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7 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder

7 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder

Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference.

Work with how you spend your time in a day. Develop habits that can help you know what is important, what is not. With discipline, planning and organisation, eventually, you would find yourself working more effectively without wasting time.

1. Take breaks

It sounds counter-intuitive, but taking a regular break during your workday actually increases your productivity.

It’s also better for your health. Whether you work as a freelancer or work in an office environment, walking away from your desk will minimize eye fatigue and prevent blood-clots in your legs.

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Research shows that even five minutes away from work is enough time to renew your focus. When the afternoon slump hits, take a break. For even more energy in the afternoon, skip the coffee and incorporate brain-boosting snacks like blueberries and walnuts. The healthy fats and antioxidants will give your tired brain a much-needed boost of energy and focus.

2. Make rituals a part of your day

Believe it or not, most of what we do everyday is actually habitual. So if we can develop healthy habits, then we can be moved to success with less pain and efforts. If we are used to doing the same thing at the same time in the same place, the environment and the habit itself can condition us and make us more efficient in what we want to do.

Start your day off right by using a morning ritual during the workweek. Incorporate ideas like morning pages, meditation, and exercise into your early hours to improve your focus. Great morning routines start the night before by prepping for the day.

End each workday the same way as well. Shut down your office. Clear off your desk of any clutter so that you can start each morning fresh. Whether working from home or an office, make a point to start a ritual that says it’s time to end the workday.

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3. Have a “Do Not Disturb” block of time

The best part and worst part of working from home is that you work from home. People living with you can pop in and out of your office during working hours “just to chat” or discuss little things. Make it clear that between certain hours, you are not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency. Guard that time.

For working at the office, the same principle can be used. Inform co-workers that you don’t want to be disturbed.

4. Check email and social media at certain times only

It’s so easy to check email or social media several times a day. The problem is that quick looks derail your focus. It takes almost 25 minutes to return from a distraction. Shut off email notifications and stick to a regular email time—once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Do the same with social media. Everything will still be there when you’re ready for it.

5. Make a top 3 priority to-do list

Pre-planning your day is a must if you want to get things done. But instead of making a long to-do list, make a list of the three most important things you need to accomplish. By limiting your list to only three priorities, the list becomes manageable and not overwhelming.

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6. Develop a time management system

Filofax, Erin Condren, and Franklin Covey are all very popular pen-and-paper planners. There’s something to writing things down. Evidence even shows that writing longhand improves memory. An added plus: decorating your daily pages can be inspirational.

If you aren’t into your own handwriting, there are apps and websites like Trello to help you out. Boards and cards can be broken up, labeled with colored tabs, and details can be added within each card. The possibilities are endless.

7. Organise your workspace

Make a regular effort to organize your cloud-based or desktop folders. This is a huge time saver. Use labels in Gmail or folders in Outlook for all your emails. Make everything clean and uncluttered. Learn to use shortcut keys instead of relying on your mouse.

Along with keeping your online workspace organized, keep your office organized too. Have a designated time (like Friday afternoon) to get rid of old papers. File receipts and invoices in a file cabinet or a portable file box. Having an uncluttered work area improves focus.

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To work smarter, it isn’t just about having laser-focused attention and access to the latest apps and software. Know your limits and distractions and use that to develop a system that works for you. Keep yourself accountable. You’ll accomplish more without sacrificing all your time.

Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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