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7 Ways To Free Yourself And Make The Most Of Your Time

7 Ways To Free Yourself And Make The Most Of Your Time

How many times have you sat there and wished for just one more hour in your day? I’ve been there. I’ve thought about taking the time to learn or do something new, like learn to speak Spanish or how to make mosaics. Even small little things that I’ve been meaning to get it done I tend to postpone them or tuck them away, like taking a trip to the shop to assess the value of my bike or calling up a magazine outlet to cancel my subscription. It took a few months for me to do it, all because then I think about how busy I am and how I just don’t have the time to add anything else.

Here’s the deal – there are lots of ways that we throw time away every day. Try out these five steps to increase the amount of time you have so that you can fit the time to learn something new into your busy schedule.

1. Make a time journal.

For a week, write down how you spend each minute of each day. This includes your time at work (and what you’re doing while you’re there) as well as at home. Keep track of things like chores, exercising, taking your kids to the park, spending time on Facebook and other social media platforms, and the like.

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You’ll be amazed at how much dead time is really built into your day. Figure out what you need to do and what you could be doing that you’re not. Also, are there things you are doing that someone else could be doing? If you are dusting while your 12-year-old son is on the couch playing on his phone, then it’s time to hand him the rag and move on to the next thing on your to-do list.

2. Set limits on your screen time.

There’s nothing wrong with a little Netflix now and then. Even a binge of that favorite show can do wonders for your mental state. But if you’re coming home from work or school and watching three hours of Netflix a night, that’s a good place to start whittling screen time away. How about cutting it down to two hours and then going to the gym for an hour? You could also use that hour to listen to French language tapes, study the new spec psychology that has been added to your units, or watch a video about how to make an impressive soufflé.

3. Organize your life.

How much time do you spend every day looking for things? These could be your car keys and your cell phone, but they could also be things on your desk at work that are simply hiding under the papers that you set on top of them the day before. When you get to work, spend the first ten to fifteen minutes organizing your area. Then put together a to-do list for the day and arrange the items on your desk so that you can knock those tasks out more efficiently.

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4. Make your chores take less time.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys doing the laundry. I do know people who like to cook, but I don’t know many people who enjoy cleaning up afterward. I really don’t know anyone who enjoys sorting through the clutter on the kitchen counter at the end of the week.

Well, I don’t have tips for the laundry, but if you do all of your cooking on Sundays for the rest of the week, then everything is ready for you when you get home from work. You don’t have to decide what to eat for dinner because you took it out of the freezer and set it out to thaw when you left that morning. You don’t have to clean any pots and pans because you did that on Sunday. As far as the counters, if you spend a minute or two keeping things tidy at the end of each day, then you don’t have a stack of letters and other stuff to go through at the week’s end.

Here’s a great list of tips to start with your household chores.

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5. Establish some boundaries.

If you’re working your way through your schedule and your son comes in and asks you for help with his geometry homework (and you feel comfortable working with triangles and spheres), you probably should stop and help for a few minutes. However, if he comes to you the third week in a row needing a last-minute trip to the store to get a bunch of supplies for a project that is due tomorrow, it’s time to sit down and talk to him about courtesy. If you’ve just sat down to listen to that Chinese language tutorial and your friend calls you and needs to talk (but you know that it’s going to be an hour of the same old complaints about her life), it is okay to ask her if you can talk to her another time. You can go up to the extent of placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign should you have a very important task to finish. These boundaries will protect your schedule- and your peace of mind.

6. Limit “unnecessary” communication.

This is a follow-up to point number five above. Not all calls need to be answered; you are not bound to reply every text message or e-mail that pops up. If you attend to every single of one them, you’ll end up being hooked with it the entire day. If you are an employer, of course this will be different since every call that are coming through are important to the company you are working. For business people, students, or anyone who wish to literally save time on this aspect, then start cutting down this unnecessary communication. Unless it is absolutely critical matter or life-or-death situation, do not instantly give in and attend to people. First thing you must do is to disconnect all instant messengers. It’s 21st century; people are more inclined to IMs instead of phone calls. Then, route all your incoming calls to your voicemail. Through this you’ll be able to sift through what’s important and what’s not. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss The 4-Hour Workweek book, implemented it, and it works like a charm.

7. Prepare for the next day.

At the end of the day, when everything’s said and done, make it a habit to set your goals and plan for the morrow. Yes, you may be tired and spent, but really, this the best time to jot down all the things needed to be done for the next. The reason behind this logic is that while our brain is slowly shifting, the information you gathered for today is still intact. There may be some tasks or appointment notices that came later on the afternoon and there’s a huge chance of forgetting it the next day, especially if it is something you haven’t expected. Also, if you do not layout the things to do tomorrow might leave you tossing and turning all night. Jotting this down will somehow rest your brain from worrying on that stressful project.

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Featured photo credit: Maizzi via themebin.com

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Junie Rutkevich

Lifestyle writer and author of "Healthy Eating Habits: A Get-Healthy Guide To Tweak And Balance Your Daily Diet"

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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

Reference

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