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13 Things That Are Stressing You Out And Making You Less Productive

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13 Things That Are Stressing You Out And Making You Less Productive

Ever wonder what makes you stressed and less productive?

I’ll tell you.

It’s having a lack of focus.

I’m not generalizing. It’s really that simple.

The twelve things listed below are all causes of stress that drain your focus. The only way to become relaxed and productive is by fixing these things one at a time and gradually improving. There is no quick fix, no magic pill.

The first two things, multitasking and instant gratification, are the two main culprits, from which the other ten things stem.

1. Multitasking

Men can’t do more than one thing at a time, but women can. Women are great multitaskers!

Wrong.

All multitasking is detrimental to your productivity and will quickly stress you out by draining your focus. When multitasking, you often get more stimulation than your brain can handle without getting tired.

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The best way to stop multitasking is to quit cold turkey. You will notice massive positive results in a week or two.

Some more strategic and sustainable ways of reducing multitasking include preemptively shutting off your phone, limiting or removing your Internet access, keeping your door closed or locked, and making sure that you are not constantly snacking.

2. Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is closely related to multitasking. In both cases you are gradually conditioning your brain to need more and more stimulation, thereby increasing the threshold to the point where you can no longer keep focused for longer than a minute without having to check Facebook or your phone.

The most common forms of instant gratification include:

  • Social media
  • Phones
  • Youtube
  • TV
  • Music (Sure, there are exception, but let’s ignore the positives for now)
  • Sugar
  • Snacks
  • Masturbation
  • Drugs

Instant gratification is basically anything that gives you a quick boost of stimulation without having to put in any work beforehand. When engaging in too much instant gratification, you will have trouble focusing, as a result of having conditioned your brain into believing that it doesn’t have to work before it gets its reward.

This is the difference between watching TV and reading a book. TV is a passive medium that doesn’t require your mental engagement, whereas a book does. It is impossible to read without engaging the brain to a certain extent.

There is no easy way of quitting instant gratification. It is simply a matter of discipline.

3. Not Taking Short Breaks

Are you going beyond what you can handle in terms of optimal productivity because you paradoxically believe that you are being productive?

If so, try to taking a quick break for 5-10 minutes and then returning to your work. Here are a few things you can do to come back fresh:

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  • Get some fresh air
  • Go for a sprint
  • Stretch
  • Tense your muscles
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Change your environment

It’s not rocket science, but it makes a big difference. Try it out!

4. Checking Your Email All the Time

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Especially not on your smartphone. Make sure you activate your brain and body and get yourself into an optimal state before doing anything else. Here are a few ideas you can experiment with:

  • Reading for 30+ minutes and taking notes
  • Meditating
  • Going out for a run or going to the gym

5. Being a Perfectionist

If you are trying to live up to a standard that is impossible to reach, how could you NOT be stressed out?

The main reason why perfectionism is harmful to productivity is because of the 80/20 principle, which is surprisingly accurate. This means that the final 20% of completing a task will usually take a disproportionally longer amount of time compared to the first 80%.

How to fix it?

  • Fail a lot. Fail on purpose. Learn that it’s perfectly fine to fail.
  • Ship before the product is completely ready. It hurts the ego, but it usually pays off in the long term.

6. Not Organizing Your To-Do List

If you are not keeping a to-do list or if you don’t have any means of organizing the tasks that you are going to do today, this week, or this month, then you are going to have a hard time staying focused on what to do, because no one can keep everything in their heads.

Some ways to resolve this issue:

  • Keep your to-do list on physical paper
  • Keep a calender or use Google Calender and sync it to your phone
  • Keep a commonplace book to store all your information
  • Buy yourself two whiteboards: one to keep track of goals and to-dos at home and another at work

Or, if you are already keeping a to-do list but it’s giving you more stress or less productivity than you’d like, here’s what you can do:

  • Shorten it. Most people overestimate their efficiency.

7. Not “Warming Up”

Have you ever heard about mental rehearsal?

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It is like visualization, but more specific. It is a term usually associated with elite athletes. Mental rehearsal is when you see yourself doing exactly what you want to be doing. For a short-distance runner, this can mean seeing himself getting off to a perfect start and then winning the race. He sees himself doing all the motions in advance, thus becoming mentally warmed up and prepared to do it in reality.

Another aspect of “warming up” is that you can’t jump between activities without expecting to be a bit less productive. If you are acting in alignment with the 80/20 principle and focusing on the most important things, then you should definitely make sure you get “warmed up” and take responsibility for getting yourself into an optimal state for doing the task.

If you are not doing this, you are missing out.

Here are a few really great ways to “warm up” and get into a state of being highly focused on the task:

  • Before you know you are going to do something important, see yourself doing it first. Don’t divert your thoughts to other things that are not pertinent to the task at hand.
  • Every night before falling asleep, see yourself completing the tasks scheduled on tomorrow’s to-do list.
  • Tell yourself repeatedly what you are going to do next inside your head.

8.  Having Your Phone’s Sound and Vibrate Mode Turned On

If you keep your phone in an active state, you are begging to be interrupted, and interruption demolishes focus and thus productivity. It can take over 15 minutes to get back to a state of high focus after being interrupted.

What can you do about it?

  • Turn it off…

9. Watching YouTube Excessively

If you find yourself watching one YouTube video after another, perhaps it is time to set some serious  limits to your daily use.

Do this:

  • Block your connection to YouTube. Let a friend set the password.

10. Not Knowing How to Say “No”

If you say YES to every thing that comes your way, you will quickly become overwhelmed by tasks and social activities. You will become involved in way more things than you can handle in a productive and optimal manner. By doing this, you will end up doing a ton of things haphazardly rather than a few things well, and you will massively violate the 80/20 principle.

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Here’s a word of wisdom from Steve Jobs for you to ponder:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

11. Postponing Priority One Tasks

Have you heard of the law of diminishing intent?

It states that the longer you postpone doing something that you feel like doing or know that you should be doing, the less you will feel like doing it.

Productive people respect the law of diminishing intent by acting on their key priorities right away and doing the less important things after that.

Do this:

  • As soon as you feel like doing something important you know you should be doing, DO IT!
  • If you don’t feel like doing it, but you are thinking about it, DO IT!

12. Feeling Like You Must Socialize

You don’t have to talk to people unless you want to. It’s OK to focus on your work or studies and keep your door shut. Actually, people are likely to respect you more when you do this, because it suggests that you have respect for yourself and value your time.

Do this:

  • Avoid speaking to people for a day
  • Shut your door
  • Explicitly tell people not to disturb you because you are busy

13. Attending More Meetings than Necessary

If find yourself attending too many meetings, you will inevitably become less productive as a result of being interrupted.

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Perhaps this could have been fixed if you knew how to say NO.

Or maybe I am just jumping to the conclusion.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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