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Small Things You Do Can Make You Way More Productive, Here’s How

Small Things You Do Can Make You Way More Productive, Here’s How

Blink.

It’s 9:50 AM. Work starts in 10 minutes; I am punctual, awake, and ready for the day. Awesome.

Blink.

1:00 PM.

Wait, what?!

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I shut my eyes tightly and opened them again. There is nothing wrong with the watch. But I realized that in the three hours that just passed, I barely finished one article – which was supposed to be done in an hour. Sounds familiar?

As you rush to finish what was supposed to be completed in the morning after lunch, you realize you can either:

  1. Lower the quality of work to increase your speed; or
  2. Stay in the office longer to finish all your work.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place – talk about making a difficult decision! Having been in the same spot before (and I never want to be back), here is my take on procrastination and how you can boost your productivity!

1. Focus on consistency instead of quantity of actions.

In 7 strategies that will help you eliminate procrastination, a fundamental point was raised –

Put more importance on your consistency, rather than on the quantity of your actions.[1]

Instead of trying to juggle 30 tasks at the same time, going from tab to tab, app to app every minute, take one task, concentrate and get that part done. Even one finished task is better than 30 unfinished tasks. Take small but certain steps towards your goal and you will be surprised at how much quicker you get there.

2. Identify your peak hours and finish your important tasks during that period.

As Professor Christopher M. Barnes points out, humans generally follow a rather regular internal clock called the circadian process[2], or the circadian rhythm. When the workday begins, it would take us a few hours to reach our peak level of attentiveness, which would then decline to a low at around 3 PM. Even though it would hit a second peak at around 6 PM, it would quickly fall as time goes, reaching the lowest point at around 3:30 AM.

Therefore, we must identify our own peak hours (it should be quite similar to the ones mentioned above) and allocate our important tasks during that period. Try to finish the more mundane tasks like replying emails at non-peak hours and reserve your heightened attentiveness for making important decisions, drafting the defense for your client in a case, writing up that interview you have to finish before the day ends, etc.

3. Eliminate unnecessary options to prevent diffused efforts.

We would come across numerous opportunities and options as we progress in life. And like businesses, when we are rapidly growing, we tend to embrace expansion and take on as much of these opportunities as possible. Yet, if we started off succeeding because we have a clear sense of purpose, taking on all these opportunities would cloud our purpose, diffuse our efforts and lower our productivity on all fronts, eventually leading us to fail.

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. – Greg McKeown

Therefore, to maintain clarity and focus, take a deep breath and cast away all those unnecessary options and opportunities.

4. Play some angry music at work!

Plugging in our earphones to ignore the chatter and ruckus in the office has become an ordinary practice for us in this age. However, it might have never come to you that the music you listen to can directly affect your work performance. In fact, anger focuses our attention on rewards, increases persistence, makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals[3].

In an experiment done by Tamir and her colleagues, participants are exposed to angry music before an aggressive shooting game. Inducing their anger has actually improved their performance in the game.[4] Although your work might be slightly different from a computer game which involves a lot of action, we believe the music can still give you a boost in productivity.

5. Associate something you love with your work.

According to Dan Ariely, he would connect a ritual he loves – morning coffee with writing[5], so even though writing might be a tough task in times, he would be enjoying the whole process of sipping coffee and writing.

It could be anything from listening to a certain soundtrack to munching on that bagel you get from the store below – when you combine the task you need to be productive on with something you love, your productivity would spike for sure.

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6. Take a break and recharge at the office.

“Resilience is how you recharge, not how you endure,” – Shawn Achor

As much as we like to be the Spartan that could bear a hundred wounds and still fight, research has proven that the traditional method of biting our teeth and enduring costs companies $62 billion per annum in lost productivity.[6]

Surprising, isn’t it?

Therefore, it is crucial to take a break and recharge at the office so we can work more effectively and efficiently afterwards. It could be as simple as taking a stroll around the park around after lunch instead of staring at the computer screen to check the newest updates on the election!

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via Picjumbo.com

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Reference

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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 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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