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How to Be Productive and Effective: 10 Lessons from Great Leaders

How to Be Productive and Effective: 10 Lessons from Great Leaders

Productivity is not about getting things done. Productivity is, in fact, about getting things done efficiently and effectively. Let’s face it, this can be a challenge. Life is complicated and you often have to face challenges that you didn’t expect. At the same time, you can easily get distracted by little things — or big ones, like friends dropping by, Facebook and other fun things.

So, how can you be productive and get things done in a world of distractions? How can we bring our life and work projects to completion? Learn from some of the greatest leaders of all time and apply it to your life in a way that make sense to you. Here are 10 things you can learn from greatest leaders and how you can apply it to your life too.

1. Think Big

The first step in being productive is having your mind on a completely different level. Once you decide what you want, go after it.  Thinking big is the key to setting goals and achieving them.

So, how you get to do this? Start dreaming… Create great dreams and big goals.

It always seem impossible until is done! – Nelson Mandela

2. One Step at a Time

Now, you have great dreams and an objective. You may be thinking big, but you must also know how to take things slowly. The real work in getting things done is not about dreaming but instead about planning every little step that you are going to take in order to be get there. Learn to take small sure steps rather than taking big uncertain steps. This will help you get things done effectively.

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“Great acts are made up of small deeds.” – Lao Tzu

3. Perseverance

Taking small steps still does not give you the assurance that you will be immediately productive. Sometimes you will meet up against obstacles and you’ll have to figure out how to get around them. Even if you come off your path, you must try to find a way back to it.

I have not failed, I have 10,000 other ways that won’t worl – Thomas Edison

4. Do Not Settle

If you have a big dream, don’t settle for less than that dream. But at the same time, remember to savor the journey to achieving it. Each small event, each small task is a step in getting to your dream. If your dream is to be a big-time singer, you’ll have to sing in a lot of small venues, often for no pay. While this may not be the dream in and of itself, you can savor each of these experiences, enjoy them and learn from them.

Experience is the teacher of all things – Julius Caesar

5. Have a Proper Mindset

This seems to take you back to the first key, but if you will have a proper mindset about the idea of having a proper mindset, you will know that it isn’t. Mindset is not about dreaming but looking at things from different perspectives.

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Set your mind toward your task and you can achieve it. Worrying about failure or other problems will only distract you. Try and keep your eyes on the prize.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right – Henry Ford

6. Change

Sometimes, we have to change in order to pursue our goals. Our own behavior is often counter productive.

Being productive requires flexibility. Obviously, if you are not being productive something is not working and you must change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. – Winston Churchill

7. Take Risks

When you change, you will be able to take risks and expand your opportunities and achieve the expected results. Life is about taking chances. Opportunities come only once if you don’t take them someone else will.

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Taking risks is not only about business opportunities or related topics it is in fact about productivity. Being curious and taking the risk of doing that extra task to aim for excellence will in fact show you that you can produce more in the same time span. Challenge yourself. This way, you will not have any regrets about not trying to do more. It’s better to fail than to not try at all.

Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is. – Jimmy Carter

8. Do Not Just Do Something

You may be taking risks, changing and moving, but movement is a lot different than taking action. Do not just do something in order to get it done. Do not just do stuff, do things that matter and are taking you closer to your goals. Once this act became a habit, it will be difficult to change.

If you are doing just stuff you may want to go back to tip six. You must change it!

Never confuse motion with action – Benjamin Franklin

9. Connect with Your People

To be productive, you must know how to effectively communicate with people. Why? Because there is no man that can do it all. Being an effective communicator allows you to delegate tasks that are not your forte and leverage the strengths of others.

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You must learn to let go, but to get there you must communicate effectively the expected outcomes. Focus on your core competencies. Do what you are suppose to be doing not learning what others can do better.

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out. – Ronald Reagan

10. Aim for Excellence

This may be the last on our list, but it is also ranked as a 10. You must consistently aim for excellence make it a habit. It will also influence other people around you.

I must add that the act of excellence does not mean perfection. It means doing the right thing to get the right results. Do the right things in life, for your business, for your family and focus! Take the steps required to produce excellent outcomes.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. – Steve Jobs

So, there you have it 10 things that great leaders can teach us and how to apply it to your productivity and goals achieving process.

What to do next? Evaluate yourself and not just keep yourself busy, be productive.

Featured photo credit: gothick_matt via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Jorge Gasca

Entrepreneur, Digital Marketing, Project Management, Planning Hacker

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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