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.

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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.

 

 

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!

Me & my personal goals – so how are we doing?

If you’ve been following my blog since around December, you’ve probably seen some posts about my Personal Growth project – an idea for a plan for 2018 to achieve some goals.

In short, it meant that I wanted to spend some time on activities that can contribute to my personal development and that simply make me feel good and happy. Some of these things were reading and writing more, learning more about social media and digital marketing or trying to find a publisher for my book.

These goals are quite time-consuming sometimes (especially in the challenging busy period in my life that I’m in –> read due date soon!). Well, I guess I like challenges 😉 The goals are related to each other and focus on the same interests:reading, learning, writing, doing research about psychology-related topics. 

I used to give weekly updates in January and then decided that with my full-time job, pregnancy, my other little one at pre-school age, and with some ot

her time-consuming responsibilities as well, the weekly updates weren’t very convenient for me. It meant that sometimes I was focusing on reviewing and thinking what to write for an update blog post rather than taking action and doing activities which would take me closer to achieving my goals. So, for example, instead of such a blog post I could be completing documents for a publisher.

Also, I’ve realised that learning more about social media and digital marketing is A LOOOOOOOOT bigger a topic than I used to think. It’s HUGE. The amount of advice available online and all the little aspects that I should be aware of and try doing (some plug ins, SEO, Google analytics, learning how to grow my audience on Instagram account) are incredibly time-consuming, and even breaking it down into many little steps and tasks is simply quite difficult.

Social media, different platforms, websites, and the Internet in general have been changing and developing so rapidly that understanding many of the technicalities seems like a very long process. However, it’s interesting and I believe it’s worth learning and being up to date, especially as we use the Internet SO MUCH nowadays in nearly every aspect of our lives – shopping, businesses, writing books, emailing, work, reading news, online banking…

I’ve been having LOTS of home-related paperwork to do, as well as organising stuff for the new baby. I still have a longer list of things to do with regard to that and recently it has begun to feel like: I tick 2-3 tasks off and in the next few hours or days a few other tasks have to be added, so instead of making my list shorter I just feel I keep replacing tasks with other tasks! It’s frustrating but I’m trying to do whatever I can to organise everything as much as possible before the birth.

I’ve had to slow down due to lack of energy and feel some days very unproductive, and I think that in other circumstances I’d be more worried or annoyed about it but in my current situation I just accept this.

I have some blog posts scheduled so that’s super helpful. I also started to do some videos on YouTube. It’s a work in progress. It allows me to be creative, flexible and that’s a lot of fun! I really enjoy writing the blog and shooting and editing the videos where I draw what I talk about (please see an example here and let me know what do you think about it!). I’m learning how to improve them every week and feel that, although I don’t tick every single task off my list quickly, I’ve been learning and progressing in my personal development a great deal since the beginning of this year … and that’s what the results of this Personal Growth project should feel like, right?

I look forward to what life brings and how the project will continue in different months, in different circumstances. It’s just interesting for me how as a busy active parent I can make things work, and how I’ll need to modify my daily plans in order to adjust to different situations. And … what the final result will be, how much I will have learnt, and also what I will have managed to achieve.

WHAT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PERSONAL GOALS THIS YEAR? 

THE THREE BIGGEST PRODUCTIVITY MYTHS – Multitasking 1/3

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THE MULTITASKING MYTH

Around a decade ago some employers suddenly started to ask during work interviews: Are you able to multitask? Some still do this although many people are already familiar with the most recent studies which indicate that multitasking is impossible in humans and is merely switching from one task to another. On top of that, multitasking decreases productivity by up to 30-40%.

It may sometimes be okay to combine a physical activity with a cognitive one, e.g. listening to an audio book while riding a bike or washing dishes, but many employers got the idea of multitasking completely wrong. Some of them believe that multitasking is needed and can be done in busy office environments where one needs to answer a lot of phone calls, reply to emails and provide face-to-face customer service. No, it can’t.

Research shows that trying to multitask will actually make you slower and also … lower your IQ! Our human brain can focus only on one task at a time and people who try to work this way and avoid multitasking achieve the best results.

Researchers from the University of Sussex in England carried out a study using MRI scans. The findings revealed that people who spend time using multiple devices, for example texting while watching TV, had less brain density in a part of the cortex which is responsible for cognitive and emotional control. Emotional control is a simple term but some of you may wonder what cognitive control means. It basically means that your brain allows you to make decisions based rather on our goals than habits and reactions. It allows you to be flexible and adapt more easily in different situations.

If you are interested to read more about multitasking I’d recommend this book: The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw (available here).

Avoid the 3 Biggest Productivity Traps

  1. CATCHING UP

Working more hours often to catch up with the demands at work, or while working on your personal projects, sometimes ends up as a normal working pattern that lasts weeks or months. Working some extra weekends may be a good solution once in a while. It’s really satisfying to feel we are ahead and everything is nicely organised and ready for Monday morning. However, if you do it for a longer period of time, for example a few weeks, your productivity, attention and energy will decrease enormously. According to studies, working approximately 40 hours a week, is ideal in terms of our productivity. Working more than that is a great recipe for burnout, depression and exhaustion! If that’s what you need right now then keep going! … but I’m sure it’s not.

2. EXTRA ACTIVITIES
Many pieces of advice about productivity come down to one thing: try to squeeze in various productive, healthy and personally beneficial activities into your day, whenever you can. I’ve read tonnes of them by now:

  • if you are on a break you can quickly check and reply to your personal emails
  • read and watch news while eating your breakfast
  • listen to audio books while doing gardening/cleaning your house/looking after children
  • write, read and work while you are on a bus or train
  • use an app to learn a foreign language while waiting in a queue

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Some of the advice may be really good and useful for you as long as you don’t try to squeeze in too much. Otherwise you will end up:

– without any breaks and time for recharging your batteries

– with no opportunities to do something without using many of your cognitive skills, such as walking without occupying your mind with work and foreign language courses. Even cleaning house or gardening can be great opportunities to let your brain rest a bit from hundreds of emails, tasks and queries related to your work and projects.

If you forget about your needs to rest and disconnect you will feel tired more often and become a lot less productive.

3. LOW IMPACT VS HIGH IMPACT TASKS.
Every work has some more and less important tasks. You are probably familiar with the 20/80 Pareto principle, which believe me actually works! And it’s pretty straightforward. It says that:

20% of your input on tasks and effort translates into 80% of results.

Make a list of tasks that you need to do on a regular basis – to make it simple choose a maximum of 10 tasks that you tend to do most often. Then think which 2 tasks from this list give you actually the most meaningful and biggest results.

We often tend to spend a lot of time on things like answering emails and making phone calls – and although these things are important, we usually do them way too often. For example, on average most of us check emails every 15 minutes while studies show that to be most effective and productive you should do it only 3x a day if you do an office job. If you can check and reply to your emails only 2-3 x a week, then that’s even better. Of course, your personal email can be checked daily but hopefully you don’t use it as well as a work email.

If you are writing a book your high impact task will be writing and then maybe editing or researching your materials. Plan ahead to do your high-impact tasks when you have most energy, for example, 2-3 hours every morning. Try to do everything to avoid interruptions then. Maybe you can get up earlier, switch your mobile to airplane mode and let others know that this is a very important time for you when you need to work and can deal with their questions and requests later? Whatever you do try not to skip the planning stage which is crucial.

How to stay more productive? And why time-management isn’t the right answer.

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Nowadays we receive 5 times more information on a daily basis than just a few decades ago. We are expected to juggle many different roles and responsibilities and we constantly feel that we should be more productive.

There is a bit of a paradox here that people believe in. We feel we should work more and faster in order to be more productive. If you are a factory worker that’s probably the case but in most other jobs in order to be more productive we need to SLOW DOWN!

When did time start to matter to people SO MUCH? I find history quite fascinating so let’s just go through a few interesting facts:

  • In 1275, the first mechanical clock was invented in England. The oldest working clocks usually did not have any face and told the time by striking the hours.
  • Pocket watches started to be produced in the 16thcentury but showed only hours. Minute hands were added to the clocks in the 1680s. Then the second hands were added around 10 years later.
  • Mass production of watches started in the 19th century and was related to industrial changes.
  • The first wrist watches were wore by women and often used rather as a piece of jewellery than a device to measure time.

Apparently before people used watches If they wanted to tell how long something may take they would describe it by giving an example of an activity that was well known e.g. “like eating a banana”, so then everyone knew that they meant a very short period of time.

Time management used to be crucial in the industrial economy but nowadays, in the knowledge economy (when we use our knowledge to create values and products), it is ONLY ONE OUT OF A FEW important factors which can improve our effectiveness, productivity and work-life balance.

Actually managing your energy and tasks is a lot more important than time-management. Instead of worrying about passing hours and days and how we can squeeze more tasks into small blocks of time, we need to divert attention into more significant aspects, more innovative techniques and solutions which can help in achieving optimal productivity.

We feel most productive when we do a lot of things and work longer hours. Many people think then that to accomplish more you need to put more effort in, sleep fewer hours and work additionally at weekends, to be always ahead of competition! There is a bit of truth in it. Nothing that’s great comes easily and if you want to have exceptional results you need to put a lot of work and energy into whatever you are doing – writing a book, working on your business plan or creating a project for your university course or work. However, working more hours won’t make you more productive. Studies found that we should work, ideally, 35-40 hours a week in order to achieve the best results. Working more than that may work for very short periods of time—for example, a few days—but in the long-term working a lot will make you exhausted and depressed and you are at high risk of burnout. To be more productive focus on slowing down MORE!

Remember about regular breaks and getting 7-8 hours of sleep everyday as well. We all seem to know these simple rules but they are neglected by SO many of us!

Time usage is vital in our lives (that’s why we all keep looking at watches, and the most popular word in the English language is…time!) so I don’t want to say that this is not important but there seem to be other more crucial factors which can decide how effective, productive and successful we are. Focus on managing your energy levels and attention and consider how you can avoid distractions. Also, focusing on the right tasks seems a straightforward rule but is often neglected by many people who instead of spending some time on reflection, prioritising, planning and reviewing try to do more tasks and take work home.

What do you do to boost your productivity?