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8 Common Mistakes That Make You Easily Stressed

8 Common Mistakes That Make You Easily Stressed

In today’s society, most of us have the same struggle: there just aren’t enough hours in the day and in this current information age our personal lives are even busier than our professional lives. It’s hard to keep up.

There are some people who seem to have no problem handling it all. They are always doing something productive; going to work, grocery shopping, washing the car, and hosting a birthday party for 20 five-year-olds, all in the same day! Yet they never seem to even break a sweat.

So, how do we successfully manage all that we have to do without completely losing our minds? The answer to this dilemma is in the how you do what you do instead of the what. Here are 8 common mistakes that are making you more stressed than you should be.

1. You multi-task without prioritizing. 

Multi-tasking is a fact of life. We all do it. But consider this—truly successful people know how to prioritize their tasks, their time, and rarely multi-task. Focusing on too many things at ones makes you mediocre at them all. When you invest all of your energy, attention, and an allotted time frame to one thing‒more often than not‒you will do it well.

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Consider this example: You come home from work and you need to make dinner and help your son with his homework. When you try to do them both at the same time, you over cook the meal and your son becomes frustrated and throws a mini tantrum because he can’t concentrate. You’re both frustrated, the homework takes hours, and the meal is barely edible.

OR: You come home from work and set a timer for 30 minutes and sit down to help your son with his math homework―uninterrupted. When the timer goes off, the homework is most likely complete or close. You, again set the timer for 30 minutes, and you focus on making dinner while your son finishes the last bit of his homework by himself or, if he still needs more assistance, you allow him to take a break while you make dinner and finish the homework after dinner. The result? A tasty meal and a happier little boy.

2. You make “to do” lists.

“To do” lists in and of themselves are actually very helpful and are a way to help us remember things. But remember, it’s not the what that is important it’s the how. Most people’s lists are long and very detailed. We over schedule our time and plan with a level of granularity that makes it impossible to be successful.

If you must make a “to do” list, instead of planning out every moment of the day in graphic detail, write down the top three things you would like to accomplish in broad terms. For example instead of saying, “I am going to drink a gallon of water today” and then plan how much water you need to drink every hour, say “I am going to drink more water today”. Your chances of success with fewer and more broadly defined goals are much higher. And success leads to more success. On the other hand, the opposite is also true. Failure is disheartening and discouraging. The more you fail, the closer you come to giving up.

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Another alternative to the traditional “to do” list is using a live calendar to help arrange your day. You’ll receive updates and reminders that will help you with managing your time and keep you on track. Remember to keep the tasks broad and don’t fall victim to over-scheduling.

3. You rely on your brain to remember things.

This is a no brainer―pardon the pun. Relying on your memory to recall important information is a recipe for disaster. Your brain is very complex and overburdened with information. It needs help remembering things.

WRITE IT DOWN! If there is something you need to recall―write it down. The physical act of writing it down will aid you in remembering it. When you write things down, you are physically connecting the thought to an action. The simple act of writing things down increases the odds of you remembering it 3 fold. And if you still forget, no worries, you have it written down!

4. You instantly respond to electronic messages (emails, instant messages, social media posts, text messages, etc.)

This is by far one of the hardest habits for most of us, technology slaves to get used to. We have been conditioned―a lot like Pavlov’s dogs ‒ to respond immediately. We hear the notification ‘ding’ on our mobile device and we HAVE to check it out. We cannot fight the urge to see what’s happening.

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News flash… texting LOL can wait. Most successful business professionals have a prescribed time―once or twice each day―where they stop what they are doing and answer emails and respond to messages (they don’t multi-task). They also set a time limit. Anything that does not get answered during their ‘mail’ time has to wait until the next time their calendar alerts them that it is time to check the mail. It takes discipline ‒ but you can do it.

5. You neglect the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto Principle): the premise of this principle is that 80 percent on an outcome is derived from 20 percent of the expended effort. If you think about this principle in terms of a team―let’s say a basketball team―this theory predicts that 80 percent of the team’s points would be scored by one player. Research shows that this theory is largely accurate in almost every input/output relationship.

The lesson here is, be careful on how you spend your time and energy. Learning to choose which activities will produce the greatest success and be the most productive is the key. This principle is all about priorities and being fully present during these key activities will enable you to better maximize you time and potential.

6. You procrastinate.

Better known as the “touch it once” rule. Simply put, if you touch something ‒ deal with it right then and there. If you open a letter and you are going to respond, respond immediately.

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Think about the time you waste opening a bill, reading its contents, and then waiting until later to actually pay it or act on it. That was wasted time and energy. You now have to remember to pay the bill (and you didn’t write it down). If you see the letter and know that no matter the contents you are not ready to take an action, leave the letter, unopened in a designated spot to deal with it at a time you are ready to take action. It is OK to put things off ‒ as long as you do it intentionally and you have established a bigger priority to tackle at the moment.

7. You don’t say ‘No” and you don’t ask for help.

A shocking fact is that successful people value their time and energy over other people’s feelings. They have no problem saying no to things that do not make maximum use of their energy. In other words, if it is not a resounding “heck yeah!” then it’s a no. It’s not about putting yourself first or being selfish, it’s about being smart and efficient.

Also, people who experience large amounts of success do not see pending tasks as something they must do, they see them as something that must get done. Whatever is the best way, is what they choose. They have no problem asking for help from someone who may be more suited to the task than they are. And a team can do a job a lot faster than one person. Learn to shift your thinking from “I have to do this” to “what is the best way to get this done?”

8. You hyper focus and over fixate on tasks.

If you’re seeking to accomplish something and it just isn’t going well, learn to take a break and work on something else less difficult. You sit down to write your final term paper of the semester. It’s worth half of your grade for the entire semester but the words just aren’t flowing. Sitting there for hours trying to make yourself do it is actually less productive than taking a break and returning to it later. I know, I know this violates the “only touch it once rule”, however in this case, that rule is superseded by the 80/20 rule. You are expending way too much energy for virtually no output. And also remember that success breads success.

Instead, take a break and work on your economics homework which you can do with your eyes closed, do some laundry, and go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. You’ll feel better.

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Denise Hill

Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

Learn from these highly successful people’s personal development skills, turn these skills into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

2. Keep certain days clear

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

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7. Don’t try to do too much

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew.

Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else.

This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then.

Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

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Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

If you find yourself easily distracted and can’t focus, this method will help you overcome distractions.

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14. Never stop

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it.

Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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