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7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity

7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity

Have you ever had one of those days when you find yourself getting up from your desk, answering phone calls from family members, and clicking through web pages only to realize it’s noon and you still haven’t accomplished anything? We’ve all been there. But when this becomes a daily occurrence, it’s time to take action. Use the following tips to maximize productivity, whether at work, school or home.

1. List “Time-Wasters”

Start your day with a list of things you know you tend to waste time on. Keep the list nearby. When you notice you’re wasting time, add that time-waster to the list. This will serve as a reminder of things you shouldn’t allow yourself to do–like watching cat videos when you should be sending emails.

2. Hide Or Uninstall Social Media Apps

Among those who use social media, the average person spends 3.6 hours per day socializing online, reveals research conducted by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange. That’s about a quarter of the time you’re awake! Imagine what you could do with those extra hours.

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To keep yourself from wasting this time, remove social networking apps from your mobile device’s home screen and the toolbar on your computer’s browser. While the sites won’t be completely out of reach, this practice can keep you from checking updates on impulse (when let’s face it, there’s nothing new there anyway).

3. Set Daily Goals With Reminders

Every day comes with new tasks to accomplish. Make it easy for yourself to complete each task by taking life one day at a time. Do you have a huge report due next month? Consider what you’ll do each day to finish it instead of waiting until the last minute. Use apps like Google Calendar to stay on top of your daily goals. You can set up reminders to stay organized and make sure you don’t forget anything.

4. Complete Most Important Tasks First

It’s easy to start your day with the simplest tasks. It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something even when you’re avoiding your big project. But by the time you’re done with your less important tasks, you’re already worn out and even more reluctant to start on your priority work.

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Switch things up and perform the most important tasks first. It will be a relief once you’re done, and the rest of your day will run more smoothly.

5. Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is a myth! As NPR reports, humans can’t physically multitask. Our brains instead juggle attention from one task to the other so quick we’re given the illusion we’re multitasking.

But we’re not very efficient at it. If you try to do too many things at once, you probably won’t finish those tasks to a high standard. Plus, it could take you more time than if you simply focused on one task at a time, meaning you only hinder your productivity by multitasking.

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6. Make Use Of Dead Time

What do you do when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office or headed home on the train? If you’re staring out the window, you’re wasting valuable time. Instead, you could be sending emails or brainstorming and taking notes on your next project at work or school. You could even use this dead time to work in your daily stress-relieving breathing exercises as long as you’re doing something productive.

7. Read Time-Management Books (And Take The Advice!)

To get the best advice on how to manage your time, consider reading time-management books. They’ll likely be more useful to you since they’re more in-depth. You’ll often find exercises to help you apply the concepts, too.

Try books like “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” “The Skinny on Time Management: How to Maximize Your 24-Hour Gift,” or “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”

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Ready to become more productive? Start with the mentioned tips, and then share these ideas with your friends by tweeting this post.

Featured photo credit: time notice and a calender via shutterstock.com

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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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