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Stay Motivated and Productive By Going Into Energy Saver Mode

Stay Motivated and Productive By Going Into Energy Saver Mode
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Whether you’re ill, tired, or just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, sometimes you just don’t feel like attacking the day the way you normally do. But that doesn’t mean that obligations like your job, chores, and family responsibilities conveniently go on hold for you. (If only.) You still have to find a way to make it through the day—preferably while checking off all the necessary to-dos.

So how do you stay productive when all you want to do is crawl back under the covers? By taking a cue from your computer and going into “energy saver mode.”

Here are the key components of operating in energy saver mode to stay motivated:

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1. Only take care of the most crucial tasks.

We’re a society that likes to Get Things Done, but when you’re not feeling up to par, you need to let go of the things on your to do list that aren’t critical to your life’s basic functioning.

Do you need to finish that big project that’s due today? Yes. Do you need to attend the birthday luncheon you know will only devolve into an hour of gossiping and inane reality TV show talk? No. Wish the birthday guy or girl a happy day, apologize for not being able to make it, and take your lunch break somewhere soothing (like your favorite coffee shop) so you can recharge.

Do you need to do the laundry so your family won’t go naked tomorrow? Yes. Do you need to iron all the wrinkly items so everyone has a full wardrobe to choose from? No. Let them choose from their easier-wear items and leave the more high-maintenance ones for another day.

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In other words, decide what is really important for your day and what isn’t—and be okay with letting the unimportant things slide.

2. Allow yourself some lull time.

Computers in energy saver mode stay efficient by not running at full capacity 24-7. They go into screen saver mode, then sleep mode, keeping only the most basic processes running while letting everything else cool down for a bit.

The human body and mind are the same way. We can’t be “on” 24-7. If we are, we will quickly burn out and become sluggish, foggy, and frustrated. So allow yourself some time to “lull.” Take a 15-minute nap. Let yourself watch an episode of your favorite guilty pleasure reality show. Tell the dishes they can sit for a night and instead curl up with a good book for half an hour. Even a small pocket of “you” time can help you refresh and keep going.

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Instead of rush, rush, rushing around like you normally do, allow yourself to do things at whatever speed you can muster. Don’t multitask. Don’t try to be a hero. (You can be one tomorrow.)

3. Put on your screen saver.

Screen savers—be they cutesy kitties or clichéd beach scenes—say “someone is working here; he just left for a minute but he’ll be right back.” If your boss comes by and sees your screen dark, he’ll wonder if you came in that day. If he sees kittens in baskets floating by, he’ll figure you just stepped away to get some coffee. (You could actually be taking that 15-minute nap in the utility closet, but he doesn’t need to know that.)

Similarly, getting through a day you don’t feel like getting through requires a bit of a “Yep, I’m here!” poker face. You can’t let your inner blahs translate to outer grumpiness, or you’ll just feel worse and have more trouble navigating the day. So learn to disconnect from your feelings, put on a mild smile, and give the “I’m here (but not 100%, please forgive me)” vibe.

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Don’t engage with the people who normally frustrate you. Give short and sweet answers to people instead of launching into full-on conversations. Don’t try mustering up loads of enthusiasm and cheer you don’t have. Just be responsive enough that your screen doesn’t go blank. If anyone wonders why you’re not being your usual perky self, just tell them you’re a bit tired today. They’ll understand. (They may have their own screen savers on, for all you know.)

Featured photo credit:  Mixed Race Young Female via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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