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Dear 20somethings, 5 Tips on Investing Your Time

Dear 20somethings, 5 Tips on Investing Your Time

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with the idea of not wasting time. Even as a kid, I had things to do. I wanted to get through school so I could get to the good stuff. Then I wanted to get through sleeping so I could get to morning again.

There’s too many interesting things, too much to learn to let the days slip by on things that don’t matter.

I’m in my 30s now, and I’ve figured out a few things worth giving my time to… and a few things that definitely shouldn’t get your precious minutes.

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1. Don’t waste your time worrying about what other people think of you.

Easier said than done, I know. This is a lifelong struggle for most of us, because even the most stoic still secretly like to be admired and appreciated. We want to feel good about ourselves, and it’s easier to do that when we know other people feel good about us.

But you can’t make everybody happy. It’s not your job, and it’s not even within your power. Once you realize that other people’s happiness is up to them – not up to you – you also begin to realize that you can control your own happiness. That truth helps you let go of the need to please other people.

2. Quit trying to find your passion.

Yeah, the trendy thing is to live your passion, follow your passion, do work you love (passionately), and, in short, know a lot more about yourself than most twenty-somethings know. The truth is that it often takes a long time – sometimes years, sometimes decades – to develop a deep, abiding passion about some subject or area or person or life purpose.

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In other words, if you don’t feel like you “have a passion” yet, don’t waste time trying to find it, or feel bad that you don’t have it. This is the time to learn, to get input, to explore, to discuss, to try and fail at a few dozen things. Do that for a few more years and you’ll have some good fodder to develop into a lifelong passion.

3. Cultivate a hobby.

Here’s a thing about life as a twentysomething: almost all the stable things in your life will change. You will experience change in your student status, your job(s), perhaps even your entire career direction, your relationships, your locale, your housing situation, and more. You are in the decade of new beginnings, which is great and all… But new beginnings come with a lot of change, a lot of upheaval, and a lot of adjustment.

This may sound silly, but in the midst of the big changes, it’s really important to have something that stays normal. Something that is unique to you, something you can cultivate into a routine, a ritual, a dependable part of your life that can flex with you through all those changes.

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A hobby is just that sort of thing. You can take up kayaking or karate, scrapbooking or banjo playing, and that hobby will adjust with you through the changes of your life. It’s a small thing, but one small, steady thing can help you adjust to each new normal.

4. Let go of friendships that aren’t working.

Friends are, arguably, more important when you’re in your twenties than they ever have been before. You’re identifying your own life and role outside of your family, and friends play a big part in that.

But some friends will hurt you, not help you; we’re all in different places in life. The sooner you can see that letting go is, at times, the best decision you can make for everyone, the better off you will be.

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5.Trust yourself more.

This is the one that will make the most difference in your life, right now, if you’ll do it. The truth is that you will make plenty of mistakes. Some will hurt. Some will change you. But all of them will teach you something. When you can begin to trust yourself enough to take the risks you need to take, you will still have to walk through mistakes. But you will get stronger through each one. You won’t waste time pretending to be something you are not. You won’t stuff down the little voice inside that knows what works for you and what doesn’t.

In short, you’ll still have plenty of changes to make stupid decisions, and deal with the consequences, but you won’t be wasting time on stupid decisions that are pointless and consequences that carry no benefit.

When you trust yourself and move forward, even if you mess up some in that process, you learn about yourself. You learn to listen better. You learn to take yourself seriously. You learn what you need to learn so you can do better next time.

That’s really what we’re all still learning.

Featured photo credit: Bev Goodwin via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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