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Unless you have zero ambition, I think everyone would love to become more efficient. The thing is, it’s always about starting to do things differently. It’s also breaking bad habits that have been holding you back, such as the following eight things:
- Taking it easy in the morning.
You’ve probably been told to start your day with a couple of easy tasks. But Jeff Skipper, Calgary-based leadership and change management consultant, warns this approach tends to waste energy. “Just because you’re checking something off the list doesn’t mean it was worthwhile doing,” he argues. This is especially true of tasks that can either be delegated or eliminated from your calendar, such as managing payroll, customer service or administrative tasks.
Obviously, you don’t want to neglect those responsibilities. But instead of spending your peak energy time on things that could be done by someone else, focus instead on your most important or challenging task for the day. After all, most of us are alert in the morning and drained by the afternoon. Save those tasks that don’t require much energy for later in the day.
- Fighting your ultradian rhythm.
Sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman found back in the 1950s that the human body moves through 90-120 minute cycles. “These ultradian rhythms help to account for the ebb and flow of our energy throughout the day,” note Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement.
“Physiological measures such as heart rate, hormonal levels, muscle tension and brain-wave activity all increase during the first part of the cycle—and so does alertness. After an hour or so, these measures start to decline” — usually between 90 and 120 minutes. During this time “the body begins to crave a period of rest and recovery,” add Loehr and Schwartz.
While it’s possible to fight your body’s natural cycle, doing so tends to decrease your productivity and efficiency. Psychologists recommend that you schedule your day around intense bursts of work, broken up by frequent breaks.
To do that, you need to know your ultradian rhythms. Track your time for a couple of weeks to determine when you get the most done. Listen to what your body is telling you, too. Take note of when your concentration and energy begin to dip. That’s your brain informing you it’s time to shut off for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Ignoring your health.
Eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep don’t just make you look good or feel better. Emphasizing your health reduces stress and clears your head so you can dedicate your energy to what’s most important. It also ensures that you have the stamina to stay productive throughout the day.
Don’t forget your mental and emotional health, either. Start meditating and writing down your thoughts. Not only will doing so clear your head, but it will also help your brain retain information and stay focused.
- Working overtime.
Let’s be real here: There will be times when you have to put in those extra hours. But when you’re not preparing for a crisis or a product launch, spending too much time at work isn’t a good idea.
Believe it or not, those who work between 40 to 45 hours per week perform better than those who work 65 or more hours. Following 80 hours of work per week, we become so fatigued that we make mistakes due to impaired judgment. At that amount of work, there simply isn’t enough time in a week for the brain to recharge.
I know people who boast about how much they work. It’s a badge of honor for them. But for your mental health, it’s important to put a cap on how many hours you work each week.
With so much to do and so little time, multitasking sounds like a win-win. What’s wrong with writing a meeting agenda or cleaning out your inbox, for instance, while you’re on a conference call? Because your brain has a limited amount of bandwidth, multitasking actually slows you down.
The reason is that multitasking uses mental energy to switch between tasks. To do your best work, you need to focus that energy on a single project at once. Multitaskers make more mistakes, impair their creativity, and stress themselves out.
- Checking notifications habitually.
You’re in the zone and completely focused on the task at hand. Then, you get an email, text, or social media notification. Without hesitation, you check to see what’s going on. Good luck getting back to work now.
The digital world is full of distractions. It takes self-discipline to shut them out, but it is possible. You could put your phone on airplane mode, or turn it off entirely. Tools like Freedom, StayFocused, and 1Focus will even block distracting sites and apps for you.
Whatever your system for reducing distractions, set aside two times during the day to go through your email or social feeds. Ideally, this should be before you start work and in the afternoon before leaving.
- Saying “I can’t.”
Saying “I can’t” will set you up for failure. The reason? It says that you want to do something but aren’t able to for whatever reason. When you say “I don’t,” however, you’re establishing a rule. A study by Boston College and the University of Houston who said, “I don’t skip exercise” instead of, “I can’t skip exercise” worked out more often.
The researchers explained that the term “don’t” affirms one’s own control over the situation, resulting in feelings of empowerment rather than discouragement, which shows up in one’s actions. “Can’t,” in contrast, acts as mental confirmation of the barrier in question.
- Skipping breaks.
Finally, don’t try to work through the day without taking breaks. Remember that thing about ultradian rhythms? University of Illinois researchers found that those who take breaks after an hour of work are more productive. Again, the brain needs to rest and recharge.
Be careful, though. Breaks are only beneficial if they are spent wisely. Rather than scroll through social media, use that time to walk or meditate. Resist the urge to extend your breaks. Schedule them according to your preferences and what’s on your calendar, but stick to them.
I know you want to get things done and over with. But without breaks, you’ll struggle to stay focused and productive. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will follow.
April 28, 2019 at 07:13AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs