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How to Create, Keep, and Grow More Time

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How to Create, Keep, and Grow More Time

Time, why do you punish me? Like a wave crashing into the shore, you wash away my dreams.

Hootie and the Blowfish

I remember listening to this song for the first time, circa 1995, and thinking to myself, “What garbage.”  Wasted time, at least for me as an undergrad, didn’t really mean that much at the time.  I don’t really know the exact moment that time became precious, but it seemed to happen overnight.  In one instant, that which was plenty all of a sudden became scarce.  Work, family, friends, and that little selfish individual inside were all conveniently requesting a share.  In a second, I was left with just an empty pie tray and no pie. Hootie’s words came ringing in my ear, “An hour only lasts for one second, one second”…damn them!!!  I decided that I will respect time and make it a friend.  After much thought and meditation, I began exploring all things productivity.

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Here are a few simple things that I implemented immediately, some of which I still do:

I carried post-it notes wherever I went to capture any ideas, tasks, appointments, and reminders.  For about 5-10 minutes every day, I would organize those notes into a journal to keep track of what I needed to do that day or the following day. Once the journal started becoming a hassle to maintain, I upgraded to a software tool. Eventually, I found GTD. For those who don’t know what GTD is, it is a bestselling book by David Allen called “Getting Things Done,” and it can help you organize and manage your life.  It’s one of the best books on productivity that I’ve ever read.

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This was a great start, but eventually I came up with three things that MUST be done—in addition to the above suggestions—to really become productive day in and day out.   I call them the three Hows. The three Hows are very basic: How do I create more time, How do I keep more time, and How do I grow more time?

How to create more time

This is, of course, not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a good start to reclaiming some time back.  These were some of my biggest time-wasters:

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  1. Television – just stop it.  Besides the occasional news, a movie every once in a while, some documentaries, and Shark Week, I found it to be a huge time-waster.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some quality programs out there, it’s just that you’re not watching those programs. You’re watching a rerun of Wipeout.  Let me spoil it for you: they all wipe out.
  2. Internet/web – It’s really become the new television, and as such, an equivalent waste of time.  Ask yourself this, “Do I really need to see another cat video?”
  3. Email – This was a more difficult one for me since responding to emails made me believe that I was being more productive. However, responding to emails all day was actually making me less productive by taking my focus off things that I really needed to get done.  I now limit my time and frequency of responding to emails.

How to keep more time

  1. Outsourcing – Pay someone else to do something that will take you more time to do. Your time is precious, so if you can afford to pay someone to do the gardening or house-cleaning, do it. Using virtual assistants to accomplish certain tasks like research can also be an invaluable tool to save time.
  2. Time management system – It’s a must.  Get yourself some type of time management system that will help organize tasks.  There are a lot out there to choose from with many different features that range in price, so try a few and decide which one will match your needs. A good task management system will save you hours every week.

How to grow more time

I have no idea. Obviously, nothing you do will add a second more time to your day or your life, so I would be remiss here if I provided any advice on that.  What I really mean is how do I ensure the quality of the time that I have just worked hard to create and keep?  I have found that being surrounded with great people who are smarter and more productive than me always helps.

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Also, there is something that is intrinsically mystical about being around those you love and respect, and those that love and respect you.  It’s indescribable. Those moments seem to transcend time and just stand still, in all excitement and in full clarity.  Those moments never seem to be affected by time.

Teach yourself to be aware of time and remember that time is not your enemy – so don’t fight against it, but use it wisely.

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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