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?

 

Happy Wednesdays! So what EXACTLY does science say? – part 2

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On Wednesdays I always post something about happiness and science. Last week I described aspects which, according to science, are not related to happiness. This week let’s focus on what actually makes us happier.

According to various research findings done in positive psychology happiness IS AFFECTED by your:

  • Subjective health – which means basically how healthy you feel and what you think about your health rather than what doctors tell you;
  • Social class  – this is due to lifestyle differences and better coping BUT remember your circumstances DON’T define you
  • Optimism (naturally!) 🙂
  • Social relationships – meaningful relationships are vital for your well-being. You don’t need to socialise a lot but spending some quality time with people who you trust and who support you is very important for your mental health.
  • Extraversion. “Lucas and E. Diener (2001) have recently argued that extraverts may be more sensitive to rewarding social situations than introverts, and that this may manifest itself as greater feelings of happiness by extraverts.”
  • Being married (but as you know from part 1 of this blog post – having children may make you less happy! Anyway that’s what scientific findings say… )
  • Having engaging work 

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  • Leisure
  • Religion or spirituality

Apparently watching soap operas can increase your well-being too but… I feel I probably won’t be very unhappy if I don’t try it…

You can read about this more in Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The science of happiness by Ilona Boniwell, which is available here . Fantastic read I must say! 😉

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What do you think about these studies’ findings?

What makes YOU happy? 

Happy Wednesdays! So what EXACTLY does science says? – part 1

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Sometimes, when reading academic textbooks and articles on happiness – which is called subjective well-being SWB in research literature – I was REALLY surprised by new findings. We think, for example, that having children would make us happier and then… what do we find out? 😉

Research found that happiness IS NOT related to:

  • Physical attractiveness! Striving to look as perfect as possible and spending a lot of money on clothes, make up, and cosmetic surgery does not equal happiness – this can be quite surprising for some people.
  • Age! Some of us worry about getting old to the extent that we may think that older means unhappy! There are various findings, sometimes contradictory, about this aspect but most studies emphasise that your happiness level doesn’t depend on your age much or at all!
  • Money! When you meet your BASIC needs there is not much difference between someone who is earning a low or average wage and a filthy rich person in terms of happiness! I know it may sound unbelievable for many people. Kasser in The high price of materialism (2002, available here) proved that actually desiring and focusing on the pursuit of wealth would make you LESS HAPPY! And quite often the more we have, the more we want!
  • Gender. What’s interesting is that women have a greater tendency towards being depressed… but also towards being more joyful!

I found a picture which I think may be able to explain these findings… 😉

TYPICAL DAY IN A MAN’S LIFE:

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TYPICAL DAY IN A WOMAN’S LIFE:

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  • Educational level
  • Having children! Although some clarification is more than needed here 😉 It was found that having children who are up to 5 years old or teenagers makes us actually LESS HAPPY! However, children can make our life more meaningful and what’s interesting (in spite of all the stress and worries), parents live on average longer!
  • Moving to a sunnier climate
  • Crime prevention
  • Housing
  • Objective health (what your doctor tells you about your health – how good your blood test results are, what you are diagnosed with, etc.)
  • Environment & genetics! Even if in your genes there is some coded predisposition towards becoming unhappy or depressed, if you grow up and live in a positive, engaging and encouraging environment you can actually become HAPPIER than someone who has genetic predispositions to be content!

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Happiness & science. Live 9.4 years longer!

In 2000 a huge amount of data was analysed and, after talking about happiness to 1.1m people in 45 different countries, it was concluded that on average people feel quite happy. On a scale from 0 to 10 the average score for all these people was 6.75, which is quite surprising when we think of how much time and effort and money many people put into the pursuit of happiness, how many of us complain and worry unnecessarily every day, and how many life coaches or self-help and self-development books are published every year on selling tips and techniques for boosting well-being!

A score of 6.75 I think is pretty good! What do you think?

Surely the surveys were not too straightforward and consisted of a series of questions to cover various aspects of well-being rather than asking only one question directly – how happy are you?

And we know there are LOTS OF benefits of being HAPPIER – it can even protect us against colds! Also, according to research done by Danner (results published in 2001) happiness can increase our life by 9.4 years!

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What do you think your score would be?

I think if someone simply asked us only one question about happiness the answer would depend a lot on the time of day (we feel more tired and unmotivated in the afternoon rather than in the morning). The season of the year and the weather would also affect our answer, as would our feeling disappointed, stressed, in pain, or relaxed and contented at a particular time for some reason (maybe we just finished reading or writing a book or we are terrified because we are going to the dentist?!). We may focus more on the emotion we feel at particular time than on our general well-being. We probably wouldn’t score anywhere near the maximum number. However, we actually probably should give us a very high score when we think about it for longer and remind ourselves that actually maybe we have a great family, and food every day, and a roof over our head, and fairly good health; and maybe we can work full-time while some people due to ill health may not be able to… Or maybe we have a fantastic, trustworthy and reliable friend and there are some people out there in a toxic environment that leads them to depression and even suicide.

If we try to not take things for granted and be more grateful for what we have, our happiness level increases a lot. Actually, one of the most common exercises in positive psychology which can boost our well-being is to keep a diary where we write each day a few (3-5) things that we are grateful about that day. It is proven that this works and boosts our happiness level a lot.

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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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