Advertising
Advertising

What Science Can Tell Us About How to Allocate Time to Achieve Highest Efficiency

What Science Can Tell Us About How to Allocate Time to Achieve Highest Efficiency

Although different people may have different working habits, scientists have discovered many key ingredients which everyone can learn to structure an efficient working day. In today’s fast paced, high expectations, profit pressure economy, we all need to be super productive at our work. So, how can we structure our day overall to have the best chance at the highest productivity possible?

Personally, for about a decade of my career I just gave up on sleep. I didn’t see any other way to get all that had to be done completed. I ignored people who told me that I would burnout and couldn’t live like that forever. I was known to get up at 3:00 a.m. and was often living on four hours of sleep during the week. I would try to catch up a bit on weekends by sleeping in until maybe 6:00 a.m. Kids don’t recognize weekend hours! Eventually, I just gave up out of sheer exhaustion. I was miserable. I was unhappy, and it was affecting those around me. The more years that past me by, the more I realized I hated living that way. So I gradually made healthier choices and started sleeping a normal, healthy amount each night. I went to bed even if I wasn’t caught up at work.

What I did do after that change was focus on productivity. I now had less hours to work with, so I became devoted more than ever to making the most of my time.

Advertising

Here are some ideas to implement into your own work day and some of the science behind why they are likely to work:

Fuel Yourself

raspberries-423194_1280

    Research has shown that low glucose levels can affect our willpower and that restoring low glucose levels can reboot willpower. Let’s face it, much of our workday involves willpower to stay on task and not let ourselves get distracted with the multitude of other more entertaining options. We can check our phones, check social networking, shop online or visit with our co-workers. Or, we can focus and work on the tasks at hand, getting more done. So, if willpower is highest when our bodies are properly fueled, then the time invested in eating healthy meals and snacks is worth it. There are also good arguments about how proper nutrition can also affect our decision making. Dehydration also has a negative affect on our functioning levels, so make sure you are getting your daily water intake as well.

    Work on the Right Priorities

    to do list

      The Pareto Principle has been applied in many facets of life. The basics of the principal says that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your actions. So, we need to be very sure we are working in our top 20% and doing the right things. Do you know what your boss’s top three priorities are for you? How will you be your job performance be judged? Determine what you have to do to get your next raise or promotion. Those tasks are the top priorities you have for the day. If anything remains undone, they need to be tasks that matter the least to you and your team. It may make you feel good to clean up your stale e-mail, but if it comes at the cost of serving your top client….. well, that’s not a good task to work on.

      Advertising

      Many of us have a tendency to work from a master to-do list. This technique is not very efficient because it is not designed to identify your top priorities. So while you keep a master list of all your to-do items, you should also have a short list of those items that accelerate your work performance the most. The rest can be set aside for another day.

      Quit All Multi-tasking

      Some people pride themselves, and even brag about, their ability to multi-task. They truly believe they are working through two tasks at once. What science tells us, though, is that the human brain is not well equipped to multi-task. When you multi-task research has shown that it takes longer than if you did the two tasks sequentially, and quality is lost in the process as well. So quit multi-tasking altogether. The only exceptions would be times when your brain is involved in a more passive than active activity. For example, while you wait in the school pick up line, you can listen to audio books or articles. When you are running on the treadmill, you can listen to motivational speeches. When you cook dinner, you can listen to the news on TV. Those types of passive activity tasks can be layered together.

      Eat the Frog

      frog

        “The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex. But the payoff and rewards for completing these tasks efficiently can be tremendous.” ― Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time    

        Advertising

        In his book, Brian Tracy explains his theory of why we should “eat the frog” first thing. By this he means to pick the biggest, ugliest task on our list that we are avoiding. The task you are avoiding is often the one that needs to be done the most. The avoidance tendency comes from the fact that it’s difficult and daunting. Its daunting because  there are some risks involved or we know its very important. So, the first thing we do every day should be to “eat the frog.” Then the day has to get better!

        Take breaks

        take break

          Although we can’t get more than 24 hours in a day, we can manage the energy that we have during each hour. Many studies have shown that the mind works most effectively when given frequent breaks. One study indicated that the brain requires approximately 20% of our energy to run, using a huge amount of energy for an organ of its size! The brain is even working hard while we are resting, which may explain why sometimes the answers you needed hours before suddenly come into your thoughts when resting or sleeping. Further, our focus can be helped by taking frequent breaks. Some studies correlate our waking cycles to our sleep cycles. These cycles tend to move in 90 minute increments. So, many productivity experts suggest a work period of 90 minutes followed by a significant break of 20-30 minutes.

          Some experts use The Pomodoro Technique , which utilizes shorter work periods of 25 minutes and shorter breaks of 5 minutes. Experiment with what seems to produce the best results for you. One very helpful tool if you have trouble focusing for periods of time is set a timer and don’t change tasks until the time is up.

          Advertising

          Capture Ideas

          How many times have you had an amazing idea at an inopportune time? Do they actually come at any other time? It may be when you awaken in the middle of the night or during your morning shower, and you think, “I will remember that. That is a great idea!” How many times do you forget what it was later? Our minds hold a miraculous amount of information in very fine detail. The tricky part is accessing it. Science tells us some reasons for why that is so difficult. What if instead of rely on our hit and miss ability to recall our ideas we turn our inopportune times of amazing ideas into more opportune times? Keep a notebook by your bed. Keep a notepad in your car or purse, and as soon as you have something brilliant pop into your head, take thirty seconds to write down as much as you can about it.

          Finding success in our lives is all about working smarter, not harder. Take advantage of the fact that your brain is literally working around the clock for you. Set up tools to gather up those great ideas! These are just a few of the most crucial tools to consider when trying to get more productivity out of your day. Other techniques many experts suggest include the following:

          • Have an end time to your work day
          • Group similar tasks together
          • Done is usually better than perfect
          • Rise early and have a morning routine
          • Exercise daily

          What have you discovered that works for you that has catapulted your productivity? I would love to hear about them!  Everyone can benefit from accomplishing more in less time!

          More by this author

          6 Ways to Show Yourself the Love You Truly Deserve 5 Truths About Abusive Relationships 10 Things About Love Only Introverts Would Understand 20 Really Cute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas For Your Special One 6 Things College Won’t Teach You That Make or Break Your Career

          Trending in Productivity

          1 How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps 2 How to Spot Job Burnout and Cope with It 3 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019 4 25 Brain Exercises for Memory That Actually Help You Remember More 5 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on August 19, 2019

          How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

          How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

          There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

          Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

          This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

          These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

          1. Know Thyself

          One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

          An unexamined life is not worth living.

          I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

          Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

          You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

          Advertising

          None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

          For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

          It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

          2. Figure out What Matters to You

          What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

          When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

          In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

          Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

          A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

          3. Play to Your Strengths

          Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

          Advertising

          If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

          Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

          Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

          4. Listen to Yourself

          It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

          The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

          Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

          To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

          Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

          Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

          Advertising

          5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

          Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

          Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

          When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

          However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

          It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

          “If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

          6. Make Time for Reflection

          It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

          Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

          • What went well today
          • Something you’re grateful for
          • What would make tomorrow even better

          Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

          Advertising

          It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

          Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

          7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

          Arguably the most important step of all:

          Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

          The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

          “I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

          Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

          More Articles About Achieving Success

          Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next