Productive Mondays! Are you a night owl or a morning bird?

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To tell the truth I’ve always struggled to define myself as either a night owl or a morning bird. Which one are you?

…On a daily basis fully 85% of the people follow an early bird schedule in the morning, but given any choice in the matter, only 22% would continue to do so.” (read more about it here )

Some periods in my life I could say that definitely working and/or studying late evenings or even at night felt most productive to me, and yet on different occasions (depending on my circumstances such as having vs not having children, work shifts etc.) I felt that I kept falling asleep around 9pm-ish but felt so much better in the mornings! Why is that, then? I was curious as to how to find out how my natural biological clock works and if this is even still possible in a world as artificial as the one we have created: we have light at night and technological devices that distract us all the time.

Thomas Edison apparently used to promote his idea of the light bulb a lot by emphasising that future generations won’t sleep much and they will be able to have longer days due to the breakthrough of electric light, and because of this they will be able to achieve more! He wasn’t entirely mistaken BUT… sleeping less than 7-8 hours isn’t part of our human nature and leads to many negative consequences, like bad mood, stress and even to some health conditions… We can control light but it doesn’t do us much good, does it?

On the other hand, when we count how much time we sleep in our BUSY, PRODUCTIVITY-BASED & ACTIVE lifestyles it seems like a huge waste of time and we feel that if we could sleep “just a little bit less” we could accomplish SO MUCH MORE!

I’ve read the book The Power of When (available HERE ) and it got me thinking… The author suggests that each of us can be one of four (rather than just two) types of people or actually… as he prefers to call it – type of an animal. It was great to find this book because it sounds so unfair to categorise ALL PEOPLE simply in one out of two categories: early riser or night owl.

It looks like I’m a bear type and I feel most energetic if I can get up when the sun is rising and go to sleep when it’s getting dark outside. It is a bit problematic where I live, in England, because during most of the cold months days are really short and I can’t do everything just within 6-7 hours a day because that’s the only time we get light! So although I may be a bear, I still need to make a choice and decide whether I can feel better and accomplish more when going to bed very late or by getting up very early. I tried both.

According to studies, night owls can often be associated with intelligence and creativity but there are so many more different benefits that you get when you get up in the morning (read more here).

I think the real breakthrough in my thinking about it was a book which I didn’t want to buy because I felt that the title was somewhat silly… What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: How to Achieve More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam. It turned out to be a fantastic and useful book (available HERE ).

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The author convinced me that getting up earlier and not spending my time on ANYTHING I have to do – such as cleaning, working, cooking, etc. – but on the most meaningful tasks and activities which make me happy, are connected to my passions and are important to me, can be a great way of improving my work-life balance and life satisfaction! Lack of tiredness and little or no distractions help me to achieve a lot more in the mornings in terms of completing different tasks related to writing, for example. Yes, that’s true, it is difficult to get up early… but once you start to do it you just need to stick to the routine even at weekends/ your days off and then it becomes so much easier.

Time Management myth

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I was into time-management techniques a lot when, quite a few years ago, I came across some interesting reading which made a good point that we actually can’t manage, bend or control time in any way. Time exists there in the background of our lives, minutes are ticking and you can do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to slow it down, stop it or allow it to move in a way you’d like.

You can only manage your life, your tasks and activities, your energy levels and perhaps motivation.

Many of us think, “If I only had 2 more hours a day I could accomplish SO MUCH!” As Tony Robbins puts it well: No, you wouldn’t! We wouldn’t do more if we had more time available on a daily basis because the problem is not the amount of time. Everyone has exactly the same amount of time which is 24 hours = 1440 minutes a day. No more, no less.

Some of us come from “nowhere” with no connections, money and other resources and manage to achieve great success, and others don’t.

We often simplify and say that we lack time and that’s the problem. I tend to say it sometimes as well which annoys me a bit, but I guess it’s like a common proverb or a phase that we use now and then to express simply that we can’t manage more tasks and responsibilities than we have.

I don’t like to use the phrase ‘time management’ but if you read my posts you can see that I use tags such as ‘time management’. This is to make the posts easier to find because that’s such a popular term nowadays!

Chris Bailey outlines in his book the Productivity Project that more important is how you plan your days, taking into consideration your energy and attention levels rather than just the time you have. While setting goals and tasks for next week, make sure that you plan to do your most important and difficult tasks when you feel you have most energy and, whenever you can, limit distractions (put your phone on airplane mode and don’t check your emails too often). It’s not always as simple as it sounds, though. Life is unpredictable and there may always be some new urgent tasks to do; however, if you have a flexible approach then you will be doing well.

Just make sure that you try to protect this special time like a lion. If people ask you to have a chat with them on the phone, or invite you for a meal, or try to ‘steal’ this precious time of yours in any other way you need to be firm and learn how to say NO to all these tempting and great offers and invitations. Use your time wisely, on meaningful and significant tasks and activities that matter to you a lot and that help you achieve your goals.

Productive Mondays! How many hours should we work, ideally?

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We often confuse productivity with being busy. What exactly does it even mean? We feel productive when we are very busy, when we have a lot of tasks and complete most of them. Usually the more hours we work, the more productive we feel.

HOWEVER

There has been plenty of research where findings show that if we work too many hours we decrease our productivity A LOT!

What’s more, if we work a lot of hours for a few weeks or more – that’s just a perfect recipe for depression, burnout and anxiety which may even lead to a nervous breakdown!

Labour Economics published an article by Collewet and Sauermann where the researchers outlined their study done on call-centre workers. Even with part-time employees, increasing their number of working hours created more fatigue than productivity! (more about this study here )

Too few hours = we won’t achieve much.

Too many hours = we are tired and our productivity decreases a lot.

What’s the golden rule? What’s the perfect solution, then?

Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project (available HERE) talks about an experiment that he did. Namely, he worked alternate weeks for a very different amount of hours. One week he worked 20 hours and another one 90 hours, and in this way he did several weeks.

An important lesson that he realised? That while working 90 hours he did only a bit more work than while working 20 hours!

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When he had only 20 hours to do his tasks, he felt a bit of pressure that his time was so limited so he focused on using his more valuable time (when he had most energy and attention) to do the most important, difficult and meaningful tasks. With that limited amount of time it was also easier not to procrastinate too much (and, apparently, it’s impossible to completely avoid procrastinating) because he had to focus on what must be done, on priorities! During the 20-hour-work week he had more time to recharge and restore his energy levels in various ways too (meditation, exercising, sleeping well, socialising, etc.).

When we work a lot, it’s hard to remember all the time what’s most important, what we should pay more attention to, what’s the bigger picture. Although we work more, we don’t have enough energy and focus to do planning or to do it properly, and to think of possible improvements and solutions to various problems.

Chris dug deep in his research to find out the ideal amount of hours that one should be working so as not to get too tired and to be able to complete a lot of tasks in a productive way. He found that although 46 hours felt like the best working week for him most studies indicate that 35-40 hours a week is perfect to get the job done with maximum productivity.

Surely the more you enjoy your job, the more you are able to work. However, breaks and time to rest are crucial for your creativity, maintaining an innovative and open-minded thinking and approach, and your efficiency.

How many hours a week do you work? Do you have any control over it? Can you improve this aspect in your life to become more productive?

Personal Growth project. When things don’t always go as they should.

What do you do and how do you feel if some days you can’t really do what you plan to do? Do you just ignore it, accept it and keep going or do you get frustrated? Life is unpredictable and it’s difficult to be prepared for everything. We may feel hopeless, but it’s important to remember that some aspects we CAN control and some others we won’t be able to. If we can’t control something – why waste time on worrying and getting stressed about it? If we can control something – again, why allow too many negative emotions to cross our mind? We can decide what to change and how so as to make our plans work.

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This week’s Personal Growth project update isn’t what I thought it would be because the third week of January has surprised me a lot…

Apparently the last two weeks have been the worst in England in terms of the amount of people suffering with flu. Most of my family is sick, including me. I’m actually recovering from tonsillitis, not flu, but that’s not that different really. A bad sore throat kept me awake for nearly three nights. I had to keep working full-time (a long story…) and when you are in your third trimester of pregnancy such a combination of circumstances is not much fun… I felt stressed, weak and unproductive. And as you can see I still feel a bit like complaining about everything ;). I really don’t like to feel this way.

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On the other hand, I try to focus on the positive whenever I can and I’m actually quite surprised that I did anything at all related to my project this week! I did a bit of writing, and  I uploaded some blog posts on time according to my new schedule (Productive Mondays, Happy Wednesdays and weekends with Personal Development). I was reading books and doing some research, and kept my social media related to my project mostly up to date. I should try not to get too frustrated that I haven’t done enough/much this week when there is a good reason for that and I think being ill is probably a good reason. 😉 haha

If your week wasn’t great then maybe you will stop for a moment to consider one of my favourite quotes which  always makes me feel better in such situations:

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What could that reason be this time? Maybe just a simple reminder to slow down once in a while, not to review your goals, but actually to forget about the goals for a few days and re-charge the batteries.

As I mentioned during the project prep time – a flexible approach is, and always will be, critical here (as long as I don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate! ;)). I think I should write the word FLEXIBILITY on a white board in my kitchen to keep this in mind all the time 😉 Without this attitude I’d probably already feel that I’ve failed. If you allow yourself some flexibility and try to get back to a positive mindset whenever you can then surely you won’t fail and you won’t disappoint yourself! 😉

And let me share one more favourite reminder which keeps me motivated in difficult moments:

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How has your week been going? How have you been doing with your goals?

Welcome to the Productive Mondays cycle!

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I’ve mentioned in one or two of my previous posts that 92% of people don’t achieve their personal goals. What about their New Year’s Resolutions? So actually these 92% of us fail by exactly… 15th January (today’s date!)! Although the chances are that small, I really hope that you are doing well with your goals.  Even if you haven’t been perfectly on track you can sit back, reflect on the bigger picture and spend a bit more time on planning. Perhaps you tried some techniques and methods which did not work well. What can be done to improve this, then? Be flexible, open and kind to yourself! You can do anything you want to with THE RIGHT MINDSET!

Psychologist Dr Gail Matthews found that we are 42% more likely to achieve goals simply by writing them down! (more about it here)

And how many people actually write their goals down?……3%!!!!!!!!!!!

There is one additional rule here: write about your aims on a REGULAR BASISreview them, update them, consider different solutions and methods!

This likelihood increases even more if you talk about your goal to a supportive friend who believes that you can achieve this.

Why is this all so important?

  • When you write things down and share them with a friend you need to concentrate a bit more to word your aims clearly and be specific, and this can make your plans more organised and structured
  • so this is like a first step which makes something invisible into visible & tangible
  • when you write about what’s important to you, then you’ll probably think more about it during the day too, and you will pay more attention to opportunities that you may encounter during your day
  • the more specific your goals are in terms of measuring them and with regard to time–the more achievable they will be

What do you have if you don’t write your goals down? Your dreams plus… an additional 2,500-3,300 other thoughts (per hour!) mixed up in your head… and this makes your passions and aims less significant than you’d like them to be.

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Apparently, sharing updates with regards to your progress is another big important step if you’d like to ensure that you increase the likelihood of achieving your goals even more. Again – sharing them only with a friend is perfectly fine

Personal Growth project – week 1

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A bit over one week has already passed and I feel that I should provide an update on my Personal Growth project.

The first week has been extremely active and busy for me:

  • full-time work
  • considering & researching & preparing stuff related to pregnancy and the arrival of my second baby such as finding the right pushchair… and boy, let me tell you that it is really time-consuming to find something I and my husband both would like (at a reasonable price!). At the moment we are considering purchasing this pushchair model here (if any of you have/had it or knows someone who did and can let me know what you think about it – that would be superhelpful!
  • organising some stuff at home, including taking the Christmas tree down
  • cooking lessons with mum (delicious Polish dishes!)
  • first judo lesson for my daughter
  • + there were a few other things but I won’t bore you with them.
  • And of course I was working on my personal goals such as reading and writing books and blog posts

As I expected, the project seems to be working well because I feel a lot more productive and managed to achieve most of the tasks I set. It’s a bit messy and challenging but that’s what I also expected. Nevertheless, I have been enjoying it and I spent some quality time on finishing my first book, making notes for the second one, writing & reading & posting blog posts, doing some research on personal development and positive-psychology-related topics, recording a video for YouTube, and I have managed to complete a few other smaller tasks.

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I feel that although I narrowed my goals down a lot, I still need a simpler plan or fewer tasks so I could manage them more efficiently because currently I know that I do a lot but I haven’t managed to tick all of the boxes for each task yet. Again – expecting too much from myself is coming to light! And this is one of the reasons why goals may not be met so I’m glad I admitted it to myself now, earlier rather than later, because in the next week or two I’ll keep in mind that I need to work on simplifying and narrowing the project down even more.

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What has surprised me is how much I can get done when I devote a lot of time to the planning processstepping back and thinking of the most important aspects, possible problems and solutions! I’ll continue to keep a small block of time for planning at least once a week to make sure I know what I’m doing each week and what I should focus on. I haven’t yet had time to prepare any clear & nice pictures so I can share my charts, lists or mind maps with you (they are more in stage of drafts yet and a bit unreadable), but that’s on my list to-do too!

Have a  great productive day!

MY project and YOUR goals

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I recently wrote about creating and doing a Personal Growth project in 2018. There are a few reasons for that and the main one is that I’ve been passionate about positive psychology-related topics for around 16-17 years, have a degree in psychology, and yet I haven’t really ever shared this knowledge much and used it in practice.

My idea is to keep the plan for the project open and flexible during the year because while I’m learning new things I know that I will need to update and review it. At the moment I have two lists: one with goals and another one with productivity tips and techniques, and lots of notes 😉 I tried to simplify it as much as I can but at the same time I know that it will be a great challenge.

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Thank you for your comments and feedback regarding my previous blog posts. I’ve received some great advice. I also read quite a lot of blogs to find out what people think about setting goals up (particularly for the New Year) and that was a VERY interesting experience. Fantastic to see a large diversity and variation in this topic:

  • Some bloggers don’t believe in New Year’s resolution at all. Looks like they think that the time when everyone feels a lot more motivated than usually won’t make the goals, for example, any more achievable. I partly agree. On the other hand, start of a new year feels like a nice special moment to start something new, work on changing old habits or creating some new ones.
  • Some of you believe that focusing on one new goal rather than a few is better because many aims and plans will make it difficult or impossible to achieve them
  • and then some of you have lists of goals varying from a few items on the list to around 20 or more.
  • There are people who focus very specifically on things which you can measure – e.g. reading 75 books, doing stretching every morning.
  • And there are people who concentrate more generally on positive traits and emotions, and are planning, for instance, to appreciate life more or worry less.

It would be great if you could add anything that you believe I’ve missed here (please comment below) or if you are willing to start a discussion about it below this blog post! 🙂

I don’t think that there are right and wrong answers about these personal development plans because everyone is different and something that is challenging for one person may be a lot easier for another.

The important thing is not what WE WANT but how we are going to achieve it:

  • Do you have any plan? Do you have a GOOD and SPECIFIC action plan?
  • Are you flexible in your approach and open to accept that you may need to change your strategy?
  • How much effort are you willing to put in chasing your dreams?

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Happy New Year Everyone! 🙂