Wouldn’t it be great if our feelings were like the soldiers on a battlefield?
Soldiers are trained to follow orders and are commanded by a superior. When ordered to do something or go somewhere, the fighting men loyally do as they are directed, even in the face of mortal danger.
Unfortunately for us, our feelings are not like soldiers and cannot be commanded, nor can they be controlled by will-power. We are usually incapable of selecting what feeling we want to experience at any given moment, especially when they are unpleasant ones like anxiety, fear, sadness, or loneliness.
However there is a clever way to change our feelings without trying to forcibly kick out the negative mood. It’s based on what suave lady-killers do every time they meet an attractive woman.
They woo her.
In the same way, positive feelings can be wooed and invited back to the apartment of your mind. The negative feelings might still be there but the new positivity will soon begin to dispel them. The bad vibes will then find themselves with increasingly little room in which to manoeuvre.
Just as night follows day, so too do feelings follow our mental images. What you conjure up in your mind creates a related feeling, whether the thought is realistic or not. Our subconscious minds do not discriminate between an actual event and an imagined event.
So how does one woo a positive feeling?
You can’t buy ‘happiness’ or ‘relaxation’ a drink but you can take them home.
Fill your mind with positive images whenever a negative feeling arises. Rather than trying to focus on the anxiety or the sadness, and trying desperately to get rid of them, direct your attention to images portraying the exact opposite of what you’re feeling.
Think of the little child learning to ride a bicycle. He becomes so focused on avoiding a bench or fire hydrant that he ends up riding right into it in a state of paralysed panic. If he’d kept his focus on the path ahead, he would have been fine.
A similar thing occurs when we keep our mind on the source of our negative feelings. The more we frantically try to drag our worries kicking and screaming out of our consciousness, the more we become preoccupied with the negativity within ourselves.
This causes more worries to materialize and even if we manage to get rid of one bad feeling, more come to take its place. A mental chamber of constant negativity invites the most unfortunate of thoughts.
The more we practice a skill, the better we become at it. Worry is a skill, albeit a detrimental one. Worriers worry because they have become extremely proficient in imagining worse-case scenarios.
The effort of trying to stop worrying can be significant and this leaves people frustrated and in an even bigger state of anxiety and despondency. Tension is present in both the worry itself and all attempts to get rid of the worry. It’s like trying to get a spider off your back if you’re arachnophobic.
As with all habits, worry can be broken. By immediately substituting worrying thoughts with happier thoughts, without trying to force the accompanying negative feelings out of your mind, you can woo positive feelings to cross the threshold.
In the same way as a ship’s bell signals a new duty shift, so too can the appearance of negative thoughts and feelings signal the need to immediately switch to positive mental imagery.
This will in time reduce worry and the feelings that go with it by creating a positive stimulus for practicing ‘non-worry’, which will become instinctive.
Our imaginations are limitless. We also have a vast warehouse of memories we have collected over a lifetime. This gives us innumerable mental images with which to play with when negativity comes knocking.
Just as we select which CD to play when listening to music, we can also choose whether to engage in positive or negative thinking. Changing thoughts is a lot easier than changing feelings.
By choosing more appropriate mental images, you will be wooing more relaxing, happier, healthier and fulfilling feelings to enthusiastically enter your mind. This will increase mental well-being, emotional balance, and even things like productivity and decision making.
Negative feelings will end up slinking silently out of the backdoor.
Deal with feelings the lady-killer way and see your happiness and relaxation levels increase.
Stephen Joseph is the tranquil mind behind Outsmart Anxiety, a website devoted to helping anxiety sufferers find ways to reduce and banish inappropriate fear and panic from their lives.
Have you ever been through a chaotic emotional time, that you felt like you´re about to lose your mind? Ever felt that you would “Cry out!”, or “act crazy!?” That the situation you are living seems to be pulling you apart in every direction?
I have felt emotional chaos, various times, and I can tell you, it is despairing. I have felt the emotional abyss, and I guess that everybody that has felt it and the emotional void, has the need for an emotional buffer.
During any emotional chaos, what you need is to stay centered, focused, to be in charge, even if you don´t have control of the situation. Think of a General in a battle field, but in reality, we may act incoherently, with zero rational behavior, dispersed and unfocused.
This usually happens because your physiology is going crazy in a big rush of hormones and neurotransmitters, and your body is preparing to: fight, freeze or flight. When the dangerous situation is real; great! This will help you deal with the situation. If the dangerous situation is non existent; you have a problem. You might be having some type of Anxiety Disorder.
The thing is, that we all go through difficult situations, and ever once in a while, we need to feel anchored to something, or someone.
What you need during these difficult times is grounding.
“We all go through difficult times at various points in our lives. Often, these are times when we can’t control what is going on around us. All we can do during these times is to try to stay emotionally grounded to maintain our physical, mental and emotional well being. How each of us does that is a very individual process, and it helps to know or, at least, be willing to find out, what is helpful to you, in particular, to stay emotionally grounded.”
So what is grounding?
In electricity, a device is “grounded” when it is connected to the ground so it allows excess energy to leave the system.
We may be emotionally grounded when our energies and emotions move through our grounded body and the excess of them get discharged to the ground. This helps us to maintain our center, and to cope with difficult situations.
a) Physical Techniques
Get your feet on the ground
Grounding may start with you simply getting in touch with the ground. For this you have to take off your shoes. Start by being aware of the ground when your feet touch it. You may stay in a spot just feeling the ground, and imagine that with each breath your “energy” goes down to the ground. You may even feel energy going through your body and into the ground. You may want to take some steps and feel-walk the ground. This is great if you are at the beach, or at some lawn, but you may do it wherever you are, and doesn´t matter the type of floor.
Hug a Tree
Hugging a tree is a very fast grounding experience. When you are hugging the tree, you could think how deep the roots are, and try to feel them with your imagination.
Hug Someone else
When you hug someone else your energy bodies interact with each other. Excess energy may be worked and equalized between both bodies. Energy interaction and exchange between people happens at the center of the body. For example the eyes, mouth (face region), chest area, solar plexus and genital area. The hands may transfer energy. This is why people that love each other, usually look in the eyes, kiss, and touch the chest and genital areas. Holding of the hands also shows a loving gesture.
Meditation techniques are great for grounding. You may want to sit in a Lotus position (If you can…) I can´t, so I usually sit with my legs crossed, or in a Japanese “Seiza” Position. If you want to meditate siting on a chair, you must sit upright and straight. Your back must be away from the back of the chair. Your feet flat on the floor, and your arms may be placed on your legs, palms turned upward, or your hands placed close to your abdomen, and your palms placed one on top of the other, both facing upwards, but your left hand on top of your right hand.
Breathe in; count one. Hold your breath; two. Breathe out; three. Start over… concentrating on your breaths, and count. If a thought comes to your attention, dismiss it, and start again counting. You may try to do this exercise while your waiting in line at the supermarket, or waiting at the doctor´s office, washing dishes, etc. Here your creativity is the limit.
Yoga positions, or Asanas, are great for grounding. For a fast grounding using yoga, you may choose Asanas that require you to find balance in off-balance positions or comfort in uncomfortable positions.
b) Mental Exercises for grounding
I´ve already mentioned Meditation. I presented it as a physical medium for grounding because of the awareness it gives of the body touching the ground, or interacting with it.
“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
A simple, yet effective, Mindfulness exercise is to pay attention to your body and how it interacts with the environment. For example, if you are sitting down, observe the weight of your body on the chair, or observe how your feet´s sole interacts with the floor, and try to feel each finger touching the floor, just observe, be mindful to the interaction.
The Altered State or “Flow” Experience
Csikszentmihalyi, one of the developers of Positive Psychology, discusses that a person may be in a “Flow” Experience if:
“He is completely involved in an activity, whether it be chess, rock climbing, the arts, dance, or anything else, often experiences certain subjective feelings called the “flow state.” The flow state is a feeling of unified flowing from one moment to the next in which the person is in control of his/her actions and in which there is little distinction between self and environment, past, present, and future, stimulus or response. While in the flow state, the person usually does not think of him/herself as being separate from what he/she is doing.”
What this means is that if you love doing an activity, and you practice it to the point of losing distinction of time, the self and the environment, then you are grounding yourself, and centering the self by doing what you love.
I hope these grounding techniques help you to center during difficult emotional times.
Let me know what you think about the techniques or if you have another grounding technique please comment on it! It would help us to center ourselves.
Carlos is a Psychology Professor in a local university in El Salvador, a psychotherapist, creator of HandLink Technique (Energy Psychology), blogger, musician, and host of Sight For Sore Eyes Blog.
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Every morning we have to struggle to get ourselves ready, get everything done and be out the door on time. And not to mention what it’s like if you have kids as well who just want to play around
How would you like to start you day stress-free, happy and empowered by a new day? Wouldn’t that just change not only the quality of your mornings, but also the quality of your life? I just think that many of us haven’t realized what the true benefits of a great morning can be.
There is a very powerful Chinese saying that goes something like this (freely translated by me…):
“Springtime is the most important part of the year because it makes it possible for a great harvest in the fall and plenty of food in the winter.
Morning is the most important part of the day because it makes it possible for great accomplishments in the day and relaxed sleep during the night.”
So if you’re spending the first hour of every new day rushing and stressing, then that’s pretty much how the rest of your day will look like as well. You see, you’ve set the tone for your way of life.
With this mind I would simply like to propose 15 small ways you can use to improve and simplify your morning routine. Here goes…
1. Prepare your breakfast
Having breakfast is for most people the biggest part of their morning routine, and it can be a real stress inducer. It usually takes quite some time to make it and with our head still half-asleep it can be a bit tricky to make the process smooth.
So all I do is to simply prepare myself for breakfast. For example, if you have different breakfasts during the week, then write a schedule so you know once you wake up. And if you’re going to set the table, use a mnemonic of the items you need or even place them out the evening before.
In short, do whatever you can to make the breakfast as automatic as possible.
2. Lay out your clothes
You know why – it just saves time and minimizes stress in your morning routine.
3. Use a bathroom schedule
In case you are several people and only one bathroom in the morning, then I really recommend having some sort of schedule in place. It might sound boring and old-school, but it really works to avoid a lot of stress induced waiting.
4. Set a to-go alarm
I always have a second alarm at 8.00 in the morning. That’s the time I want to be out the door. By every day noticing this exact time I can easily see how I’m doing versus my wanted position and adjust something when needed.
5. Write down your morning routine
It doesn’t hurt to take 10 minutes right now just to write down how your morning routine actually looks like. You might find out that it’s all very chaotic and random. So now you have the opportunity to design your very own way of starting each day.
How would it be?
6. Jump out of bed
In essence, snoozing is bad for your morning routine and I bet you know that already. The single most efficient way to remove this type of behavior is to practice, practice, practice.
And I mean practice while being awake.
You want to make the process of getting out of bed as automatic as possible so you won’t even have to think about how tired you are when the alarm goes off. So go to bed, right now, set the timer for 5 minutes and pretend that you’re sleeping. Then as soon as you hear the alarm, jump out of bed.
Then repeat. At least 5 times for the upcoming days. Just trust me, it will pay off.
7. Let the sunshine in
By opening the curtains and getting some light you will notice how much easier it is to really wake your body up and get energetic. And energy and well-being are both good remedies against stress.
8. Get pumped up and smile
But getting some sun might not be enough. Why not really get excited? For me at least, there’s no better way than changing my physiology.
By stretching myself tall, extending my back, breathing from the top of my lungs and putting on a big smile it’s virtually impossible to try to not be happy and excited. Try changing your state and see if you can still be tired and stressed.
9. Skip the TV
If you want to make your mornings as calm and comfortable as possible, then try leaving the TV turned off for once. Having the TV on in the background just steals both your focus and your time. Don’t worry, you will find out what the latest news is quite soon anyway.
10. Ignore your phone
Same goes for your phone as with your TV. Just postpone checking your emails and don’t let that new app steal your focus – it will just make your newly awakened mind cluttered.
11. Turn on the music
I am talking about some soothing and relaxing music that will get you all relaxed and down to earth. As you go about your things, follow the rhythm of the music and just let it flow through your body.
12. Have fun
No one can feel bad while having fun. I strongly urge you to make your morning routine a bit more fun and include some activity that you know gets you motivated.
If you get to spend some time doing what you really love, that can really make all your other must-dos feel much simpler. Your worries will just go away and you can build on the excitement from having fun. You know what hobby gets you going, so just see if you can include it in your morning routine.
What’s the ultimate way to bring yourself back to reality? To breathe.
What’s the best way to calm yourself down? To breathe.
What’s the most powerful way to simplify your morning routine? To just take some time to focus on your breathing.
To accomplish all of this, I like to do a small exercise. It goes like this:
Breathe in for 2 counts
Hold your breath for 8 counts
Breathe out for 4 counts
Then repeat that for 8-10 times. It’s simple, right? But if really does good for both your body and your mind.
In short, it helps to cleanse your body and it gets your mind focused and clutter-free.
14. Wake up early
To avoid putting any pressure on you, I have waited all the way until point number 14 before mentioning this. But we all know it’s one of the most efficient ways to improve a morning routine.
Nowadays, when I wake up at 4 a.m., I have all the time in the world to do what’s most important in my day before heading off to work. I can barely remember the time when I had to eat breakfast in a rush. It just makes everything so much simpler to have the time to focus on myself for a few hours before the normal hectic day begins.
15. Plan your day
If you manage to have a relaxed and simple morning routine, then why not bring that into the rest of your day as well? At least you can try. Just sit down for 5-10 minutes and write down what your main goal and most important tasks are for the upcoming day.
Just getting it down on paper will usually make it easier much easier to stay on target and avoid useless worrying.
These 15 ways to simplify your morning routine can actually do much more than that. If you try some of these methods and really take your morning seriously (serious as in important, not as in making it like work) you might find that you’re taking back a little bit control of your life.
Remember, you are the designer of your days and creator of your habits so I wish you all relaxed and joyful mornings!
There are thousands of different strategies and ideas on how to improve your life.
But how are you supposed to know what really works? By these three metrics:
Your personal experience (what has worked for you before?)
Science and research of how humans grow and change (how does change generally work?)
Others’ experience (what has worked for others?)
Only you can know the first part, but I’m here to help out with numbers 2 + 3. In my experience, and through all the research I’ve done on neurological studies, and through all of the case studies I know, these are the five greatest personal development strategies that actually work!
But First, A Few Notes On The Fascinating Science Of Change
I’m basing my conclusions on science that I have also tested successfully in my life. I’ve found the studies I mention here to be accurate and I believe these methods will work for almost everyone. With a few exceptions, our brains work mostly the same way.
Your brain has an amazing network of neural pathways. These pathways are communication channels in the brain, or how the brain’s different areas communicate with each other. From a scientific standpoint, habits are simply thick neural pathways (i.e. strong neural connections).
If every morning for the last 18 years, you have woken up at 6 AM, grabbed the newspaper, and fixed coffee, you will have a thick and strong neural pathway to tell you to do that exact routine on year 18, day two.
Neural pathways operate like muscles. They get stronger with use and weaker when neglected. Changing a habit is nothing more than simultaneously weakening one pathway and strengthening another (perhaps new) pathway.
It helps to visualize your habits in this way because it gives you an accurate mental image of what’s really happening in your brain while you’re trying to change.
Some people believe they can change overnight or in a short amount of time. Generally, it won’t work, and it’s clear why not. If it’s a bad habit you’ve strengthened over many years, you can’t just drop it. Your brain has been well-trained to execute that habit when triggered by the environment or an internal thought.
Or if it’s a good habit you’re trying to start, you’ll have to strengthen it methodically over time just like your biceps, baby.
Then there is the prefrontal cortex, which I’d say is the “manager” of your brain. It manages your short term memory and current thoughts.
Why are these important?
Together, they form the entire potential of your ability to change.
When you want to change something about your life or grow in an area, you either need to change the basic framework of how you operate (habits) or change your decisions (prefrontal cortex), or both.
Example: You want to become a better guitar player Habit Solution: Make guitar practice a daily habit Prefrontal Cortex Solution: Think of playing guitar as a bigger life priority and decide to focus on it.
You can see how the two are related. If you think of guitar as a priority, it will be easier to do it daily and make it habit. Unfortunately, habits are automated processes, so you can’t directly change them (that would be like hacking directly into the brain and rewiring it…cool!).
What you have to do is use your Prefrontal “manager” Cortex to make the right decisions that will gradually change your automated behaviors and preferences. As they change, it will become easier to behave the way you want to.
The more times you do something, the less resistance you’ll have to do it again.
But this information isn’t enough. You need strategies that will allow you to conquer the mental blocks and habitual urges that keep people locked out of positive change paradise.
So here they are – the best five strategies you can implement to change your brain, and your life, forever.
1. Start small
Every success story in history can be traced back to a small initial step.
In Usain Bolt’s case, it literally started out that way. The next time you see Jamaica’s favorite lightning bolt race at unparalleled speed, picture him as a baby taking his first, small, unbalanced step. Even he had to learn how to walk before he became the fastest man in the world.
Did you know that Apple – the most valuable company on planet earth with a $419 billion market capitalization – was never intended to be a company? The Steves – Jobs and Wozniak – were making computer boards for fun, and that wasn’t even their first project. Their first “big” sale was to the Byte Shop, a contract for 50 assembled machines.
Yeah but, what about personal development?
At the end of last year, I created The One Push-up Challenge, a challenge built around the concept of starting small. It has helped many people, including myself, successfully overcome their habitual hesitation to exercise. The minimum requirement of doing one push-up per day beats anti-exercise habits because it is so easy to start.
I bet I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too at first.
“One push-up isn’t much on it’s own, so how does it bring results that matter?”
Look at this email I received:
“We recently applied the principles from your one push-up challenge to get us back on the ‘workout train’…We started the ‘Insanity’ workout and our first goal was to just get thru the warm-up…we are now onto our 4th week and getting stronger and stronger day by day. Thanks for the inspiration!” (emphasis added)
As you can see, starting small makes you very likely to start, and good things happen when people start. This couple wanted to exercise and get into shape, but maybe they were psyched out by the difficulty of the program or the amount of effort they’d have to exert. Once they started, however, they worried less about the obstacles and focused on the benefits and excitement of really doing it!
This One Push-up Challenge wouldn’t even exist if not for the small decision I made two years ago to purchase the domain deepexistence.com for $10. At that point, I had no idea my blog would become such an meaningful part of my life and even win some awards. It wasn’t planned.
What project or habit have you been stalling on? Start small and you’ll be amazed at your mindset change.
2. Step small
Starting is critically important, but so is finishing. And the best way to finish and grow along the way is to take small steps. It’s making sure that your successful small start doesn’t end prematurely.
The key benefit of small steps is consistent progress. If you’re not moving forward, you’ll be acutely aware of it, and when you go a while without making progress, you’ll get discouraged. And the neural pathways you started to build might weaken and die out.
The power and effectiveness of taking tiny daily steps towards a goal should not be underestimated.
Long distance running becomes psychological than physical. At some point, you have to focus on taking that next step, because if you think, “Oh man, 11 miles to go and I’m so tired,” you’ll give up. 11 intimidating miles is merely a lot of small unintimidating steps.
In my one push-up challenge, I like to set “micro goals” during push-up sessions. Every time you set a goal (even a micro one!) and complete it, you get a motivation boost. Break up your projects into tiny bite-size pieces and take advantage of this.
Writers: Set the goal of one sentence, or one word. Then set another goal. If you do that enough, you’ll have a book! Entrepreneurs: Set the goal to think of one new business idea, or one new idea to improve your business. Bloggers: Connect with one person. Write one email. Help one blogger. Send one tweet to an important person. Create one small product or a tiny part of a bigger one.
Every one of these things can be built off of. The repetition of completing these small steps will build your confidence, increase your motivation, and most importantly, give you real results.
2 more push-ups. Done! Ok, now 3 more push-ups. Finished! Ok, now 2 more…
3. Form Habits
If you only tried to form good habits and unlearn bad habits, your time would be well spent.
David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn from Duke University ran a diary study using students as well as the general community. They found that 45% of participants’ behavior “tended to be repeated in the same location almost every day.” In other words, 45% of the behavior was due to habit, not active decision-making. (source)
Habits are the framework our lives are built upon.
Many people suggest 30 days to form a habit. That is false information, and it’s common sense as to why. Would it take 30 days to get into a habit of drinking one glass of water per day? Of course not, because it’s simple and easy. Would it take 30 days to make 200 push-ups per day a habit? Of course not, because it is extremely challenging and has to override a number of easier habits.
Starting small and taking small steps are key parts of making a new habit. New habits are like 100 pound weaklings lifting weights. It’s tempting to pick up the 70 pound dumbbell habit, but it’s not the best strategy. Use your prefrontal cortex to prioritize habit-making as very important, and start out with one habit you know you can complete, even if it takes 67 days to establish.
You know something is a habit when it’s more difficult NOT to do it than to do it.
There are few things that feel better than successfully establishing a new habit. And once you learn how to do it once, guess what? You can do it again and again until your habits form a solid framework for a happy and successful life.
4. Trial And Error
Say you want to quit smoking, so you try running whenever you get the urge to smoke. But later you find out that having to run stresses you out and makes your craving to smoke worse, and you cave in. That’s trial and error. You have an idea that might work, and try it to see if it works.
Yeah, I sound stupid talking about something so obvious, but why doesn’t anyone do it? Why do we spend 30 years strategizing about how to get in shape instead of trying every idea that comes to mind and seeing if it works?
Of course, this isn’t to say that strategy doesn’t matter, because it does. And you can employ smart strategies with trial and error to get the best results.
One important aspect of trial and error is to figure out why a particular solution did not work. When you learn why, you can improve your strategy for next time. Even those who have no strategy can succeed with a brute force trial and error campaign. Most of us are simply too scared about the error part of the equation.
Focus is what ties all of personal development together. It allows you to do what you want in life. My definition of focus is choosing one path and deciding not to pay attention to anything that conflicts with it. The world outside of it becomes a blur.
I’ll tell you why it’s important. Say you want to do the previous 4 steps in here. If you can’t focus, you won’t do them. You can have all of the secrets of life, but without focus, it’s worthless information. Focus is the ability to apply what you’ve learned. It matters most.
“There is clear and compelling evidence of one unit being maintained in focal attention and no direct evidence for more than one item of information extended over time.” Brian McElree, PhD – A New York University Psychology Professor
Studies on the mind always reach one conclusion – focusing on one thing works best. As Professor McElree says, focal attention is singular, and that’s why juggling too many ideas at once gets you nowhere. I’m sure you’ve experienced this.
Any time you’re overwhelmed, it’s the result of your focus being divided. It usually happens when trying to sort out a big project. But you can get focused quickly to sort it out.
A focused mind knows the single best action (s)he can take right now. It doesn’t matter if you have 35 papers due in one hour. There is always a single best action to take (though you can choose wrong sometimes, it’s no worse than freezing in place).
Decide, take action, and don’t worry about anything else.
Focus is necessary for any type of personal development because it allows for consistent progress in one area at a time, which is what your brain is best suited for. Focusing is playing to your brain’s strengths.
Trying to grow without focus is like trying to fill up four bowls, each with holes in them. You can switch them out as fast as you want, but you’ll never fill them all up. But if you hold one bowl underneath with holes in it, the volume of water can still fill the bowl up as it’s leaking, and then magical focus fairies will patch the holes up for you.
Darn, I was so close with that analogy, but I had to call in the fairies.
My mission is to help people stay focused in a distracted world. My name is Stephen Guise and if you subscribe to my blog’s list, you’ll get my anti-stress eBook as a gift and personally written updates for new articles 2-5 times a month. Not only that, but I’m about to launch the world’s first interactive personal development story at my previously unannounced website, Interactive Stories Online. You’re the first ones to know!
It’s going to be even more fun than it sounds. Sign up here to keep updated on this exciting stuff!
Many of us live in a culture, where working long hours has become an expectation. We are made to believe that if we’re not working long enough, then we’re not working hard enough.
In this tough economic climate, a lot of us feel under pressure to work long hours just to keep our jobs. And even worse, there are some people, who are actually proud that they work 60 hours or more every week.
But whether you work long hours out of pressure or out of choice, you should consider some of potential negative effects on your life.
And does working longer hours actually improve our productivity?
According to The Economist, the most productive country is France where the average person works less than 40 hours per week. And yet, the typical worker in France creates almost as much wealth per hour, as the leading economies in other countries.
Business leaders are also acknowledging that working long hours doesn’t necessarily make us more productive. Steven Sinofsky, a former president of the Windows division at Microsoft, once wrote in a blog post that “to be blunt, there is no way you can do quality work if you do not give your brain a break. If a company is driving you to work crazy hours like this, either because you want to or they want you to, it is just uncool”.
So is it possible to work less and still be productive? The short answer is yes. And it’s not about having an intricate ‘productivity system’ that lets you manage your to-do lists and get more done.
The key to being more productive to do less and focus on what really matters. It’s also about finding a better balance between your work and personal life.
Here are some of my favorite tips to help you get started:
1. Focus On Your Top 3 Daily Priorities
Having a to-do list can be great for remembering that you need to buy milk, but it doesn’t help much when it comes to being more productive. Start each day, by taking a few minutes to think about and write down your top 3 priorities for the day. Then focus your efforts on getting those 3 things done before anything else. This simple, but powerful habit will significantly boost your productivity.
2. Exercise for 30 Minutes Every Day
We all know that exercise is good for our health. But did you know that exercise is also good for our brain? According to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, John Ratey MD and author of the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain”, exercise will not only make you healthier, but it will also help to reduce stress, improve your learning and think more clearly.
3. Start Work Early & Leave On Time
Ask any ‘successful’ person and the chances are that they start work early. You are less likely to have distractions earlier in the morning and can focus better on your top 3 daily priorities. But in order to be productive, you also need to give your brain a rest, so strive to leave the office on time every day. You’ll not only feel better, but will be more energized and productive the next day.
4. Stop Checking Your Email
We all know that constantly checking our email is a bad idea, but many of us still continue to do it. According to a study conducted by the University of California Irvine and the U.S. Army, taking a break from email can reduce your stress levels and help you to concentrate more. So schedule 2 or 3 times in the day when you will deal with your email. And the rest of the time, turn it off and forget about it.
5. Set Limits for Everything
According to Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Give yourself too much time to complete a given task and there is a good chance you’ll find a way to use up all that time. So try giving yourself less time to complete tasks e.g. give yourself an hour to write that report instead of 2 hours or give yourself 15 minutes to check your mail instead of 30 minutes.
6. Apply the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule simply states that in many situations, about 20% of the effort will drive 80% of the results e.g. 20% of your customers drive 80% of your business. We can apply this rule to improve our productivity by focusing on the 20% of tasks, projects, emails, meetings etc. that drive 80% of the results. So focus on the activities that really matter and spend less time on everything else.
7. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking does not make us more productive. In fact, splitting our attention has an impact on our productivity, concentration and energy. “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes”, says David Meyer, a cognitive scientist that the University of Michigan. So if you want to be more productive, then focus on doing one thing at a time.
8. Attend Fewer Meetings
Most of us would agree that business meetings are one the biggest time wasters. So if you want to more productive, attend fewer meetings. Firstly, check to see if the meeting is actually needed. Could you resolve the matter over email or with a quick 5-minute chat? If you do need to attend, ensure that there is a clear goal and agenda for the meeting e.g. make a decision, brainstorm a problem etc. And then ensure the meeting starts on time and finishes on time (or ideally earlier).
9. Start An Information Diet
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information these days. Tim Ferris, the author of “The 4 Hour Work Week” recommends going on a ‘low information diet’. Do you really need to read all those emails, blogs, newspapers, magazines etc.? And do you really need to spend all that time on Facebook or watching TV? So spend the next week on your own low information diet. Cut out as much unnecessary information as you can and watch your productivity skyrocket.
10. Create Thinking Time
Getting out of work and into different environments also helps to improve our productivity. Some people think best going for long walks; others think best in the shower; others like to go to art galleries or museums etc. According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the moderate sound levels in coffee shops actually promote more cognitive creativity than the quiet of a library. Everyone needs a place to think. And if you don’t already know your place, then you should seek it out and spend time their regularly.
So what’s the best way to get started? Well, I wouldn’t recommend trying to apply all these 10 tips at once. Just pick one tip at a time and put it into practice each week. And most importantly, make use of the extra time that you create to do more of what you love.
Omer Khan is a husband, father and creator of the Relax Focus Enjoy blog. He’s passionate about personal productivity and helping people to create more time to do what they love. He lives with his family in the ‘sunny’ Seattle area. Pick up your free e-book “Recharge Your Life” when you visit Relax Focus Enjoy.
Life to me has often been very unusual. On one hand I would compare myself to others who were better off in areas I wanted to strive for. And on the other hand, I would witness these same people lead unfulfilled lives.
Whichever way I looked at it, …
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When I’m procrastinating and not feeling motivated to do something, it’s usually because the task itself might be unpleasant or uncomfortable. For instance, if I need to clean the floor, but I really don’t like cleaning, the…
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When I first started using affirmations I didn’t really know what I was doing. I figured that if I said a statement enough times, I’d start to believe it and it’d improve my life.
After talking to life coaches, practicing for a few years, studying the subject and seeing what has been most effective, I’ve honed the use of affirmations. And today I’d like to share their power with you.
What is an affirmation?
Affirmations are statements that affirm something about yourself. For instance, “I am kind.” Generally speaking, an affirmation will start with “I” and then say something about who you are, what you do, what you are like, etc.
Why are affirmations effective?
Affirmations are effective because they harness the power of your mind and of true intention. When you say “I am…”, you are deliberately stating who you are and focusing your mental energy on what follows. You are commanding yourself to be that thing.
Affirmations are effective because they allow you to deliberately train and re-program your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is responsible for most of the thought-processes that take place every day in your head. Most of these thoughts are automatic and unconscious.
When you are able to influence which thoughts you think on a subconscious level, you open up an infinite world of possibilities. When you can take hold of your thinking, you can take hold of reality. This is one step to being able to be your own life coach and create your dreams.
What’s the best way to do my affirmations?
Start simply with creating your affirmation. For instance, “I am kind.” If you’re working with a life coach, they might be able to help you come with some good affirmations.
Now say this aloud to yourself, “I am kind.” (If you’re around people, saying it in your head is okay too.)
How did that feel? Maybe you didn’t feel much, or if you’re like me right now at this moment, I was not feeling particularly kind or mean… just neutral. So now I have entered into my conscious mind the FACT that I am kind. We have just shifted the attention and focus of our mind onto our kindness. Beforehand we were not as aware of it.
This is the one part that I overlooked the most, but it is the most important. Words are just words until you actually FEEL them. When you bring your feeling into what you’re saying, it starts to actually create the reality for you.
Be sure that when you’re saying your affirmation, that you FEEL the truth of it inside yourself.
Believing your affirmation might be trickier – depending on how believable you find it. It’s a good idea to start with things that you can have an easy time believing. You might find it hard to believe that you’re going to make a million dollars this year. But you might find it easy to believe that you’re going to make $10,000 more this year than you did last year. You’ll want to stretch your beliefs, but it might be wise to start small so that you can actually believe it.
Consider, what does it feel like to believe something? What is belief? Experiment with saying your affirmation with belief, with conviction, and see what increases your belief, and what causes you to doubt it. To deal with doubts, you may try writing them down, questioning them, journaling them, or talking to your life coach about them.
Imagine what the effect of saying an affirmation once today is. Now imagine the effect of saying it 10 times today. Now consider the effect of saying it 10 times every day for the next two weeks. AND at the same time feeling it and believing it.
Do you see the difference?
If you really want to harness the power of affirmations, be disciplined, consistent, and repeat them. You may not feel very differently after the first several repetitions, but if you bring your feeling and belief into it, the changes you’re looking for will begin to manifest.
Always keep them in the affirmative. Don’t say “I’m not mean.” Instead say, “I am kind.” If you’re around others, you can say them in your head. Create them with a life coach for maximum effectiveness. Say them every day, consistently. Working them into your daily routine will make it more automatic.
You step into your empty home after another monotonous day at your 9 to 5 job and all of a sudden, you begin to wonder to yourself: when was the last time I let go and just spent an entire day without following the same, exact routine? Am I ever going to have the chance to seek out quality time for myself?
If this situation sounds eerily familiar to you, then have no fear! Sometimes, the key to having an adventurous life is simply to tweak your daily lifestyle. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get up and move your entire family to the Caribbean (come to think of it, that doesn’t sound THAT bad of an idea). Here are just four tips that will help you transform your lackluster life… for the better:
Step out of your comfort zone.
Okay, I know. It’s easier said than done, but you will eventually have to face your fears head on… that is, if you want to move forward in life. So instead of wallowing in self-pity for something that could have been, take action. Go ask that cute guy that you have had your eyes on if he wants to grab a cup of coffee. Tell your best friend that you will go skydiving with her this week. Don’t worry about falling flat on your face, or embarrassing yourself in front of all of your friends; we all do that at some point in our lives. Worry about not being able to experience an amazing opportunity because you were too busy fearing the consequences. So long as you don’t break the law or risk hurting yourself, then you are good to go!
You can’t gain amazing cultural experiences without first socializing with people from different cultures. Sounds obvious, right? As long as you are open-minded and free to new ideas, you will meet a bunch of individuals from different walks of life who will provide you with a large range of perspectives. Be aware, though, your outlook may change on life radically.
Flex your brain muscles.
And by that, I mean make time for a class. Anything from healthy cooking to vinyasa yoga will work. Don’t limit yourself to a course that you deem “useful” to your career. Chances are, the most interesting hobbies are acquired when you stretch past your boundaries. Have no idea what kind of class you want to take? No worries! Just take a look at the course catalog for your local community college or an online program. You will never know; you very well just may end up learning Pig Latin.
Change up your routine.
We are all creatures of routine. Can you blame us? From the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, we have a certain set of tasks to complete. These tasks may include anything from looking after a pair of middle school teenagers or even taking out the trash for your parents (hey, it’s not like you can just neglect your children or your chores anytime soon). So, next time you find yourself dreading your next morning run, go a different route in the evening. Better yet, find an exercise buddy to come with you as you explore your town on foot! Okay, so maybe you’re not an avid runner. Just gather your family for a random night of board games, movies, and popcorn. Everyone, including yourself, will thank you later.
Just because you have two kids to take care of or homework to finish up every day doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doomed to an eternal state of routine. Sometimes, all it takes to add a little spice to your life is to step foot outside your house for once and take the opportunities that are handed to you.
Best of luck!
Shellin is a new writer who spends much of her free time constantly running, meeting new people, and seeking out new experiences in life.