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The Secret to Productivity: Work Less, Get More Done

The Secret to Productivity: Work Less, Get More Done

If only. Most of you are probably thinking, but it’s not quite as unrealistic as it sounds. Working for fewer hours each day is actually proving better for concentration, health, and productivity.

We are all time wasters. That might seem like a harsh statement, but it’s almost impossible not to be when we’re chained to a desk for long, inflexible hours surrounded by multifold temptations to procrastinate. In Forbes last year, Cheryl Connor revealed that people who now admit to wasting time at work every day has reached a whopping 89% (up more than 20% than the year before), supplementing her argument with shocking statistics from a CareerBuilder Poll which blamed unsurprising suspects for the demise of hard work (social media, gossip, smoking, internet browsing, phone calls, etc.) and essentially came to the conclusion that we’re all a bunch of no good slackers.

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In my view though, we’re not the ones to blame. It’s the outdated structures around which business is based: inflexible working weeks, unreasonable hours, and ridiculous expectations.

Last year, Filimundus, an app developer based in Stockholm introduced the 6-hour working day with minimal meetings, social media banned and distractions eliminated, following the lead of another tech company, Brath, who made the leap three years ago. Linus Feldt, the company’s CEO told Fast Company, “To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable.”

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Banning social media seems extreme, particularly when platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are positively transforming the way we do business, allowing companies to reach new audiences, increase sales, and foster customer relationships across the globe. However, the concept is an important one and it demonstrates a shift away from an outdated and highly restrictive professional structure.

The 8 hour working day is based on the idea that employees are productively working for those 8 hours, but, tweeting and gossiping aside, even when employees are actually “on the job”, productivity is still a struggle with concentration continually disrupted by emails, phone calls, and meetings.

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Then there’s the serious health risks of working long hours. A frightening recent study published in Science Alert reported that individuals working 55 hours or more per week had a 33% greater risk of stroke and a 13% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. This could relate to the inactivity of employees, but also to high stress levels. When we are expected to work or exceed conventional hours, there’s not enough time leftover to properly unwind. With shorter or flexible office hours that allow people to leave when they’ve completed their work, employees feel rewarded and proud of what they’ve achieved. They start to associate the office space with productivity rather than boredom and exhaustion.

Most importantly, people get to leave with enough energy to enjoy spending time with their families, to exercise, to learn, and to relax, so that when they return to the office the next day they’re refreshed and enthused rather than exhausted. Working less hours shouldn’t mean you get paid less either. Most companies would be willing to pay the same salaries for a higher productivity and fewer hours, if that meant for bigger profits and faster development.

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A Happiness at Work survey run by Nic Marks in 2012 showed that happy employees are 3 times more creative, sales increase by 37%, and productivity by 31%. Redesigning office spaces, introducing team yoga lessons and better food all help with morale in the short term, but it’s the long term restructuring that’s going to make the biggest impact.

Shorter days in the office means a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. What have we got to lose?

More by this author

Richard Walton

Founder of AVirtual

Boost your creativity, be more productive Hitchhiker by Atlas Green Why asking for help isn’t the same as giving in The Secret to Productivity: Work Less, Get More Done Clearing the office to clear the mind 8 Tasks You Should Be Delegating

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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