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Last Updated on January 10, 2018

7 Not So Obvious Habits To Maximize Your Productivity

7 Not So Obvious Habits To Maximize Your Productivity

    I was a big fan of productivity, and, in some respects, I still am. I’ve been a very early adopter of GTD, and, for years, I did my weekly reviews with the discipline of a zen monk. But, eventually, I hit a roadblock. GTD is about getting things “done”, but in life we have much more to experience than “doing”. We feel. We dream. We enjoy stuff without the pressure of an empty inbox. And, most of the time, we simply are. We’re existing. And that’s ok.

    So, I confess I fell out from the GTD wagon. Gradually, I developed my own framework, which evolved from a productivity-based approach, to a life management based approach. I’m using it for about a year now and, as much as I can tell, so far, so good. If I compare what I accomplish now with what I used to accomplish a year ago, I’m stunned. Not only because I “do” much more than before, but because I actually live more.

    But enough with all this shameless self-promotion intro. I understand that my framework may work perfectly for me, but may be of little, if any, importance for you.

    So, instead of doing a presentation of the Assess – Decide – Do framework, I chose to isolate only 7 simple tips for today’s post. They don’t need any framework to be integrated with and they can be implemented by anyone, with a little bit of awareness. Try them for a week, one for each day of the week.

    As a matter of fact, they’re even organized as such. As you will see, there’s a reason why each tip is assigned to a specific day, but then again, if you feel this isn’t really your Monday cup of tea, for instance, feel free to rotate them as you see fit.

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    1. Monday – Ignore The Unimportant

    I firmly believe that the art of ignorance should be taught in schools. We live in such an information-rich society, our focus is so deeply challenged by dozens or hundreds of stimuli each and every second, that we have a really hard time focusing on what really matters.

    Especially on Mondays, when all the previous week unprocessed stuff seems to crash on us, try to apply this. Focus only on what matters. If you have a presentation to finish in one hour, cut out everything – and I mean: EVERYTHING – that is not connected to it.

    Slash out Twitter, Facebook, email. Turn off the music. Close the door after putting a big sign with “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” on the other side. In time, you’ll become better at this. The hidden frustration that “you’re missing something” will fade away.

    2. Tuesday – Reward Yourself Constantly

    Each tiny task that you finish is an achievement. We forget too often that our big successes are in fact big chains of small tasks performed on a daily basis. So, in order to keep this chaining process running, put a little reward at the end of each small task.

    Tuesdays are great for this habit, because they’re the first link after the week hast started. Just do something nice at the end of each task. Listen to your favorite tune or read your favorite blog (and that would be, of course, Stepcase Lifehack) for the next five minutes.

    As much as we won’t want to admit it, that Pavlov guy was right. And I’m not talking about the dogs here. I’m talking about you. Because you gotta be your own Pavlov and the dogs will be your productivity habits. Train them constantly. And, if need will be, feed them some sugar every now and then.

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    3. Wednesday – Negotiate The Expendable

    It’s the middle of the week, and, by now, there must be some garbage accumulated. Some stuff that you don’t really need to do, but, somehow, it’s still in your to do list. It’s a perfect time to negotiate that stuff. Does it really need to be on your to do list?

    The pressure of constantly doing, delivering, accomplishing made us forget that we do have this option too in our arsenal. I’m talking about negotiation. “Talk” with the task. Or with the person at the other end of the task. Does it really need to be done right now?

    I compare this negotiation process with taking out the water from a gulf. If you’re lucky, you will see an ancient shipwreck. That’s your task. It’s not a yacht anymore, it’s a shipwreck. You will start to realize that what you thought is important, may not even be there anymore. It’s just the ghost of the task.

    4. Thursday – Reuse Past Approaches

    This comes from a long history of programming. I’m still doing it, this programming thing, by the way, because I enjoy it so much. Just try to look at what you have to do and compare it with previous experiences. Like “Have I done this before?. How did I do it?”

    Thursdays are perfect for that, because you now must have a consistent “week work history” to dig through. And, allegedly, you’re also pretty much at the top of your potential. From now on, it will start to go downhill, somehow.

    So, try to identify similarities in your work before you will do the same thing twice, just because you don’t remember doing it before. Pay attention to the circumstances, because they’re never the same, but isolate what you can repeat.

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    5. Friday – Ask For Help

    If I would have a dollar for each time I didn’t ask for help when I should have, I would certainly be a millionaire. Seriously. Being “productive” has this aura of “I’m doing all the stuff by myself. I’m so cool.” Well, maybe you’re cool, but you don’t have to do anything by yourself.

    You have a unique set of skills. Other people have their own unique set of skills. If you combine your set with their set, it’s absolutely obvious that you will get far better results than by using only yours. It’s just simple mathematics here.

    And Fridays are perfect to test this habit, because, admit it, you’re a little bit tired. And it’s also a good pretext for some social interaction. Isolate some task that you know somebody else may be doing better than you and ask for their help.

    6. Saturday – Switch Workplaces

    Ok, we don’t have to work on Saturdays. As I told you, you can just put this tip on any other day of the week. But I chose Saturdays because they are perfect for traveling. Short trips around the town, seeing some new places, meeting some new people.

    Try to do the same with your workplace. See if you can work for a day somewhere else. From home, or from a coffee shop. Or even in another office. Or, if you can’t live your office, on a different chair. Just change something in your surroundings.

    All our habits are shaped by our surroundings. The more you’ll change the surroundings, the better and more consistent your habits will become. This constant stimulation will summon energy resources that you didn’t even know you have.

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    7. Sunday – Change Deadlines Into Livelines

    I kept this from my GTD routine, you know, the weekly review. I did this on Sundays, trying to project the next week. I still try to have a look at the week just before it starts.  And now, a little bit of explanation about the word “liveline”.

    I stopped use the word “deadline” long time ago, because it has “death” in it. The “task slasher” approach. I don’t do this anymore. Because crossing off tasks from your to do lists will eventually end up with crossing off your entire life from your to do lists. Rushing straight to your own death, one crossed task at a time. Change this perspective. A deadline is not the end. Make it a liveline. Make it a beginning.

    And by that I mean something connected with something else. A new start. Think in terms of new beginnings not in term of endings. If you really need to reach the end of something, use the word “milestone”. And replace “deadline” with “liveline” every time you can.

    It will be enlightening, believe me. :)

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    Last Updated on October 17, 2018

    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

    How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

    If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

    Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

    So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

    1. Meditate

    We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

    Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

    Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

    Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

    Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

    If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

    And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

    2. Get plenty of sleep

    If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

    If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

    How much sleep should you be getting?

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    Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

    Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

    Yes, there are.

    Try these three things:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

    3. Challenge your brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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    4. Take more breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

    However, I was wrong.

    Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Let me explain.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

    What’s the answer?

    Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

    5. Learn a new skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

    6. Start working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

    Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

    Not a problem.

    A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat healthier foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – improves memory
    • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
    • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Final thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

    You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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