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2 Simple Steps to Boost Productivity and Avoid Burning Daylight’

2 Simple Steps to Boost Productivity and Avoid Burning Daylight’

We all know what it feels like to slave away at work all day long and still have the feeling like we didn’t accomplish what we wanted.  Many hours spent, but feeling like there’s not much to show for it. Worse than that are those days and weeks where you feel like you are just constantly putting out fires and barely staying above water. Unfortunately, this describes a common day for many, where results are undermined and time and money is wasted.

I never took a time management class in school or learned key skills to help me manage my time better, and I am sure you didn’t either. Yet, without the right skills and proper tools, each day can feel like a constant struggle and it really doesn’t need to be this way.

The problem in fact, is not a lack of time, but rather a lack of skills and tools to manage time more effectively. Most people don’t even know how they spend their time; let alone, how to optimize it.  If you want to finally master your time, free up hours a week, and feel more in control of your results, it is easier than you think.

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Here are two simple and very effective steps you can take:

1. Face the hard truth (Seeing is believing)

Imagine what it would be like to have an extra half a day a week. Did you know that you can do this by making a small improvement of 10% in how you spend your time? That is an extra 6 minutes an hour which is an extra half a day per week!

The only way to create more time for yourself is to face up to the hard truth of how you’re currently spending it. The most effective way to do this is to track what you work on and see how your days fill up.

Spending a lot of time in an effort to optimize your time defeats the purpose. I’m a huge fan of using the time tracking tool Klok because I can quickly and easily see where I’ve spent my time. Klok takes the headache out of time management and instead makes it enjoyable.

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Using Klok’s simple work timer, capture the different tasks you work on as you go about your day and do this for at least a week. Include your coffee breaks, those office chats or social media distractions. Don’t leave anything out, otherwise at the end of the day, you’ll only be cheating yourself. You’ll begin to see your blind spots, your time thieves as well as opportunities to increase productivity and optimize your time.

I love this tool because the visual calendar and dashboard reports make it so easy to see the total time spent on different tasks and compare how I actually spent my time against how I intended to spend my time.

The next step is to put your thinking cap on and strategize the best ways to optimize your time now that you know where it is going.

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2. Strategize the best ways to avoid burning daylight

We all have 24 hours a day, what you decide to do with those 24 hours is going to be the difference between getting the results you want in the time you want or not.

Think about going to the gym, if you want to see results in a shorter time, you need to have an exercise regime that is designed specifically to get the results you want. You will never achieve the same results if you simply go the gym and just follow the motions without a clear program. The same is true for time management.

If you want more time, money, better results and higher productivity, start optimizing your time more.  Now that you know where your time is being spent, you can start to make decisions on how to better optimize your time and become more productive.

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To get you thinking more strategically, ask yourself the following key questions.

  • Where does most of your time go?
  • How productive are you overall?
  • Are you spending more time on certain tasks than you should?
  • What is one small change you can make to your time that will make the biggest difference for you right now?

Klok’s dashboard reports and visual calendar display provide information in a graphical format which make it easier to answer these questions and identify opportunities to optimize your time better. You can also gain valuable insights by comparing estimates against actual time spent and use the information to improve overall time management which will result in more free time for you.

Tracking, analyzing and strategically optimizing how you spend your time is an on-going exercise, but one which will undoubtedly add hours to your weeks, add days to your months and over time, add months to your years.

Nobody else is going to create the results you want in life, you decide every day by how you spend your time.

“You can’t make up for lost time. You can only do better in the future.” – Ashley Ormon

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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