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Published on November 13, 2017

Setting Deadlines Can Push You to Work Harder, but Not Smarter

Setting Deadlines Can Push You to Work Harder, but Not Smarter

When you start your workday, you may welcome the tasks that arise to fill your time. Work comes to you with no rhyme or reason, but you do it. You tackle things as they come, and you turn everything in by the deadline.

It may seem that you’re successful because you turn in your work on time. The problem is, you don’t know how to effectively plan for a day’s work.

Most people live and die by deadlines

Time is an important factor to consider when you’re completing tasks. Many of us chase deadlines or knock out the easiest tasks first to feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, we spend too long on some tasks, and scramble to do everything else.

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    You may have 10 working hours in a given day, and it’s your job to do as much work as possible in that time. It’s easy to work all day and accomplish very little.

    You have to be intentional about priorities. If you only worry about filling time slots and meeting deadlines, you may neglect more important, high-value tasks.

    But living by deadlines gets you into trouble

    Humans are terrible at guessing how long it takes to complete projects. Guessing is even more challenging when we are developing something new. We’re not machines, and our day-to-day outputs don’t tend to fit into neat algorithms. When we estimate completion date on a project, we don’t take into account the non-project related work that creeps into our schedules. Those emails, meetings, and team member commitments that crop up at the last minute cost time.

    We often associate dates and days with certain emotions. For example, do you find yourself as productive on Friday afternoon as you are on Tuesday? Relative estimation of when you’ll complete a task doesn’t take into consideration how feelings affect work.

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    To top it off, you can give several teams the same task, and they’ll all complete them in a slightly different time frame. Their velocity on work turnaround, calculated in points, will vary along with their time frame. Setting arbitrary times for finishing work makes it impossible to use velocity as a selling point in your team’s effectiveness unless your team performs significantly better than your competitors.

    How to make guesses more accurate

    Instead of relying on deadlines and dates to stay productive, you can take a more objective approach. The management technique known as scrum can help you accomplish this. In the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, the Scrum technique allows you to produce better estimates for planning timelines by using a system of points instead of units of time.

    When you’re working to solve complex problems, there are usually several teams involved. It’s impossible to guess how long it will take to complete a project on your own or communicate your team’s needs to other groups. Your role in a project may require little effort, but the teams around you may have to expend considerable effort for their part. You need the input of every team involved to arrive at a reasonable estimation.

    Use story points

    The most productive teams have switched from setting deadlines to deciding how long tasks will take based on a process known as scrum or agile estimation. They use story points (the input of various teams involved) to understand the relative difficulty of each task.[1]

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    Workers rate the degree of difficulty using a Fibonacci-sequence: 0, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20. This abstraction pushes the team to make tougher decisions around the difficulty of work.

    They assign numeric value to their respective portion, and play “planning poker.” In planning poker, workers hold up a number that they think represents the level of difficulty for that project.

    Make sure everyone’s on the same page

    When all parties agree about the numbers in planning poker, they know that they are all on the same page about the timeline. If the numbers differ, the teams must discuss how everyone reached their numbers.

    Sometimes, we have no idea what obstacles other teams face. This method opens a dialogue about what it will take to actualize a project. Differing opinions in the difficulty of a project can address whether everyone is working on the same scale.

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    Don’t complicate the points

    It’s best to set an upper limit of 20 story points when you are trying to make a project less complicated. Anything greater than that needs to be broken into smaller attainable steps. Breaking tasks down into smaller steps keeps teams from becoming overwhelmed.

    Hindsight is 20/20

    When you’re trying to give an accurate estimation for how long a project will take, don’t forget to think about past experience. If you’ve done similar jobs, consider how long they took to complete and what pitfalls you experienced. Think about the number of story points that particular aspects cost.

    The more data you can refer back to, the closer you’ll be to landing an accurate estimate. Besides, you may be able to improve on previous methods so that you can complete your work more efficiently.

    Stop being a slave for deadline

    Setting a deadline based on how long you think the task will take can leave you scrambling or turning in substandard work. There’s no reason for you to work harder when you could be working smarter.

    By thinking about your work in the abstract story points system instead of time, you’ll be able to communicate your needs and understand the needs of others much more clearly. You’ll know when you need to break tasks into smaller steps, and you’ll have a more efficient way of thinking about past experiences with similar projects.

    To learn more about effectively planning your next project, read Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.

    Reference

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    Feel better instead of feeling tired Feeling Tired All the Time? Find out Why and How to Get Energetic Again The Only Way to Remember Everything You Have Read 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2018 Updated) Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step) The Definitive Guide to Cope with Work Stress (Simple and Effective)

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    Published on June 18, 2018

    What Foods Have the Most Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Mental Strength

    What Foods Have the Most Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Mental Strength

    Your brain is the house your mind lives in. The brain is the most high-powered organ we have and requires the right amount and type of fuel to work properly. When we don’t give our brain the right fuel, it slows us down, dampers our focus, makes us more unhappy and unmotivated.

    If you want to maximize your brain power so as to increase your focus, think more clearly and live a happier and longer life, then pay attention because this article will give you the top nutrients you need to maximize your brain power and what foods to include in your diet in order to get them.

    Here are what your brain needs and where to get them:

    1. Omega-3’s

    Your brain is made up of 60% fat so if you want a healthy and optimally performing brain, you need to ensure you’re giving your brain the right building blocks and fat is one of the most important. Fat has been vilified over the years as being the big villain of health, but in reality, high-quality fat is not only good for you, it’s essential for your brain power and health.

    Some of the most important fat to give your brain are Omega-3’s. Omega-3’s such as DHA are the essential nutrients that form the outer layer our brain cells. In fact, not getting enough omega-3’s in your diet can affect normal brain development and cognition. It has also been shown to be implicated in premature brain aging and cognitive decline.[1]

    Getting healthy sources of omega-3’s from your diet is critical for optimal brain power.

    Best sources:

    Walnuts, chia seeds, sardines, salmon, flaxseed, eggs, fish oil

    2. Magnesium

    Magnesium is an essential mineral that is critical for brain activity and has been known to calm the brain and nervous system to the point it has been called “Nature’s Natural Valium.” Magnesium is essential for hundreds of metabolic processes within the body and brain yet it is still the second most common nutritional deficiency in the world.

    Magnesium helps the brain by:

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    • Providing antI-inflammatory benefits
    • Lowering stress hormones
    • Increasing neuroplasticity
    • Relaxing the nervous system
    • Helping to lift depression
    • Reducing anxiety

    Best sources:

    Almonds, spinach, cashews, avocado, black beans

    3. Vitamin B1: Thiamine

    Many B vitamins are known to be beneficial for brain health and well-being but for this article, let’s focus on some of the critical B vitamins.

    B1, also known as thiamine, is needed for a large number of metabolic processes in the body including the processes that manage your energy. Your brain uses tremendous amounts of energy throughout the day. Having low levels of thiamine can rob your brain of the vital energy that it needs.

    Thiamine can boost your mood, energy, and alertness by providing the energy your brain cells need to work effectively and keep their strength up.

    Low levels of thiamine have been associated with:

    • Nerve damage
    • Nerve inflammation
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of short-term memory
    • Confusion
    • Irritability

    Having enough vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential for optimal brain performance and health by providing your brain the energy is needs to get through the day.

    Best sources:

    Seaweed, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, lentils, black beans

    4. Vitamin B6

    Vitamin B6 is critical for helping to improve your mood to make you feel happier but is also important to combat mental fatigue. B6 is a critical component of building the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

    Serotonin is known as your happy neurotransmitter and is vitally important for improving your mood. Norepinephrine helps your brain stay focused and alert.

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    Symptoms of B6 deficiency include:

    • Irritability
    • Loss of focus and concentration
    • Fatigue
    • Memory trouble
    • Muscle pains

    Best sources:

    Grassfed beef, pistachios, tuna, turkey breast, avocado

    5. Vitamin B9

    Vitamin B9 is known as folate. Folate is especially important for normal brain development. Folate is an important component in creating many neurotransmitters that the brain uses to communicate and regulate our immune system. Folate is also a natural antioxidant and studies have shown that it can help preserve brain function and memory.[2]

    Low levels of folate can be detrimental to the brain. Low levels of folate have shown to lead to increased degeneration in the cerebral cortex as well as cognitive impairment and decline.[3]

    Symptoms of low levels of folate include:

    • Lowered immune function
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Increased irritability or anxiety
    • Brain fog

    Best sources:

    Spinach, beef liver, broccoli, asparagus, romaine lettuce.

    6. Vitamin B12

    B12 is essential for many aspects of our health and wellbeing including building strong bones, hair, skin, nails, immune system and heart health. B12 is also extremely important for your brain and mental wellbeing.[4]

    B12 is necessary for many aspects of mental performance including being able to memorize and stay focused. It also plays an important role in producing serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is your motivation and reward neurotransmitter.

    Having low levels of B12 can have some serious consequences including:[5]

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    • Brain fog
    • Memory loss
    • Depression[6]
    • Anxiety
    • Confusion
    • Depression
    • Hallucinations and Schizophrenia (severe cases)

    B12 is commonly found in many animal products and meats, so vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to their B12 to make sure they are getting enough of it in their diet from plant sources or supplementation.

    Best sources:

    Beef liver, sardines, wild salmon, eggs, nutritional yeast

    7. Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is a very powerful and important antioxidant for your brain. Your brain consumes a lot of energy and oxygen in order to do its job. Antioxidants like Vitamin C protect the brain from the wear and tear of doing its job.

    Vitamin C is also needed to produce important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important regulators of your mood, so without Vitamin C to produce these important neurotransmitters, your mood may suffer.[7]

    Best sources:

    BroccolI, citrus fruits, bell peppers, watermelon, spinach

    8. Vitamin D

    The “sunshine” vitamin is arguably one of the most important vitamins that many people miss out on. Vitamin D is usually associated with bone health and heart health but it’s been shown in research that Vitamin D may play a critical role in your brain performance. Several studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D can impair cognitive function and performance.[8]

    Fewer people are getting outside in the natural sunlight leading to more cases of vitamin D deficiency than ever before. The best part about Vitamin D is that you can get it for free or extremely cheap. Just a few minutes a day of natural sunlight can make a big difference in your Vitamin D levels.

    Best sources:

    Natural sunlight or find a Vitamin D supplement.

    9. Vitamin E

    Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are critical to help our bodies fight off oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a metabolic process that occurs in the body that wears and tears on our cells. Antioxidants fight against this wear and tear to keep our cells youthful and optimally functioning.

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    Vitamin E is an often overlooked vitamin for brain health. It prevents oxidative stress from damaging an important component of our brain cells, DHA. DHA forms the outer membrane of our brain cells and Vitamin E works to prevents oxidative stress from damaging our brain cells to keep our brain young, energetic and high-performing.[9]

    Symptoms of Vitamin E deficiency include:

    • Cognitive impairment
    • Diarrhea
    • Muscle weakness
    • Balance issues

    Best sources:

    Almonds, kale, Swiss chard, parsley, olives

    10. Zinc

    Zinc is essential for neuron growth and performance. The highest concentration of zinc is located in your brain, particularly in your hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in regulating your limbic system, the region that regulates emotions. Neurons require zinc in order to communicate effectively to one another.[10]

    Low levels of zinc are associated with:

    • Attention and focus problems
    • Lowered immune system
    • Acne or rashes
    • Diarrhea

    Best sources:

    Pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, cashews, mushrooms, spinach

    Keep your brain sharp with brain power foods

    Your brain works hard and it takes plenty of nutrients and fuel to keep it working well. Getting the amount and type of vitamins, minerals and nutrients can make the difference in feeling energized or feeling sluggish throughout the day.

    How would you fuel a Ferrari? You wouldn’t put the cheap gas in a Ferrari. It’s a high-performance machine, so you need to put in high-octane fuel to ensure optimal performance.

    Eat a wide variety of foods that include a vast array of the top brain nutrients to ensure your brain is getting plenty of the resources it needs to work efficiently. If you want more brain power, make sure you give it brain power foods.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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