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.

 

 

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?

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.

Self-talk and your well-being.

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Human beings have a tendency to negative thinking, especially about themselves. We are often afraid to do something—for instance, to change a job or start a business idea—because we feel that someone else out there is better than us or that we may not deserve to succeed, or … well, we surely can always find a different excuse.

We may not even notice how much negative talk we keep in our head on an everyday basis. Sometimes we don’t feel confident, good enough, smart enough, quick enough, clever enough, fit enough, beautiful or powerful enough … we just can so easily find a variety of drawbacks depending on the area of life, or of a discipline, that we are thinking of. Actually, we are super-creative when it comes to self-pitying and finding excuses.

We never will be ‘enough’ because there ALWAYS will be someone better at something; someone more beautiful, more powerful, richer, fitter or more skilled. It’s easy to compare ourselves with others and some people’s advice is that we don’t do it at all.

However, if you focus on your strengths and positive traits, and if you start to accept and love yourself more, then comparing yourself to someone who is better should be an inspiration, rather than a problem, frustration or disappointment.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you can’t achieve the same or better results, then maybe it’s not what you should be doing. Do what you love, where your strengths can be used, not what you’re supposed to do or what may give you slightly more money.

Love yourself because no-one has the same unique mixture of knowledge, skills, talent, grit, ideas and experience that you have!

Be proud of who you are. You never know who has been looking at you and wishing they were you!

What discourages (instead of motivating) us in the field of personal development?

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We know that one of the problems is of course our time usage. I don’t like to use the phrase ‘time management’. Time management used to be SO important for around a decade or so, and yet it’s vital to realise that THIS IS MORE crucial in terms of physical work (especially for example with targets in a factory) but in most jobs, such as admin or management, time isn’t as important as other aspects, such as:

  • being innovative
  • having creative ideas
  • managing stress
  • team building
  • or having great interpersonal/presentation skills

I think the term ‘self-help’ books is quite damaging as well because it seems like there is something wrong with people who read about goal setting, productivity and well-being and they NEED HELP! They need improvements in their life, like everyone does in some areas, but it sounds like they have some diseases, maybe mental health problems, and need help with this. What’s more, it suggests that the problems may be so sensitive and embarrassing that people don’t want to speak to their doctors about it and they prefer to help themselves on their own… SELF- help books… Who created such an unsuitable name tag for these great titles about personal growth, strength and motivation?! I’m glad that this has changed and publishers have started to refer to this section rather as ‘self-development’ now.

Similarly, I believe that we should find a new name for life coaches! What a discouraging wording! I think it suggests they can teach you… how to live your own life properly! So they basically seem to know everything about “how to live a happy life” and can teach everyone the same or similar techniques no matter where they come from, what situation they are in, or what they problems are. It’s like measuring everyone with the same scale.

Many people have started to make big money out of this business and unfortunately there are some so-called ‘gurus’ out there who learn all the secrets of a fulfilling, healthy and happy life on a short online course and then they are certified and ready to tell you how you should work, bring up your children, achieve your goals and build your relationships.

I was really put off by the term life coach for a long time. It sounded like people trying to get rich at the expense of whoever would be willing to pay to get advice from such modern fortune-tellers. “The concept of ‘life coaching’ barely existed 30 years ago. But by 2012, it was a $707 million business in the U.S., according to the most recent figures from the International Coach Federation (ICF).” (read more here).

It sounded like a scam and deceiving people. However, if I’m against something I like to know what it really is. How can I be against life coaches if I haven’t watched a few videos and read some books about them and written by them? I thought they were people who pretend to be psychologists. While getting familiar with the topic I’ve realised that some so-called life coaches are actually great and charismatic people who make some thought-provoking and interesting speeches. I have a few favourite ones now. I don’t treat them as my ‘gurus’ and specialists about everything but it’s motivational to listen to some of their speeches or read some books.

So, yes, it looks like the name is quite unfortunate and may put many people off rather than encourage them to learn something from, for instance, good and experienced productivity and time-management experts.

I’d recommend we dig deeper to see whether we like someone and their opinions rather than focusing on the name that may not always be chosen accurately and wisely…

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?

 

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.

About the world obsessed with time

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I’ve recently read Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time by Garfield (available here) and the book contains some really interesting anecdotes; for instance, about French who tried to implement the idea of using 10-hour, instead of 12-hour, clocks. The idea was that all 24 hours would be squeezed into a day-and-night-time period of ten hours. How? Simply there would be more minutes in each hour. This idea hasn’t found many enthusiasts though. Clocks are an old invention and we are so used to the usual style and schedule of hours and minutes that we find it difficult to accept any modification of them.

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Sometimes I think about time usage and discuss it with others because it is strictly related to productivity, but until very recently I didn’t really pay much attention as to how OBSESSED the modern world is with TIME.

  • Time is precious
  • Me time
  • A race against time
  • Have a hell of a time
  • Have the time of your life
  • Time is money
  • Ahead of one’s time

… and lots of other phrases that we use very often indicate that time has become something nearly as significant in our lives as food, air or feelings.

Teams who work on updating Oxford Dictionaries decided to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the English language to check what words are the most commonly used. If we ignore words such as “the”, “of”, and some linking words that we use in sentences a lot, and focus purely on nouns, then there is the interesting part!

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The most commonly used English word is … TIME! (more about it HERE )

“That’s unbelievable!” I thought. I know that everyone, particularly in Western developed countries, is kind of fixated about being on time, controlling or managing their time and so on BUT… really?! When and how did we get to the point where we use this word more often than a lot of other significant words which describe our everyday life?

Just if you are curious  what are the rest of the 10 top most commonly used words in the English language… Here we go: person, year, way, day, thing, man, world, life and … hand (?). I understand we use words such as “thing” or “life” often, but “hand”? Another little surprise 😉

Time-management books and articles are incredibly popular nowadays and yet I don’t really believe that we can manage or change our time. Do you? We can surely manage our tasks, activities and life. That’s why I prefer to word it rather as time usage or planning one’s day/time. However, I know that ‘time management’ is a phrase used EVERYWHERE so for simplicity sometimes I’d use it as well (or when I use tags, for example,so people can find my tweet or blog easier).

Do you use or have you ever tried any productivity/time-management tips and techniques? What’s your favourite one?

 

New releases in the field of self-development!

What hot new releases will be discussed this year in the media? Here are a few noteworthy new books related to self-development which will be released very soon (and can be pre-ordered):

  1. Crushing It! – by Gary Vaynerchuk (famous motivational speaker). It will be released on 30th January 2018 but can be pre-ordered (available here).

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2. The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win –by Jeff Haden. This book will be published on 9th January 2018 and of course can be pre-ordered (available here)

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3. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store – by Cait Flanders. The book will be released on 16th January 2018 and can be pre-ordered here

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4. Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff – by Dana K. White. It will be published on 27th February and can be pre-ordered here

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5. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen. The book will be published on 30th January 2018. It can be pre-ordered here

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Any titles in this genre that you’ve read and  would recommend? Please comment below.