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To Be More Productive, Never Do This To Start Your Morning

To Be More Productive, Never Do This To Start Your Morning

In this age of social media and technology it’s common to get up in the morning feeling like we’re running against the clock. Increased connectivity is a great thing, but it can also create pressure in our lives where there didn’t used to be any. How many of us stress about work email in the morning? Even if it doesn’t cause us undue stress, many of us make checking our email our morning routine.

Checking emails first in the morning isn’t good for you. Here’s why.

Reading email first thing in the morning wastes the opportunity to engage your brain in more proactive tasks while it is at its most focused, creative, and highly capable. Mornings are a great time to do productive work that requires focus, creativity, and strategy. “But reading emails is my way of being productive,” you say? This may be the case, but think hard. Are you really focusing on your own objectives or are you dealing with other people’s problems whilst your own goals fade into the background?

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If you want to be a proactive, rather than a reactive, leader, it’s important to focus on your own daily objectives first thing in the morning. Reading your email takes you down the path of reactive leadership; you’ll be more focused on putting out fires and dealing with other people’s problems instead of focusing on your own goals. Having your main goals and objectives take a back seat first thing in the morning when your brain is at its most focused is a waste of your valuable time.

How can we make the most of the morning?

It may sound counterintuitive to say this, but a great way to set yourself up for a productive day is to avoid reading your email and to simply sit back for as little as ten minutes and take stock. Research has shown that a routine practice of mindfulness meditation will actually alter the way our brains work. There are some great apps available that can help you through a guided meditation session. Apps such as Headspace are great for beginners, whilst the Mindfulness App is perfect for more advanced meditators, allowing you to decide the length of the session and whether you want a silent or guided session.

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Continuous mindfulness practice redirects brain activity from parts of the brain associated with reactive thinking, such as the limbic system. Increased activity can be seen in parts such as the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with rational thinking.  As little as ten minutes a day can help give us some extra thinking space; we are less likely to make reactionary, emotional decisions and more likely to balance our feelings with the bigger picture, allowing us to make rational decisions.

Again it may seem oxymoronic, but we can actually use our phones to help us switch off and disconnect, leading to a more productive day’s work. Be sure to turn off those notifications, as you don’t want any distractions in the morning.

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Another problem that can make us reactive in our modern high-pressure environments is the fact that we are constantly multitasking. Again, this ties in with reading our emails and being presented with a barrage of problems to solve with no fixed time limit. However, it may apply to many other aspects of our lives. Again, mindfulness can help reduce the “noise” and aid in focusing on one task at hand. Mindfulness meditation may not be a magical solution to your problems, but it will certainly allow you to focus on the most important goals you have set for the days, weeks, and years ahead.

Featured photo credit: Wasabi.com.co via wasabi.com.co

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Christopher Young

Freelance Blogger, Writer and Journalist

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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