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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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      Last Updated on September 24, 2020

      17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

      17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

      In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

      The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

      Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

      1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

      Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

      For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

      2. Use the Pareto Principle

      Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

      Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

      3. Make Stakes

      Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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      However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

      4. Record Yourself

      Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

      5. Join a Group

      There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

      6. Time Travel

      Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

      Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

      7. Be a Chameleon

      When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

      Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

      “Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

      Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

      8. Focus

      Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

      Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

      9. Visualize

      The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

      Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

      Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

      10. Find a Mentor

      Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

      Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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      If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

      11. Sleep on It

      Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

      Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

      12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

      Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

      His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

      Check out his video to find out more:

      13. Learn by Doing

      It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

      Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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      14. Complete Short Sprints

      Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

      One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

      15. Ditch the Distractions

      Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

      Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

      16. Use Nootropics

      Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

      Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

      Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

      17. Celebrate

      For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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      The Bottom Line

      Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

      More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

      Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

      Reference

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