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How To Create Your Ideal Day To Work And Play

How To Create Your Ideal Day To Work And Play

The human brain is the most powerful organism in the animal kingdom. Scientists discover more and more about this organ’s amazing capabilities every day.

One of the things that’s becoming more and more apparent is you have the ability to create what you want by using the power of your mind. Use these 10 methods to start cultivating your ideal day today.

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Write down what your ideal day looks like.

There’s a useful exercise I’ve used over the years to help me create a crystal clear vision of my goals and dreams. Here’s how to do it: write down a detailed account of what your ideal day looks like. Start with when you first wake up, and write down everything you would do in a perfect day.

Visualize it.

Once you’ve written a detailed account, visualize your ideal day. Spend time every day really feeling it. Right when you wake up and before you go to bed are great times to do this. It helps your brain form the mental image of your ideal day in your subconscious.

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Make a commitment to live out your ideal day.

In his increasingly hard-to-find and now famous book, The Social Animal, psychologist Elliot Aronson details fascinating research around the power of commitment. The basic premise is simple: when you commit to do something (either verbally or in writing), you’re much more likely to follow through. Simple though it may be, committing to living out your ideal day can be a useful strategy to help you make it come to life.

Start small.

You don’t create your ideal day overnight. It takes time to build the necessary habits that stick. So go back to the ideal day you wrote down and visualized and ask yourself, “What’s the easiest thing to accomplish on this list?” For example, maybe during your ideal day you spend five minutes in the morning meditating or doing yoga. Focus on doing this small habit every day for the next few weeks. Once it becomes habit, move on to the next thing on your “perfect day” list.

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Think positive thoughts.

Harness the power of positive thinking, which is supported by mountains of empirical evidence. Your days unfold in accordance with your thoughts. So work on keeping those thoughts positive, even when you’re stressed. Identify the triggers that make you upset each day, and start changing those thought patterns. For example, maybe you hate traffic and slow drivers cause you to go mad on a regular basis. Try bringing an audio CD in your car that contains soothing music or an audio book about positive thinking and happiness. This will help curtail some of those angry thoughts. Negativity arises from habits but you can un-learn these habits with practice.

Start doing work you love.

What do you love to do? What type of work makes you happiest? Take some time to think about the answers to those questions. Then start doing it. Love to write? Start a blog or journal. Love playing music? Then set aside 15 minutes each day to do it. The key here is to just start. Once you habitually do the things you love, you’ll be much closer to achieving the vision of your perfect day.

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Create habits.

More than anything else, creating better habits will help you accomplish your goals and cultivate your ideal day. In Charles Duhigg’s insightful book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, he talks about using the cue-routine-reward approach to developing better habits. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take your written version of your ideal day you created and identify the specific behaviors needed for each part of your day (i.e. doing yoga). Start with one behavior at a time.
  2. Identify your cue for the behavior you want to form into a habit. For example, if your ideal day includes doing yoga, your cue might be “waking up” or “getting home from work.”
  3. Start working on this habit every day (for just five minutes to start).
  4. Take one minute every day to recognize the reward you’re getting from this new habit. For example, if you do yoga you’ll probably experience increased flexibility and an increased sense of self. Allow yourself to anticipate these rewards every day.
  5. Once this habit has become ingrained, move on to the next behavior.

Manage your time better.

We waste an incredible amount of time each day. Creating habits is the first step toward automating how you spend your time, but there are several other strategies you can use too, like these:

  • Delegate tasks.
  • Check email only once or twice a day.
  • Talk on the phone as little as possible.
  • Set timers to increase productivity.
  • Commit to watching just one hour of TV per day (most people watch three to four).

Measure your progress.

Make checklists and to-do lists your best friends. They help you measure your progress toward your ideal day. Keep a daily planner, and at the start of each day write at the top: “Actions I will take today to get closer to my ideal day.” Write down your action steps, then check things off as you do them. I personally use this strategy, and it works.

Keep focusing on the journey.

Don’t get caught up on the end goal. Creating your ideal day is about the journey–those day-to-day action steps that culminate into healthy, efficient, productive behaviors. You have the power to create your own happiness. Life is simple, so stop over-analyzing and start doing. If you fail, so what? You’ll learn from those missteps. You won’t learn from doing nothing. Life is about the people you meet and the things you create. So go out and start creating your ideal day right now.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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