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Last Updated on December 23, 2019

How to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

How to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

If a colleague came to your desk, picked up your wallet and removed $10 without asking you, would you be outraged? Yet, if a colleague came up to you and started asking you about how your weekend went, you would be perfectly okay with it.

In the first scenario, someone took $10 of your money; in the second, someone took ten minutes of your time. You can always earn more money but you will never earn more time.

We do similar things to ourselves. We feel guilty if we go out and spend money on a new device only to find after a few weeks, we are no longer using the device. But we think nothing of spending two hours crawling through our social media feeds looking at nothing in particular.

For many, the belief is money is their greatest asset, but the reality is your greatest asset is time. It doesn’t matter how much money you have if you have no time to enjoy it. You will never be able to take your money with you when you finally run out of time.

What does wasting time really mean? A good way to measure this is to look at how you are spending your time each day.

If you are going through each day aimlessly—waking up at the very last minute, gulping down some coffee, dashing out of the door to go to a job that doesn’t inspire you or take you towards your goals, spending your lunch break complaining to your colleagues about how you hate your job and returning home at the end of the day to sit exhausted on the sofa while consuming hours of pointless entertainment on your TV or phone… you are wasting time.

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If you feel your day has been wasted, then it probably was. You are not making the most of your time each day.

Here’s what you can do from now on to stop wasting time:

1. Have a Plan for the Day

The biggest time waste is not having any kind of plan for the day or week. When we don’t have a plan for the day, we just drift through the day reacting to anything that comes our way and not making any progress towards our goals or purpose.

We watch the news and let politicians anger us and then get involved in political discussions with people we don’t know who do not share our views. These ‘discussions’ frustrate us, cause our negative emotions to rise and leaves us feeling angry and empty.

If you stopped and asked yourself why you were getting involved in such discussions, you would probably discover there is no reason at all. It is just a waste of time. You are not likely to persuade a person who does not share your political beliefs to change theirs.

If politics is important to you, then become a politician. If not, stay away from these ‘discussions’. They are not going to change anything and are just a waste of your time.

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2. Be Aware of Your ‘Time Suckers’

Being aware of where your ‘time suckers’ are is the first step to making the most of your available time. Starting with the basics, we should be doing work that inspires us. If your current job does not inspire you, investing some time to find a vocation that does inspire you would be a good use of your time.

Watching how much time you are spending on social media is another area to be aware of. Are you spending too much time scrolling through your social media feeds? If so, perhaps you should be limiting the amount of time you spend there each day.

How much time do you spend in front of the TV each day? If your daily routine involves coming home from work, mentally exhausted only to turn on the TV and sit there for the next three of four hours mindlessly watching shows you have no interest in; you are wasting your time.

3. Begin the Day with Intention

If you start the day with intention with a set of meaningful objectives to complete each day, you are maximizing your time.

For example, if you wake up in the morning with a plan to spend thirty minutes exercising, one hour studying Italian and a couple of hours meeting with your friends, you are making good use of your time. (And that’s only three and a half hours of your day!)

Health and fitness, education and relationship building are not wasteful activities. All you need do is to look at your calendar before you go to bed, see where you are going to be the next day and add in the activities you want to do that day.

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By completing your objectives for the day, you will feel you have had a meaningful day, and from that will flow a lot of positive energy. It will inspire you to do more of the same the next day.

Having a couple of objectives that improves you as a person, elevates your positive emotions and maintains your health is all you need to make sure you are making the most of your time.

Take a look at this guide to find your intention: How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be in a Proactive State

Maximizing your time each day is all about switching from being in a reactive state to being in a proactive state.

A reactive state is where you allow events outside your control to control what you do and how you feel. Consuming social media, negative news, getting involved in pointless debates and allowing email to control what you do each day at work.

A proactive state is where you start the day with intention. You intend to do some exercise, improve your knowledge and you know what work you will do that day. You don’t allow events outside your control affect your mood and you avoid pointless debates about politics, current affairs or celebrity gossip.

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If you do not have a plan for the day, you are going to be in a reactive state.

Having a plan for the day does not need to be overly complex. All you need is to select a few activities that will energize you, activities that you will look forward to doing and will improve your life in some way or another.

Starting your workday with the intention to get a stuck project moving forward again, spending thirty minutes outside in nature with no online distractions, just enjoying the freedom being offline for thirty minutes will do so much for your overall wellbeing and giving yourself one hour each day for education—an online course, a book on psychology or learning to beat match on a CDJ.

Just picking a few of these activities to do each day maximizes your time, improves your mood and gives you a sense that you have not wasted your day.

Final Thoughts

The truth is, we do not have a lot of time. Human life is relatively short and wasting time on online distractions, getting involved in meaningless discussions about things we have no control over, and drifting through our days with no plan or objective is like withdrawing $100 from your bank account each day, and throwing it away in the garbage can.

You can’t afford to do that and you can’t afford to throw away those precious hours we are given every day. You will never get them back.

So, from now on, become aware of how you are spending your days, avoid meaningless discussions about things you have no control over; start the day with a plan – self-education, exercise, relationship building; move towards a proactive state rather than being stuck in a reactive state; and be aware of how limited your time is.

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Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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