How to Stop Procrastinating and Actually Get Stuff Done

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How to stop procrastinating

I can be a pretty bad procrastinator.

In school, I put off writing essays until the day before they were due. At home, the dishes pile up and out of the sink more often than I’d like. Putting things off can be a real problem in my life and I know I’m not alone.

I’ve talked to other procrastinators of all types—from slacker students to fearful entrepreneurs to creatives who religiously refuse to start a project until there’s a deadline staring them in the face. And the one thing I’ve learned is that procrastinators never learn.

For entrepreneurs, especially, procrastination can become a regular hurdle, making it necessary to take certain steps to ensure it doesn’t stand in the way of you getting your idea off the ground.

But the first step on the road to recovery is to understand why it is we put things off.

Why do we procrastinate?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily because we’re lazy.

According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, there are three main breeds among procrastinators:

  • The Thrill Seeker procrastinates to experience the last minute rush, like they’ve just defused a bomb with only seconds to spare.
  • The Avoider procrastinates because they’re afraid of being judged, of the consequences of failure or, believe it or not, success.
  • The Indecisive procrastinates as a byproduct of perfectionism, feeling it necessary to seize every second they have to do the best job they can.

Most of us probably fall into certain categories for different things.

And every now and then we resolve to get organized, to do things in advance, but it’s only a matter of time until we relapse. The only way to beat procrastination is to be conscious of it in our lives and to develop ways to work around it.

So, if you have the tendency to put things off and are looking for a way to change, here are some proven strategies you can adopt.

Create last-minute panic in the present

One of the reasons we procrastinate is to experience the thrill of racing against the clock. Somehow we’ve conditioned ourselves to think we do our best work during those final moments leading up to a deadline.

These “near deadline experiences” force us to make decisions that we would otherwise put off and to work at peak efficiency. Because, well, we have no other choice.

One way to induce last minute panic months in advance is to set due dates well before your actual deadline to deceive yourself into completing tasks earlier.

If false deadlines don’t work, break your workload down into smaller tasks and set a timer as you attempt to finish each one. Racing against the clock is a good way to create pressure when there is none.

1-Click Timer is a simple chrome extension that pits you against a timer to get things done.

1-click timer

Any timer will work, but the point here is to help yourself stay focused on the task at hand and simulate the pressure of cutting it close. If something “should only take an hour”, this is one way to ensure it does.

Write down your plans (preferably in pencil)

Many procrastinators put things off because they like to keep their options open and let life (or a lack of time) force them into making decisions and finishing what they started.

For procrastinators, calendars are poorly maintained and To Do lists become To-Morrow lists. It’s important for chronic procrastinators to organize themselves in a way that accommodates flexibility, improvisation and the inevitable chaos of life.

This is why I recommend Trello— it gives you full control over the way you manage tasks, your team, a project or an entire business venture. And it’s free.

Try this Trello board template, based on the system I currently use to keep my life together, if you need a place to start.

trello board template for procrastinators

Simply create your board, add tasks as cards to different lists, assign due dates if necessary, or even make your cards slowly fade into nothingness if you ignore a task for too long. Trello even comes with a calendar view to give you an outline of what’s ahead that lets you move due dates around with a simple drag-and-drop.

Tip: Start every item on your To Do list with a verb to paint a specific picture of each task. We do actions (“Write product description”), not nouns (“Product description”).

Choose productive ways to procrastinate

Procrastinators typically favor instant gratification. Everything else is a problem for another day.

Naturally, one way to battle procrastination—especially when it comes to mundane tasks like scheduling social media posts—is to find a way to pair what you need to do with something you’d rather be doing.

Listen to music or a podcast, watch your favorite movie on Netflix, do something else that doesn’t require your full attention. Find some way to whistle while you work.

Another strategy is to practice structured procrastination: embracing procrastination and opting for a productive alternative to whatever it is you’re putting off.

Just because it’s not “what you’re supposed to be doing”, doesn’t mean it’s not productive—like reading a blog post to learn a new skill instead of doing the dishes, or building your ecommerce business instead of finishing that report for your boss. But, whenever possible, limit yourself to tasks that contribute to the same goal as the thing you’re putting off.

Instead of staring at a blank screen trying to come up with a name or tagline for your business idea, why not use that time to do something else that’ll bring you closer to your goal? Like shopping around for the perfect theme for your online store?

Ride out the momentum of “starting”

“Starting” is oftentimes a procrastinator’s kryptonite: The mere thought of it makes us weak. But once we climb that mountain and get in our zone, stopping is just as hard as starting.

Everyone’s got a different ritual for getting into their zone, whether it means relocating to a specific spot in your house or waking up at 5 am to get some work done.

A useful trick that works for a lot of people (including myself) is to listen to the same song on repeat to encourage a state of intense focus. Just try to keep it light on the lyrics.

Ryan Holiday, along with other successful entrepreneurs, is an advocate of this strategy:

Melodic music, played on repeat, puts you in a heightened emotional state—while simultaneously dulling your awareness to most of your surroundings.

Adopt a ship-it mentality

Procrastination is often attributed to laziness. But even obsessive workaholics put things off too, though for a different reason.

Many an entrepreneur has been paralyzed by the pursuit of “perfect”. And it can be a real time-waster trying to get everything exactly right.

Get used to going live without all the kinks worked out, especially if it’s something you can easily revisit later after soliciting feedback or leveraging data to make more informed improvements.

Prioritize tasks and make a plan of attack based on what should get out the door ASAP, what you have to wait on, and what you need to do before you can move on.

Sending emails is an example of a low effort, often essential task that’s easy to put off. Waiting on a reply has the potential to become a bottleneck. Keep these things in mind and fight through the desire to put it off.

Conquer procrastination (now rather than later)

Procrastinators are typically flexible people, good under pressure, and know how to improvise in the face of chaos. After all, they put themselves in tight situations on a daily basis.

But there’s an ugly side to it too. The quality of your work might suffer and the compounding effect of unnecessary stress can negatively impact your health. So it’s an important problem to address while you can.

The desire to put things off will inevitably rear its ugly head throughout your life. But the next time it does, stare it down and tell it, “Not today”. Because the best way to invest in your future is always in the present.

If you’ve got other tips for kicking procrastination to the curb, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

5 Inner Habits You Need To Make Any Relationship Last

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Image by Nemanja Glumac / Stocksy

If you ask someone in their 20s what matters most to them in life, they will usually say, “My relationship and my career.” Relationships and careers are the stabilizers in today’s world, bringing security, contentment, and purpose in life. Yet we don’t seem to be very good at the relationship part. Many of us are isolated, lonely, dissatisfied with our partners, and simply struggling to nurture and sustain healthy long-term relationships.

Is this reflective of our disposable and mobile culture? Whether we are talking about containers, appliances, or people, we now live in a world where we throw things away so easily. The environmental problems caused by plastic bottles and bags are a symptom. Similarly, when it comes to relationships, what do we do? If there are problems, end it; if there is hardship, look for someone better. We are becoming a culture of quitters.

But the tide is turning: Plastic bags and bottles are banned in many places, and we want sturdier appliances that last instead of cheap ones that fall apart and end up in a landfill. Is our attitude toward relationships also changing? Are we valuing longevity and commitment over a throwaway mentality?

To sustain “long term,” we need emotional intelligence and maturity in relationships, and that requires some basic inner practices. Many of the skills we need actually stem from our own self-awareness practices, such as that of mindfulness and meditation. When we have a better understanding of our own inner emotions, we’re able to respond from a place of generosity.

Based on key self-awareness principles, here are a few inner practices to consider for creating a relationship that lasts:

1. Let harmony be a priority.

Put harmony before being right. Does it really matter if your partner is wrong? Will you ruin the day’s peace by having an argument that could have been avoided by simply saying “OK, honey”?

Ask yourself: Why is it important for me to be right?

2. Listen and pause.

With inner calm and a relaxed mind, you’ll be better able to pause and listen to the other person’s point of view. Ask yourself: What are they feeling and why? Pause often in a conversation and try to understand. Most importantly, what is being communicated behind the words?

3. When there’s tension, love harder.

When there’s tension, what can you do to make the relationship stronger instead of putting it under more stress? Tension is not always a bad thing. It is like a warning bell telling you that something needs to change. Rather than expecting others to change, try to see what you can do.

What happens when you have had a bad day at work and you come home to a partner who has also had a tough day? Are you kind to one another? More often than not you have an argument simply because both of you are tired and irritated. If kids are also in the equation, it can be even more hectic. Dinnertime can be the cause of indigestion! So be kind. And remember, your attitudes and thoughts are even more important than the words you say.

4. Speak sweetly.

When the inner state is calm, speech will also be calm. Cultivate the way you speak so that your voice flows like nectar, in a soothing way without harshness or an edge. People will enjoy listening to you when you speak sweetly.

5. Make it a practice to think through the ways you’ve messed up.

At bedtime, take a minute to close your eyes and feel sorry for anything you have done to hurt others, even unknowingly. There is no need to feel guilty; just promise yourself you will not do it again. You will then sleep with a clearer, lighter conscience.

All of us want healthy, happy, fulfilling relationships—we just need the skills to let them happen. Life is not about running away from problems but facing them head-on with a cheerful and peaceful attitude. Much of the work of creating a long-lasting relationship actually starts with doing the inner work first.

5 Habits That Make You More Likely To Dream At Night

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Some people remember their dreams more than others, as you’ll well know if you have that one friend who wants to tell you about her dreams without realizing that they’re boring to anyone besides herself. (Or, if you are that friend.) But, there are some habits that could make you more likely to dream and more likely to remember your dreams. The thing is, some of the habits that could cause you to rememberdreams more often don’t really promote a good night’s sleep and won’t necessarily cause more dreams.

Basically, there’s a difference between dreaming because you sprayed around some lavender essential oil and chose to go to bed with a book rather than a laptop, and remembering a dream because you ate too much queso dip and aren’t sleeping as well as you could be. So many things you do during the day can affect your sleep (Did you exercise too late? Did you take a nap? Drink too much caffeine?), and in turn, these factors can have an effect on dreaming.

Here are some common habits that can make you more likely to remember your dreams or to actually dream more. Before you eat a giant cheese plate at 11 p.m. to try to have otherworldly dreams, you’ll want to take a few things into account and maybe just try taking a bath instead.

Eating Foods That Upset Your Stomach

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One of the foods most commonly thought to cause more dreaming — particularly bad dreams — is cheese. But it seems likely that eating cheese before bed isn’t causing the dreams, but rather causing people or remember their dreams.

According to Psychology Todaya study showed that of people who believe certain foods affect their dreams, many attributed it to dairy or to spicy foods. While the site points out that this could be because of the foods themselves (“due to general effects of food on mood and cognition”, as is the case while awake, too), it could also be that the foods are “influenc[ing] dreams indirectly due to poor metabolism or digestive intolerances.”

Sleep.org similarly explains, “certain foods can upset your body and wake you up throughout the night, helping you remember your vivid dreams more.”

Eating Late At Night

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As with eating certain foods, eating late at night can also affect metabolism and the state of one’s stomach, which could cause more waking in the middle of the night.

“Dining on a big meal just before turning in for the night boosts your body’s temperature and metabolism — two consequences that result in more brain activity during the REM stage (a.k.a. when you dream),” Sleep.org explains.

Drinking Alcohol Before Bed

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According to Cleveland Clinic, Jessica Vensel-Rundo, MD says drinking alcohol before bed “creates more fragmented sleep.” She explained, “There’s more disruption. Deep sleep decreases during the second half, and REM, or dreaming, sleep increases.” It could also lead to more vivid dreams or nightmares, and an increased risk of sleepwalking or acting out dreams.

That said, having vivid or bad dreams after drinking alcohol isn’t really desirable. In this case, yes, you are dreaming, but not exactly due to sleeping well.

Lacking Sleep

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In 2007, Scientific American published an article called “Strange but True: Less Sleep Means More Dreams,” which explains “REM rebound.” This is a phenomenon in which a lack of sleep one night will lead to increased time in REM during the next appropriately lengthy sleep. Neurologist Mark Mahowald explained, “When someone is sleep deprived we see greater sleep intensity, meaning greater brain activity during sleep; dreaming is definitely increased and likely more vivid.”

Doing Things To Help You Sleep Well In General

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If rebounding from a bad night of sleep leads to more time in REM and more dreams, then it also makes sense that just sleeping well overall can lead to better sleeps with more time to dream. According to HuffPost, Dr. Shalini Paruthi, the director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, said that getting a good night of sleep is “the most important thing” one can do to dream.

As HuffPost explains, achieving this includes all the classics, like sleeping in a dark room with a cool temperature, reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, not exercising too late in the day, and not eating too much too close to bedtime. (This is in contrast to the items about food above. In those cases the food caused remembering the dreams, more than actually contributing to better sleep and more time to dream.)

Maybe recognizing whether you have some of these habits will come in handy, whether you want to stop remembering bad dreams or want to sleep more peacefully.

13 Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Every Day

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Having close access to ultra-successful people can yield some pretty incredible information about who they really are, what makes them tick, and, most importantly, what makes them so successful and productive.

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” – Vaibhav Shah

Kevin Kruse is one such person. He recently interviewed over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs. One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question:

“What is your number one secret to productivity?”

In analyzing their responses, Kruse coded the answers to yield some fascinating suggestions. What follows are some of my favorites from Kevin’s findings.


They focus on minutes, not hours. Most people default to hour and half-hour blocks on their calendar; highly successful people know that there are 1,440 minutes in every day and that there is nothing more valuable than time. Money can be lost and made again, but time spent can never be reclaimed. As legendary Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller told Kevin, “To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute.” You must master your minutes to master your life.

They focus on only one thing. Ultra-productive people know what their “Most Important Task” is and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals? What accomplishment will get you promoted at work? That’s what you should dedicate your mornings to every day.

They don’t use to-do lists. Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar. It turns out that only 41% of items on to-do lists ever get done. All those undone items lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect, which, in essence, means that uncompleted tasks will stay on your mind until you finish them. Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live by that calendar.

They beat procrastination with time travel. Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are time inconsistent. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future. Successful people figure out what they can do now to make certain their future selves will do the right thing. Anticipate how you will self-sabotage in the future, and come up with a solution today to defeat your future self.

They make it home for dinner. Kevin first learned this one from Intel’s Andy Grove, who said, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.” Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, but also what else they value. There is no right answer, but for many, these other values include family time, exercise, and giving back. They consciously allocate their 1,440 minutes a day to each area they value (i.e., they put them on their calendar), and then they stick to that schedule.

They use a notebook. Richard Branson has said on more than one occasion that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. In one interview, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. . .. That is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!” Ultra-productive people free their minds by writing everything down as the thoughts come to them.

They process e-mails only a few times a day. Ultra-productive people don’t “check” their e-mail throughout the day. They don’t respond to each vibration or ding to see who has intruded into their inbox. Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their e-mails quickly and efficiently. For some, that’s only once a day; for others, it’s morning, noon, and night.

They avoid meetings at all costs. When Kevin asked Mark Cuban to give his best productivity advice, he quickly responded, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander around their topics, and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can and hold fewer of them yourself. If you do run a meeting, keep it short and to the point.

They say “no” to almost everything. Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And James Altucher colorfully gave Kevin this tip: “If something is not a ‘Hell Yeah!’ then it’s a no.” Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Don’t give them away easily.

They follow the 80/20 rule. Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results. Focus on those and ignore the rest.

They delegate almost everything. Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead, they ask, “How can this task get done?” They take the I out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues, and they are not micro-managers. In many cases, good enough is, well, good enough.

They touch things only once. How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail—a bill perhaps—and then put it down, only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an e-mail and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than five or ten minutes—whatever it is—they deal with it right then and there. It reduces stress since it won’t be in the back of their minds, and it is more efficient, since they won’t have to re-read or re-evaluate the item again in the future.

They practice a consistent morning routine. Kevin’s single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with him. While he heard about a wide variety of habits, most nurtured their bodies in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast, and light exercise, and they nurtured their minds with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, or journaling.

Bringing It All Together

You might not be an entrepreneur, an Olympian, or a billionaire (or even want to be), but their secrets just might help you to get more done in less time and assist you to stop feeling so overworked and overwhelmed.

What do you do to stay productive? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

Special thanks to Kevin Kruse for assistance with this post.

11 Habits That Can Actually Be Signs Of Mental Illness

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Ashley Batz/Bustle

While the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses can be tricky to spot, it helps to consider how they might show up in the form of certain daily habits. By knowing what to look for, it can be easier to see these habits for what they really are, and even get some help. Because if they’re holding you back, or negatively impacting your life, then they very well may be something worth treating.

“A habit becomes a sign of mental illness once it hijacks your physical and/or mental well-being and interferes with your [life],” Dr. Georgia Witkin, Progyny’s head of patient services development, tells Bustle. “For instance, constant worry [can lead you] to make life-altering changes, such as not leaving the house,” which can impact your career, relationships, and hobbies.

These habits can take many forms, and will be different for everyone. But what you’ll want to keep an eye out for are habits that seem out of character, or ones that are making life more difficult. When that’s the case, “it’s worth a visit to a healthcare provider who can help to identify and address the underlying issue(s),” Susan Weinstein, co-executive director of Families for Depression Awareness, tells Bustle.

With that in mind, read on below for some habits that can be a sign of a mental health concern, according to experts.

1. Wanting To Spend More Time Alone

Ashley Batz/Bustle

“No longer wanting to see loved ones or participating in hobbies is indicative of mental illness,” Dr. Witkin says, with depression being one of the most likely culprits, since it can make it difficult to go about your usual routine.

That said, it’s always OK to take time for yourself, and hang out alone. But if you used to go out, see friends, or enjoy certain hobbies, it may be a good idea to reach out to a therapist, if you can no longer find the energy to do so.

2. Missing Work Or Appointments

Hannah Burton/Bustle

If you’re generally on top of your schedule, but have developed the habit of showing up late to work, calling out, or blowing off appointments, take note.

“Individuals [that] frequently disengage could be dealing with high anxiety, which often leads to avoidance, or possibly depression, which can lead to an inability to reach out,” Reynelda Jones, LMSW, CAADC, ADS, tells Bustle.

Even things like bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues, can make it difficult to get to work on time — or even get there at all.

3. Spending A Lot Of Money

Hannah Burton/Bustle

There’s nothing wrong with going shopping, or treating yourself to something nice. But for many people, excessive spending can be a sign of a health concern.

For example, “spending large amounts of money often manifests in an individual whose experiencing a manic episode,” Jones says, which is an aspect of bipolar disorder.

“Often the individual spends money beyond [their] financial means,” she says, only to feel really guilty or hopeless about how much they spent, once they come down from this phase. If this has become an issue for you, it may be time to ask for help.

4. Feeling Irritated & Picking Fights

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

While it’s fine to have the occasional disagreement, acting in an excessively angry or cranky way, or picking little fights with others, isn’t a habit that should be overlooked.

“Anger and irritability, such as flying off the handle or constant grousing, can be signs of depression or bipolar disorder, particularly when they seem unprovoked and unusual for that person,” Weinstein says.

If these habits sound familiar, reaching out to a therapist may be a good next step, so you can figure out what’s going on.

5. Starting New Projects And/Or Businesses

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

This is another habit that’s common among people who have bipolar disorder. But unlike folks who are starting businesses because they’ve thought it through and are thinking clearly, someone with this disorder might go forth with no concern to the risks they’re taking on, Jones says.

When someone is manic, they might also talk rapidly or jump from topic to topic, Dr. Indra Cidambi, psychiatrist and addiction expert, tells Bustle. Or they’ll take on too many things at once. Oftentimes, manic episodes are followed by periods of depression, which is when these grandiose plans can fall apart.

While it’s always great to learn new things, start new projects, and get excited about business ideas, this habit could mean something isn’t quite right.

6. Developing New Mannerisms

Hannah Burton/Bustle

“A shifting posture or gesture or even how we walk throughout our day can signal shifts in mood, which can often be a sign of mental health concerns or maybe even mental illness,” therapist Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, tells Bustle.

It could, for example, point to a mood disorder, since movement can be a “reflection of our emotional state and mental health,” she says. Think along the lines of new mannerisms, and other habits that seem out of character.

7. Misplacing Things

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Not being able to find belongings in a messy room, along with an inability to make decisions and forgetting things, can be a sign of depression, Weinstein says.

If this is a problem you’re struggling with, let a doctor know. They can help you figure out if it is, in fact, stemming from depression, and set you on the right course of treatment.

8. Staying Up All Night

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

“Sleeping either too little or too much can be a symptom of a mental disorder,” Dr. Witkin says. “Often times, anxiety disorders cause insomnia or restless sleep, while depression causes oversleeping and eventual fatigue.”

In general, it’s healthy to sleep about seven to nine hours a night. If this is something you struggle to do, you may want to look into reasons why, including possible mental health issues.

9. Worrying About The Day Ahead

Ashley Batz/Bustle

While it’s common to feel a bit stressed or worried as you think about the day ahead, it might be a sign of anxiety if you worry to the point of distraction, avoid certain situations, or play out worst-case scenarios.

As Dr. Cidambi says, “Excessive worrying that is disproportionate to normal, everyday events is one important sign that one may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.”

10. Repeating Small Daily Rituals

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

“Normal rituals we might all partake in that are a way to mark a change of pace for the day — such as kissing a [partner] goodbye, or checking to make sure that we have our keys or phone — are normal, and can be helpful rituals,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Scott Hoye, PsyD, tells Bustle.

But for folks with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these habits can take over. Instead of locking your front door once, for example, you might lock it ten times, or even drive back home to lock it again.

That’s because this disorder can cause you to doubt yourself, perform rituals over and over again, or experience magical thinking. So when a habit has turned into an obsession, Dr. Hoye says it may be a sign of a mental health concern.

11. Needing A Drink After Work

WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

There’s nothing wrong with getting a drink after work, having wine with dinner, or hanging out at the bar. But if this habit has turned into something you need to do in order to relax, consider how it might be a way to mask symptoms of anxiety or depression, Dr. Hoye says.

It’s not uncommon for folks experiencing excessive worry, for example, to develop ways to relax, such as reaching for a drink. So if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to let a doctor know.

It can be tough to spot these habits, and see them for what they are. But if you or someone else notices them, it doesn’t hurt to seek out the help.

By speaking with a therapist, you may realize that one of your habits was, in fact, a sign of a mental health concern. And in doing so, you’ll be starting the process of getting help and support, so you can get back to feeling better.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.`

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

Author Article

University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky details the things research shows the happiest people have in common.

Via The How of Happiness:

  1. They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  2. They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  3. They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
  4. They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  5. They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  6. They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  7. They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
  8. Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

I guess the blog post could end here. You’ve got your answer. But did you just want trivia? Or do you actually want to get happier?

The internet has become a firehose of ideas we never implement, tricks we forget to use.

Reading a list of things is easy. Implementing them in your life can be hard. 

But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s get down to business.

“Happiness Subscriptions”

Here’s an interesting fact about happiness: frequency beats intensity. What’s that mean?

Lots of little good things make you happier than a handful of big things.

Research shows that going to church and exercising both bring people a disproportionate amount of happiness. Why?

They give us frequent, regular boosts.

Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says it’s really that simple: the things that make you happy, do them more often.

We have designated work hours. We schedule doctor appointments. Heck, we even schedule hair appointments.

We say happiness is the most important thing but fail to consistently include it in our calendars.

Research shows 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity. You can change your happiness by up to 40% by what you choose to do every day.

happiest-people

And much of what you do, you do on autopilot. 40% of what you do every day isn’t the result of decisions, it’s due to habits.

Via The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

See where I’m going with this?

Happy things need to be a habit. Part of your routine. Part of your schedule.

Stop waiting for random happy events, you need a “happiness subscription.”

So how do we take that list and make them things we actually do every day instead of more forgotten trivia? Let’s get started.

1) Wake Up And Say ARG!

Even scientific happiness advice is often corny. I’ll say that now so we can get it off the table … But it works.

And this is why you might want to say ARG when you wake up. It’s an acronym that stands for:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Recollection
  3. Gratitude

I’ve written about the importance of a morning ritual and how research shows your mood in the morning affects your entire day. So start right.

Anticipation is a powerful happiness booster. It’s 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing.

So think about what you’re looking forward to. Got nothing you’re looking forward to? Schedule something.

Recollecting great moments has a related effectMemories allow us to relive the good times and kill stress.

Via The How of Happiness:

People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and to experience intense emotions. In contrast, those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.

And gratitude is arguably the king of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

… the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

And the combo often leads to optimism. Another powerful predictor of happiness.

So, corny as it may be, wake up and say ARG! And then do a quick bit of anticipation, recollection and gratitude.

(For more on optimism click here.)

All that’s fine and dandy. But what do you do once you’re out of bed?

2) Savor Your Morning Coffee

Take a moment and really enjoy it. Smell it. Taste it. Appreciate it. Corny? Maybe.

But other research shows savoring — appreciating the good moments — is what separates the happiest people from the average Joe.

I imagine some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t drink coffee.” And please imagine me saying, “That’s not the point.”

It can be anything you do every morning.

And embedding savoring in our little daily rituals is powerful because studies show rituals matter.

Here’s Harvard professor Francesca Gino:

You can think about rituals that you yourself might engage in prior to consumption experiences. What they do, they make us a little bit more mindful about the consumption experience that we are about to have. Because of that, we end up savoring the food or whatever we are drinking more, we enjoy the experience more, and in fact, we’re also more willing to pay higher prices for whatever it is that we just consumed. Once again, rituals are beneficial in the sense that they create higher levels of enjoyment in the experience that we just had.

(For more on how savoring can make you happier click here.)

So what other habit can we build into our schedule that boosts joy? How about one that can make you as happy as sex does?

3) Sweat Your Way To Joy

When you study people to see what makes them happiest you get three answers: sex, socializing and exercise.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering.

People who exercise are, across the board, mentally healthier: less depression, anger, stress, and distrust.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

A massive Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families published in 2006 showed that exercisers are less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing. A Finnish study of 3,403 people in 1999 showed that those who exercise at least two to three times a week experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and “cynical distrust” than those who exercise less or not at all.

Don’t like exercise? Then you’re doing the wrong kind.

Running, lifting weights, playing any sport… Find something you enjoy that gets you moving.

(For more on how sweating can increase smiling — and make you smarter too — click here.)

Okay, time to head to work. What’s the best thing to do when you start the day? It’s not about you — but it will make you happier.

4) The Five Minute Favor

Who lives to a ripe old age? Not those who get the most help, ironically it’s those who give the most help.

Via The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

And a great way to do that without taking up too much time is Adam Rifkin’s “5 Minute Favor”:

Every day, do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of this thing you do should be that it makes a big difference to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or broadcast on social media.

So take five minutes to do something that is minor for you but would provide a big benefit to someone else.

It’s good karma — and science shows that, in some ways, karma is quite real.

Yes, some who do a lot for others get taken advantage of. But as Adam Grant of Wharton has shown, givers also succeed more:

Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics.

(For more on the best way to get happier by being a giver, click here.)

Alright, you have to start work for the day. Ugh. But there are ways that work can make you happier too.

5) Life Is A Game, And So Is Work

Like the research shows, the happiest people have goals.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

In his studies, the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves—both short-term and long-term—are happier. The University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized don’t just activate positive feelings—they also suppress negative emotions such as fear and depression.

Many of us feel like work can be boring or annoying but the research shows many of us are actually happier at work than at home. Why?

Challenges. And we reach that state of “flow” only when a challenge presents itself. So how can work make us happier?

Three research-backed things to try:

  1. To the degree you can, do things you’re good at. We’re happier when we exercise our strengths.
  2. Make note of your progress. Nothing is more motivating than progress.
  3. Make sure to see the results of your work. This gives meaning to most any activity.

(For more on getting happier by setting goals click here.)

Enough work. You’ve got some free time. But what’s the happiest way to use your free time?

6) Friends Get Appointments Too

You have mandatory meetings in your schedule but not mandatory time with friends? Absurd.

One study says that as much as 70% of happiness comes from your relationships with other people.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

Why does church make people so happy? Studies show it has nothing to do with religion — it’s about the socializing. It’s scheduled friend time.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

And if you have the cash, pay for dinner with a friend. Money definitely can make you happier — when you spend it on other people.

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

By the end of the day, individuals who spent money on others were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves — even though there were no differences between the groups at the beginning of the day. And it turns out that the amount of money people found in their envelopes — $5 or $20 — had no effect on their happiness at the end of the day. How people spent the money mattered much more than how much of it they got.

Harvard professor and author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter SpendingMichael Norton explains in his TED talk.

Don’t have the cash for that? No problem. Take turns paying. Duke professor Dan Ariely says this brings more happiness than always paying half.

(For more on how to have happy friendships click here.)

What’s the final thing happy people have in common? They cope with adversity. So what should we do when life gets tough?

7) Find Meaning In Hard Times

Research shows that a happy life and a meaningful life are not necessarily the same thing.

It’s hard to be happy when tragedy strikes. But who lives longer and fares better after problems? Those who find benefit in their struggles.

Via The How of Happiness:

For example, in one study researchers interviewed men who had had heart attacks between the ages of thirty and sixty. Those who perceived benefits in the event seven weeks after it happened—for example, believing that they had grown and matured as a result, or revalued home life, or resolved to create less hectic schedules for themselves—were less likely to have recurrences and more likely to be healthy eight years later. In contrast, those who blamed their heart attacks on other people or on their own emotions (e.g., having been too stressed) were now in poorer health.

In many cases, Nietzsche was right: what does not kill us can make us stronger.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

A substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, often to the level of PTSD, but then they grow. In the long run, they arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning than before… In a month, 1,700 people reported at least one of these awful events, and they took our well-being tests as well. To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who’d been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three— raped, tortured, and held captive for example— were stronger than those who had two.

So when you face adversity, always ask what you can learn from it.

(For more on how to make your life more meaningful — without terrible tragedy —  click here.)

See that? I took the eight things happy people do and squeezed them into just seven habits. You can thank me later.

Now how do we tie all of these happiness boosters together?

Sum up

If you want every day to be happier try including these seven things in your schedule:

  1. Wake Up And Say ARG!
  2. Savor Your Morning Coffee
  3. Sweat Your Way To Joy
  4. Do A Five Minute Favor
  5. Make Work A Game
  6. Friends Get Appointments Too
  7. Find Meaning In Hard Times

We’re all quick to say happiness is the most important thing … and then we schedule everything but the things that make us happiest. Huh?

So what’s going to make you happy today? Have you thought about it? Is it on your calendar?

Reading happiness information is useless trivia unless you use it and you won’t use it unless it’s part of your routine.

If happiness is the most important thing then make it the most important thing.

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This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree

These 5 Questions Can Help You Set Better Goals

Author Article

If your goal follows all the rules — specific, measurable, etc., — but you are still struggling to achieve it, it may be time to consider the core of the goal itself. In other words, how important is the goal to you? Instead of being driven by productivity or meeting simple tasks on a to-do list, you must also do the work to achieve your goals.

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Jeff Rose points out it is not simply enough to sign up for a gym membership or buy new tennis shoes; you have to get yourself to the gym and physically commit to working out.

Rose also challenges you to ask a group of five “why” questions. By analyzing each facet of your goals, you can get to the root and make conclusions about their importance to you.

Click the video to hear more from Jeff Rose about analyzing your goals.

Related: Here’s How to Find the Best Members for Your Mastermind Group

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on RokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

How to Keep Your Motivational Mojo When the Chips Are Down

Author Article

How to Keep Your Motivational Mojo When the Chips Are Down

Image credit: John M Lund Photography Inc | Getty Images

Tiffany Delmore
GUEST WRITER
Co-founder of SchoolSafe
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The road to entrepreneurial success isn’t paved in gold. It might, in fact, be strewn with nothing more thrilling than horse manure. After all, according to the list of startups to watch from The New York Times and CB Insights, many next-gen business entities are in the booming agricultural technology space.

Somehow, the visual of a road dotted with the droppings of our four-legged friends fits. After all, any serial entrepreneur will tell you that being an early founder can feel crappy. Late nights turn into early mornings, and all the while, you’re wondering if the time spent is worth it.

If you can stay motivated, it will be worth it — beyond your wildest dreams, perhaps. But you have to stay the course, and far too many would-be founders let go too early in the journey.

It’s about finding bliss amid the cow chips.

The key to staying the course is to unearth the innately wondrous aspects of working at 2 a.m. to tweak a product design or construct an airtight elevator speech. In that vein, Thomas Corley’s five-year Rich Habits Study gives a peek into the behaviors and motivations shared by folks who hit the million-dollar mark.

What Corley found is that even though entrepreneurship can be difficult, the difference between winners and losers is a matter of perspective. Those entrepreneurs with self-confidence, passion for their work and eternal optimism found love for their work, even in the midst of frustration.

Related: 7 Life Lessons From My Entrepreneurship Journey

Most entrepreneurs who have made it can attest that enthusiasm and motivation amid hardships kept them plodding along, despite the temptation to give it all up. If you want to join their ranks, you must accept what they learned: Nobody can authorize or deny your entry into the hall of entrepreneurial heroes — except you.

In other words, get out your waders because it’s time to go knee-deep into what may stink today but provide rich soil for a fertile tomorrow. Use these three strategies to stay motivated:

1. Identify your raison d’étre.

Once you’ve started a business, you’ll constantly be asked to validate your commitment. If you have no answer to the question “Why do you want to do this?” you’re already done. Dig deep into your psyche to find out what makes your venture important to you. For Chase Jarvis, the CEO of CreativeLive, the biggest concern was not allowing the desire for money to become his No. 1 focus. “Be careful if you’re only committed to something for the next two weeks or the next paycheck,” he advises. “Pretty soon, that eroding mentality of constantly chasing the next thing will hurt you. Alignment provides a level of hunger that can’t be achieved when you’re just working towards a paycheck.”

Shift your thinking to mirror Barry Turner, one of the founders of Lenny & Larry’s protein-rich cookies. He still has a palpable commitment to and enthusiasm for the company he founded 25 years ago. As he told one interviewer, “I always dreamed when I started this that it will be sitting between Oreo and Chips Ahoy.” Put your own “why” in language just as colorful and specific, and your hustle will feel worthwhile.

Related: 5 Learnings From an Entrepreneurial Journey

2. Go for four.

Forget about a seven-day workweek. Chances are good that it will only drive you crazy and make you less productive than before, according to one Wharton professor. If you really want to get good at managing your finite moments, try budgeting your tasks within a four-day workweek. This challenge should leave you asking yourself how you can boost your efficiency. And if you manage it, you’ll find you have the time you need to take care of yourself and spend time with friends and family.

To be sure, pulling off a quick-as-lightning workweek takes some chutzpah and discipline. Rather than use day five as a chance to veg out, concentrate on making it count in other areas. It might be a day of personal development or an opportunity to research new business opportunities. Just keep it free from all the operational stuff so you can focus on adding breadth and depth to your business and yourself.

3. Hunt down your missing skill.

What would you never list on your résumé? Public speaking? Coding? Networking? Identify your underdeveloped skill set, and then do something about it. Chances are good that you’ll find some important stuff you need to know — or will if your company takes off. For example, when he moved to Texas, Ignitia Office co-founder Josh Bobrowsky realized that business deals happened at the gun range. The trouble was that he wasn’t a gun-toting guy — yet. After taking private lessons for months, he nailed the ability to shoot from the shotgun and the hip.

Be aware that what you lack might not seem important today, but it could be critical in the future. For instance, if you’re having trouble building your business brand, why not begin by developing a personal brand through social networks like LinkedIn? Your self-discovery could open new doors and launch you into opportunities you never realized existed.

Is it tough to remain curious and optimistic while trudging through what looks like mud but smells otherwise? Sure. But getting through the bad stuff with a smile on your face will help you persevere — not to mention appreciate the beautiful crops that will one day burst forth from the entrepreneurial soil you’ve laid.

Want to Succeed in Life? Every Day, Do This Thing First

Author Article

CREDIT: Getty Images

We live in the age of self-improvement. Wherever you go–your home, your car, your bar, your favorite bodega or bookstore–it’s forever there, staring you in the face.

The potential of a better you. Happy, strong, and successful. Prospering in all the important things, including your relationships and career.

It can drive you a little crazy. Most of us are satisfied to excel in just a few areas, and if we sacrifice our beach body by prioritizing parenting over the gym, so be it. But the ads keep pouring in: You can be perfect.

It’s pure B.S., of course. Life is short, and we can only strive so much. But if you put a gun to my head and demanded that I choose a single rule to live by–a rule to rule all others in the quest for human excellence–I’d have a ready answer.

Always do the hardest thing first.

It’s by no means an easy rule. It’s easy to say, and it feels nice to say it, but the minute you sit down at your desk, and that hardest thing is in front of you, and you’d literally rather do anything else–all bets are off.

Now for the good news. I’ve practiced this rule for many years, and can confidently report that with enough repetition it becomes habitual. You’ll still recognize the hardest thing as being the hardest thing–whether it’s balancing the books, making a sales call, or wrestling with your taxes–but the psychological dread that caused you to procrastinate in the past will have disappeared.

Here are three suggestions for taking the beast head-on:

1. Prepare the night before.

Before you go to bed, review tomorrow’s agenda.  Channel your inner Alex Honnold–if you haven’t seen Free Solo yet, I highly suggest it–and memorize every move in advance. Single out the moves that really suck, and then the one that sucks the very most.

Legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu advised that you learn to “know your enemy…and in one hundred conflicts you will naturally prevail.”

You now know your enemy. Meditate on it. Let it stand out in your thoughts. Isolated, it isn’t quite so intimidating.

2. Establish a soothing ritual.

Confronting your enemy in a dull or disordered state of mind is a great way to get slaughtered. To avoid this, establish a ritual or routine that you perform the moment you walk through the office door.

Arrive five minutes early. Greet your colleagues by name. Act cheerful and alert. Take your stuff to your desk and get organized.

Now make a cup of coffee or pour a glass of water. (Be methodical–your co-workers should be able to set their clocks by your movements.) Return to your desk. Seat yourself and take a sip. Fire up your computer. Your mind should be in a clear, calm state by now.

3. Inform someone else of your plans.

Announcing your intentions will ease your burden and provide extra motivation to succeed. You don’t have act like you’re running for president, but don’t be shy about it, either.

Tell a trusted teammate: “I’m going to do X now, and I’m going to show you when I’m finished.” If it helps, add some humor. Confide that you haven’t been looking forward to this particular responsibility and you hope talking about it will help you become the hero your mother always said you were. Or, if you had a rough childhood, that it will help you avoid becoming the lazy slob your mother always said you were.

Complete the step by following up with your teammate. Enjoy the euphoria for a minute or two, then move on to the next responsibility.

The rewards for doing the hardest thing first are obvious. The moment you cross that chore from your list, your mind unfurls like the first day of spring. Suddenly, other difficult tasks aren’t so difficult. Suddenly, your mind is totally yours, whereas before it belonged to the task you were postponing.

Perform the three steps religiously. Accept that you’ll fail–probably often. But then, something magic will happen. Gradually, you’ll improve. Your focus will tighten, your mood will lighten, your value will increase. And one happy morning, when you briskly crank out a task that six months ago would have haunted you all day, you’ll know what self-improvement really means.  ​

PUBLISHED ON: MAR 21, 2019

5 Surprisingly Underrated Habits of Super Successful People

Author Article

Success is often no accident.

It requires patience, effort, and consistency. The most successful people know that the daily routines we have make up our journeys to success — or towards failure. Today’s leaders are aware that even the small habits someone has can leave a huge impact on the kinds of accomplishments achieved.

If your daily habits are in need of some fine-tuning, or your performance at work could use some improving, consider adopting these underrated habits successful people are known to practice.

1. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. Successful people stay curious, and they care about details and how things work. If there is something they are not sure about, or something they do not know, they ask for an explanation. Asking too many questions doesn’t make you look stupid. In fact, you are more likely to look foolish if you don’t ask enough.

2. Analyze feelings and emotions.

Successful people don’t suppress their emotions. Although these leaders yield great results and are highly efficient, they are still human at the end of the day. Try regularly monitoring and managing your emotions. Be aware of how your emotions influence how you think and act, and understand that success will require you to sometimes keep your emotions at bay.

3. Stand up to inner critics.

It’s easy to beat yourself up after making a mistake, isn’t it? If you’re looking to succeed, remember that self-compassion is something you should practice regularly. Forgive yourself for what goes wrong, and speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a loved one or close friend. Practicing compassion for yourself will help you become mentally strong and successful.

4. Say no.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, says, “Every time you say yes to something, you’re really saying no to something else.” Practice setting and maintaining boundaries — successful people know progress comes from saying yes to priority items and projects and no to those that aren’t. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. Leave the office.

Working from home might not be a bad idea. In fact, one 2016 survey revealed how the most innovative employees divide their time between in-office and remote work. The survey suggested the ideal proportion of the workweek that you should spend in the office is 80 percent. This leaves 20 percent — or one entire workday each week — outside the office.

Each day is comprised of hundreds of decisions and actions, which ultimately determine your levels of productivity. No matter how innocuous your habits may seem, the reality is that these habits shape the course of your life, professional or otherwise. Try examining your current habits, and see if you can experiment with new ones.

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