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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

      More by this author

      Kayla Matthews

      Productivity and self-improvement blogger

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      How to Fight Information Overload

      How to Fight Information Overload

      Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

      This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

      As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

      What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

      1. Set your goals.
      2. Decide whether you really need the information.
      3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
      4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

      But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

      The Nature of the Problem

      The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

      When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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      No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

      That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

      Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

      Why information overload is bad

      It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

      Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

      The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

      You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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      So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

      1. Set your goals

      If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

      Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

      Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

      Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

      2. What to do when facing new information

      Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

      First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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      If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

      And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

      You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

      3. Minimal Effective Dose

      There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

      Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

      4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

      Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

      This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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      Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

      In Closing

      As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

      Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

      (Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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