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The Ultimate Secret to Better Time Management

The Ultimate Secret to Better Time Management

We’ve all done it: promised ourselves we’ll be better at managing our time, only to follow through for a few weeks before eventually reverting to our old habits. Then, we resort to fighting fires again.

Our to-do list is so full that we scramble to finish whatever is at the top, while continuously adding items to the bottom. The list grows until one day, we decide it’s time for a change. We look for productivity apps to help us keep track of it all, decide on the one that we think will be best for us, and commit.

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For some reason, though, it seem to stick. Sound familiar?

Finding the Right Time Management Method for You

There are an abundance of time management strategies; finding the right one for you depends on a variety of criteria.

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If you are a chronic multi-tasker, you may benefit most from implementing the “touch it once” rule, which promotes working on only one task at a time, until the task is brought to completion. By using this method, you can train yourself to stop multi-tasking, which allows you to accomplish more in the day.

For those who have trouble deciding what to work on, the Eisenhower Matrix is a great option. This style of organization helps people prioritize, by sorting tasks into categories based on their Importance and Urgency. Once you have organized your to-dos in this manner, it’s obvious which ones you should attack first: those that are both important and urgent.

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People with too much work on their hands can benefit from implementing the 5 steps of the GTD Method. Following this methodology allows for quicker decision-making, so you spend less time getting organized and more time “getting things done”.

“So, which is the best?”

The fact of the matter is, there is no answer to this question. The “best” method of time management depend on the individual. However, no matter which you choose, the bottom line is this:

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The Secret to Better Time Management is Actually Discipline

And here’s why: once you find a method that really works for you, unless you stick to it, you’ll inevitably slip back into your old habits.

So, in order to become better at managing your time, you must work on increasing your discipline. Here are 6 tips to help you increase discipline, inspired by this article in Forbes:

  1. Remove Temptation. If you’re following the touch-it-once rule, for example, leave your phone in the other room when you sit down to work on a task.
  2. Don’t Wait for it to “Feel Right”. Growth is not always comfortable, and sometimes it’s necessary for us to force ourselves out of our comfort zone to make a change. Don’t start next Monday. Start today.
  3. Schedule Breaks. Growth is also incremental. As you grow, give yourself time to breath. This will keep you refreshed and allow you to keep making forward progress.
  4. Forgive Yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Forgive yourself quickly for failures and get back in the game, rather than letting small obstacles deter you.
  5. Tell People About Your Goal. Telling others around you about your goal helps you hold yourself accountable; if you know your co-worker or classmate is aware of the change you’re trying to make, you’ll be more vigilant about monitoring yourself.
  6. Make it a Habit. Studies show that forming a new habit takes about two months. Challenge yourself to stick to your new time management routine for at least 60 days. Before you know it, you’ll be following it subconsciously.

Becoming more organized is a goal for many of us, and reaching this goal can help us accomplish more, while reducing stress and increasing our level of happiness. For each individual, the road to organization will look different, but for all of us, the secret to success is staying in the lanes.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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