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Desk Escapes: The Quest for Quiet

Desk Escapes: The Quest for Quiet
    A sign like this at your desk just doesn't cut it.

    While distractions come at us every day, the moments of silence get fewer and fewer. Noise is everywhere, while quiet is almost nowhere. Fittingly, quiet moments have gotten really quiet in promoting themselves, while the noisiest places seem to blast their locations out louder than ever.

    If there’s one thing you most certainly need when you’re trying to get stuff done, it’s quiet. And since there’s so little room for quiet in the world these days (or so it seems, with 24 hour news cycles and a firehose of information optimized for anytime access known as the Internet), it’s no wonder that productivity can slow to a crawl.

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    There are several ways to take back those moments of quiet – some can be done from the realtive comfort of your desk, while others require an escape from the everyday. You may only need to step back from the barrage of noise for a moment to see marked improvement in your productivity or you may need to remove yourself from the environment altogether.

    But what if you need some quiet while working? Here are three ways that can get you closer to the sound of silence – and much closer to getting what you want to get done…done.

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    Use Headphones

    I used to work with a colleague who placed headphones on his ears for a great deal of the day, especially when he needed to focus. But he never played any music in them. He put them on his head to get the quiet he needed (and craved) and unless you knew his work habits, you assumed he was listening to music all the while. It was a clever tactic and it kept external noise – and people – at bay.

    Another strategy would be to actually play music through the headphones. Music can be a great motivator for some, so using it to keep you on track and singularly focused is a great way to get the quiet you need and deserve. Classical music or soft jazz can be a form of “quiet” for people, as it keeps distractions away. Sometimes quiet is just less noise. Headphones gives you the chance to get as little noise – and as much quiet – as you want.

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    Use the Door

    If you’ve got one, use it when you feel the need. A closed door is the universal sign of “don’t disturb me”, and you can further that meaning by explaining to your co-workers that when your door is shut that they shouldn’t even bother knocking.

    Now…if you keep your door closed much of the workday, then this tactic won’t exactly cut it. Pulling off this kind of escape from noise usually requires you to have an “open door policy” for much of the time. It’s hard to tell your colleagues to refrain from knocking on your door when you have it shut so often. You may want to try opening your door more often in this case – you may find that you can get work done with an open door that doesn’t require a lack of noise. And when you close your door you (and your colleagues) will know that it’s time for you to get down to some really focused work.

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    Kill Alerts

    Turn off every single notification you’ve got. Mute the phone. Turn off the visual notifications. Silence your computer. Don’t let anything detract you from the quiet atmosphere you’ve created. Get rid of the audible clutter (removing the visual clutter isn’t a bad idea, either) and you’ll find that the noise you’ve got in your workday may be bearable going forward. Bearable enough that it seems quiet by comparison.

    How do you grab a much-needed break from the noise while at your desk? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on September 22, 2020

    How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

    How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

    You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

    Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

    Here are the 6 things early risers do:

    1. Stop Procrastinating

    The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

    The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

    Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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    After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

    Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

    2. Pace Yourself

    If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

    So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

    Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

    However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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    3. Watch Your Lighting

    Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

    In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

    This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

    Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

    4. Make It Worth Your Time

    Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

    If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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    Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

    People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

    5. Avoid Binging

    There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

    It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

    If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

    6. Get the Blood Flowing

    Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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    Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

    Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

    You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

    Final Thoughts

    The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

    By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

    The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

    More Tips on How to Wake up Early

    Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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