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One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity.

One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity.

To put this into perspective, first I’m going to tell you a story:

An aging farmer realized he was becoming too old to care for his farm, and was now ready to pass his farm down to one of his two sons. When he brought his sons together to discuss his decision, he told them: The farm will go to the younger son.

The older son was furious! “How could you not give the farm to me?! I have worked here longer!” he fumed.

The father sat patiently, thinking.

“Okay,” the father said to the older son, “I need you to do something for me. We need more stocks. Will you go to Cibi’s farm and see if he has any cows for sale?”

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The older son shortly returned and reported, “Father, Cibi has 6 cows for sale.”

The father graciously thanked the older son for his work. He then turned to the younger son and said, “I need you to do something for me. We need more stocks. Will you go to Cibi’s farm and see if he has any cows for sale?”

The younger son did as he was asked. A short while later, he returned and reported, “Father, Cibi has 6 cows for sale. Each cow will cost 2,000 rupees. If we are thinking about buying more than 6 cows, Cibi said he would be willing to reduce the price 100 rupees. Cibi also said they are getting special jersey cows next week if we aren’t in a hurry, it may be good to wait. However, if we need the cows urgently, Cibi said he could deliver the cows tomorrow.”

The father graciously thanked the younger son for his work. He then turned to the older son and said, “That’s why your younger brother is getting the farm.”

The reason why the younger son got the farm is because he was willing to do more than just the bare minimum. This virtue can be translated to any aspect of effort, whether it be school, your career, a passion, or a hobby. Those who are willing to go above and beyond will reap the benefits of their hard work.

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What Separates the Ordinary from the Extraordinary?

• To be a good worker, you must know how to follow instructions. To be a great worker, you need to know how to anticipate the next step. Many people passively wait for direction instead of taking the initiative to do more without having to be asked.

• Think back to when you were at school: when you were assigned an essay, more than likely you made sure to meet the requirements, the word count, and the information that had to be covered. But did you really put your heart into it? Did you think of how you were really going to rock this concept, leaving your teacher with a new perception of the topic? Did you consider how to structure the essay for maximum impact? It’s okay if you didn’t. You probably still got a good grade. But that essay will never be remembered.

• At work when you are given an assignment, you’re sure to meet all of the necessary requirements to fulfill the task. But do you think ahead to what the next step could be? Do you consider which aspects of the assignment could be revised for better accuracy? If you just do the bare minimum and wonder why you aren’t recognized or promoted, perhaps it’s time for some reflection.

• Successful people don’t just complete the task at hand, they think of ways to improve the work. This is how you get noticed. This is how you get ahead.

• Successful people ensure that they can get ahead by strategically planning the steps that must be taken to get to their ultimate goal.

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• Anticipate challenges and changes. Things don’t always go as planned, and you can’t freeze up when things don’t go your way. Instead, embrace the challenges and think of ways to overcome the obstacles. You will be noticed for your quick and strategic thinking.

• The thing that most separates the successful from the mediocre is identifying your weaknesses and finding ways to improve them and turn them into strengths. Successful people are always actively trying to improve, knowing that they could always do better. Complacency is the enemy.

• There’s nothing wrong with being average. If you’re comfortable and don’t feel the need to strive for more, that’s okay. But just realize that you will always stay at your current level, passively following directions, without ever contributing personal thoughts or insights. Your opinion will never be asked, your expertise will never be called upon. In the work force we call these people “bodies.” People who fulfill their job, but never go the extra mile, and never move up in their career.

Being successful is a choice. Most people don’t achieve the extra-ordinary by luck. They proactively take an extra step in order to get ahead. Many of us don’t have mentors to point out our weaknesses and show us how to improve. We must take it upon ourselves to identify those factors, and learn how to strengthen those loose ends.

How About Doing More Than You Think You Can?

The most successful leaders constantly ask themselves these questions to improve upon themselves, their product, and their brand.

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Business masterminds such as Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Inc.) and Elon Musk (CEO and product Architect of Tesla, SpaceX and a number of powerful, influential companies) never settled after achieving the success of one product or project. Instead, they continued to strive for more. Each milestone is really just a stepping stone for what’s next. That is how these men managed to become so successful and influential. Strategic planning, and hard work.

You Have to Stand Out in Order to be Noticed.

It’s not enough to just want something. Everyone wants to get ahead, but few do because they don’t take the initiative to excel.

When trying to climb the corporate ladder, there’s an overwhelming amount of competition. You really have to make an impression in order to be noticed. Following directions and doing a “good job” won’t do that for you. Corporations need worker bees in order to make the business work, so you will be left right where you are. You need to prove that you’re a valuable asset, a force to be reckoned with. That is how to transition from being the one who follows orders, to the one who gives them. You need to have ideas, and not be afraid to set them into motion.

I worked in food service for most of my life as a cook. My ultimate goal was always to achieve Michelin status, and work in one of those super strict glimmering kitchens that most cooks only dream about. Finally, I got my chance. I went in for my interview with my sharpened knives and ironed uniform. The incredibly intimidating Chef took me into the walk-in fridge and told me to make anything I wanted. I panicked and came up with a very ordinary dish that included caramelized orange segments. I sprinkled the segments with sugar, and placed them in the broiler to caramelize the sugar, but it wouldn’t turn on. One of the line cooks handed me a blow torch, saying that they lit the broiler with it because the pilot was out. I took the segments out, and instead used the blowtorch to candy the oranges. To be honest, my plate alone probably wouldn’t have gotten me the job. But the quick thinking and problem solving is what got me recognized.

To be successful, you can’t be stagnant. You need to embrace challenges and think of ways to overcome them. Most importantly, you need to have the courage to excel. Success can be scary, because you need to commit to it; people look up to you. But you can’t wish your way to success. You need to work for it.

Featured photo credit: Solar Tribune via google.com

More by this author

Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills How We Are Confusing Self-Love with Narcissism In This Generation One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity. How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind. How We Are Attracting Fake News and False Information to Our Lives

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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

Reference

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