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10 Simple Ways To Maximize Productivity And Stop Working Long Hours

10 Simple Ways To Maximize Productivity And Stop Working Long Hours
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You don’t get a gold star for working more hours than everyone else in your office. The amount of time you spend at work says nothing about the quality of your work, so why not maximize productivity? You will get more done in less hours, saving time for the important things that really make you happy!

1. Focus on the Most Important Things.

You cannot do every single thing, every single day. Write down the three most important things that must get done and focus on that. If you knock those tasks out with plenty of time to spare, then you can add the next three important things. Before you begin any task, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for a good reason or am I just passing time?” Answer honestly and adjust as necessary.

2. Wake Up Early.

We all have the same number of hours per day, but we all don’t make the most out of those available hours. There are a few strategies you can use to start your day right. Choose the one that sounds most beneficial to you:

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Option A: Eliminate the biggest source of stress.

If you would stop thinking about how much you don’t want to do the thing AND JUST DO THE THING ALREADY, you’ll be a lot less stressed. Due to this reality, let’s just isolate the thing that stresses you out the most and get it over with ASAP. No excuses. No complaining. Get it done!

Option B: Start with the most important task.

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If one thing HAS to get done today, what is it? Do that. You’ll feel happy and accomplished, giving you energy to get through the rest of the day.

Option C: Feed your brain with words.

Not everyone can wake up and start working right away. Sound like you? Grab a book and read a few chapters with a cup of coffee or hot tea (bonus points if you do it outside with the sun rising and birds singing). Your brain will be ready to go after it gets a healthy dose of inspiration.

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3. Close the Door.

This is especially important for writers: if the door is shut, that means you are working and no one shall enter. It can take a little while to get your creative juices flowing, so being faced with constant distractions will take a toll on your productivity by the time you start-and-stop-and-start-again-and-stop-again-and-(you get the idea). If you are an office worker, the same rule applies: if you need to focus, tell your co-workers you need some quiet to finish (insert incredibly important thing here) and would appreciate it if they left you alone unless it’s an emergency.

4. Do One Thing at a Time.

Multi-tasking is just a slightly more productive version of procrastination. Stop kidding yourself.

5. Silence Your Phone.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time focusing on writing articles like this when I am interrupted by buzzing, chirping, or ringing from my cell phone every few minutes. There is no text that requires an immediate answer. It can wait.

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6. Re-charge Your Batteries.

While focus is the key that unlocks your productivity, there comes a time when the best thing to do is walk away. We are not meant to work for hours-on-end without a break from the grind. Working beyond your limits will only result in sub-par work that takes much longer to complete than it should.

7. Ask for Help.

It is more efficient to ask for help when it is needed than it is to stubbornly plow forward. I don’t know the first thing about design, but I know a whole lot of people who do (so I seek their input when I need it). Even if you don’t know a person with the answer to your question, you could get help VIA a simple Google search. You cannot be the expert of everything, so seek outside help to save your time (and sanity).

8. Group Similar Tasks Together.

Different tasks require different mind-sets for effective completion. For example: writing a helpful article, crafting a thoughtful e-mail, studying for an exam, and making a sales call are very different tasks that require very different executions. Why not set one or two times where you send every e-mail, make every phone-call, or write every letter? Surely you have noticed that it typically takes longer to start a chore than it does to actually complete it. Knocking out similar tasks, all in a group, will eliminate the time it takes to set-up for each task, so you’ll have more time to enjoy your day.

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9. Exercise for 30 Minutes Each Day.

A quick bout of exercise will boost your energy, helping you carry yourself with ease. A sedentary lifestyle, on the other hand, will leave you feeling lethargic and unmotivated. Your body is the vessel that carries you throughout this world, so treat it accordingly.

10. Know Your Limits.

Getting more done in less time is great, but as time goes on it becomes harder and harder to make a task any more productive than it is. If you can’t take your productivity any further, shift your focus to the quality of your work (because isn’t that the point anyway?). Also, if seeking ever-growing productivity starts to drain the joy out of your work, let it go. Just because we can do something faster doesn’t mean we really need to. As Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

How do you maximize productivity at work and home? If you could have an extra hour or two per day, what would you do with it?

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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