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

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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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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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