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3 Simple Keys to Your New and Improved Morning Routine

3 Simple Keys to Your New and Improved Morning Routine

Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, how you start your day can have a huge impact on how the rest of your day unfolds.

Say your day starts off like this: you wake up late; there’s no hot water, so you have to take a cold shower; the shirt you wanted to wear is dirty; you pour sour milk over your cereal; and to top it all off, your car breaks down on the way to work. UGH. Now, do you think you’re cut out to be the best team player at work today? Probably not!

On the other hand, let’s say your day starts off like this: you wake up naturally to a bright, sunny morning, five minutes before your alarm; you already have the perfect outfit laid out; you make yourself bacon and eggs, and eat them while reading the newspaper; it’s so beautiful out that you’re able to bike to work. MUCH better, if you ask me!

And while some things are out of your hands, there are plenty of things in your morning routine that you have complete control over.

These are a few killer ways to jump start your morning and boost your overall productivity for the entire day.

Add something positive

It’s so easy to fall into the following morning pattern: wake up to an alarm clock (after not having gotten enough sleep); curse at, and turn off, the alarm clock and get out of bed; make coffee (if you woke up in time); shower; get dressed and leave for work.

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But there are many things you can alter in terms of your morning ritual to make it more positive and beneficial. One of the best is to add something positive, and as new research from the University of Warwick recently confirmed, happiness makes people about 12 percent more productive.

Think of something that: 1) you enjoy doing in the morning; and 2) doesn’t require a large effort. Some great examples would be to:

– meditate
– make yourself breakfast (maybe eggs and toast)
– read the newspaper or a few pages of a novel

All of the above: 1) require very little effort; 2) have a positive impact on your general state of mind and well-being. You might have to wake up 20 minutes earlier, but it will be well worth it.

One thing to note: don’t multitask it. Don’t say “I’ll read the newspaper while I’m brushing my teeth.” That will only lead to frustration and you certainly will not get the full, intended enjoyment out of your new, (supposed to be) pleasurable activity. Give the new item its own time within your schedule so you can fully enjoy it without feeling the need to rush through it and just “get it done”.

Imagine if you were to add one of those simple items to your daily morning routine how much happier you may be when you walk out the door each morning?

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Put in just 10 minutes on an important task

The beginning of the day is a very special time. You’ve just woken up (hopefully refreshed after a good night’s sleep), and you have a chance to start with a clean slate, free of distractions.

You have your full mental real estate to work with—you haven’t already had to use a bunch of brainpower to attack new tasks, deal with crises, and just live your life. And because of that, you’re very frequently at your most productive first thing in the morning.

The following is one of the best productivity tips I’ve ever employed, and you can put it into action whether you have a full-time job to run off to, or if you’re a freelancer or consultant that works from home. It’s simple: take a small, set amount of time, right away in the morning—say 10-20 minutes—to work on one of, if not the, most important thing you plan to do that day. That’s it.

David Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers, uses what he calls the 10-minute hack every single morning, where, first thing, he takes just 10 minutes and starts working on an important task he was planning to tackle for the day. No contemplation. Just sit down and go.

And here’s the trick. The reason this works so well is that the hardest part can be just getting started.

But by setting the bar low—committing only 10-20 minutes—and just going, you allow your brain to fully engage almost immediately. And at that point, you’ve already broken down the biggest barrier. As Kadavy mentions—and as I’ve experienced time and time again—that 10 minutes frequently turns into 20, which turns into an hour, which turns into two hours, and you’ll have just accomplished more in those first two hours than you may have originally in the the full work day.

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Do not start your day by checking your email

Avoiding context-switching—particularly to start off your day—is crucial. If you start the day by checking your email, you’re bound to be unproductive.

Think about it… You look through your inbox and see requests from 5 different people for 5 completely different things. …And there goes your focus!

Whether you like it or not, your brain will be at least partially consumed with those potential requests, and it will start using precious resources to begin planning for them. You’ll inevitably begin stressing about all of the things you need to get done before actually getting anything done. And every time you check your email, you’re removing your focus from the previous task you were working on.

In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association on the mental tax of multitasking and context-switching, they found that “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”

In today’s day and age it’s very easy to feel obligated start your day by checking your email. For better or worse, it’s how things get done. It’s how requests are made and filled, and how progress is tracked. It’s how the majority of business-related communication occurs.

But with that said, you still have control over how you manage your own email access. And not checking your email to start off your day can be a great place to begin.

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Instead, set a few specific times a day to check it—say 11 am and 4 pm. By checking it at those two times—right before midday and before the day’s end—you should catch, and be able to respond to, any necessary requests.

And don’t forget to communicate your newly-adopted changes to others you work with. Let your clients/coworkers know that, in an effort to improve your own productivity (who can argue with that?), you’ll be checking your email less frequently. If they have more urgent matters, they can always call you or approach you in person.

Limiting your email access may be the most impactful, productivity-related improvement you make all year. It will help keep you sane and more focused on the most important tasks at hand.

These three simple changes will help you start your morning off on the right foot and roll right into the most productive days you’ve ever had.

Featured photo credit: Girl stretching in bed via istockphoto.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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