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Last Updated on December 14, 2017

It Is Magically Possible To Work Less And Still Do More

It Is Magically Possible To Work Less And Still Do More

Working long hours is pretty common these days. If your Monday to Friday feels like a constant slog of work and projects with no real time for a breather, is this because you have too much work or is it because you’re not using your time efficiently?

It’s easy to spend too much time perfecting something or equally not focusing enough so you end up dragging the task out more than you should. So does working longer hours mean you’re being productive and getting lots done? The answer is most likely no. When you work consistently long hours or spend too much time on a task, it’s usually a sign that you actually just have too much to do. More importantly, it’s a sign you’re not spending your time, energy and attention wisely.

The Myth About Working More to Get More Done

Our lives are governed by the jobs, tasks and projects we set ourselves or set by our work environment. When you feel like the amount of stuff you need to get done gets bigger, our natural reaction is to work longer on them in order to get them completed.

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How many times have you heard someone tell you in an exasperated fashion that they spent 9am-9pm at the office working on something? Our reply is usually one of awe in terms of how hardworking they must be. But are they really? Productivity is heard to measure but if one person spent 2 hours on a task that someone else could have completed in half an hour, it’s more a case of having stretched out the task unnecessarily.

Working more to get more done only drains you of your energy both physically and mentally in the long run and potentially turns you into a ‘workaholic’. This leads to you not optimally producing the results you need and could end up with feelings of failure, demotivation and burnout.

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    What it Really Means to Work Long Hours

    While working long hours may seem the best way to get things done, in practice it means you actually have less time to recharge and refocus – two things that are vital for lessening stress and gaining more energy. When we have a lot to do, we often focus on the amount of time we invest in completing necessary tasks but instead we should be paying attention to how much energy and focus we’re investing.

      Time is quite the illusion when it comes to getting things done. The more time you spend on work, the more that the minute-by-minute urgency lessens. Yet when we have a limited amount of time, the more we’re forced to focus and use our energy optimally in order to get it done. Therefore, the more you control how much time you spend on a task, the more you can control the energy in an efficient way to get it done. An example of this could be those moments when you’d leave those college assignments to the last minute – that time limited pressure probably caused you to channel a larger amount of energy over a shorter period and so you got it done relatively much quicker than usual.

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      The problem that long hours brings, is that feeling of productivity. Obviously productivity is a good thing but as Chris Bailey explains in his book The Productivity Project, experiments he conducted lead him to find that he felt much more productive working long hours than in shorter bursts even though he was getting the same amount of work done.

      This only proves that busyness doesn’t always equal optimal productivity. In fact, productivity is an elusive idea. It’s hard to truly know how much we accomplish each day yet we tend to measure this according to how busy we were. However, it’s seldom accurate and can cause us to believe we’ve achieved more than we potentially could have given a more short and focused approach.

      The ‘Less is More’ Approach to Optimal Productivity

      First and foremost, when it comes to important tasks less is more! And by this I mean the amount of time you spend on getting the tasks done. When you do this, a few significant things will happen.

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      • Setting a deadline for yourself motivates you to expend more energy and focus in a shorter amount of time.
      • You create a needed urgency around the task.
      • You eliminate many of the procrastination triggers that can form over long periods. This is because you’re creating structure which helps stop the mind getting bored, frustrated and distracted.

      Ideally, you should try to become more mindful of your working patterns and level of productivity. As a start, take note of your habits and list what tasks you’ve fully completed in a day. Write done how much time it took you to complete each task and use it to reflect on why some tasks took longer than others. Is there a way you could have spent less time completing a task? How could you improve this?

      One helpful method for keeping note of the amount of time you spend on things, is a productivity tracking app. These automatically keep track of your time spent working on various tasks all on your desktop, laptop or mobile device.

      Setting deadline reminders for yourself is another way to keep yourself on track and motivate you to spend your energy wisely in shorter, more focused bursts.

      So remember to work smart not work hard. Using our minds optimally means shortening the periods of time we need to concentrate. Don’t get sucked in to believing all those long hours mean you’ve been extra productive. Instead start becoming more mindful of how to get things done quicker with equal efficiency. This will transform your life and free up more time for living.

      Featured photo credit: Lisa Fotios via pexels.com

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on July 19, 2018

      What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

      What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

      If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

      What about the rest of the population? What do they do to prevent procrastination?

      In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating once and for all by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

      What is procrastination

      Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

      “Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

      In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

      This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

        Why stopping procrastination is difficult

        Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

        At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

        In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

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        A step-by-step guide to stop procrastinating

        Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to stop procrastinating.

        1. Identify your triggers: the 5 types of procrastinator

        Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

        Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

          Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

          Perfectionist

          Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

          Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

          Ostrich

          An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

          Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

          Self-saboteur

          A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

          In reality, self-saboteurs have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

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          Daredevil

          Daredevils are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

          It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but daredevils evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

          Chicken

          Chickens lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

          Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

          2. Face your triggers and get rid of them

          Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

          For Perfectionists, re-clarify your goals.

          Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

          Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

          • What steps do you need to take?
          • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
          • What do you need to change?

          Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

          For Ostriches, do the difficult tasks first.

          Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

          If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

          Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

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          For Self-saboteurs, write out a to-do (and a not–to-do) list each day.

          Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

          Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

          Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

          For Daredevils, create a timeline with deadlines.

          It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

          If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

          Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

          For Chickens, break tasks into bite-sized pieces.

          A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

          If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

          Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

          3. Take planned breaks

          The human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

          Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

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          A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

            4.  Reward yourself

            It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

            Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

            Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

              5. Keep track of your time in a smart way

              If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

              By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

              It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

              It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

                Make procrastination under your control

                Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourself what these triggers are.

                Understanding what procrastination really is and the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

                Reference

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