chronic worriers feel the stress in their body like the potential disaster has already happened. Visualizing success can decrease fear and worry, as your brain has already experienced a positive outcome.

3. Set a strict finish time.

Before starting work, set a hard deadline of when you will finish. Knowing you only have a certain amount of time to complete your tasks often leads to more focus and less temptation for distraction. That’s why cramming students can get more study done close to the exam time since they have no choice but to solidly focus.

Advertising

If you are a serial workaholic and can’t see yourself finishing when you plan to, then make solid commitments after work. Reserve a dinner table, book a yoga or exercise class, buy tickets to an event, or park your car somewhere you have to move at your finishing time. In other words do whatever it takes to get 1-3 tasks done for that day within the allotted time. It’s amazing how much your productivity increases when you have focus and are not multitasking/time-wasting.

4. Meditate or exercise during your lunch break.

Taking a mental and physical break from work allows you to relax, recharge, and return with more focus. Throughout my professional career, I have been very consistent in taking at least a 1-hour lunch break to do exercise, yoga, or meditation. No matter how busy I am that day, I know taking a break will provide me with more energy and focus to be more productive when I return. In fact, during heavy workloads and intense deadlines my exercise/meditation break is one of the main tools to reduce my stress and recharge me to continue to focus.

Choose a cardiovascular activity such as a 45 minute spin class, weights workout, or running, to increase the adrenaline in your body and provide more creative energy for when you return. If you don’t have a gym near your workplace or a shower in the building for exercising outside, try meditation. Get some fresh air and sit in a park to do your meditation, listen to a guided meditation, or practice mindfulness while walking.

5. Set boundaries.

Having the strength to say “no” and setting your boundaries keeps your energy in tact and increases productivity. Get clear on what you need in order to do a good job then say no to people, meetings, extra work, disruptive activities, and tasks that don’t serve your highest good and ultimately the company’s success.

Advertising

Assess and pick only tasks and activities that you need to complete to move forward. If someone wants to have a 2-hour meeting and ramble on, make it clear you only have 20 or 30 minutes, then get out of there. If someone wants to disrupt you with emails and phone calls when you are trying to focus, tell them you have a deadline and you will get back to them another time. If other people want you work long hours and burnout with them, go to the gym or do yoga then return the next day much more refreshed and sharp.

Conclusion

To eliminate time-wasting and burnout habits you need to take a stand and try a different approach. Even if you stand out from the crowd, the results will speak for themselves, both professionally and personally. To be more successful and productive than the crowd, you need to break free from the crowd.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

More by this author

Kelly Weiss

Purpose-driven business + lifestyle coach

5 Steps to Choosing Expansive New Year’s Resolutions How to make decisions from a place of love rather than fear The Most Common Marketing Challenge Small Businesses Face And How To Solve It 5 Ways To Cultivate Inner Peace 5 Meditative Chair Exercises Guaranteed To Promote Work Productivity

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory 2 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 3 Do You Have to Give Everything Up to Get a Fresh Start? 4 You’ll Only Live Your Best Life Once You Step Out 5 There Is More to Life Than  ____________

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

Advertising

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

Advertising

4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

Advertising

Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next