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Here’s How To Make You Productive Again

Here’s How To Make You Productive Again

“Be more productive,” is a phrase most people hear on a regular basis. It could be your boss giving you advice, your teacher telling you how slow your performing or your parents lecturing you. No one is pressuring you to be perfect, but being productive and boosting your performance is important. Although the phrase above is quite common, it is easier to say and harder to implement. People usually say “be more productive” but skip the part about how to be more productive.

Productivity is important to strive for in your daily routine. Everyone has their own approach for adapting to be more productive. Most of these methods have something in common with one other. These commonalities, when organized, can really help you raise your productivity a few notches. Here’s seven ways to make you productive again.

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1. Prioritize Your Activities

Always start your workday by sitting down with a list of your activities, and prioritize them into categories. See which activities need more attention and which ones have stringent deadlines. Develop a systematic approach to your daily tasks. Shuffling through your tasks always ends with you having a troubled mind; you won’t achieve anything by the end of the day. Just take the time, and prioritize.

2. Freshen Your Mind

Physicians believe that a healthy, fresh mind can achieve almost anything. One way to have a fresh mind is to exercise. So, start your routine by working out. Get your blood pumping by doing a normal exercise like jogging. When you’re done exercising, you are bound to notice that you feel more awake and have a clearer approach to the tasks ahead of you. Make a habit of working out first thing in the morning. You’ll start noticing improvements in your performance from this simple habit.

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3. Race the Clock

Set up a competition for yourself. Competing is one of the best ways to become motivated, and it is a great method to boost your performance. Set a time limit for yourself, and try finishing your tasks within that time frame. Do not force yourself to work unless it’s manageable. Try to avoid burnout. Remember, perfection is not the goal.

4. Take Short Breaks and Relax

Try taking a short break in between your tasks. A 30- to 40-minute break to relax yourself won’t harm your productivity. Don’t make it a frequent habit throughout the day, rather time your breaks and set them accordingly. Taking a break helps you reflect on your tasks in a much more relaxed way. Taking a break helps you come up with ideas to perform your tasks better and ways to be more efficient.

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5. Say No to Things That Are Unrelated

Have a phone ringing when you’re working? People usually get side-tracked by distractions like phone calls. Take a call only if it helps you with your project, otherwise let it ring or set it to silent. Keep yourself away from distractions, because they tend to break the flow of things which can affect your performance.

6. Do Check On the Clock Regularly

It’s good to race the clock, because it reminds you to keep your eye on it. Deadlines have a well-defined cut-off time. In order to complete your work within that period, you need to keep yourself well aware of the time.

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7. Get Help From People Doing Similar Tasks

If you find yourself stuck with a task you can’t handle, don’t hesitate to get help from the others. Asking for help isn’t a bad thing, and it helps you learn. Seeing how others complete a task helps you get insight on different ways to achieve a task. Always try to learn new things, and apply what you learn.

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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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