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If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life

If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life

I was six when I first saw a street performer. At the time, I didn’t even know the word “juggling”, but I was mesmerized by the parade of colourful balls in the air nonetheless. How quick must his hands be! Tugging at my mom’s T-shirt, I stood there for half an hour and watched his whole performance.

As I grew up, I have unconsciously become a professional juggler as well – only that my performance is not as fancy, and the balls I juggle are much, much heavier. Family, friends, health, work – one slip of the hand, and everything would come tumbling down.

I believe we have all experienced that same feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have to do, tasks we have to complete and people we need to be with. Therefore, I would like to share with you my take on this matter:

The Four Burners Theory[1]

According to The Four Burners Theory by David Sedaris: family, friends, health and work are the four burners of a stove (which is your life). In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

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Life is filled with tradeoffs.

In The Downside of Work-Life Balance,[2] James Clear mentioned two methods he tried before:

“Can I succeed and keep all four burners running?
Perhaps I could combine two burners?”

However, after a brief period of experimentation, he realized: life is filled with tradeoffs. As much as we would like to be the best employee, parent, husband/wife and friend at the same time, we simply do not have the energy or time to do so. Should you take on this extra project at work or should you go to the party your friend in college is holding? Should you take a nap to rejuvenate yourself or help your son with his art homework?

It is difficult to choose. However, that does not mean all we can do is throw our hands up and yell in frustration, “It’s impossible!” So get ready to take some notes!

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1. Let go of unimportant things and people.

Have you ever been wondering along the lines of “why do I never have time for things I deem important?” Have you tried to make time for your family but found your schedule filled to the brim by gatherings and parties?

Think. Prioritize. Act.

Think about what is important. Prioritize your activities. Take action and clear your schedule of things that you are simply going out of courtesy. Those six o’clock drinks after work? That golf game that you are not really that interested in? That high school friend you haven’t seen and talked with for years?

Let them go. Get some rest, talk with your kids about school, or even just cuddle with your husband/wife a bit. It might sound ironic, but the fewer things you put on your schedule, the more fulfilling you feel.

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2. Focus on one thing at a time. Be efficient.

It’s too often that we believe we can simultaneously take care of multiple things at the same time. Typing out that proposal while taking side glances at your kid to make sure he didn’t swallow a Lego. Scrolling through Facebook to catch up with everything in the world while talking to a friend.

Earlier research has shown that multitasking undermines efficiency in work because extra time and effort is spent on shifting mental gears as we switch between different tasks. [3]

Therefore, instead of trying to do 10 things at the same time, focus on completing the task on hand. You might find yourself with a lot more time in the end!

3. Reflect, reflect, reflect.

After every day, take a short time to think about what you want to do and what you have done. Do they match up? Is there anything you can do to improve?

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Think about things like: do you enjoy what you are doing right now? If you want to take a step and make a change, what do you want to achieve? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to get higher recognition at work?

If you are satisfied with how things are right now – that is great! If it is the contrary though, plan carefully and discuss with your loved ones about how you want to readjust. It might take a little time, but the result would definitely be fruitful.

Every choice has a cost.

In the end, we are all a bit greedy – but just like every story, no one could truly have it all. We need to remember that every choice has a cost, and we just have to make sure that as we juggle in life, we choose the things that are the most important to us.

Reference

[1] LAUGH, KOOKABURRA A day in the bush, a night at home. David Sedaris The New Yorker
[2] The Downside of Work-Life Balance, James Clear
[3] Multitasking undermines our efficiency, American Psychological Association

More by this author

Eamon Suen

Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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