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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 September 17, 2018

      How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

      How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

      Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

      Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

      All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

      Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

      How bad really is multitasking?

      It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

      Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

      This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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      We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

      So what to do about it?

      Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

      Now, forget about how to multitask!

      Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

      1. Get enough rest

      When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

      This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

      When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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      2. Plan your day

      When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

      When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

      Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

      3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

      I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

      I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

      Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

      4. When at your desk, do work

      We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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      Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

      5. Learn to say no

      Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

      Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

      By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

      6. Turn off notifications on your computer

      For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

      Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

      7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

      Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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      You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

      The bottom line

      Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

      Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

      Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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