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See How Productivity Actually Ruins Your Life

See How Productivity Actually Ruins Your Life

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Contradictory to what you might think, a ruined life can start off as an attempt to build a good habit. You may start off as wanting to be more productive, and you’ll most likely follow the latest trends in productivity, thus bringing structure to your life, and increasing the amount of work you get done. After you get the basics down, you’ll undertake bigger and heavier workloads; always in search of getting more done and faster!  One day, you’ll stumble upon an epiphany, a brilliant idea for some great project—yes my friends, that’s how it begins.

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productivity hurt your life

    Little by little, it will affect your personal life, giving you the illusion you can organize every minute of every hour to focus on your project.  You’ll start skipping meals, cut out your workout, skip reading your kids their bedtime stories, and more.  Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself totally drained with zero motivation to do the things you were so motivated to accomplish a week ago… with the added value of an angry spouse telling you that it’s nice you were able to check off “visit home” from your tasks.

    You may justify to yourself that you just need a bit more time in order to finish your project, right? Wrong! Even David Allen, one of the most productive people you’ll meet and the author of Getting Things Done said that:  “If you’re appropriately engaged with your life, you don’t need more time. If you’re not, more time won’t help”, why?

    Enter the Comfort Zone at Your Own Risk

    Keeping yourself constantly occupied helps you ignore some issues in your personal life.  It supplies you with a rewarding comfort zone that can be sustained for a long period; you get rewards for each task, all the while getting closer to the big reward just beyond the horizon.

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    Yet, be warned this is a bubble, and bubbles are meant to burst. Sacrificing your personal life on the altar of productivity actually pushes you away from the main reasons you sought to be more productive in the first place.  It puts a wall between you and the outer world preventing you from seeing there’s a problem since you are engrossed in being productive, and once the bubble pops, it may be too late.

    Balance Creativity and Be Wary of Obsession

    If you’re working on a new project you’ll need a boatload of creativity, and where do creative juices come from? According to Vincent Walsh, a professor from the Institute of cognitive neuroscience in the university college of London, creativity comes from obsession.  According to him, there are four components to creativity:

    Preparation: preparing everything; researching information, testing, and generally sniffing a bit around before you make your move.

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    Incubation: the period required for you to process what you’ve gathered during the preparation phase.

    Illumination: The Eureka moment!

    Verification: Checking how well your idea bumps against the walls of reality.

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    To follow through successfully with these stages, you’ll need to obsess over your idea, but how much?  That’s the million dollar question, and ultimately, it’s up to you. Extremely creative people changed a few spouses and were tormented emotionally and mentally day and night until they had their break.  Those are the people you’ve heard of, but there are plenty of others who never made it to the illumination phase

    Keep obsession at bay by making sure you keep it balanced.  Obsession is a slippery slope, and most of us aren’t Albert Einstein. We are creatures of emotion and impulse, we refuel with new experiences, support from our community, and rest, and all of the above require time. A high level of productivity and creativity can be sustained only when we feel fulfilled (or as Abraham Maslow called it, the upper reaches of the pyramid). Stay balanced, be productive and don’t lose touch with yourself—until next time.

     

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    Haim Pekel

    Haim Pekel is an entrepreneur and shares tips on productivity and entrepreneurship at Lifehack.

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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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