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6 Top Ways to Improve Your Daily Routine

6 Top Ways to Improve Your Daily Routine

Are you always in a hurry yet never manage to complete your work before deadline? Are you consumed by jealousy for people who have a much greater workload but manage to do their job in half the time? You’ve probably tried to improve your daily routine, but with no results. Nobody has more than 24 hours in a day, but some people seem to always get much more done than others. How do they do it?

The answer certainly isn’t some supernatural ability: it is simply effective use of time. Just use your willpower and our tips to make the most of your everyday life. You’ll find that you’ll be able to improve your daily routine right away.

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1. Optimize your work

The best rest is change of work. Break up your workday into interchanging periods of 45 and 15 minutes, and switch between tasks. Try to make sure the tasks are completely different from one another. Looks like a waste of time? Try it out and see how your output changes.

2. Set up a schedule

In order to minimize time loss on transitions from one activity to another you should make sure you always know when and for how long you are going to do each task. If you always start doing something at exactly the same time every day it will soon become an ingrained habit, saving you precious minutes otherwise spent on deciding what to do next.

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3. Minimizing time wasted on routines

There are millions of tips on how to reduce time spent on mundane activities like cooking and home cleaning, but one thing works surprisingly well: set the amount of time you are willing to spend on them each week and each day and never exceed it. You will be surprised how resourceful you become in the face of a self-imposed deadline.

4. Include exercise in your daily schedule

More and more people today understand that physical exercise is good for them. What a lot of people don’t get is that in order to reap any benefits from exercise, it needs to be systematic, regular and, preferably, daily.

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If you really want to improve the quality of your life you should have at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. It will not only make you feel better, but also increase your clarity of mind, quality of sleep, and general productivity.

5. Maintaining your productivity throughout the day

Establish and define your workspace. This is especially important if you work at home, but even if you spend your day in a cubicle it will pay off. Make sure that the place where you work is exactly this—the place where you work. It shouldn’t be associated with any other activities, like chatting or watching TV.

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In addition, make sure your workspace is healthy. It should get plenty of light and air and your chair and desk should be comfortable. Again, if you work at home it may be a good idea to do a mold testing. The presence of harmful molds may severely affect the quality of air, which in turn will affect your productivity and may have long-term health consequences.

6. Use tools that will help you concentrate

In the Internet age distractions are perhaps an even greater enemy of productivity than at any previous historical period. But in order to fight them you may be able to use the very place they come from. The Web is rife with online tools that help you concentrate on the task at hand. Some block distracting sites while you work, others help you track how much time you waste, others isolate you from social networks.

Only you can define how productive your life is going to be. Figure out how to really improve your daily routine and you may accomplish twice as much as you used to, in half the time. Hopefully these tips will help you make the first step.

Featured photo credit: Deadlines/Flee via flickr.com

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Melissa Burns

Entrepreneur

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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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