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Why Resting Your Brain is the Best Way to Boost Your Productivity

Why Resting Your Brain is the Best Way to Boost Your Productivity

No matter what method you try, or what advice you take, if your brain is worn out, you’re going to struggle with productivity.

Many believe that stress is good – you have to get that adrenaline flowing to get anything done. But stress keeps your brain on red alert, firing neurons like pistons on the Space Shuttle and releasing all kinds of stress-related hormones and making you a really tired person. When your mind is tired, you’re not functioning at full capacity, and you’re sure to get behind. It’s ironic really, the harder you try to be productive when your brain’s worn out, the worse it gets.

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Why Stress Management Doesn’t Work

Let’s be honest – stress is fear. If you reflect upon the things you’re stressing about, you’ll quickly understand that there are all kinds of things flying around that are scaring you. “What if so-and-so outperforms me?” “What if I don’t meet my deadline?” “Who am I if I can’t rise above my peers?”  We like to call this “stress” because it feels bad to admit that we’re scared – really scared.  Telling our friends “I’m so scared of failing” will get some awkward responses in our culture, so we say “oh, I’m so stressed out about ____.  Pass me that martini.”  And we all chuckle and talk about something else. Fear is weakness, so we call it stress.

Then we try to “manage” our stress, which is impossible – fear cannot be managed, it has to be dealt with directly.  If you have fears about where your career is headed, you have to deal directly with those fears. If you have to be “the best” to feel good about yourself, you have some fear about other people’s opinions about you – you’ve got to deal with that one too.  Stress management deals with symptoms, not the real problem.

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The opposite of stress/fear is peace. If you want to be productive, you’ll have to learn to manage your peace, not your stress.

5 Fundamentals of Peace Management

1. Get some sleep.  Cut down on the coffee, take a break from booze, turn the TV off, and crash. You’ll quickly find out that if you live with a lot of “stress,” sleeping won’t be easy – our fears love to crawl into bed with us.

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2. Get organized.  One of the things we stress about most is taking care of what my old boss used to refer to as “Your Rats,” those little things that gnaw on you, that can chew your leg off if you don’t deal with them. The best curriculum for this is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”  I tried this and it saved a lot of peace.  He’s got books, seminars, free advice, and it’s all very simple.

3.  Learn to let go.  There are things you can control, and things you can’t. Get a piece of paper and make two columns.  Title the first column “Things I’m worried about that I can control,” and the second, “Things I’m worried about that I can’t control.”  Use the system in Step 2 to take care of the things you can control.  With column 2, you have to realize that worrying about things you can’t control doesn’t change anything, it only steals your peace, puts your brain on red alert, and makes you more inept at taking care of the things you can control.

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4.  Let people off the hook.  When someone makes us angry, we tend to wander around like a zombie thinking of ways we can win an argument, or get even.  Nothing will eat your brain’s reserves faster.  To keep anger from sapping your productivity, you’ll have to get good at confronting, and when confronting’s not an option, try forgiveness. With regards to confrontation, check out the book “Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior,” and do everything they tell you.  You’ll be surprised at how well it works, and how good your brain will feel when you learn to speak up in a way that’s honest and peaceful.

Courage Required

Not many people live like this. Facing our fears and organizing our lives in a way that’s best for our brains is no small undertaking.  But it’s not nearly as hard as walking around day after day with a thousand monkeys on your back while trying to think creatively, boost your business, make money, and have fun.

But anyone can succeed at peace management.  As long as you’re willing to read, talk to people who are good at it, and be persistent, you can step into a life that’s more peaceful, and infinitely more productive.

Featured photo credit: Matthew Kane via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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