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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Be More Efficient at Work, at Home and in Life

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How to Be More Efficient at Work, at Home and in Life

If you go to bed every night feeling like you didn’t do enough, you’re not alone. Lots of people are just not able to meet the expectations they set for themselves.

Luckily, efficiency is only a single habit away.

It is not as easy as it may sound. The solution that I am speaking of is not a Band-Aid, but rather a life-changing decision that will require a fair amount of sacrifice on your part.

Nothing worthwhile ever comes for free, so let’s take a look at the secret followed by its practical applications in your workplace, home, and life.

4 Steps to an Efficient Day at Work

To act effectively, first, you need to think effectively. Here are four things that you can do to sharpen your mind and get yourself ready for a productive day.

1. Set Precise Goals

Many people underestimate the importance of goals. ‘I will be productive today’ is not a goal. ‘I will make five sales today’ or ‘I will spend time with my kids’ is a goal. You should start making both short-term and long-term goals which are clear and concise.

Another helpful tip is to write down your goals and take a look at them once or twice every day. It can serve as a reminder of what is essential and help you to not stray from the path.

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2. Have an Enterprising Mindset

An enterprising mindset means that you do what’s important right now.

According to the famous entrepreneur his Do it now’ attitude is one of the main reasons for his success. Once you have set your goals, it is vital that you develop an enterprising attitude.

The simplest way to do that is to focus on the most important activities first. You might be tempted to get the easier tasks out of the way before you focus on the more difficult ones, but putting first things first is an important step on your way to an efficient life.

3. Let Your Desire Burn Bright

It is also important to have a ‘never back down’ attitude.

Napoleon Hill in his legendary book Think & Grow Rich interviewed 100s of the most successful people in the US and found the desire for greatness to be one of the few traits all of them had in common.

Once you have the drive to succeed, you will find yourself automatically drawn to actions that help you pursue your goals.

4. Set a Dynamic Schedule

‘The more useful you become, the more your time is not your own.’

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Since very few people are efficient, the few who do manage to transcend mediocrity are called for help numerous times throughout the day.

The best way to combat this is by setting up your schedule in an adaptive way.

Rather than having a set time for everything, list out your daily/weekly tasks in your schedule based on priority and get started on the most important one. In case of an unforeseen interruption, deal with it and get back on the horse.

Following a timed schedule is extremely difficult in the modern day and failing to keep up with it will only demotivate you. And in case you need a little more help about your schedule, here’s a useful article: Time Management: Handling Disruptions in Daily Schedules

3 Steps to be Efficient at Home

Remember that your newfound mindset is not just confined to your workplace. Regardless of whether you work 4 hours a day or 14, it is vital to make use of the time you get to spend with the people you care about.

Here are some of the ways through which you can be effective in your relationships to find success not only in the financial world but also in the spiritual one.

1. Find Solutions, Not Problems

Stephen Covey, the founder of FranklinCovey regularly mentioned the importance of a Win/Win mentality in his works. When faced with a conflict, a person with a Win/Win mentality finds solutions which work for both parties as opposed to just one.

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Winning an argument is only a solution for the party that won, not for the party that lost.

Whether you have a problem with your friends, children, spouse, or parents, remember always to see things from their perspective. Once you understand their viewpoint, you can empathize with their feelings and work on a solution that benefits everyone. A great book that can help you with this is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

This good thing is that this newfound mentality can also be applied to your relationships at work, not only making you more effective but also a more likable and trustable person.

2. Let Your Passion Burn Bright

Just like your workday should be fuelled by desire, your time at home should be powered by passion. It is essential to explore new things and find out what you like.

Activities which make you feel miserable afterward are not your passion. If you feel like you can do better after downing a ton of beer or playing video games for 4 hours straight, it is because you can.

Find activities that encourage you to break out of your shell, and try to do them with the people in your life that you care about so that they can also benefit from the changes that you are making in your life.

3. Reinforce the Process

One more thing to remember is that there are little things you can do to reinforce all that you have learned continuously.

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An excellent example of this is making your bed as soon as you wake up. This way, you have already done something that makes your surroundings better within seconds of waking up, and it sets you up perfectly for a productive day.

Once you have successfully integrated the ‘Enterprising Mindset’ in your home, you will start to see the benefits it brings in your relationships at a breakneck pace.

Eventually, you will begin to notice your efficiency rub off on the people around you.

Efficiency: The Secret to Happiness in Life

According to Phillip Fisher’s(Legendary Investor and author) son, his father never worked more than 8 hours a day. The reason why Fisher was able to have such extraordinary success for over 70 years is because the little time he did spend working, he donated it to the maximum of his ability.

A recent study suggests that during an 8-hour workday, most office workers are productive for less than 3 hours.[1] Just imagine how much more could each of those workers achieve with an enterprising mindset.

Remember that I am not saying to stop working for 8 hours. Those who work more usually end up achieving way more too. What we are merely pointing out is that to do more, you need to make your time count rather than sacrifice more of it.

Efficiency isn’t just tied to the workplace. If you decide to work long hours, it is imperative that the precious time you spend with your loved ones reminds you of what is essential in life, and why you strive to make yourself a better as well as a more efficient person every day.

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Once you embrace the maximum of efficiency, you will immediately notice vast improvements in your life. However, remember that to truly embrace what I’ve just told you, you need to implement it too.

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Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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John Obstander

John is a productivity geek and a writing enthusiast who has no limits and got wings to take over the world.

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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

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