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Productivity From Blah To Blitz – 5 Ways To Control Stress And Do More

Productivity From Blah To Blitz – 5 Ways To Control Stress And Do More

Your alarm goes off, and you wake up. For a moment, you’re disoriented. Then you remember that it’s a workday. Oh no! You’d give anything to pull the covers over your head again. You hate your job, and your life. You’re beyond stressed: you’re heading into depression, and you know it. Productivity is impossible with low spirits and energy.

There is an alternative to blah mornings. What if you woke up feeling great, and couldn’t wait to blitz through your day? You can’t avoid stress, but you can channel it. Use the adrenaline of stress and transform it from desperation to enthusiasm.

These five strategies will help you to control your stress and become more productive.

1. Control your mind. Focus on your ideal life: make it real.

What if you could have and be anything you chose? What would your ideal life look like?

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Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine a day in your ideal life. It’s morning. You open your eyes. What do you see? Look around you. Get up, and go to the window. What’s outside?

Do this now.

Write down your impressions of your ideal day. Do the same exercise tomorrow. Imagine it, then write it down.

2. Be spontaneous. Trust your intuitive insights.

You’re the result of your ancestors’ intuition. Those puny humans stayed alive despite savage bears and saber-toothed tigers by relying on their instincts. Everyone has a “gut instinct.” Allow your instincts to guide you. Scientists take intuition seriously, and so should you.

Your intuition lives in your body. Neuroscience researchers say that you should pay attention to what your body tells you, then act. Has your “still small voice within” been trying to tell you something? Your intuition can be persistent. It can also occur as a flash of insight.

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Many years ago, before Amazon and the Internet, I spent months looking for a book I needed. The book was long out of print. While visiting a client in another state, I had a strong urge to walk down a street. I was already late, but I obeyed my intuition anyway. At the end of the street, I found a small bookshop. I walked into the store, directly to a shelf in a dark corner—right to the book I wanted.

Do this now.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Direct your attention to an area of your body. Any area which catches your attention will do. Perhaps it’s your belly, your chest, or even one of your arms. Just let your attention rest there for a moment.

This simple exercise helps you to pay more attention to your body. It’s a meditative technique. Use it often. It helps you to become more conscious of what’s happening in your body. You’ll become more aware of intuitive insights.

3. Be grateful.

Gratitude makes you happy. It can even improve your health and lead to better relationships. Most of us have lots to be thankful for. If you’re feeling blah, think of one thing, past or present, for which you can be grateful. Everyone has something. You don’t need to wait for the Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks. You can do it every day.

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Develop the habit of thankfulness and your life will improve because whatever you focus on becomes stronger.

Do this now.

Think about your blessings for two minutes. Write down three things you’re grateful for.

4. Eat better, exercise, and sleep for at least seven hours.

If you’re eating junk, and never exercise, you can’t feel well because you’re not providing your body and brain with the fuel they need.

Do this now.

Commit to a healthy diet. Eat the things you know are good for you: protein, fruit, and vegetables. Want junk food? You can have your pizza, but eat your salad first.

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When you get home from work, walk around the block. Then, go to bed earlier, so that you get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

You’ll feel the benefits immediately.

5. Accept yourself, just as you are.

If you have a strong inner critic, self-acceptance is impossible. This lack of self-acceptance results in low self-esteem, but you can change this. Metta meditation can help you to greater self-esteem, by developing your qualities of love and compassion, for others, and for yourself.

Do this now.

Think of someone, or something you love. I think of my Jack Russell terrier, Honey. Allow feelings of tenderness and affection to arise. Where are they in your body? You may feel a sensation of expansion and warmth in your chest.

Now direct the feelings of love to yourself, and wish yourself well. Say silently: “May I be happy.”

Give our five strategies a try. Allow your intuition to guide you on how to do this. You may choose a strategy a day, or one a week. Each strategy will help you to eliminate the blahs from your life. Not too many mornings from now you’ll wake each morning overflowing with excitement and enthusiasm. You’ll be happy and will increase your productivity, so that you blitz through your days.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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