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A Quick and Dirty Way to Optimize Your Productivity

A Quick and Dirty Way to Optimize Your Productivity


    When you are faced with 101 things to do in a day, productivity and streamlining processes becomes essential. One way to optimize productivity is to use routines.

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    Doing things in routines allows you to do them quickly with a minimum of thought. You can group several similar tasks, or tasks that need to be done concurrently or sequentially into a routine so that you do them consistently and efficiently. This works very well for things that need to get done daily, and chances are you already have a routine for your personal hygiene, such as: shower, brush teeth, do hair.

    When you take a little time to create a routine for a daily task, you can consider the best placement of items, where to keep supplies/equipment or how to declutter your workspace and keep it primed for that daily task. For less frequent jobs, you can create the best way to quickly convert your workspace for that task.

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    Is there something important in your life that you wish you did more often or more consistently? Make a routine for it, and tie it into something essential or something you naturally do often. For example, if you want to exercise more often, why not group it with your daily routine of going to a coffee shop for that mochaccino you find you need every day! Re-jig your morning routine to include a quick, light bite to eat and a big drink of water, jump into your workout clothes, grab the bag of street clothes you packed the night before, head to the gym, do a fast-and-intense workout (Crossfit is excellent for that), do all your personal hygiene at the gym, get dressed, drink a protein drink, and then head to your favourite coffee shop on the way to work (or to start your day). In this way, you have streamlined your process for exercising and tacked it onto an already established routine.

    Let’s look at something you would like to do weekly. How about calling your grandma? Every time you visit, you vow to call more often, but then seem to forget. You feel it’s important, but somehow it never gets done. Why not create a routine for several weekly things, to group them together and streamline your processes? You might try something like calling your grandma every Saturday morning, right after you tidy the phone desk — you can water the plants and wipe down the bathroom sink while you chat.

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    Everything you consider *important* should be made into a routine. You are far more likely to do something when it’s a routine, and therefore far more likely to do the important things.

    What about something you find takes too much time, like checking Facebook or email? Create a routine for it. You check your Facebook while the coffee brews and when it’s done, so is your FB time. Close the tab, walk away. Email is tougher to tackle, but luckily, Lifehack has a new Lifehack Lesson for that!

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    Do you feel like your life is too routine already, and you don’t want to add more? The routine of life can sometimes get us down, no question. Why not add some fun routines? You could give yourself one or two nights a week do something you enjoy, and you wouldn’t have to pre-plan exactly what it would be; if the weather’s nice, it could be a bike ride in the river valley, and if it’s rainy, you work on a favourite hobby or go out with a friend. Perhaps there’s a weekly meetup you could join, with people with similar interests. Maybe your life is so routine, you’d like to try something really different or challenging — volunteer at a soup kitchen, go rock climbing, or join a volunteer fire department (if possible). I know being on the fire department certainly ruffles up the boredom in my life!

    No matter how you do it, making routines for the important things can really streamline your productivity and make sure you stop wasting time, too.

    (Photo credit: Full Potential Speedometer via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

    15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Kickstart Journaling

    15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Kickstart Journaling

    Journaling is a powerful tool that can help sharpen your brain and mind so that you can become more successful, think more clearly, and reach your goals.

    Journaling is one of the top strategies that contribute to many entrepreneurs and high achievers’ success inside and outside the workplace.

    Maybe you’re unsure of how to get started with the habit of journaling, or maybe you’re looking for journal ideas to sharpen your brain to maximize your productivity and happiness.

    In this article, we’ll look at the top 15 journal ideas you can use to sharpen your brain:

    1. Set a Structure for Your Journal

    If the idea of opening a blank journal and trying to figure out what to write for the day seems daunting to you, then have no fear. One of the simplest ideas to avoid having to think about what to write about in your journal is to create a structure that works well for you.

    First, think about what your goal is with journaling. Is it to increase your productivity? Be more creative? De-stress?

    Knowing the reason why you are journaling will help you create a structure for your own journal. You can create a list of questions that you want to answer every day or action steps.

    For example, you may structure your journal like this:

    • What am I grateful for today? (Give 5 meaningful examples)
    • What are the top 3 tasks I need to accomplish today?
    • What goals am I currently working towards?
    • How do I want to better myself today?

    Get inspiration from other people who journal and start implementing the structure that works best for you. Having a set structure that you use every day can make journaling more effective and easier to stick with.

    2. Use To-Do Lists to Hack Your Dopamine

    Many people use journaling as a way to manage their tasks and to-do lists. One brain hacking strategy is to cross out your accomplished tasks with red ink.

    It may seem silly, but when your brain recognizes the bright red ink crossing out a task that has been performed, it helps stimulate a release of dopamine, your reward and motivation neurotransmitter.

    Dopamine is what allows you to feel the reward of accomplishing a task, but it also will help increase your motivation, which can help you become more productive, focused, and motivated to continue journaling.

    3. Write Just One Sentence (Seriously)

    For some, the idea of having to sit down for more than 5 minutes and write a long entry every single time can make journaling feel more like homework than a helpful habit.

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    There are no rules or requirements for journaling. You don’t need at least 500 words with an introduction, body, and conclusion. If you want, you could even do as little as just one sentence.

    Maybe it’s a busy day and you simply don’t have the time you usually do to sit down and journal. Writing just a sentence or two can help your brain continue the habit of journaling so that it can stick. It can also take some pressure off of you from feeling like you have to write more, just because that’s what you are “supposed” to do.

    Also allowing yourself to write less forces your brain to hone into what’s important. If you only have a few sentences to write, most likely you won’t write about what you want to have for lunch, you’ll focus on what’s truly important at that moment.

    4. End Your Entry with Your Top Goals (Day, Month, Lifetime)

    A great idea for seamlessly transitioning from journaling to starting your day is to end your journal entry with your top goals or tasks. Typically, you’ll write out your current goals for the day ahead, whether they be for work, diet, or fitness. This helps to prime your brain to look forward to the day ahead.

    You can also include your bigger goals for the month, year, or even for your life. By writing your goals down on regular basis, it helps orient your brain and your decisions toward the direction of your goals.

    It’s the steady reminder of what you are working towards so that you can achieve it as quickly as possible.

    Need a little help in how to set goals? This article can help: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    5. End Your Day with Journaling

    Many first-timers to journaling are under the impression that you need to journal first thing in the morning. Although journaling first thing in the morning is great, it is not necessary.

    Many people choose to journal in the evening as a way to decompress from the day and set the tone for the next day.

    Journaling at night also can help you de-stress and write down anything that may be bothering from earlier that day, so that you can get it off your mind, onto paper, and be able to get good sleep.

    6. Practice Gratitude

    Studies show that practicing gratitude actually helps your brain become better. Practicing gratitude helps activate your hypothalamus, which is part of your limbic system, to help you better regulate your emotions, behaviors, and even improve motivation.[1]

    Practicing gratitude first thing in the morning helps your brain gain a positive perspective to start the day. It helps your brain look for the good in the day, rather than only preparing for the worst.

    This idea is incredibly simple to implement. Just write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. You can express gratitude for people, experiences, circumstances, events, or blessings that you may be thankful for.

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    The more gratitude you can feel the better, which means you want to try and come up with responses that truly resonate with you (the recent job promotion that allows you and your spouse to travel more) instead of finding generic reasons (food, water, shelter). Although you may be grateful for those things, they may not resonate as deeply.

    Learn more about starting a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

    7. Write One Positive Thing That Happened in Your Day

    What you focus on becomes powerful in your brain. Have you ever had a good day but you couldn’t seem to get past the one bad event that happened that day?

    Our brain is trained to look towards the negative as a natural protective response, but you can retrain your brain to focus on the positive.

    When you write down one or more positive things that happened that day, it helps your brain reframe the day in a positive light and actually helps to train your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your day rather than the negative.

    8. Affirmations

    Your thoughts can change your brain. Affirmations are a useful tool for retraining your brain. Affirmations are positive reinforcements to push your brain in the direction you desire.[2]

    Do you want to be more confident? You can write down a list of affirmations as a way to retrain your brain to believe what you want to believe. Here’re some affirmations examples:

    • I am fully confident and secure in myself.
    • I am beaming with confidence and self-assurance.
    • I don’t let my insecurities prevent me from reaching my goals.

    Write down a few pieces of gratitude every morning to direct your brain in the direction of your goals to start the day.

    You can find more affirmations ideas here: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

    Or try one of these affirmations apps: 10 Uplifting Positive Affirmation Apps That Help You Re-Center on the Go

    9. Restate Your Purpose and Mission

    Why did you wake up today?

    What’s the purpose and mission of your day? Are you currently working towards a specific goal?

    Being able to state your mission and purpose helps to set the intention for your day ahead so that every action and choice you make during the day is directed towards your purpose and mission.

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    This allows you to be able to say no to activities that may be taking you away from your goal. Then you can stay focused on the activities that will keep you in alignment with your purpose and mission.

    Want to learn more about the importance of having a purpose? This article has some good advice: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    10. Unload Your Stress

    We all have those difficult and challenging events that life inevitably throws our way. Often times, we have a tendency to hold onto that stress and ruminate over it. Holding onto that stress can begin effect not only our work life but our personal life as well.

    Chronic stress is one of the biggest killers of brain health and performance. Research shows that chronic or extreme stress can actually cause your brain to shrink.[3]

    Have you ever felt less stressed after talking to someone about the challenges you are facing? Unloading your stress into a journal entry is a similar strategy.

    By unloading your stress into your journal, it can help your brain de-stress and even help you get a different perspective on the problem.

    11. Reflect on Old Journal Entries

    If you were trying to lose weight for several months and felt like you didn’t get the results you were hoping for but then you decided to weigh yourself, you might realize you actually lost more weight than you thought.

    Change happens slowly and often times we don’t realize how much we have actually grown in the months or years that have passed.

    A helpful aspect of journaling is that after you have been practicing the habit for some time, you can reflect back on old entries.

    Reflecting on old journal entries gives your brain an overview of that change that has occurred from the old entry until now, which can help motivate your brain to keep going.

    12. Brainstorm

    Are you currently feeling stuck on a problem and not sure what’s going to be the next best step? Journaling can help your brain get more clarity on the best solution.

    Being able to lay out all aspects of the problem on paper can help your brain better work the problem so you can get to the best solution quicker and easier than trying to process just in your head.

    Looking at the same problem through a different lens gives you a whole new picture that can help you solve it.

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    13. Tell a Story

    Creativity is like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Your brain loves routine but if you do the same journal routine over and over, your brain doesn’t change.

    Instead of your normal routine of journaling, mix it up by telling a story. This trains your brain to become more creative, adaptable, and changeable.

    Writing a story helps your brain break free from routine and start thinking outside the box. This can help improve your creativity in other aspects of your life as well.

    14. Check-In with Your Goals

    As we discussed earlier, many use their journal as a place to write down their goals. As you progress, you can use journal entries to check-in with yourself to see how you are tracking towards your goals.

    Maybe you realize that you are not as close to your goal as you hoped. Below your discovery, write down a few action steps to get you back on course toward hitting your goals.

    15. Create Compelling Vision

    If you want to become more motivated, then you need something compelling to look forward to.

    Unclear goals or destinations rarely get reached. The clearer the vision, the easier it will be for your brain to visualize and attain that outcome.

    In a perfect world, what would your ideal future look like? Where would you live? How much money are you making? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you get to travel?

    Creating this compelling future is a fun idea to help your brain become more motivated to achieve that goal.

    Bottom Line

    Just like anything else, journaling gets better with time and practice. So, give journaling some time.

    At first, it may feel a bit awkward; but over time you’ll find your rhythm and routine that best suits your goals, your lifestyle, and your personality.

    If you’re ready to take your journaling to the next level, start incorporating these 15 journaling ideas to take your brain power to the next level.

    More About Journaling

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Oxford Academic: The Neural Basis of Human Social Values: Evidence from Functional MRI
    [2] The Annual Review of Psychology: The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention
    [3] CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2006 Oct; 5(5): 503–512.: Stress and Brain Atrophy

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