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Last Updated on June 12, 2019

4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

Self-help is often thought of as a good thing, right? And, in most cases, it is. But, as I’m going to outline shortly, some pretty common self-help advice can actually mess up your goals and stop you from becoming a better version of yourself.

This is because not all advice is created equal. Some of it, although well-meaning, can actually make you go off track, and could potentially do more harm than good.

These self help myths listed below are some that you should think twice about following.

1. Shoot for Perfectionism

Now, you may think this sounds like a worthy goal to aim for.

But, you’d be mistaken.

Perfectionists are almost never satisfied with what they are working on – so they end up spending far longer to complete something that they should.

For example, I’m sure you’ve come across perfectionists at your workplace. When they’re tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation or writing a report, they somehow manage to take two or three times longer to complete these things than other members of their team.

The problem is, they often get stuck in the murky world of details. And because of this, they’re driven to constantly re-evaluate, change and edit their work. And, the amount of time they’ve spent trying to perfect something could be better spent elsewhere… after all, nothing is actually perfect, so it’s pointless to strive for it.

Perfectionists are actually trapped in a mental prison of their own making.

If you have perfectionist tendencies, I recommend doing the following:

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  • Abandon the ‘All or Nothing’ mindset – instead of only doing things you know you can do perfectly, open yourself to taking actions that you’re neither good at or comfortable with. This will enable you to continually grow your skills and experience.
  • Aim for 95% perfection – do this, and you’ll complete your tasks in an accomplished and professional way. And, you’ll also complete them in a timely manner. It’s seeking to make something 100% perfect that will kill your productivity and output.
  • Set realistic goals – instead of dreaming too big (like wanting to be an overnight success), set your goals at an achievable level. When you do this, you’ll boost your confidence, while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Focus on the big picture – as I mentioned earlier, perfectionists often get caught up in the details. To avoid this, I suggest always keeping your eye on the bigger picture. For instance, if you’re creating a document for the proposed purchase of new software, make sure that you only include the necessary details. Too much information is a waste of your time – and also the time of the other people working on the project.

Next up, is the common self-help belief that…

2. Multitasking is Key

I’m sure you’ve heard or read about the so-called power of multitasking many times in the last few years. It appears to have become quite a trend.

But, I’m not one for following trends that lead to failure.

Multitasking may appear to be the holy grail of productivity – but for 98% of workers, it’s actually the complete opposite.

That’s because these people practice defective multitasking methods that look like this:

  • Trying to do two things at the same time.
  • Constantly switching to new tasks without completing the original things they were working on.
  • Rapidly cycling back and forth between tasks, which gives the illusion that they are among the 2% of effective multitaskers.

The truth is, that human brains aren’t designed to do this kind of ‘cognitive shuffling’. It just leads us to a messy and confused mental state riddled with something called ‘attention residue’. This means we are distracted by thinking about one task while working on another.

There have been some interesting studies on multitasking, which have revealed that:

  • Constantly shifting between tasks can cost you about 40%, or 16 hours, of your working week. That’s the equivalent of losing two work days every week![1]
  • Multitasking can cause you to perform as though you’ve lost 10-15 points on your IQ score. In other words, you won’t be as smart or as effective as you could be.[2]

In my opinion, multitasking is not just overrated – but it’s actually dangerous to your productivity.

It’s much better to simply focus on the task at hand. Complete it. And then move on to the next one.

This next tip is is one that is constantly talked about on chat shows, in newspapers and in the self-help book section…

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3. Aim for Work-Life Balance

What do you think about when you hear the term ‘work-life balance’?

A dream existence where you work 20 hours per week and have the rest for your leisure and pleasure?

This is how most self-helps gurus try to sell it to you.

But, not me.

I have a very different view on work-life balance — it’s called work-life harmony.

Healthy work-life harmony should start with finding your purpose. And, once you’ve found it, you’ll naturally enjoy the work you do, and it will no longer be a case of dividing your life into:

  • The bad stuff – work
  • The good stuff – free time

With a purpose to drive you, you’ll be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do, and you’ll work whatever hours are necessary to reach your goals. And, your enthusiasm for your work will naturally carry over into your free time.

As an example, imagine that you’ve worked for 12 years in the administration department of a local insurance company. You go in every workday to process claim after claim after claim. You find the work soul destroying. But, you keep doing it, as it pays the bills.

One day, however, you decide that there must be more to life. And this sets you off on a period of self-searching, which ultimately leads you to come across what you’d really like to do with your life: traveling the world on behalf of a charity helping to help people.

After unearthing your purpose, you feel strongly driven to make it a reality. It takes you almost six months, but in the end, you land a job with an international charity organization that helps people around the world impacted by natural disasters.

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The job takes you to dozens of different countries, and you enjoy every minute of your work. It’s satisfying and rewarding. And, away from work, you love to tell your friends and family all about your trips.

Your purpose has renewed you and given you the perfect work-life harmony.

The final self-help tip I want to talk about is…

4. Never Procrastinate

High-achievers are go-getters who never procrastinate.

Or are they?

In my experience of working with dozens of successful entrepreneurs, prioritizing your tasks is much more important than worrying about procrastinating.

Let me explain what I mean.

You’re working on an email to a colleague about a meeting that is due to take place next week. But, as you’re typing the words of the email, your desk phone suddenly rings. It’s one of your major clients, and they have an urgent need for your company’s assistance, and they’re happy to pay top dollar to get the work done.

In this case, do you:

A: Tell the client you’ll get on it shortly, but then go back to writing your email to your colleague.

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Or

B: Tell the client you’ll deal with their request immediately, and then come back to crafting your email once the high-priority task has been completed.

Well done! I’m sure you’ve picked the second answer. And, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

Sure, you’ll be procrastinating when it comes to your email, but you’ll also be helping to complete a much bigger goal that has an urgent deadline.

As you can see, procrastination has its place when you learn to prioritize your tasks.

I hope my article has helped open your eyes to some of the self-help delusions that are constantly propagated. If you follow these delusions – inevitably you’ll end up feeling deluded!

Instead, follow my tried-and tested methods that I’ve outlined above. They will guide you to surefire success in all areas of your life.

As American philosopher and psychologist William James once said:

“Truth is what works.”

Featured photo credit: Nicole Honeywill via Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs
[2] Talent Smart: Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Your Career, New Studies Suggest

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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