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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.

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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.

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      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    

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        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.

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          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!

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          Dawn Hafner

          Dawn is a Practical Life Coach who offers concrete tools to help people implement life changes.

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          Last Updated on January 24, 2020

          10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

          10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

          Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

          Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

          Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

          • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
          • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
          • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

          Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

          Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

          Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

          That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

          1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

          I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

          Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

          Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

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          2. Be Grateful for What You Have

          Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

          Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

          “I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

          3. Smile

          Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

          Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

          Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

          Can you smile again?

          4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

          Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

          If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

          This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

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          Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

          5. Exercise Daily

          One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

          Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

          ‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

          He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

          6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

          Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

          Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

          So how do you manage your time effectively?

          Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

          “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

          And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

          • Monday – Management
          • Tuesdays – Product
          • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
          • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
          • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
          • Saturdays – Taking off
          • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

          No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

          7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

          Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

          Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

          Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

          “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

          Be intentional about your daily goals!

          8. Seek Inspiration

          It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

          A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

          Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

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          Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

          “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

          9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

          I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

          However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

          10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

          Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

          “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

          It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

          Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

          The Bottom Line

          Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

          More About Habits

          Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

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          Reference

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