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How A Single Shift Of Focus Can Change You From Procrastinating To Taking Actions Immediately

How A Single Shift Of Focus Can Change You From Procrastinating To Taking Actions Immediately

The desk is cluttered, email inbox full, there are thousands of voice messages. Your head is pounding and all you can do is stare in a stagnant motion. You are frustrated, guilty, and stressed, but you just cannot reduce that growing to-do list. Procrastination leaves you feeling like your passions are engraved permanently below the “under construction” sign. Sounds familiar to you?

There’s always something we know we should do but we simply want to put it off. Many of us would rather do nothing because we’re too afraid of messing anything up. When things seem to be fine to go, we just don’t want to screw them up. Yes this is so wrong, and so I’m going to tell you what you can do to stop procrastinating.

The focus you put on completing a task determines your actions.

There are two ways to look at a task. You can do something because you want to make some achievements, win more and be better off; or you can do something because you don’t want to lose anything you’ve already got. These two types of motivation are called promotion-focus and prevention-focus.[1]

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Promotion-focused is the one who plays to win.

For people who are promotion-focused:

  • They see goals as pathways towards advancement
  • They concentrate on the rewards that will be accrued when goals are achieved
  • They are comfortable and eager to take chances
  • They are creative thinkers that work quickly and dream big

However, note that promotion-focused personalities are prone to error and are unprepared with if anything does go wrong.

Prevention-focused is the one who plays not to lose.

For people who are prevention-focused:

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  • They see goals as responsibilities
  • They concentrate on being safe and are worried if they are not careful enough or do not work hard enough
  • They play to hang on and not lose all they have
  • They are risk-averse
  • Work is thorough, carefully considered, and accurate
  • They work slowly and meticulously
  • They are not usually creative thinkers, but have excellent problem-solving and analytical skills

Most of us have a dominant motivational focus. Promotion-minded people may generate many ideas, but it takes prevention-focused people to tell the difference between good or bad ideas.

To stop procrastination, shift your focus to avoiding loss instead of winning.

Even though there is a dominant focus, most people wear both hats. An effective strategic balance is needed to get all you need when fulfilling tasks.

In Heidi Grant’s book Focus, she mentioned,

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Prevention motivation is actually enhanced by anxiety about what might go wrong. When you are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action. The more worried you are, the faster you are out of the gate.

So, if you want to get yourself to start doing what really matters, adopt “prevention focus”.

Think about the serious consequences of not doing anything at all, and imagine all the things that you will lose by not doing anything. Utilize your anxiety and fear to make you do what you’ve been putting off.

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For example, if you’ve been wanting to declutter your desk because there’s too much stuff that you can’t really work on your desk but you’re afraid that it’s going to be a huge task and you have to re-organize so many things that you’ll end up messing up the situation, adopt “prevention focus”.

Fast-forward your thinking and think about things keep stacking up and leave you no working space at all, and that if anyone is visiting your home, it’s going to take you forever to tidy up the whole place. Then you’ll take some actions, even the smallest step like throwing away the broken stationeries in the drawer is better than doing nothing.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Nena Tenacity

Nena is passionate about writing. She shares her everyday health and lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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