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3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity Without Burning Out

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity Without Burning Out

You want to get more done every day, but you’re already doing so much that the thought of adding anything makes you feel sick to your stomach. How do you get more done without getting bogged down in the daily “urgent” tasks like email and meetings?

Years ago when I started my business I was stuck in that daily grind of emails and appointments that I simply couldn’t get out of. They all felt important but only a few items actually pushed my business forward. The rest was just busy work.

It took me instituting 3 things to get my time back and start pushing the truly important projects forward. Today I want to share those 3 things with you so you can start putting your focus on the right things in your life.

1. Say NO.

This is the most important aspect of getting more productive without burning out. Before you move on to the other things in the list you need to make sure that you’re focused on the right things in your life.

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Last week I had 3 people I know invite me for coffee. I could have said yes, but my real focus is packing a house to move and getting ready for a month-long vacation. Because the important tasks of my week didn’t leave room for going out with friends, I told them to get in touch with me after my vacation.

It’s so easy to want to please a new prospect in business, but before you worry about pleasing them you need to ask yourself if you should even be working with them. Just because someone wants to work with you or sends you an email doesn’t mean that you need to work with them or respond to the email. That request is simply an indication of what they think is important for you to use your time on.

If that prospect doesn’t fit with your current business focus, tell them you can’t work with them. If you get emails asking for your time on things that don’t fit with your current focus, politely decline the opportunity.

Your default answer to any inquiry for your time needs to become “no.” Start with no and then evaluate how the request matches up with your focus. Only change the no to a yes when it matches up with your focus.

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Staying focused on the few things we really should be doing is the best way to keep us energized while making sure that we don’t have a deluge of busy work stealing our attention from what matters.

2. Delegate.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts there are always going to be some things you can’t say no to. Maybe it’s your taxes. Few people enjoy doing them or are gifted in tax prep, but it’s something we have to do or we can expect the tax agency to come visit you.

Despite having to get my taxes done, I’ve never done them even in a year when I made $8k for 12 months. I paid someone to submit my taxes for me. I don’t even enter my day-to-day receipts; I’ve delegated that to my assistant.

Do you need to set up your weekly email to your email list? Once the content is written, someone else can do the busy work of setting it up in your email marketing software. Your time is more effective spent writing more content.

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If you have any repetitive tasks, delegate them. It’s going to take investment up front to build the training material, but then you don’t have to touch that task again.

Getting these tasks out of your list means you can stay focused on the things that you do best.

3. Automate.

A close cousin to delegation is automation. In fact some people say that before you look at delegation you should be looking at automation because if you can automate a task, it means you don’t need to delegate it.

I use this with my invoicing software 17hats and their “workflows.” Instead of taking a few minutes at the beginning of every project to write the same email and send it, I now just let 17hats take care of the project intro email for me.

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Zapier is another great tool to automate easy repetitive things. You could use Zapier to push your email receipts off to Evernote for long term storage and the person you have entering your business receipts. Investing a few dollars a month in Zapier can save you hours of time a month in repetitive tasks.

What tasks do you do regularly that can be automated? Do you send essentially the same email to every client at the beginning of a project? Save it in a tool like TextExpander and never write it again.

With these three tools in under your belt, you can cut so many of the things that steal your focus. Stop doing things over and over, and instead, automate. What you can’t automate, delegate to someone who can do it better or cheaper.

Most importantly, do a serious evaluation of what you’re doing and make your default answer to new requests “no.” Only say yes to opportunities that you’re passionate about and fit in with your focus.

Doing these three things is going to give you new energy in your life as you only need to focus on the things that matter most to you.

Featured photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via flickr.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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