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Science Has It: You Should Stop Doing These 10 Things To Be More Productive

Science Has It: You Should Stop Doing These 10 Things To Be More Productive

Want to master the 24 hours you have in each day? Use these scientifically-backed strategies to be more productive:

1. Stop ignoring your ultradium rhythm!

Every person experiences a natural lull in productivity after doing an activity for about 90-120 minutes. This period is called the ultradium rhythm, and you shouldn’t ignore its power. Instead of trying to “push through” mental fatigue, it’s better to take a break when your ultradium rhythm cycles. Get up, walk around and do something different for up to 20 minutes.

You may even want to take a nap, especially if you work for a company that has a napping room or policy as do NASA, AOL and – not surprisingly – Google. After your break or some power shut-eye, come back to your original activity with more energy, creativity and focus.

2. Stop checking your social media accounts every hour!

Are you one of the millions of people who keeps his or her social media account live and active on your smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop? Doing so presents an attractive nuisance, and you’ll end up wasting tons of minutes per day watching cat videos and finding out your second-cousin once removed’s neighbor’s boss saw a penguin at the zoo. Make a pact with yourself to relegate checking your social media accounts once or twice per day instead of allowing them to suck your time.

Spending time with people as people – and not avatars on a screen – was very useful for one Citrix vice president.  He discovered that relationships made in the “real world” were not only more satisfying than those made in social media, but that they produced a stronger sense of supportiveness.

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3. Stop saying “yes” to everything and everyone.

be lazy

    Are you a “yes” man or woman? It’s time to rethink the way you’re responding when you’re asked to do something. While you can’t always say “no” to your boss, your spouse or your friends, you are allowed to pick and choose most decisions you make during the day. By saying “no,” you can avail yourself of the scientifically-based Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle claims that 20 percent of efforts produce 80 percent of results. Conversely, 20 percent of results consume 80 percent of efforts. Spend your 80 percent doing what matters, not what doesn’t.

    If this is a difficult principle for you to adapt, don’t worry – you can always schedule one day a week to say “yes”.  That’s what TED Talks’ guest speaker Tania Luna does.

    4. Stop checking your email incessantly.

    Most of us habitually check our email on an unstructured basis. That is, we look whenever we feel like it. This turns into a problem because emails can sap time that is better spent elsewhere. Get off the email train by making it a point to only check emails at specific points during your day. For instance, you may want to check yours at lunchtime, and then again in the evening.

    Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, recommends picking two specific times each day for maximum productivity.

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    5. Stop doing everything yourself.

    Sure, it can be thrilling to tell everyone that you are “doing it all,” but there’s no reason to try and be superhuman. Eventually, you’ll fail – miserably – without help. If delegating is tough for you, just remind yourself that the old adage “many hands make lighter work” holds true in all aspects of life.

    Need a little help?  Buy or borrow the Harvard Business School Press book Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People.  In it, author Charles O’Reilly gives tips on how to begin the process if you’re uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to delegation.

    Reach out and get the assistance you need; in fact, you may want to start looking at areas where others can do the tasks you’re doing now. Free up your time to work on other things, and start really being productive.

    6. Stop trying to be perfect.

    Let’s get this on the table right now: You’re not perfect and you shouldn’t try to be. A research study published by University Affairs illustrates this point. The study showed that professors who were perfectionists had lower productivity levels than those who accepted the fact that they were only human. The moral of the story is that, on most occasions, being good is good enough.

    Besides, Google has had incredible success fostering leaders who weren’t top students from universities.  That says something.

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    7. Stop being busy all the time.

    A Harvard study and scientific evidence has shown that spending downtime by oneself is more important than we might have otherwise thought. Dubbed “The Power of Lonely” by a Boston Globe writer, the principle suggests that people have stronger memories of moments they spend by themselves. In other words, it’s time for a little introspection to get to the heart of who you honestly are, as well as what you want to do “when you grow up.”

    When Brigid Schulte slowed down, she found the time to pen Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.  Schulte shows how doing less can be freeing, and recommends this to anyone who truly wants to be a success.

    #8. Stop saying “I can’t.”

    be more productive

      Want to kick a habit or keep yourself from overeating? Don’t tell yourself “I can’t,” because it just sets you up for failure. Instead, replace “I can’t” with “I don’t.” For example, those who say they “don’t” do something actually do it in half the cases of those who say, “I can’t.” If you want to give up smoking, tell yourself you “don’t” smoke rather than you “can’t” smoke; you’ll find that you have a better chance of quitting.

      Exercise guru Joe English talks about the power of “I can” in this blog post on Running Advice. While Joe’s discussion of “I can” applies mainly to exercise and working out, he touches on some universal strategies all of us can use to be more productive. Rather than thinking, “I can’t do this” or “I don’t know if I can do this,” Joe says he thinks to himself, “You can and you will.” Changing the way you think about the obstacles in front of you can have a huge impact on your daily productivity.

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      9. Stop multitasking.

      It seems like multitasking is embraced in our culture as a “given,” but it isn’t exactly efficient. Researchers examined the skills of multitaskers and were shocked to discover that they didn’t do well on any of the tasks to which they were assigned. Focus on single tasks, and leave the multitasking to those who haven’t read this article yet. You’ll be in good company – the CBS Evening News started discouraging multitasking in their offices and had fascinating results.

      10. Stop being so negative.

      Are you someone for whom the glass is always half-empty… or just empty? While a little negativity can be understandable, a lot of it will only cramp your style and keep you from achieving your goals. According to scientists from Japan, when we think negative thoughts, we color our world with pessimism and make it harder to attain success.

      So start looking at the glass a different way and enjoy your newfound outlook on life, business and everything under the sun.As sales guru Zig Ziglar said: “Winners evaluate themselves in a positive manner and look for their strengths as they work to overcome weaknesses.”

      As you can see, being productive means “stopping.” If that’s tough for you to do, just practice. Changing behaviors takes time. However, doing something for about 21 days usually makes it easier to continue with the routine. Make this day one, and in three weeks your productivity level should be much higher.

      Images by Wellington Sanipe and Tammy Strobel

      Featured photo credit: Lauren Hammond via flickr.com

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      Kayla Matthews

      Productivity and self-improvement blogger

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      Last Updated on November 3, 2020

      How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

      How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

      It takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

      The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.

      Eisenhower was a general in the US army and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As a five-star general and a Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.[1]

      Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix, or the Prioritization Matrix.

      What Is the Prioritization Matrix?

      The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks.

      Eisenhower famously said of the matrix:

      “Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.”

      This quote became the maxim for Eisenhower in managing his time.

      There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help in comparing choices of what to do first and last, allowing you to prioritize projects and create strategic plan[2].

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      Eisenhower Matrix Template

        The quadrants are:

        • Do
        • Schedule
        • Delegate
        • Eliminate

        Do

        Do is the first quadrant in the Prioritization Matrix, and it incorporates important activities. That is, those tasks you need to carry out urgently — crises, deadlines, and issues that need your urgent attention and are highly relevant to your life mission.

        Hw do you know which task falls into this quadrant?

        Start by analyzing your priorities, and then establish if it falls within the ‘do it now’ criteria. If the task is achievable within a day, or within 24 to 48 hours, it’s urgent.

        Another approach you can adopt in prioritizing tasks in this category is to adopt the “eat the frog” principle by Mark Twain. This principle recommends that you do the most urgent activities as soon as you wake up.

        Here’s a practical example.

        Let’s say you need to draft a content strategy and submit a report to your manager. It’s Saturday, and the deadline for submission is Monday. Can we say the activity is urgent? Definitely!

        Schedule

        The second quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Schedule. The Prioritization Matrix classifies tasks in this category as important but not that urgent.

        They are long-term objectives and tasks with no immediate deadline. Those tasks could include meditation, journaling, studying, family time, and exercising.

        You can plan out activities in this quadrant for some other period. For instance, you should exercise for good health, but you can allocate time to do it.

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        Schedule these activities in such a way that they don’t transfer to the “Do” or “Urgent” quadrant. Ensure you have sufficient time to carry them out.

        Delegate

        The third quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Delegate.

        These tasks are not important to you but are quite urgent for others. This is where teamwork comes into play.

        You can technically perform tasks in this category, but it makes sense to delegate them. Delegating tasks will ensure you have more time to pursue activities in your first two quadrants.

        You should also monitor the tasks you have delegated. It will only amount to a sheer waste of time if you don’t have a tracking system for delegated tasks.

        Eliminate

        The last quadrant highlights your productivity killers. They are tasks that are not important to your goals and not urgent. The only way to boost your productivity is to eliminate them.

        Some examples are constantly checking your phone, watching movies, or playing video games.

        They could also be bad habits that you need to identify and delete from your daily and weekly schedule.

        Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.

        Let’s consider two inspiring personalities that have designed their prioritization system.

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        Warren Buffet developed a two-list prioritization model to determine which task deserves his best attention. The bottom line is bypassing things that are important and useful but not top of the priorities.

        Mark Ford, a business advisor, marketer, self-made millionaire, and author devised his strategy:

        “Start work on the most crucial priority, take a break, work on the second most important task, take a break, then sort out the less important activities and any tasks he received from other individuals by afternoon.” [3]

        How to Use The Prioritization Matrix

        Using the Prioritization Matrix can be tricky if you’re new at it, but by following a few simple steps, you can learn to utilize it in the best way possible.

        1. List and Rank Your Priorities

        Highlight all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, classify them with weighted criteria based on urgency and importance.

        Identify any activity that requires prompt action. I’m referring to a task that if you don’t complete that day, it could produce a grave consequence. For instance, if you don’t submit your content strategy, other content writers cannot work. It means you need to check for high-priority dependencies.

        2. Define the Value

        The next step is to examine the importance and assess which of them impacts your business or organization the most. As a rule of thumb, you can check which tasks possess higher priority over others. For instance, you need to attend to client’s requirements before you take care of any internal work.

        You can also estimate value by examining how the task impacts the people and customers in the organization. In a nutshell, the more impact a task has on people or the organization, the higher the priority.

        3. Take out the Most Challenging Task

        Procrastination is not a symptom of laziness, but avoidance is. The truth is that you will typically avoid tasks you don’t want to do. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would take out the most dreaded task first thing when he got to the office.

        Brian Tracy called these tasks the frogs you need to eat. That will remove the nagging dread, which mounts pressure on you when you postpone necessary tasks[4]. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.

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        If you need help overcoming procrastination, check out this article.

        4. Know What’s Important to You

        As long as you are in this cosmos, you will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from important relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority.

        Therefore, it makes sense to identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself not to compromise those important things for immediate pleasure or gain.

        Yogi Berra captioned it this way:

        “If you do not know your destination, you might end up somewhere else.”

        5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time

        YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family despite being the CEO of YouTube[5].

        Is it possible to cut out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?

        Of course, and that’s why you need to set out your “no work” time. This approach will enable you to renew your energy levels for the next task. Also, you will be in the best position to introspect as you are not in your usual work zone.

        6. Know When to Stop

        You can achieve everything on your list sometimes. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your estimates, remove the remaining tasks from your priority list and focus on your most urgent and important tasks.

        Conclusion

        It’s not enough to be successful at work. Ensure you make out time for your family and an important relationship in your life.

        Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you.

        More Tips on Prioritizing

        Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

        Reference

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