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Last Updated on June 26, 2019

How to Be More Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks for Maximum Productivity

How to Be More Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks for Maximum Productivity

Everyone assumes that being more productive is simply about getting more done in less time. If you are a productive person, you definitely accomplish more in months than many people do in years.

But productivity is more of a way of being. You could be doing less and at the same time, be more productive. What do you think of when you think about ‘being more productive in your life’?

On your search for being more productive, you are likely to come across a wealth of information on different tools, techniques and tips to employ. Most of the time, it may seem like common sense; however, common sense is definitely not common practice and this is why many individuals struggle to increase their productivity.

Most of what you will read will improve your results, but another contributing factor is that some of the suggestions just don’t seem to resonate with people or cannot be easily applied.

I am not going to tell you where you can buy a magic pill to take away any effort you need to make to achieve what you want, but I am going to share with you 4 tiny tweaks that really work to be more productive.

It is not only about applying the best practices but also applying yourself more and in different ways. So how to be more productive?

1. Get out of Your Own Way

Sometimes all you need to do is stop sabotaging yourself and get out of your own way.

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What do I mean exactly?

You might tend to look at all the extrinsic factors of why you can’t be more productive and you might blame, complain and point fingers at everyone and everything, except yourself.

When the blame cannot be directed externally, you might then resort to using excuses, desperately searching for a justification that will give you comfort because ‘you have no control over what happens.’

How many excuses do you have and live by each day? ‘I couldn’t do this because…or I don’t have time to do this because…’ I am not saying that your excuses might not be valid, but I strongly believe that more than 80% of the time, they are not real; it is an avoidance technique that we subconsciously use.

Not dealing with procrastination is a clear example of standing in your own way. Nobody else is going to suddenly make it go away; it will be there the next time you attempt to do whatever it is that you are procrastinating.

Put results before comfort, get out of your own way, and stop making excuses. Like Nike says, “just do it!”

Ask yourself honestly:

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‘How are you standing in your own way in some areas?’

2. Talk to Yourself Differently

Productive individuals think very differently than others. You need to challenge your thoughts and develop a productive mindset.

What is the main difference? A productive person doesn’t think along the lines of ‘Oh no, I have got so much to do. What am I going to do?’ ‘I am so stressed. I can’t think straight’ or ‘I am so overwhelmed. I wish this…or that…’

But instead, they think:

  • I need to do x and y. What is the best way for me to get everything done?
  • What is causing the stress? What needs to change so that I manage this situation better?
  • What can I do to improve this, considering the current circumstances?

The words and phrases you use immediately empower you or they don’t; they either make you feel better or more stressed.

The words you use, ‘your self talk,’ is pivotal to everything in life because you always act on them, whether they support you or not.

How could you change the way you are thinking to be more productive and empowered? Here’re some essential tips: Self-Talk Determines Your Success: 15 Essential Tips

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3. Adjust the Suit to Fit Your Body

Time management supports productivity. They go hand-in-hand.

Most people often overlook the fact that time management is not a cookie cutter though, and what might suit you won’t necessarily work for your colleague or best friend.

You need to take the advice given from a meta view and then adjust it to your situation specifically.

Think about clothes shopping:

Sometimes the suit doesn’t fit and you need to make adjustments and tweaks so that it fits your body perfectly. The same is true with time management and being more productive. You need to personalize what you read to your needs.

If some tips and techniques don’t work for you, instead of throwing in the towel, find a way to adjust them to suit your situation. Otherwise, it is like wanting to get healthier but resisting a change in lifestyle.

You can’t avoid it, so if you don’t like it, adjust it to suit your specific needs and make it work for you.

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4. Identify Your Time Thieves

We all have time thieves but most of us don’t even know what they are.

If you can identify your biggest time thieves, the activities or situations that throw you off course, distract or interrupt you, or the bad habits that keep you from performing better, you will improve your results much more quickly.

If you try to study and apply different techniques and you ignore your current thieves, the effort will remain fruitless.

If you just aim to change one of your worst time management habits, you will change your results immediately. It will most likely also give you the impetus to change what else isn’t working, once you feel the reward of your efforts and you see the clear connection between what you do and what your reality is.

Think about one thing, that if you changed right now, would have the biggest positive influence on your productivity. Write this down, think about what causes or contributes to this and what your solution will be moving forward.

If you aren’t sure what have been distracting you, this guide can help you: How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

Don’t forget to put results before comfort, if that is what you really want. Most people give up without ever knowing that they really can achieve their goals, meet their objectives and transform their lives!

More About Time Management

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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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!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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