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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!

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