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5 Productivity Hacks to Kick Start Your Day

5 Productivity Hacks to Kick Start Your Day

How many times has this happened: you have a great weekend, you’re ready to go for Monday morning, and then something happens and it all hits the fan. You’re behind before the week even begins and you’re in a super bad mood. It really shouldn’t be this way, but this is the reality of life.

What can you do to stay ahead of the game and push through even the most maddening distractions to your productivity?

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Here are five suggestions to help empower you to stay focused and make the most out of your day, even when life throws you some curveballs.

1. Have a Game Plan

Sure life happens, but if we have some set-in-stone things that we try to commit to every day that empower us, it will prepare us for whatever our day may bring. These set-in-stone rituals should be things that you need to fuel your body, soul, and spirit. They prepare you to face the stresses of daily living. Therapists call it good self-care skills. Things like a good physical workout, a quiet time of meditation and prayer, reading something that might be intellectually stimulating and fueling your body with healthy nutrition.

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2. Set Goals Daily

We know that goal setting is important, but lots of folks think in terms of setting long and short range goals, not daily goals. Start by making a list the night before of the things that are priority accomplishments for the following day. If the first 3 get done, you’re good. If more get done, that’s an added benefit. In order to set daily goals, you have to plan for obstacles. That means you may have to say no to certain distractions or requests. It means you may have to delegate duties to others. If you have trouble doing these, you need to be curious as to what’s driving that.

3. Be Flexible

We all love to plan. But when our best-laid plans go up in smoke, we have to flexible and come up with creative ideas to make things work in the moment. Flexibility requires that we learn to control our emotional responses. We can’t go around freaking out when things happen because guess what? They will. We have to learn adaptive ways to calm ourselves and focus in the middle of the storm. Things like learning to control the breath and muscle relaxation help. I also teach my clients to scan their bodies for tension at least twice a day. This requires you sit quietly for 10 minutes and focus on each part of your body starting with your head and ending with your toes. You want to scan for tension and any other sensations you notice. Staying calm and focused is the key to a successful day, not to mention your health and overall well-being.

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4. Get Rid of Distractions that Weigh You Down

This one is hard. How many times a day are you tempted to answer your phone, check your email, or Facebook page, or shoot out a tweet? Productivity won’t happen if you’re constantly being interrupted by dings, pings, and boings. So turn ’em off! There will be plenty of time for them later. You also need to beware of people who are time suckers. Sure you want to help everybody, but some people will talk all day long if you’ll listen. Know who is draining you emotionally and make the necessary adjustments to deal with it. Time management is key to productivity.

5. Go to Sleep!

Turn off the TV, the computer or your iPhone and go to sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your ability to problem solve and be productive will be dramatically reduced over time. You may be able to pull off 6 hours a night when you’re young and don’t have a family, but sooner or later, this one will catch up to you. When you sleep, you heal and repair your body. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Sleep also helps your brain to function optimally and improves learning.

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None of these practices will guarantee that life and work will always go smoothly. The unpredictable rhythm of life assures us of that. But when we’re on our A-game, we are able to handle most of what life throws at us and keep the ball rollin’.

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Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

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