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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

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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