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?

Why 92% people don’t achieve their personal goals?

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I didn’t achieve some goals in the past and I realised a few things. I believe many of these reasons would be the same or similar for most of you as well (please comment below if you agree!)

  1. I achieve goals IF I’m asked to do them by someone important at work or at a university. So if a lecturer tells me to write a 5,000-word essay in 3 weeks, I’ll write a 5,000-word essay within 3 weeks. I asked for an extension a few times while studying my two degrees and working at the same time but an extension meant 3-7 additional days. No more. If I tell myself to write 2,000 words in 2 weeks sometimes it may take me 2 or 4 months!

I keep postponing my deadlines because they are MY deadlines. It’s kind of understandable. If I don’t perform well at work, I may lose my job and have no income for a while. If I don’t execute my own goals ‘nothing’ really happens … except that my well-being will probably decrease and I’ll feel like a failure. I’ll also complain about not being able to achieve my aims, and get all sorts of negative thoughts about not progressing much and staying at the same point of my personal growth for too long.

It’s quite disappointing that actually many of us don’t take our own personal objectives seriously enough. We don’t think of ourselves and our aims as priorities and complete them only when everything else is done. I must admit it’s difficult, especially for a working parent, to manage to do a lot when each day has only 24 hours but I’m confident that this can be improved. I don’t believe in making excuses because most people on the Earth DON’T have perfect conditions, resources and circumstances. Yet, some are more disciplined, consistent and perhaps stubborn, and are able to achieve what they want to and dream about!

  1. I’m too strict and I tend to expect too much from myself. I plan and want to do too many tasks in too short a time without thinking much about all the unpredictable things that can happen in life.

I’ve been impressed with writer Gretchen Rubin’s goal to blog 6 days a week. It’s actually a very challenging task, especially if you are a working parent. You may simply not feel well enough some days. Sometimes I don’t have any Me Time at all! HOWEVER, as with everything, I’ve learnt that there is actually a solution for such a problem! My friend (talented author Carol Browne – please see her blog here ) taught me that anyone can schedule their blog posts. How great is that!

I believe I can still expect QUITE a lot from myself but then I also need to:

be more self-disciplined,

try to work smarter and harder

and have a bit more flexible approach which means:

  • to review goals and action plans, e.g. on a weekly basis, think of ways of how to change them to make them work better
  • and try out more consistently various productivity tips.

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    3. Fear is another big factor. Consciously or sub-consciously I don’t always believe that I’m good enough, that I have enough knowledge or skills or qualifications to do something I enjoy doing. So yes, there is fear of not being able to do my goals to the standard that I want (perfectionism!). I wouldn’t say it aloud much but surely there is some fear of criticism and some days I  lack of confidence while working on my goals! It’s difficult to be highly motivated all the time especially when you don’t see progress quickly. Then you lose focus and try to find the reasons as to why your goals haven’t been achieved yet … But – everything worth doing takes time – they say.

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     4. Most of the time I didn’t have an action plan at all, let alone a good one. The idea of writing down goals and steps/actions in the form of an action plan always sounded a bit ridiculous to me … BUT there has been a lot of research which proves that people who write their goals down and who have action plans are A LOT more likely to achieve their objectives.

     5. Often I used to think I work hard on my goals but when I think about it now I can      see that I didn’t put enough effort in, or I stopped doing some of the tasks and taking action for days, weeks or even months (!) due to other commitments (work, family, taking care of the house). How can you achieve anything if you work in such an ineffective way?

Phew … It was really difficult to get to the bottom of the issue and to find out why I don’t achieve some of my personal goals. The answers aren’t always as straightforward as we think they may be. This didn’t feel like a very comfortable task but it’s definitely something that finally HAD TO be done in order for me to better myself and consider how I can achieve my goals in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

SELF-GROWTH. What is it: a bit of a luxury or an essential need?

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I’ve recently been thinking about personal growth. Is it more of a luxury or an essential need; perhaps even something necessary for our survival?

I found a blog where an author argues that personal growth is a necessity. Do you agree? I’m always curious about what other people think. At first, I was convinced that personal development is DEFINITELY a luxury. Why? Because first we need to meet our basic needs — indicated in Maslow’s hierarchy, for example—and then we can really focus on our self-growth, right?

We need some:

  • TIME
  • RELATIVELY STABLE CIRCUMSTANCES
  • SPACE

to reflect on ourselves, our goals, ideas, ambitions, wishes, and desires and to think how we want to, and can, achieve them. However, if we are not feeling safe (e.g. due to domestic violence) or we are very poor (I mean, you have no food for your lunch: that poor!), really, who then is able to think about some dreams? We would rather think about how to get out of our difficult situation. We worry about everyday basic stuff that people who can afford their bills and life don’t even think about. Once we have a roof over our head and enough food, and some other basic needs are met, surely we can then start to consider:

  • What are our real passions and aims?
  • What do we enjoy?
  • What are we good at?
  • What brings us happiness?

I recently was impressed by this straightforward but, at the same time, deep and intriguing quote: “The meaning of life is to give life a meaning.” Human beings naturally seek a purpose in life and think of its meaning but I’m convinced that to purposefully better oneself we need to think about it, devote some time to it, be ready for some sacrifices and, ideally, plan for all these factors.

Growth occurs when we live under some difficult circumstances—that’s true—but what grows are our strengths, such as patience and our understanding of the world. We become smarter and begin to see solutions that we haven’t seen before.

Personal growth is pursuing our goals, living our dreams, spending time on our passions. It feels a bit like a luxury because we need time for it… and time is precious, limited and extremely valuable nowadays. Surely you agree with that? Time in some situations is definitely more important than money. Now, who has time to think more about personal development and plan it effectively? It is a bit of a luxury then, isn’t it?

On the other hand, no Me Time and no Personal Growth often lead to frustration or depression, even if we have “more important” things to deal with and to worry about on an everyday basis. This suggests that personal development is … a necessary aspect as well, a need that should be fulfilled in our lives.

Is personal growth a luxury or necessity then?

What do you think?

 

A few words about positive psychology

I’ve been interested in personal growth for as long as I can remember. Before I learnt the word ‘self-growth’ I thought that my interest was mainly in the learning process:

  • How can some people learn so quickly?
  • Why do some of us seem to have sharper brains?
  • Why are some people more productive and achieve more things effectively than others?
  • Why did my encounter with foreign languages used to be such a disaster but a few years abroad prove that I can learn a foreign language, or languages, if I really want to? (And it’s important to add here that some people who live abroad actually choose not to learn almost any of the foreign language at all).

Then I realised that it always been personal development in general that has been so interesting for me. There are so many different aspects and I enjoy reading and learning about all of them: motivation, time usage (time management, as some people say, but I don’t like the phrase), productivity, achieving one’s goals, the impact of different habits (sleep, nutrition, technology usage) on one’s happiness, stress levels and work-life balance.

Although the topic of self-growth had already been considered by ancient philosophers, the first study about achieving goals was done in the 1930s. Then there was a long period with not much significant research in the field, mainly due to world wars, when psychologists and other scholars focused more on dealing with and helping people who had suffered post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. There wasn’t much government interest or money for studies which would focus on positive psychology and peoples’ strengths and personal growth. It was more about survival than personal development. During this time five times more articles about negative symptoms and states such as depression were published compared with the ones which spoke about self-growth and strengths. So psychology became a science of mental diseases and disorders. Then positive psychology and coaching emerged and became as popular as ever in the last couple of decades.

Now it’s difficult to focus on one topic linked to personal development. There are so many of them! Let’s take the term ‘emotional intelligence’—that’s a huge area with lots of different studies and scientists involved!

I feel sometimes that different aspects related to self-growth are so intriguing that it’s hard to be selective enough and focus on particular narrow topics. What about you? What are you most interested in?

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In Love with Studying 

I’m passionate about learning, writing and reading. These are incredibly time-consuming hobbies and sometimes I like to complain about that for a while but on the other hand, there are so many topics to choose from and studying can be such a fascinating, exciting and entertaining journey! I’m interested mostly in personal growth, motivation, the improvement of organisational skills, time usage, technology addiction, positive psychology, achieving goals, mindset, attitude, grit, success, well-being, a positive outlook, and productivity. I like a lot of other things too, e. g. foreign languages. No, wait, that’s studying as well! Okay, I guess to “other things” I could add enjoying meeting interesting people, adventures, spending time with family and friends, martial arts, snowboarding (not enough practice but that doesn’t mean I can’t like it, right?), fitness, photography, Polish, Italian and some Brazilian food , travelling, various creative activities—oh, and a recent interest in calligraphy! Certainly, I could find a few other things that I enjoy if I thought about it for a moment, but the point is that topics that reveal valuable and interesting facts about the power of the human mind and brain are what I love most.

I’ve completed various courses in the UK (TEFL, admin, English) and two degrees (International Business English and Psychology), as well as starting a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology, and yet even though my knowledge has expanded I seem to have more questions than I’ve ever had before:

  • We know what can make us better, healthier, more productive or successful and yet most of us don’t follow the right advice or do the right things, even though we know how enormous and fantastic the benefits are! Why is that?
  • Why do we get so addicted to social media and check our phones constantly?
  • Why do we get depressed when we compare our lives with those of the perfect people in their perfect, filtered pictures in magazines and on social media, even though we know that the online world is so fake?
  • Why do we pursue money so much and want this one thing in our lives so badly if we know that real happiness means either spending quality time with people who are close to our heart or filling our life with passion and interests that we enjoy most?
  • Why we are so scared of trying out new ideas, making decisions and taking risks in an attempt to make our life better?
  • And why is it so difficult to believe in yourself and follow your dreams, and stay motivated? Why is it so easy to fail and give up on things that you enjoy and love?

Human nature is amazing and so imperfect at the same time…but apparently that’s okay because perfection is an enemy of good, as Voltaire used to say. We ought not to be perfect but it’s fascinating for me why we don’t live our lives more the way we want to and less the way other people and society want us to live. Why if we can improve our well-being we… do something else. Why do we focus so much and waste our time on various unimportant things? Why is it so difficult to simply stop for a moment to think through our life, our values, our ideas and plans?

We have only ONE precious and significant life and it doesn’t matter if you are, or seem to be, too old or too young for something. People mock me sometimes because I’m passionate about studying. If they can’t find a reason to make fun of someone else then they try anything, don’t they? “You are weird. What do you mean you prefer a book to a movie?”; “It’s Saturday night. I hope you are NOT studying or reading right now! Don’t be crazy!”; “Looking at the number of courses you’ve done you should be at least a CEO at some big company right now. Are you? See, your love for studying isn’t worth your time”…

There are many reasons why I enjoy learning new things and bettering myself in various disciplines every single day. The explanation “Because I really enjoy it” should be more than enough. Days without reading, learning new skills, or spending time on some creative tasks make me a bit frustrated. It feels like I’ve lost a day. And lost time never goes back. It can’t be regained, reused or retrieved in anyway. That’s why it doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds but I try to get up as early as I can or go to sleep later than everyone else in the house just to find a little bit of time for things that I enjoy. I prefer not to go out so often and waste time on meaningless chats but to use my time the best way I can, not just for work, sleeping, eating, cooking, cleaning or shopping, but also for things that I’m passionate about. Life tastes so much better then; it gives me so much happiness and is more meaningful.

Anyone in the same boat?