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9 Hacks That will Make Your Life Simpler and More Productive All Year Round

9 Hacks That will Make Your Life Simpler and More Productive All Year Round

Many people make resolutions to be more productive and to live simply, but these hopes often fizzle out over time, as it may become unclear as to what needs to happen in order to live in that way. Fortunately, huge life changes are not the only option—a handful of seemingly small life hacks can aid in keeping the momentum through the whole year.

Set Your Alarm for Earlier

Setting your alarm for 20 to 30 minutes earlier can make a huge impact on your day. So much can be done in this sliver of time. Make breakfast at home, take the time to style your hair, do the things that you normally do not have time to do or can’t enjoy because of rushing. If your morning routine is already pretty simple, use this time to read.

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Take Over Your E-Mail

Email can be one of those things that can suck the productivity right out of you. The average person has about 3,000 emails in their inbox, which is overwhelming to say the least. To reclaim your inbox, take the time to unsubscribe from lists that do not benefit you, aim to archive, label, and mute as necessary, and batch task your email.

Clean Your Bag Weekly

Throw out all of the extra mess like gum wrappers and old receipts. After the initial clean out, it will take less time weekly, and you will be able to easily find whatever it is that you normally spend 5 minutes digging for. Make this a habit to have healthy and smarter life.

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Make a Giveaway Box

This is the container that holds all of the things needed to give for donation. It prevents items from piling up in a closet while awaiting donation, while simply being a piece for storage. Make your donation run when the box gets filled up and then start all over.

Make Your Bed Every Morning

Yes, every morning. This is beneficial because you will look like you have your priorities straight if someone shows up unannounced. When you do this every morning, it helps to build on other small but productive tasks that should be done daily. It will transform from a single mundane task to just one part of a productive morning routine. Plus, if you are setting your alarm earlier you will have the time to do it.

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Shop and Meal Prep on Weekends

Take one day to buy and prepare food for the week. It will save time and money while reducing stress throughout the week. All meals can be made ahead, so that on any given day you can grab what you need and it’s ready to heat and eat.

Get a Key Holder and Never Misplace Your Keys Again

Hang up your little key holder in the entryway and never lose those keys again. Make it a routine to drop your belongings (keys, wallet, and cell phone) in there every day when you get home.

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Put Those Coins in a Jar

Get a piggy bank or coin jar to keep your coins. Make it a habit to collect them from your pocket, dresser, the sofa, and all over your car. This will help declutter your space while saving for miscellaneous items.

Get a Planner and Use It

Some sort of planner or calendar is essential for being successful and productive. It will store all of your daily commitments and activities. You will spend less time wondering about what your week looks like and more time working on tasks to make that week successful, as you will know what needs to be done to prepare.It is impossible to remember all the events and tasks, that is where the planner comes to the rescue.

Featured photo credit: nightwriterpoet via nightwriterpoet.com

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Brad Shugar

Business Development Consultant

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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