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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 May 20, 2019

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

Time.

When you think of this construct, where do you see your time being spent?

As William Shakespeare famously wrote “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…”

Have you used your time wisely? Are you where you want to be?

Or do you have unfinished goals to attain… places you want to be, things you still need to do?

The hard truth is, that time once passed cannot be replaced–which is why it is common to hear people say that one should not squander time doing nothing, or delay certain decisions for later. More often than not, the biggest blocker from reaching our goals is often inaction – which is essentially doing nothing, rather than doing something. 

There are many reasons why we may not do something. Most often it boils down to adequate time. We may feel we don’t have enough time, or that it’s never quite the right time to pursue our goals.

Maybe next month, or maybe next year…

And, before you know it, the time has passed and you’re still no where near achieving those goals you dream about. This inaction often leads to strong regret once we look at the situation through hindsight. So, take some time now to reflect on any goal(s) you may have in mind, or hidden at the back of your mind; and, think about how you can truly start working on them now, and not later.

So, how do you start?

Figure Out Your Purpose (Your Main Goal)


The first important step is to figure out your purpose, or your main goal.

What is it that you’re after in life? And, are there any barriers preventing you from reaching your goal? These are good questions to ask when it comes to figuring out how (and for what purpose) you are spending your time.

Your purpose will guide you, and it will ensure your time spent is within the bounds of what you actually want to accomplish.

A good amount of research has been done on how we as humans develop and embrace long-term and highly meaningful goals in our lives. So much so, that having a purpose has connections to reduced stroke, and heart attack. It turns out, our desire to accomplish goals actually has an evolutionary connection–especially goals with a greater purpose to them. This is because a greater purpose often helps both the individual, and our species as a whole, survive.

Knowing why it is you’re doing something is important; and, when you do, it will be easier to budget your time and effort into pursuing after those milestones or tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of your main goal.

Assess Your Current Time Spent

Next comes the actual time usage. Once you know what your main goal is, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have now. It’s good to know how you’re currently spending your time, so that you can start making improvements and easily assess what can stay and what can go in your day to day routine.

For just one day, ideally on a day when you’d like to be more productive, I encourage you to record a time journal, down to the quarter hour if you can manage. You may be quite surprised at how little things—such as checking social media, answering emails that could wait, or idling at the water cooler or office pantry —can add up to a lot of wasted time.

To get you started, I recommend you check out this quick self assessment to assess your current productivity: Want To Know How Much You’re Getting Done In A Day?

Tricks to Tackle Distractions

Once you’ve assessed how you’re currently spending your time, I hope you won’t be in for too big of a shock when you see just how big of an impact distractions and time wasters are in your life.

Every time your mind wanders from your work, it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get into focus again. That’s almost half an hour of precious time every time you entertain a distraction!

Which is why it’s important to learn how to focus, and tackle distractions effectively. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set Time Aside for Focusing

One way to stay focused is to set focused sessions for yourself. During a focused session, you should let people know that you won’t be responding unless it’s a real emergency.

Set your messaging apps and shared calendars as “busy” to reduce interruptions. Think of these sessions as one on one time with yourself so that you can truly focus on what’s important, without external distractions coming your way.

2. Beware of Emails

Emails may sound harmless, but they can come into our inbox continuously throughout the day, and it’s tempting to respond to them as we receive them. Especially if you’re one to check your notifications frequently.

Instead of checking them every time a new notification sounds, set a specific time to deal with your emails at one go. This will no doubt increase your productivity as you’re dealing with emails one after the other, rather than interrupting your focus on another project each time an email comes in.

Besides switching off your email notifications so as not to get distracted, you could also install a Chrome extension called Block Site that helps to stop Gmail notifications coming through at specific times, making it easier for you to manage these subtle daily distractions.

3. Let Technology Help

As much as we are getting increasingly distracted because of technology, we can’t deny it’s many advantages. So instead of feeling controlled by technology, why not make use of disabling options that the devices offer?

Turn off email alerts, app notifications, or set your phone to go straight to voicemail and even create auto-responses to incoming text messages. There are also apps like Forrest that help to increase your productivity by rewarding you each time you focus well, which encourages you to ignore your phone.

4. Schedule Time to Get Distracted

Just as important as scheduling focus time, is scheduling break times. Balance is always key, so when you start scheduling focused sessions, you should also intentionally pen down some break time slots for your mind to relax.

This is because the brain isn’t created to sustain long periods of focus and concentration. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. After this time, your likelihood of distractions get stronger and you’ll become less motivated.

So while taking a mental break might seem unproductive, in the long run it makes your brain work more efficiently, and you’ll end up getting more work done overall.

Time is in Your Hands

At the end of the day, we all have a certain amount of time to go all out to pursue our heart’s desires. Whatever your goals are, the time you have now, is in your hands to make them come true.

You simply need to start somewhere, instead of allowing inaction waste your time away, leaving you with regret later on. With a main goal or purpose in mind, you can be on the right track to attaining your desired outcomes.

Being aware of how you spend your time and learning how to tackle common distractions can help boost you forward in completing what’s necessary to reach your most desired goals.

So what are you waiting for? 

Featured photo credit: Aron Visuals via unsplash.com

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