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5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

There are several ways in which to improve your day-to-day productivity and ensure that you’re gaining the most from your day’s work. Here are my top 5 ways to increase your productivity.

1. Plan your day

In my mind, it’s absolutely vital to plan your day above anything else. My first task of the morning, after my morning workout, is to plan my schedule for the day ahead. This can be in hourly increments, or just a general list of tasks to achieve — you just need something to keep you on track and moving towards your ultimate goals.

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As you begin to see the benefits of planning, you may find you can plan your entire week on a Monday morning. This will really help you to increase your productivity and get the results you truly desire. Always remember to build in contingencies though. Day-to-day life has its own ways of creeping into your schedule.

2. Establish a routine

Having a routine is vital for anyone wanting to get the most from their day, and so should it be for you. From setting a time to get up in the morning to what time you should take lunch, having a routine will truly help you to control your day and how you spend it.

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I for one wake up every day at 5:00 am, rain or shine, and I ensure I’m always in bed by 10:00 pm at the latest. I know I require 6-7 good hours of quality sleep to ensure I’m fresh the next day. It doesn’t take long for your body to adjust to a new routine, and the more you repeat the cycle, the easier it becomes.

3. Prioritize

Knowing which tasks require completing first really helps to get your day off to a good start. I always believe in swallowing the frog first. For those of you wondering what I mean by this, don’t be alarmed! I don’t actually eat a frog — what this means is to take the hardest, biggest, most difficult task and do it first. Once this task is out of the way, all the others will feel like a breeze. You may not have difficult tasks, but you will definitely have some tasks that are more important than others, and it’s key to tackle these first to remain productive.

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4. Take breaks

Believe it or not, taking breaks when required will actually boost your productivity. We’ve all been there, staring at the screen trying to think. I often find 5 minutes away from the computer helps me to gain clarity and focus better when I return. This could be taking a break to grab a cup of tea or coffee, or having a 5-minute walk around the office. Anything that takes your mind away from the confusion just long enough to help you see what you’re missing.

5. Ensure a healthy mind and body

For some this is an obvious point, but for others it’s not so. It’s absolutely vital to ensure that you keep a healthy mind and body. This is obtained by eating a balanced diet, exercising 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time, and staying hydrated throughout the day. It’s also vital to ensure you get good quality sleep at night and wake up rested the following day. This ties in with point number 2 — keeping fit and healthy will help you to remain focused and energized throughout your entire day.

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If you agree or disagree, or just feel like maybe I’ve missed something in this list, please comment below and let me know your top 5 ways in which you stay productive.

For more posts like this, visit www.williamstokes.co.uk.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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