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Posted on May 25, 2022 in Inspiration
Is something keeping you from being your very best? Do you feel like you’re losing time in your day? Do you feel like you could be a little more efficient at reaching your goals – whether for work or your dreams? You’re in the right place, and you’re about to get a lot more done. It’s time to master productivity and conquer your workday!
You’re trying to save time and get more done – doesn’t doing a few things at once sound like the most efficient way to squeeze a little more productivity out of your day? Counterintuitive as it may seem, you’re actually making yourself less efficient by multitasking. Neuroscientists have made their stance clear: multitasking simply doesn’t work.
Our brains have a limited amount of focus available (like RAM on your computer or bandwidth from your ISP), and while it may seem like you’re adequately focusing on the tasks at hand, you’re actually hindering your ability to properly think and focus on what you’re doing. Instead of exhausting your brain by forcing it to work overtime on a number of things, try focusing on one specific task. Innovative thinking and critical thinking skills perform best when they have a single goal to work through, and by monotasking, you’ll find yourself making less mistakes and getting more done.
Just as we delude ourselves into thinking that multitasking will make us more efficient, we also trick ourselves into thinking that working longer hours without breaks will help us get more accomplished. Wrong again – taking a break actually increases productivity. Research has shown that those who work at a task for long periods of unbroken time are actually experiencing a gradual decline in cognitive performance – but short breaks during work lead to a consistent level of performance and productivity.
That five minute snack break or fifteen minute walk may seem like an extravagance you don’t have time for, but with the focus and efficiency you’ll gain, the break is actually going to give you more time than it costs. A happy brain is a productive brain!
A mind cluttered with random thoughts is obviously going to have a hard time focusing and getting work done. We work to clear these distractions from our brain… but what about our physical workspaces? Clutter on our desks or in our offices can have a big impact on our productivity and mental states. Just like trying to focus on too many things at once depletes our brain’s processing power, a messy space ties up some of the brain’s ability to operate at full capacity.
Generally speaking, your desk or space should be clear of anything that isn’t aesthetically pleasing to you or that isn’t necessary for your current project. It can help to spend a few minutes at the end of the day cleaning and preparing your workspace for the next work day.
Goals, expectations, and deadlines serve as a necessary structure for increasing and maintaining productivity. Every task you undertake should have a deadline, even (especially) if the project is open-ended. Self-imposed deadlines foster a greater sense of time-awareness and urgency, and the level of stress that comes from an approaching deadline has been shown to be beneficial to productivity and effective time management.
Deadlines won’t help if your goals are too broad, though. “Complete task,” and “finish project,” are unhelpful goals to set. By breaking bigger undertakings into a series of smaller, more manageable goals, you’ll find that your sense of accomplishment and productivity will increase.
Sometimes, the easiest way to get yourself into a productive mindset… is to trick your brain. That’s the general idea behind the two-minute rule. Two minutes seems like hardly any time at all, right? It’s a small chunk of time that’s easily filled – or wasted.
The first portion of the two-minute rule involves finding anything in your day that is estimated to take 120 seconds (or less) to accomplish, and then immediately completing those small tasks. Little tasks can easily pile up, overwhelm, or serve as multitasking temptations for later, and immediately getting these tasks off the to-do list will free up your mental bandwidth for the rest of the day.
The second portion of the two-minute rule serves to help those with a tendency to procrastinate or become overwhelmed. Larger goals or projects can demoralize us with their size or the size of the commitment required to complete them. However, all undertakings can be started in just two minutes, and breaking something down into an initial two-minute task is sometimes the best way to ease yourself into working on the project and following through with your goals.
The secret is in turning a big goal into a two-minute exercise. What does this look like? Something like, “work out,” becomes “do one set of push-ups.” “Fold all my laundry” becomes “fold a couple shirts.” “Write an entire dissertation” becomes “write the first page of my dissertation.” This line of thinking may seem overly simplistic, but it’s shown to help increase productivity. New tasks or projects can carry an unnecessary amount of challenge or weight, but crafting an easier starting point takes some of the pressure off a goal while making it more accessible – and this, in turn, makes it likely that you’ll continue working and moving forward well after your two minutes is up.
Think of the two-minute rule like getting into a cold pool: it’s a better time and less of a shock to the system if you dip your toes and ease in instead of jumping straight into the deep end.
Even the best business people in the world get distracted, get frustrated, and have unproductive days. Distraction is a basic part of human nature, and so it’s to be expected from all of us. Forgive your mistakes. Dwelling on errors or lack of productivity is part of a vicious cycle that only further decreases productivity. Accept that you’re human, and know that focusing and being productive is a lot like riding a bicycle: they get easier the more you practice, and even the best fall down from time to time.
Happy focusing – and don’t forget to take those breaks!
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