How to cut out all meaningless stuff?

Yellow and White Ceramic Coffee Mug on Brown Wooden Surface With Black Eyeglasses

There are many tempting things in the world!

Every week try to cut off or limit something that doesn’t matter much to you but takes up your time—it may be complaining, Facebook, TV, gossiping or worrying about the future. Don’t feel bad though if you procrastinate a bit sometimes; according to research this is normal and everyone does it. It’s important not to feel guilty about it and make sure that it doesn’t take too much of your time and attention.

It’s easy to get into meaningless chats or meet with negative people not because we really want to but because for some reason we feel we should. When you start to say NO to some invitations you may lose some friends. But then, are they real friends if they don’t understand your need to work on something important to you so you can’t hang out with them as much as you used to?

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The average adult person who has children has for themselves only around 2 hours a day. Due to lack of energy these 2 hours are often spent in front of the TV in the evenings. Think how you can organise this time differently. Surely you need to rest a bit but, to tell the truth, TV isn’t a good method for gaining more energy. Maybe you could allow only half an hour a day for TV (and occasionally watch a film, say at weekends) and spend the remaining time on some exercises, such as yoga from a YouTube channel.

Exercise is a very effective cure for fatigue.

Way too often we spend our time also on… looking for different things. Try to be organised and dedicate a week or a whole month to de-cluttering your house. Plan what you will do each day to tidy your stuff up. A method by Marie Kondo is very popular and helpful nowadays. Have you heard of it yet?

  • Try to find a place for everything in your home and group things together. Don’t keep coins or hairpins in a lot of different places at home. One type of item = one place at your home.
  • Organising your clothes (including the ones in the laundry and in any other place at home), on the same day works wonders. Put into a bin everything you haven’t used for a few years but think that you “might use it one day’. If you didn’t need something for 4 years, do you really think you will need it now or in the near future?
  • Many of your documents, notes, and other similar things also could go in the bin. Don’t deceive yourself; some of these things you will never use or need again!

Try a meaningless stuff diet and see how well it tastes! 😉

How to avoid distractions?

A simple distraction such as a notification (often not important at all!) on your mobile means that each time you lose your focus and, according to studies, need 4 to 15 minutes to concentrate and motivate yourself again to keep working effectively on your tasks!

It was found that office workers are distracted every 3 minutes on average!

Data from 2016 indicated that 3 out of 4 employers believe that every day an average employee loses 2 hours of work due to distractions. While you are doing your work, write down all the distractions that happen for a week or two and analyse them. Think what you could do to minimise or avoid them!

We get easily distracted when we are tired. Remember about taking regular breaks, going for a walk and catching some fresh air. Breathe, eat well, drink a lot of water and some green tea. These SIMPLE (but often neglected!) pieces of advice will help you to stay calmer, more focused and more patient.

If you can, and surely sometimes you can, turn your mobile off or change it to airplane mode.

Free stock photo of hands, coffee, iphone, smartphone

One of the greatest pieces of advice, although quite difficult to follow at first, is to get up earlier to avoid distractions: requests, phone calls, noise, notifications, and questions from others! You’d be amazed how much meaningful work can be done in the early morning hours. Don’t get up earlier to catch up with emails or to clean your home! Get up earlier to do something creative, something that’s meaningful for you, something that will give you exceptional results and will bring you closer to achieving your goals. Write, read, work on your business or project, for example. This is a precious time.

If you get up 1 hour earlier every day you will gain 7 extra hours for something that matters to you! How does that sound? Seven quiet precious hours. I had a long period of time when I was able to get up 2 hours earlier than usual. That’s 14 hours a week! Now while in advanced pregnancy I have had to change my schedule because of the need for more sleep. Remember, not every piece of advice will work the same for everyone but I can say that this tip which I read about in What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfastby Laura Vanderkam (available here) made a huge improvement in my life.

Experts advise that to change your habit and make this morning routine easier, ideally, you should get up at the same time every single day. If you allow yourself to sleep longer at weekends, then you’ll feel that it’s more difficult to get up early during weekdays.

If you feel it’s too difficult to do this, maybe try a shorter period of time; for example, 30 mins extra in the morning—that will also make a difference. Just remember to make sure that you still can sleep 7-8 hours a day.

Some people like to have their Power Hour in the morning so they can feel they’ve achieved something before everyone else gets up. Power Hour means that you dedicate one hour where you put 100% effort into a dedicated project, activity or task. Or it may mean for  some people, for example: 20 mins spent on some creative work, 20 mins of reading and 20 mins of exercising. Check what will work best for you. Knowing that you achieve something early in the morning will make you more satisfied and put you in a more positive mood which will last for hours during the day.

Energy-draining forms of resting

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Yes, you read this correctly. Some activities seem to be helping us to relax but actually drain a lot of our energy because they need a great deal of attention and focus.

For example, using the Internet may seem like fun but as you know it’s a really huge time waster and energy and attention drainer! Funny videos on You Tube may feel like a great way to relax because they make you smile or laugh but it’s a bit like eating chocolate—it works only for a moment and after such a break you actually feel more tired.

The Apple company confirmed in 2016 that their device users unlock their phones 80 times a day on average. This means 6 to 8 times an hour! Sounds unbelievable, right? Make a simple experiment. You can check how much time you waste on your phone by using one of these apps: Checky, Menthal or the recently created AntiSocial. These apps will allow you to see a lot of different interesting information about your phone usage. For instance, AntiSocial will show you if you use your phone or social media more or less when compared with someone who has a similar demographic as you. Researchers advise the use of one of these apps for around 2 weeks to be able to see a more accurate reflection of your real habits.

It is important to be aware how much time we waste on the Internet or on our phone, especially when it’s associated with factors such as low self-esteem, depression, insomnia and, of course, contributes to our delaying or failing to achieve our personal goals.

Many of us say that we have NO TIME. Check the results of your phone, tablet and PC usage and think again – do you really lack time or can you use your time more effectively?

Spending time with SOME people is another activity which looks like a form of resting but may actually drain a lot of your energy. You perhaps don’t feel like meeting some people but at the same time you think you probably should see and speak to them (family friends; a colleague that you see once or twice a year because neither of you feel you should call each other more often; a work colleague that you don’t really like or can’t trust but you feel you should sit with them during lunch time). Meeting people just for the sake of it and having some meaningless conversations can be really energy draining. It is often more about being polite and pretending than being really interested in socialising or what another person wants to tell you.

Try a brisk walk, mindfulness, stretching, or reading a book instead! Did you know that only 6 minutes of reading can decrease your stress level by nearly 70%? 

If you think of different activities during your usual week you may find more things like that. Surely watching TV is one of the examples.

What activities actually make you feel better, more confident, stronger, more optimistic and creative? Think what things make you feel like you have more energy and do them WAY MORE OFTEN!

What about unimportant meaningless stuff—don’t waste your precious time on it. Don’t let others decide what may be good for you. Don’t do things just to satisfy others and just because something may look good. Often no-one will remember and care. You have only one precious life and really, you should live it the way you want to.

 

 

7 Worst Email Mistakes Everyone Makes

  1. Replying to emails,a well-known rule: “If it takes you 1-2 minutes, do it right away”. 

If you answer all your emails very quickly then before you manage to go through all of them you may sometimes start to get replies to your replies …which you’ve just managed to send…

Some emails just create more emails. It’s like a never-ending story. If something isn’t very clear or you think it may take a few emails being sent back and forth, it’s probably better to make a phone call (during the time when you have a block-phone-calls time planned of course!).

Use the batch processing technique. According to studies, you will be most productive if you check and reply to emails only 3x a day or if you can, even more rarely.

    2. Writing over-long emails.                 

It’s difficult to keep some replies short. It’s a bit like an art and we need to mindfully practise it, but once you decide that you want to write, say, a maximum of 4-5 sentences per email, it will work wonders.

3. Using shortcuts,short forms or abbreviations when they are not needed or not well known.

It may look like we don’t really have time to reply to the email — e.g. people in some companies write KR instead of Kind Regards. According to studies, many people feel that such emails look like the sender is lazy or unprofessional.

     4. Bad grammar or spelling.

Research carried out by psychologists from North Carolina State University showed that others, who don’t know us in person, judge us a great deal based on errors in emails. If we send emails with errors, others will perceive us as less intelligent and trustworthy!

     5. Using”Reply All”too often.

Most office workers are quite busy. Emails are a biggie on the distractions list and yet we are often unnecessarily cc-ed in emails that we don’t need to read. Sometimes we just need a one-word or one-line outcome instead of the whole email trail. Sometimes it may be good to make someone aware of something but people are very BUSY nowadays and many wouldn’t like to receive ping-pong emails… Before you click on “reply to all’ think twice if it’s really needed.

     6. Use your subject line PROPERLY.

If you have a query, don’t put Hi or Just a Quick Question in your subject line…  Sometimes it will delay a reply. Sometimes it causes real problems to find an old email quickly. Try to name things as specifically as possible in the email title, e.g. XQZ project – approval needed. Or maybe something like: Issue with payment for employee KR. Feb 2018.

    7. Marking not very important emails as urgent ones!

Oh, I know some people who overuse this so much. It’s not just annoying, it’s kind of painful for the eyes. A receptionist where I worked (I worked there only once every few weeks, by the way) added me to a circular list that was sent to all professionals in the building, in higher and lower positions, and then I started to get some emails from her… sometimes quite a lot of them, all marked as urgent:

  • “There is no milk in the fridge. It will be sorted out in an hour” – marked us urgent!
  • “There is a problem with the sink in one of the toilets on the first floor!” – marked as urgent!
  • “Has anyone seen a green pen somewhere in reception? It’s Katie’s! Please let me know if you did”. – also marked as urgent…

I’m busy, I mean BUSY, and I get all these urgent messages. Sometimes there are 10 or so in a day. Oh, sweet Lord, help me! It always interested me: How on earth has no-one told the receptionist yet to stop marking all her emails as urgent!

And a personal request to all bosses all over the world:

It’s great that you are able and happy to work at 11pm and then again at 2am and 4am. Fantastic. Congratulations on not needing any sleep but …

  • if you have employees who use work mobiles and don’t switch the sound off just in case of an emergency… or
  • if you know that your employee may skim the emails before getting to the office and get stressed with issues at work before even starting their shift …

please have mercy!

Just skimming emails (to see whether there is something super-urgent we should be aware of before entering the office!) can raise blood pressure and heart rate at the same time and it feels like we are working from 5am rather than 8 or 9am. It’s so difficult to forget about the distraction especially if we care about our jobs or want to be perceived as reliable workers. Please don’t… Why not leave the emails in the DRAFT folder and click SEND on them first thing in the morning when you start your shift? Surely, most of you don’t start your work with a meeting every single day and if you do you could send the pre-prepared emails minutes before the meeting from your mobile.

Have I missed anything? Please comment if you know of any other email-related sins people make?

JUST DO IT? WAIT!

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JUST DO IT – the famous phrase from NIKE’s advert has become popular in motivational posts, videos and speeches. Why wait? Stop thinking about it for ages. Stop procrastinating. Just do it! Right? No. Not really. Not always.

Some people tend to dwell too much on prep and planning stages or postpone things too much but taking actions mindlessly just to do something related to their goals is not the smartest move either.

You need to have an action plan; a good, well-thought-out action plan where you write down your goals, particular actions, steps and tasks.

Only 3% of adults actually write their goals down.

This is one of the reasons why over 90% of people fail working on their New Year resolutions by 15th January each year!

There have been a number of studies which indicate that people who write their goals down are 50% more successful in achieving what they plan.

You should always keep the note with your goals with you; for example, in your wallet. Why is it so important? If you keep your goals and action steps in your mind (especially if you have an active lifestyle):

  • you may forget about some of the goals or actions sometimes; an average human being has around 1,500 thoughts per minute – you can’t always ensure that your goals are kept on top of all these thoughts; often there is no energy & time for it
  • you may often feel that there are other more important or urgent things that are written, for example, in your emails
  • you won’t treat your personal goals as seriously as work or college/university-related assignments and projects (a lot of these are given to you in a written form or you are expected to write these things down!)

You need to come up with deadlines so your personal goals matter and are treated as any other, for example work goals. Once you have these important aspects sorted out then yes, take action!

And remember to book some time for reviewing your goals and plans because you will notice quickly what mistakes could be avoided, what works and what doesn’t, and what you can do to improve your working style.

Don’t JUST mindlessly DO IT!

How to study for exams – a highly effective technique. 

When we study for an exam, we usually have a few chapters to go through, from either one or more textbooks and perhaps some articles, and learn the material for an exam. It contains important terms, dates, definitions and some facts. You’ve read (or not) some of this material ages ago and surely don’t remember or know many important facts right now.

There is one very effective technique that can help you a lot.

How can you study to learn so much and quickly?

I’ve been using this technique for years and it always work very well for me so hopefully some of you will find it very useful too! 😉

  • (Obviously) You probably don’t have time to re-read the chapters so just skim them, looking for and highlighting the most important information. Many of the most crucial dates and terms will already be in tables or marked in some way by the authors to make them more visible which will simplify this stage a bit. Don’t highlight all the pages! Just dates, facts, definitions and a few examples!
  • Once you choose what’s most important go through your book again and make handwritten notes. In a notebook, not your book. Write down the highlighted sentences and terms. Try to be as selective as possible. Each time you go back to the text you should be able to narrow the information down more and more. The important bit here is to re-read some parts of the highlighted text and try to write the most vital things in your own words. Sometimes it may seem impossible to paraphrase something like a difficult term so just copy the authors’ words. It’s for your own use only anyway but you will need to use your own words during the exam unless you remember some quotes and then can use the exact wording. Make your notes interesting. The brain doesn’t like boring linear notes so adding some small mind maps and using colours or writing some words with a thicker pen can help with this. Funny or abstract little drawings on the sides? That’s what will help your brain remember stuff even more.
  • Take a break. Come back after a small meal and a walk or some exercises, andcarefully re-read the text. Read it out loud! Imagine that you are a teacher and try to explain the material to your students (you can speak to plants or books while practising this). It’s a very effective exercise that will help you to remember things better.
  • The next step is to take an A4 page and, bearing in mind that you have only one page for this task, summarise everything that is most important/worth remembering from the chapter you’ve skimmed and made some notes on. So basically, all the notes from one chapter now need to be narrowed down and summarised further: 1 chapter = 1 page. You decide what may be useful during the exams. You won’t be able to remember EVERYTHING anyway unless you’ve been studying hard all year—even then you’ll probably forget some facts. Again, make your notes colourful, use arrows, circle and underline the most important things to make things clear and easy to remember. Once this is done, you just need to re-read it the same day and the next day, and if you have time after 5 -7 days too. Read it while trying to understand, and if possible even imagine the meaning, of every single sentence. Turn the page upside down and try to say what you’ve read about, again like you are teaching someone about it. So, the rule is that a summary of every chapter goes on one page. You can write this using very tiny letters, but make sure it’s handwritten and colourful!
  • A day or ideally two before the exam, try to summarise your chapters even MOREall summaries of the textbook now go to one two-sided A4 page! So usually you can allow 20-30% of the page to each chapter’s summary, but it really depends on the number of chapters you have. So basically, you end up having one piece of paper with all the most important knowledge that your textbook contains. Again, make it super colourful and attractive – so you actually will want to read it. Make the letters quite small. Re-read this final summary a few times. Remember to take breaks! Keep the longer summaries (1 chapter = 1 page) with you and read them slowly in the morning before the exam, without rushing so as not to get stressed and to avoid doing these final repetitions a bit mindlessly. Then re-read your two-sided final summary with all the chapters on it.

If you follow all the steps, then you are more than ready for your exam!

Good luck!

THE 3 BIGGEST PRODUCTIVITY MYTHS – Motivation 3/3

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THE MOTIVATIONAL MYTH

There is something called motivation, I do agree, but some of us often try to rely on it instead of believing in ourselves more and taking action. We can do what we want if we focus on managing tasks and our energy instead of constantly seeking inspiration and motivation to drag us towards our goals. It doesn’t work that way.

If you enjoy doing what you are doing and working on then you don’t really need any external motivation, do you? You do something because you like it or love it. Some of us think that motivation precedes action. Does it? We have to have some internal motivation but that often shows up during or after activities we do, not before. Otherwise, can you imagine that a successful sportsman waits for inspiration and exercise only when he or she feels like it?

If you don’t enjoy what you are doing then watching a motivational video won’t help; surely, it’s not a long-term solution anyway.

You need to find out EXACTLY why you don’t like something and consider what you can do to change this. Is the task too boring or difficult? What can you do about it?

  • Can you make some modifications to make the task more attractive? Can you do something to enjoy it a bit more while doing it, e.g. listening to an audio book or your favourite music while cleaning?
  • If it’s difficult can you watch some tutorials about it or take up a course or two so you can extend your skills and knowledge and become a bit more of an expert in it?
  • If you can’t find a way to improve anything, then a technique such as Pomodoro may be useful (blocks of 25 mins of work using a timer). You can read more about this technique here . Pomodoro timers are available online for free.

Read about and listen to productivity tips but also do spend some time on observing and considering what really works for you and what doesn’t because even the best methods won’t work for everyone in the same way.