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Five Habits That Make You More Productive

In today’s fast-paced world, it seems like everyone is searching for ways to be more productive. We make list after list of things to do, consume copious amounts of caffeinated beverages, and work more hours than we ever have before, and yet many people feel as though they’re still not getting enough done.

Unfortunately, as much as technology has tools to help us stay connected to our work, it has also given us more distractions than we’ve ever had before. It seems like every few minutes our phones go off with a notification of another text message, Tweet, or Facebook post that just begs for our attention. With so much going on, it can be difficult to focus on getting things done.

Furthermore, many people have developed a misconception about what true productivity is. After all, there is more to life than checking off boxes on your to-do list. When you look at truly productive people, they are usually not focused on doing more – they’re focused on getting more value out of doing less. So how can you change your focus and become more productive? Following these five habits will give you an excellent start.

1. Pare Down the To-Do List

Being productive at work doesn’t necessarily mean checking off 30 tasks on your to-do list in eight hours. Instead, try to focus on accomplishing the things that are most important. Even better, skip making the list at all. You’re usually aware of the important things that need to be done; do you really need to spend time writing out a to-do list just so you can cross “make a to-do list” off of it?

2. Take Breaks

It might seem like taking more breaks would be contradictory to becoming more productive, the most successful people realize that breaks are good for the brain. In general, a good work day should be broken up periodically. Go for a walk, grab a healthy snack, or meditate. You’ll find that when you sit back down at your desk, you’ll be better able to focus and concentrate on getting those important tasks done.

3. Remember the 80/20 Rule

Much like paring down your to-do list, it is important to remember that about 20 percent of what you do during your day is going to produce 80 percent of your results. By eliminating those things that don’t matter, you can maximize your productivity. Try it: the next time you’re handed a big project, break it down into smaller tasks. Then, systematically remove smaller tasks until you’re left with the 20 percent that will give you 80 percent of your results.

4. Focus On Yourself in the Morning

Instead of spending the first 30 minutes of your day checking emails and going over your to-do list as you get ready for work, spend this time focusing on yourself instead. Eat a good breakfast, exercise, or spend 10 minutes meditating. This ensures that you begin your day in a calm, focused manner, in full control and prepared for what you want to accomplish.

5. Do the Most Challenging Tasks First

It can be tempting to put the harder tasks for later, but the most productive among us know that these are the tasks that should be tackled first. When you leave the more difficult things for later, they spend all day occupying your mind, distracting you from focusing on your current task. By scheduling the most difficult tasks first, you get these out of the way, freeing your mind to focus on other things later in the day.

How Much Does Your Email Cost You Every Day?

Are you prone to checking your email constantly? Do you keep it up in a browser tab to get instant updates or have it running in the background to give you notifications? The problem that everyone faces with checking their email constantly is that it divides a person’s attention. It can cost you up to 15 minutes of time to switch back and forth between tasks, which can be as simple as working on your project and then checking your email.

Only 2% of people can actually multitask effectively. For everyone else, something as simple as email could be costing you hours of time and exhausting your mental energy prematurely. How can you stop this from happening? It begins with your ability to just shut your email down. Check it when you’re done with a task, not while completing a task, to maximize your time usage.

Work on Your Willpower

If you can resist the temptation to manage your time on your own, then you can stop costing yourself mental energy. The problem, however, is that checking email can become an addiction. Put someone who loves cupcakes into a shop that sells gourmet cupcakes and then tell them that they can’t have any of them. It can work, but it generally isn’t very effective.

Put Your Tasks Together

Instead of creating separated tasks that force you to shift your perspective, take time to focus on similar tasks in clusters. If you need to work on outside communication, then keep your administrative work together and work on it at a specific time. When you’ve completed the work or run out of your allotted time, then shut it down and go to the next task.

Limit Your Disruptions

Doing multiple tasks at the same time is a requirement of many jobs. Unless you fit into the 2% of people who can manage multiple tasks without degrading their mental energy, you need to be smart about what you can accomplish. The more dissimilar the tasks you’re attempting to juggle are, then it is more likely you will also pay a heavy penalty of mental energy to switch your focus.

Schedule Your Times

If you find that you’re addicted to your email, then schedule the times when you can feed that addiction. Set three or four predetermined times during the day that you check your email or respond to specific issues that are within those messages. You’ll feel mentally satisfied by being able to check on your account and you will limit the energy penalties that you’ll pay in the long-term process of the day as well.

Limit Any Disruptions That Occur

Your energy bank is a daily limited supply, no matter how much coffee you might choose to drink. Any distraction will eliminate a portion of this energy. This means any limitations on the distractions that you face will help keep your mental fuel tank from becoming empty prematurely. Don’t discount any distraction! Every little change counts and a lot of little changes can make a big difference in your day.

Checking your email isn’t a bad thing. Checking your email constantly because you’re feeding the need for a distraction will stop you from working effectively. Practice these ideas and you’ll soon start feeling a lot more energy when your day comes to a close.

How Could 10 Minutes Change Your Life?

Have you ever noticed that when your morning routine is completed successfully, your day tends to be better? On the other hand, if something screws up your routine, it feels like the entire day is off and you just want to crawl back into bed and be done with it! When everything happens to be in its place, your personal universe become ready to face any challenge with much more consistency. That’s why a time commitment of 10 minutes every day could change your life right now.

There are a lot of fitness programs that focus on speed and results. “Get rock solid abs in just 8 minutes per day!” the trainers will yell through the television. When you’re able to set aside 10 minutes for your morning routine at the very beginning when you wake up so you can make the universe right, then you’re giving that routine a 10 minute workout that will bring about mental fitness like you’ve never had before!

What’s the first thing you do every day when you wake up? For many, the first 10 minutes are about getting ready instead of preparation. Your body and mind are very receptive in this early morning state and what you choose to do will set the tone for your entire day. If you choose to meditate, for example, you’ll give yourself a better mental reserve for stressful situation. If you watch the news, however, you’re potentially increasing your risks of worry and anxiety.

That’s not to say that watching the news to get traffic reports isn’t important or that you shouldn’t eat breakfast or brush your teeth. The question is this: what is your very first priority? That priority will set the tone for your day.

The ultimate goal of your day’s first 10 minutes is to provide organization. Meditation can help people organize thoughts, but so can a checklist. So can a conversation with your spouse. What is important is that you focus on the tasks that will require the most mental energy right away so you can get the toughest work done when you’re most awake and aware. Good planning can improve your day by 100% or more!

It’s also about planning for interruptions. You can plan all you want for a productive day, but if you check emails and voicemails as the first thing you do when you get to your office, then all of your plans are headed to the trash can. Part of your plans must include how to adapt to distractions, interruptions, and potential emergency situations that require a fast turn-around. If you give yourself extra leeway during the day, then you’ll find many time dividends coming back to you throughout the day.

Instead of being stuck in neutral, a 10 minute planning session first thing in the morning can put your mind into overdrive! Take the time to get your universe set right tomorrow and see how much of a difference it could make for you.

Are You a Procrastinator? Take This 7 Step Test To Find Out!

Do you consider yourself a go-getter? Or do you struggle to get even the most basic things done during the day because what can be done today can definitely be done tomorrow? Although that’s the classic way to determine if you’re a procrastinator, it may not be as easy for many people. With this 7 step test, you can find out if you do tend to procrastinate so you can begin developing new habits that can improve your life.

Issue #1: Does It Really Matter?

Do you tend to avoid tasks that don’t seem that important? If something isn’t approaching a deadline, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re procrastinating if you have more time-sensitive work to complete. If you avoid a task because it doesn’t make you feel good or you’re scared of the results of your work, then mentally we tell ourselves that the task isn’t important. That’s an excuse!

Issue #2: Prioritize Based On Feelings

When you create the list of chores that need to be completed for the day, which items go first? The ones that are most time critical… or the ones that make you feel good when they’re completed? Any time priorities are based more on emotions than needs, there is some sort of procrastination involved.

Issue #3: You Need Information

Using research as an excuse is sometimes a valid need. You can’t just install a brand new TV without knowing how the brackets are supposed to affix to the wall. If you always need more information to get something done, however, then you’re likely finding a way to procrastinate.

Issue #4: You Create Personal Policies

Are you the type of person that requires a specific waiting time to respond to a question? If you get a voicemail or an email, do you wait at least 24 hours to respond to it? Sometimes this comes from a feeling of being overwhelmed, and that can be legit when the to-do list is longer than what can get done during a day, but it is often because of a need to handle everything. If you don’t delegate much, then you probably procrastinate a lot without realizing it.

Issue #5: There’s No Time

When a checklist is extensive, it is very possible to not have time. If you don’t have time for work, but you do have time to catch the latest episodes of your favorite TV show, then you’re making excuses. Putting things off that are important can become a bad habit that is difficult to break and is a classic form of procrastination.

Issue #6: I Forgot

Being forgetful doesn’t mean that you’re a procrastinator. If you’re consistently forgetful, however, then it could be a sign that you are. If you had something slip your mind and you act to correct the problem immediately, then you’re in good shape. If you “forgot again,” then you could be procrastinating.

Issue #7: I Don’t Want To Do That

If something needs to be done and you refuse to do it because you don’t want to get it done, then you’re procrastinating.

For most people, procrastinating here and there is a normal part of life. Choosing to procrastinate on something isn’t a habit. It’s when a conscious choice is made consistently to put off doing important things that it becomes an issue. If you relate to these issues, then it might be time to make some changes so you can stop procrastinating today!

Make Your Morning Routine a Winner!

Have you ever noticed that things seem to be just a little easier to do when you first wake up? That’s because your mind is fresh and ready to begin the tasks that a new day requires. It is a common practice to create schedules or to-do lists the night before a busy day, but what if you took just 10-15 minutes after first waking up to create this list? That would make your morning routine a winner for one simple reason: you’re putting your best foot forward into the day.

How Could You Make Your List Be More Meaningful?

A list of chores can sometimes be a daunting task. It creates an automatic mental block that stops people from wanting to work before they even begin! I don’t feel like doing that, so I’ll find something else to do. One way to counter this mental feeling that we all encounter at some point is to include action verbs as part of your to-do checklist. Instead of saying “Get article done about morning routines,” you could try putting “Write article about morning routines,” on your morning checklist.

Why include the action verb? This creates a mental instruction that your are more willing to follow on a subconscious level. The more descriptive and specific your action verbs are, in fact, relates to how productive you’re likely to be while accomplishing any given task.

It’s Important To Map Out Each Step

Reaching a large goal is rather difficult. You might want to lose 50 pounds, but it can’t be done overnight. You might want to be able to bench 600 pounds, but most people can’t just walk into a gym and do it their first time. Every major goal has a series of smaller goals that must be first achieved. When you’ve got a task that needs to get done and it has multiple steps to it, try including these specific steps into your checklist.

Why do this? You’re creating a blueprint of your day as you do this in the morning. You don’t have to be ultra-specific [I'm going to get dressed and then open my car door], but you should have action details in your list [Check your email for 10 minutes to look for emergency projects that are due].

The reason for this specificity is that people always have less willpower as they approach the end of their day. Tackling challenging items first, the items that need the most focus, comes first and then fill out your day with tasks that you know you can get done. Create this blueprint first thing in the morning and you’ll make your morning routine a powerful start to every day!

What is Urgent? What is Really Important?

The reason why so many feel like they were unproductive during the day is because they focused their energies on what they felt was urgent instead of what was actually important. If you’ve got multiple tasks that need to get done, how do you prioritize them? The most important items, not necessarily the items you feel are urgent, should be at the top of the list. That way you can always feel like you’ve accomplished something throughout the day instead of trying to find work to do.

Your morning routine has always been important, but with these efforts it could be the key to unlocking the potential you have in every day. Try it tomorrow morning to see how effective you can be!

7 Signs You Should Quit Your Job

We have all decided at one time or another to quit our jobs. It might be for various reasons such as not getting along with the boss, the stress that the job is putting on you or the simple fact that you are being underpay. Working at a job you can’t stand is a waste of your time and life. We spend countless hours each year working. If the work is no longer making us happy, it is our responsibility to decide if it is time to move on to something else. Before you do anything drastic such as quitting your job, you should start job hunting or have another opportunity waiting in the wings. It is not wise to leave your current job without having a solid plan of what you are going to do next. Below are the 7 signs that will tell you that you need to quit your job.

1. The work stress is affecting other areas of your life.

It is okay to sometimes be stressed because of work. What is not okay is when it starts to affect your physical and mental well-being. If you are having trouble sleeping, unhappy, anxious, always think about work even when you are not in the office, or come home very tired, these are some of the alarm bells that you need to pay attention to. You need to determine if this stress is a temporary situation or something more chronic. If it is happening everyday and you feel it is not improving, this can be a wake-up call that you need to decide if it is better to quit your job.

2. You dread going to work.

Do you feel terrible on Sunday nights because you know you have to go to work the next day? Do you feel like not waking up or getting out of bed to go to work? Do you daydream of other places or other things you can be doing besides going to the office? Do you start counting the minutes until it is time to go home? Do you pray for the weekends to come sooner? Do you feel an enormous sense of relief when the day ends? These are red flags that the job might not be right for you.  

3. Your company is in trouble.

When you start to see layoffs and other signs of financial troubles at your company, it can be a good reason to bail. Sometimes sticking it out to the bitter end is not the wisest decision especially if you can relate to the other signs on this article. A few years ago I worked at a mortgage company. When I started to hear about the problems the company were going through, I decided to find another job. A few months later, I heard the whole department that I had worked was let go.

4. You are not being fairly compensated.

If you feel you are not getting paid comparable to your peers or industry average, this can a good sign that it is time to polish up the old resume. The constant worry about money is not good for your health and livelihood. You need to decide if it is worth working at a company that is causing you so much financial difficulties.

5. Not getting along with the boss and/or co-workers.

If your relationship with your boss and/or co-workers are not as good as it should be, it might be time to look for another job. If you are not getting along with people at work, it will affect your job performance as well as your personal life. You might have a boss from hell that is driving you crazy and making your life miserable. Perhaps you can mend these relationships. If you think it will be nearly impossible to fix it, then you can start looking elsewhere.

6. Your job is not challenging or exciting.

If you are bored, not fulfilled, not learning anything new, constantly surfing on the Internet, watching the clock, engaging in hours of meaningless activities or just not satisfied with your work, these are red flags to pay attention. Life is too short to not be excited about your work. If you want to be successful in your career you need to find a job that gives you a sense of fulfillment, challenge, purpose and excitement.

7. Your values are different than the company’s.

If you do not agree with any aspect of the company such as the products/services, future direction, current business practices, culture, ethics, and core values, it is time look elsewhere. For example, if one of your core values is spending more time with your kids, but you are expected to work 80 hours a week at the office.

Achieve Greater Happiness and Success With These 7 Choices

Have you heard that happiness and success are choices? Although no one can control everything that happens around them, we each have the ability to choose happiness and define our own success. If you’re finding that life is difficult and filled with discontent, these choice changes could be exactly what you need to lead you down a different path.

It begins with a change of your expectations. Instead of constantly pushing for more, revel in the moment of now to enjoy the fruits of your hard labor. There’s always something on the horizon to work toward, but when you’re looking forward all the time, you’re missing the view around you.

Nothing Will Make You Happy

1) Earning a million dollars per year won’t make you happy because money doesn’t purchase happiness. Your choice to become happy and successful comes from your choice to be content. You’ve got to alter your perspective to realize that happiness comes from within, not from without.

Never Assume

2) Assuming that happiness will come your way is like expecting dinner to unwrap itself from your refrigerator, turn on the oven, and then cook itself without any effort on your part. It just isn’t going to happen. You’re not too valuable. You can be let go. The moment you start assuming your worth, you’re headed down a pathway that will only lead one place: unhappiness.

Take Time For Yourself

3) A life well lived is a life that serves others, but you must also love your neighbor as you love yourself. Take time for yourself every day to do something that relaxes you. Even if you just meditate for 5 minutes during a break, that’s time that becomes “you” time. Exercise, a journal, painting, composing… these are all ways you can show yourself a little love.

Eliminate Shortcuts

4) There’s no way to find happiness by eliminating some of the work that comes from a decision to be happy. There is no shortcut. You must decide that you will be happy and you must focus on the items around you that create joy. Otherwise you’ll allow the misery around you to be your company instead.

Take a Risk

5) You can grow by taking a conservative route, but you can find success by being willing to take a risk. Failure is only a bad thing if no learning comes from the process. There is a measure of happiness in taking the safe route, but the view from above after a long climb brings an intense joy as well.

Create Realistic Goals

6) Meeting a goal brings about a feeling of accomplishment and success, while failing at goals creates discouragement and the desire to just quit. Set realistic goals that you can achieve that are challenging, but not so far out of reach that you’ll need a miracle to reach them.

Vow To Take Action

7) If you don’t make a choice, then the world will go on without you and you’ll be left behind. Make a vow right now, at this moment, to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way so that you can always be walking forward, content in the surroundings around you.

Could More Sleep Help You Achieve More?

How many times have you either heard someone say or have said yourself that there just isn’t enough time in the day? Our modern society puts a lot of emphasis on working hard and playing hard, but this is all done at the sacrifice of real rest. If you were able to get a full night of rest, how much more could you actually accomplish?

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Get?

The average person needs to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. The actual amount varies from person-to-person. Some might need a little more while others may require a little less. Yet in the United States, the average amount of sleep that people report getting doesn’t reach this threshold. According to some research, we only get about 80% of the sleep that we think we’re getting. That means if someone thinks they’re getting 6 hours of sleep, it means they’re really just getting 4.8 hours every night – or about half of what they need!

So why aren’t we getting enough sleep? It’s because of a common thinking error: one hour less of sleep, we believe, can translate to one additional hour of productivity. It doesn’t work that way. The longer we work, the less effective we are.

What Could Extra Sleep Do For You?

Besides keeping you focused more every day, there are three essential benefits that you receive from getting the right amount of sleep every night.

  1. You remember more. Have you been in a conversation with someone and then completely forgotten what they were telling you? Are you forgetting deadlines? The more you sleep, the more your memory improves.
  2. You become revitalized. Your body needs time to heal. Stress is as harmful to the body as a scrape to the knee that gets infected. Fatigue, high blood pressure, weight gain, and nerve disorders are just the start of what a chronic lack of sleep can provide. It’s the same with the mind: less sleep means less focus, which means fewer barriers to anxiety.
  3. You become emotionally stable. Have you ever watched how a toddler slowly descends toward a grumpy, defiant ball of rebellion toward the end of the day, especially when they don’t get a nap? The same is true for adults! With less sleep, you have less emotional control and may end up saying… or doing something you’ll regret later on.

Sleep isn’t something that is a privilege or a benefit or an indulgence. It is a required part of the daily routine that must be followed in order for everyone to be at their very best. Sleep helps to lower the chemicals that cause stress, improves the immune system, and can even stabilize the body’s metabolism.

If you’re having some chronic sleep deficits, then you’re not experiencing life to its fullest. Even if you have to schedule sleeping time into your calendar, then do it. Get the 7-9 hours you need so that you can be at your very best every day and fully productive.

Why Being Humble Is Your Most Important Trait

Leadership is a tricky skill to navigate. You’ve got to be forceful enough to take charge of a situation and dictate responsibilities, yet display enough humility that you encourage everyone to work together as a team. In order to accomplish this task so that everyone feels like they are unique and welcome, being humble will be your most important attribute. Humbleness puts the team before your own needs and allows for strengths to be recognized on a consistent basis.

Can You Take Being Humble Too Far?

One of the interesting aspects of a team environment is that people want to feel like they have an individualized input, but are still part of a “hive mind” when it comes to certain decisions. Being too humble and allowing too much uniqueness can actually reduce productivity more than being a dictator would.

It really begins by your ability to share your successes and your failures. By demonstrating your own personal growth, you’re actually encouraging others to follow a similar journey. Failure is the great human equalizer, which means everyone can relate to it in some way. This gives you the opportunity to connect with your team in a personal way that will encourage relationships to be built.

It’s About the Dialogue, Not the Debate

The elements of a team that makes them different is what will make that team stronger. You don’t have to win every argument to be an effective leader. You don’t even need to engage with people to convince them of the validity of your point. If you include all points of view and then make the best decision possible from those viewpoints, you’ll show your team that you’re willing to focus on their agenda instead of your own and that’s an effective way of being humble.

The ultimate goal of this journey is to encourage others to become leaders instead of being willing to just follow your own dynamic leadership. Sometimes that means you’ve got to reverse the roles in place and put others in charge. Placing yourself beneath someone else on the team automatically puts you into a humble position and it is reinforced if you follow the lead of the person you put in charge.

These changes can bring about a lot of uncertainty, however, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you are able to embrace uncertainty and turn it into a teaching moment, what you’re able to do is create a place where others are encouraged to step up to the plate and offer valuable solutions that they might normally hold back. It creates an environment of independence, but fueled by an underlying interdependence that brings everyone together.

Being humble doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to make the hard decisions when they come along. It just means that you’re giving your entire team the opportunity to learn from the experience in their own unique way instead of dictating the experience to them. That’s why it is one of the most important traits in all of today’s best leaders.

5 Ways To Perform At Your Peak Every Day

Being on your “A” game is critical for continued success in this modern world. We all have good intentions at the start of the day, but by the time we get through our emails and texts, we’re already close to spent. Then there’s all of this ongoing questions that come our way, phone calls, and other distractions that it becomes a miracle just to get one task done instead of the initial plans we have in place at the start of the day.

5 simple changes in how the day is approached can help each person perform at their peak more consistently. Let’s take a look!

#1. Prioritize By Setting 3 Top Goals

There are so many demands in life today that without any prioritization, nothing ultimately gets done. By setting three top goals to accomplish by the end of the day, what you’re really doing is setting a deadline for yourself. Deadlines spur motivation and that motivation enhances the focus of these three specific areas. Set more than three goals and you’ll change the foundation of your thinking and not work as efficiently. Set fewer and you might get done too soon… and end up getting nothing else done.

#2. You Don’t Have To Go At 100% All the Time

Your ability to save energy throughout the day means you’ll be able to put a consistent amount of resources to projects throughout the day instead of heavy spurts in the morning… and nothing in the afternoon. Every action takes energy as well, so turn off your phones and leave your tablets alone. Every switch of attention you make robs you of energy that could go into something more productive than a friend’s latest Facebook status.

#3. Create Time Where You Just Think

Everyone needs time for themselves every day, but that time is often the first thing that is sacrificed. It’s so easy to do too: the kids need help with homework, the boss has an emergency project for Saturday, and your buddies want to get together to play poker. Sometimes you’ve just got to disconnect and create time for yourself where you can just be alone with your thoughts and creativity.

#4. Stop With the Multitasking

98% of the human brains on this planet have the ability to do just one conscious thing at a time. We all like to think we’re part of the 2% of multitasking brains on the planet, but there’s a really good chance that we’re part of the 98% instead. Not only does this mean that multitasking robs us of energy, but it leads to decreased attention to details, poor performances, and ultimately more mistakes. Don’t do two things at the same time. Do one thing, then do the other, and you’ll still be able to beat the deadline.

#5. Carve Out Time

Make time for yourself. Put it into your schedule so you have real time to rest! The more time you can switch off from the connected world, the greater the insights you’re bound to have as you rest in this mental silence. Sometimes rest needs to be literal too – a nap can help to rejuvenate focus, especially if the rest from the night before wasn’t so good.

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