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How to Do a Simple Productivity Audit

How to Do a Simple Productivity Audit
    A Simple Productivity Audit

    Do you ever feel overwhelmed or have too much to do? Have you been known to move around like a headless chicken? If so, maybe it’s time to do a Productivity Audit.

    Here are a few questions that will help you decide if it is time to audit your efficiency:

    Do you feel in control of your workload?

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    Is your email inbox regularly emptied?

    Are you a distraction free zone?

    Are you as efficient and productive as you know you should be?

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    If you answered “no” to any one of those questions it may be a good idea to stop and take an impartial look at your current systems. By taking an objective look and making informed decisions about your personal efficiency, you will be one step closer to stress free productivity.

    Here are a few simple ways you can assess your current systems to see if you are working as efficiently as possible.

    Check Your Hardware

    Is your PC or Mac slowing you down or holding you back? Maybe a larger monitor or a dual screen setup would enable you to work more quickly. If your current system is slower than you would like it to be, take a look at boosting its performance. There are many ways to do this, such as doing a hard drive defragment or by buying more RAM. The other option is to replace it completely. If you bought your computer 10 years ago and you are reluctant to say goodbye, take note of how long it takes your PC to boot up. Think of the seconds, minutes and hours over a year that you spend waiting on your programs to load and walk away without looking back.

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    Reassess Software Programs

    Are the programs you use the best ones for what you need to do? Are you using a spread sheet program to store your customer database? Are you using your email program to the best of its ability? Are you using a calendar and syncing it with your phone? There are many ways to do things, but reassessing your goals and requirements is a good place to start to see if you have all the programs that you need to do your job well. The software that met your needs five years ago may no longer be the right one to fit your requirements today.

    Share Documents

    There are a couple of solutions when it comes to sharing documents. You can either install a wired or wireless network or you can avail of many of the “cloud” solutions such as Google Apps or Dropbox to share common files. Without these types of solutions you are at risk of having different versions of the same file in different places. Dropbox and Google Apps are useful even if you want to share your files with yourself. If you want to access your files on the road, these solutions can be ideal.

    Do a Time Audit

    How do you spend your working day? Do you work flat out from 9 until 5 or do you mess around and jump from task to task? Do you know how the hours in your day are spent or do you fool yourself into thinking that you only spent one hour yesterday between Facebook and Twitter? There are many programs that can be used to record how you spend your time on your PC, or if you are honest with yourself you can take a sheet of paper and write down exactly what you are doing and how long you spent on different tasks. Awareness is a powerful attribute to have on your side; only when you know how you are spending your time can you know if the things you “busy yourself with” are getting you closer to your goals.

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    Eliminate

    From your time audit you will probably identify time spent on time wasting activities. Once you identify the time-wasters, you can eliminate them. Simplify to become more productive. There may also be work that you do that you think is of value, like browsing Linkedin, Twitter or other social networks. Again, an objective view is necessary. Are these activities adding value to what you are trying to achieve or are they just helping you to avoid the big ugly tasks on your list that you are procrastinating on?

    Conclusion

    A simple productivity audit can help you to make your systems more efficient — and save you a lot of time and stress. Give it a try…and let me know in the comments what you discovered.

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

    Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

    You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

    Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

    Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

    How Do We Remember?

    The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

    This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

    Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

    The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

    Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

    Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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    The last step is memory retrieval.

    That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

    You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

    Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

    7 Natural Memory Boosters

    So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

    1. Aerobic Exercise

    Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

    Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

    In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

    They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

    So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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    Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

    2. Sleep

    You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

    Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

    Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

    3. MIND Diet

    Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

    The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

    The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

    The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

    The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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    So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

    4. Relax

    We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

    When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

    To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

    Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

    5. Continuous Learning

    The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

    Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

    Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

    Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

    6. Stay Social

    The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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    Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

    In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

    What to do?

    Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

    7. Wakeful Rest

    This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

    But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

    What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

    Conclusion

    You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

    There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

    More Resources About Boost Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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