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.

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

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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

6 Daily Habits That Can Make You the Most Productive Person in the Office

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Ever wish you had 30 hours in a day to get more stuff done? Then again, how tired would you feel? You may already be exhausted by working eight hours per day.

Well, if you’re struggling to juggle work and life while trying to maximize your day without killing your health in the process, remember this: Being more productive doesn’t mean working harder or longer; it means working smarter.

Here are six ways to be more productive, the smart way:

1. Cut down the distractions.

Distractions are productivity’s biggest enemy. To make the most of your day, ax whatever is keeping you from being focused and productive. Take your work environment into account. Is sound/noise, lighting, the way the room is configured–like open-floor plans–a problem? Try relocating to a different space or make a case for working remotely. The key is finding out what distractions are messing with your productivity, and then doing something about it.

2. Have good boundaries.

Let me ask you: What’s most important for you to get done? Whatever it is, focus all your energy on those things. Take billionaire Warren Buffett, for example. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. The mega-mogul once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

3. Simplify.

Productive people are masters of simplifying things down to what matters most. They have a simple schedule. They live according to their values and purpose. They have no problem saying no to people or things that don’t serve them. If something coming their way on Tuesday has little value and doesn’t make them better on Wednesday, they simply walk away.

4. Exercise the “Pomodoro Technique.”

If done correctly, this classic time-management hack can help you get things done in short work intervals. First, decide on the tasks you want to check off from your to-do list. Next, set a timer to 25 minutes and knock off those items until the timer rings. After you finish, take a five-minute break and repeat the cycle four times. After the fourth cycle, take a 15- to 30-minute break and start over. The key is to focus on the short bursts, as it helps you to concentrate on your tasks without distractions.

5. Take more breaks

This sounds counterintuitive to being more productive at first, but according to a New York Times article, research shows that “daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office, and longer, more frequent vacations” actually boost productivity and job performance. Truth is, humans aren’t wired to concentrate for more than three hours at a time. Anything beyond that without a break and you’ll start to experience the negative effects of decision fatigue, lack of focus, and even impaired vision.

6. Schedule your to-do list items.

This productivity hack helps you be more realistic about what you want to get done. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says, “Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture, you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”

8 Simple Productivity Hacks Backed By Science

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In a world where your output is often measured by how much you can do on any given day, productivity is a serious concern. Entrepreneurs are their own boss, and while this has many benefits, procrastination and loss of focus can derail your efforts. As a digital nomad, these risks are compounded as work often has to fit around travel and different time zones.

Arguably, it’s better to be effective than productive, suggesting that being effective is about focusing on the right things. But all things being equal, if you were productive at what makes you most effective, you wouldn’t just get more done – you would truly be on the path to success.

So, how can you boost your productivity? Here are eight simple hacks you should try for yourself.

1. Turn Up The Tunes

Dr. Teresa Lesiuk at the University of Miami studied the effect listening to music had on work performance. What she found was that those who listened to music while working worked faster, had better ideas and experienced positive mood change.

You may want to experiment with different types of music for optimal performance. If you find music with lyrics too distracting, then classical or meditation music might be best. Personally, I have a soothing playlist with tracks by Ludovico Einaudi and Ólafur Arnalds which helps with creative thinking and strategy sessions.

2. Work Up A Sweat

study conducted at Bristol University found that exercise boosted employee performance by 21%. Their research was based on 200 employees across three organizations who exercised one day and didn’t exercise the next. Overall, on workout days, participant scores were 21% higher for concentration, 22% higher for finishing work on time, 25% higher for working without unscheduled breaks and 41% higher for feeling motivated.

3. Make Your Office Green

According to the University of Exeter, employee productivity soars by 15% when offices are furnished with just a handful of houseplants. Plants are also known to reduce stress, illness, absenteeism and noise levels. They can also help with cleaning the air and making your workspace more attractive to job applicants.

While a bonsai may look aesthetically pleasing, opt for something low maintenance like a cactus, spider or pothos plant. Looking at an office full of dead plants isn’t going to do much for productivity.

4. Get More Sleep

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found in a 2010 study that employees with insomnia or insufficient sleep experienced major productivity losses, spending almost three times as much of their day just on time management. Sleep-deprived workers also suffered a lack of motivation, couldn’t focus, had trouble remembering things and making good decisions. Getting your seven to eight hours per night is highly recommended.

5. Focus On One Thing At A Time

study from 2009 shows that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli. Multitaskers also performed worse on a test of task-switching. As it turns out, multitaskers are just more distracted.

If you want to get more done, do one thing at a time. Your concentration will improve, and ultimately, you’ll be more productive. My inbox is usually the biggest distraction that causes me to jump from one task to another so I make sure my phone notifications are off and my inbox is closed when I am working on big tasks.

6. Take Planned Breaks

Some people like to avoid distractions and get into a flow state while working. This makes a lot of sense on paper and when it’s crunch time I have been in danger of getting too in the zone. As it turns out, brief diversions can improve focus and performance, according to a study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Don’t forget to take a few quick breaks throughout your workday. Just make sure they are planned at intervals and not too long.

7. Power Nap

You would think sleeping on the job is a terrible idea. Typically, this would be viewed as a blatant act of defiance in the workplace. But according to a studyconducted by Vern Baxter and Steve Kroll-Smith, more employers are encouraging employees to take naps. As companies empowered their employees to nap, their overall productivity increased. Napping may not be the norm for you or your team, but it might be worth considering adding it to your routine or company culture.

8. Go For Walks

A 2014 study from Stanford University demonstrated the value of going for walks. Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz found that participants who were walking – versus sitting – came up with 60% more unique responses to stimuli.

If you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, or if you’re beginning to feel a little tired, going for a walk might be an excellent way to stimulate creative thinking and come up with better solutions to the problems you’re encountering. In case you were thinking of staying inside and walking on a treadmill, think again, walking outside is better for creativity.

Final Thoughts

While productivity hacks can appear counterintuitive by taking you away from your work, the long term benefits of taking care of yourself physically and mentally will make you more productive in the long run.

How to Stop Being Lazy with 5 Fantastic Habits! Recognize what makes you tick and you’re more than step closer to mastering yourself! See how here… The post How to Stop Being Lazy with 5 Fantastic Habits appeared first on Domincusation.

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How To Spend The First Hour Of Your Work Day On High-Value Tasks

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Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your day until you have it planned. — Jim RohnEvery morning, get one most important thing done immediately.There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’re already in the flow.And the easiest way to trigger this feeling is to work on your most important task in the first hour.Use your mornings for high-value workLean to avoid the busy work that adds no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.

Low-value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Productive mornings start with early wake-up calls

“In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90% said they wake up before 6 a.m. on weekdays.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, for example, wakes at 4 a.m. and is in the office no later than 7 a.m.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30 to read, and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is up at 5:30 to jog.”

The first quiet hour of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important work project without being interrupted.

Don’t plan your day in the first hour of your morning

Cut the planning and start doing real work. You are most active on a Monday Morning.

Think about it. After a weekend of recovery, you have the most energy, focus and discipline to work on your priorities.

Don’t waste all that mental clarity and energy planning what to do in the next eight hours.

Do your planning the night before.

Think of Sunday as the first chance to prepare yourself for the week’s tasks.

Monday mornings will feel less dreadful and less overwhelming if you prepare the night before.

If you choose to prioritize …

There are one million things you could choose to do in your first hour awake.

If you choose to start your day with a daily check list/to-do list, make sure that next to every task you have the amount of time it will take to complete them.

The value of the of putting time to tasks is that, every time you check something off, you are able to measure how long it took you to get that task done, and how much progress you are making to better plan next time.

Get the uncomfortable out of the way

You probably know about Brian Tracy’s “eat-a-frog” – technique from his classic time-management book, Eat That Frog?

In the morning, right after getting up, you complete the most unwanted task you can think of for that day (= the frog).

Ideally you’ve defined this task in the evening of the previous day.

Completing an uncomfortable or difficult task not only moves it out of your way, but it gives you great energy because you get the feeling you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

Do you have a plan from yesterday?

Kenneth Chenault, former CEO and Chairman of American Express, once said in an interview that the last thing he does before leaving the office is to write down the top 3 things to accomplish tomorrow, then using that list to start his day the following morning.

This productivity hack works for me.

It helps me focus and work on key tasks. It also helps me disconnect at the end of the day and allow time for my brain to process and reboot.

Trust me, planning your day the night before will give you back a lot wasted hours in the morning and lower your stress levels.

Try this tonight.

If you’re happy with the results, then commit to trying it for a week.

After a week, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to add “night-before planning” to your life.

Want to get more done in less time?

You need systems not goals. I’m creating a new course, Systems For Getting Work Done to help you create a personal productivity system to get 10X more done in less time. Sign up to be notified when it launches.

This article first appeared on Medium.

How To Prevent Morning Anxiety From Totally Ruining Your Day

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Anxiety has a very unwelcome way of popping up when you least expect it. It could happen at a party, just when you were starting to have a good time. Or in the middle of the night, making it that much harder to get a blissful eight hours of sleep. And, for some, anxiety has a habit of rearing its ugly head in the early morning—just to make sure your day starts off on a really stellar note.
Why—why?!—does morning anxiety happen? And how do you get rid of it? Here, Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine gives all the need-to-know facts.

What morning anxiety looks like (and why it’s happening)

There’s a difference between waking up and being in a bad mood because you don’t feel like going to work and having actual morning anxiety. Here are the signs of the latter, according to Dr. Saltz:

  • A rush in adrenaline, such as a racing heart or increased jitteriness.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • A sense of worry for no apparent reason.
  • Feeling on edge, but you aren’t sure why.
  • Exhaustion even though you’ve just slept.

As for why anxiety can strike in the morning, Dr. Saltz says there are a few factors at play that could cause morning anxiety:

1. You have higher amounts of stress hormones in the morning. “There’s actually a physiological reason why some people experience anxiety in the mornings,” Dr. Saltz says. “For one, it’s when cortisol levels are naturally at their highest.” She explains that cortisol is often called “the stress hormone” because high levels of it can lead to feeling stressed.

“There’s nothing you can do from stopping cortisol from raising slightly in the morning—that’s biologically what happens—but there are steps you can take to lower your cortisol over all so that it doesn’t peak as high,” Dr. Saltz says. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to it!)

2. Coffee can lead to feeling anxious. What you eat or drink in the morning can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety, according to Dr. Saltz. “The first thing many people do in the morning is drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine, particularly for people who already have anxiety, can definitely worsen the symptoms of that.” She explains that caffeine can lead to feeling jittery and having an increased heart rate. “Then our brain tries to come up with a reason to explain why we feel that way: I’m feeling jittery. I must be worried about X.” Dr. Saltz says this happens so quickly that it can feel like we have the thought first and thenthe physiological reaction, but it’s actually the other way around.

3. Sugar is another culprit. What are you normally eating for breakfast? If you’re going for something that has lots of simple sugars or carbs (like a smoothie bowl or toast), the quick energy spike could ultimately affect your morning anxiety. “Right after you have an insulin burst, blood sugar levels drop and that can make your anxiety feel worse,” Dr. Saltz says, adding that this can lead to feeling fatigued or on edge for seemingly no reason. Your blood sugar is also at a natural low point in the morning (since, you know, you haven’t eaten since the night before), which can contribute to feeling anxious.

4. Morning anxiety could also be a sign of having general anxiety disorder. If you experience morning anxiety several times a week, Dr. Saltz says you likely have generalized anxiety disorder, which she says is extremely common. (This means that you are consistently experiencing symptoms of anxiety over at least a six-month period.) If this is the case, the key will be finding ways to quell your anxiety as a whole.

If you suspect that you have generalized anxiety disorder, the next best step is to seek help from a mental health professional, who help you develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

5. You’re chronically stressed. “If you are overly stressed, your body will produce more cortisol,” Dr. Saltz says. That means that morning peak is going to be higher than it would be otherwise. Again, the only way to get to the root cause of this is to take steps to minimize the stress in your life.

How to fight back against morning anxiety

Anxiety is a frustrating condition, especially when it pops up first thing in the a.m. As mentioned above, if you have chronic anxiety or a diagnosed anxiety condition, you’ll want to work with your mental health practitioner to find the right treatment for you. But if your morning anxiety is more of an occasional annoyance, Dr. Saltz has some tips that could help cut down on its occurrence:

1. Make measures to minimize overall stress. If you have generalized anxiety disorder or are overly stressed, Dr. Saltz says it’s important to take steps to manage it, which could include the help of a therapist. “Meditationregular exercise, and having an overall healthy diet all play parts in minimizing overall stress,” she adds.

2. Cut back on caffeine and sugar. Because these are two culprits that often cause physiological responses that mimic anxiety, cutting them out or reducing your intake could help. Look for breakfast foods rich in protein and healthy fats (the latter is especially good for brain health) that won’t spike insulin levels, like eggs or a green smoothie, and consider switching your regular latte for a milder form of caffeine, like matcha or tea.

3. Take some deep breaths. This might seem like an “easier said than done” situation, but Dr. Saltz says taking slow, deep breaths truly can help calm the mind and body. “If there’s something you’re worried about on your mind that pops up while you’re taking your deep breaths, acknowledge it and let it pass; don’t try to push it away,” she says.

4. Write down everything you’re worried about. In morning moments where you feel consumed by everything you have to get done that day, Dr. Saltz says it can help to write them down. “Some people keep a ‘worry journal’ for this purpose,” she says. “Once they write it down, it’s out of their mind and they can move on with their day.” It can also help, she says, to make a to-do list so you know exactly when you’re going to get everything done. That way, you’re not spending your morning trying to figure it out in your head.

5. Get enough good quality sleep. Dr. Saltz says not getting enough quality sleep can also lead to feeling anxious when you wake up. Again, it’s because those pesky cortisol levels come into play; not getting enough sleep can raise them higher.

Morning anxiety can feel frustrating and overwhelming. But knowing the everyday factors that can contribute to it can help you take back control of how you feel. Here’s to actually enjoying our morning routines again.

Find out how having anxiety impacted one woman’s career. And here’s the difference between feeling anxious and stressed.

 

3 Small Habits That Improved My Productivity and Well-Being

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You often hear about new methods to increase productivity, boost incomes, and raise brand profile. You get advice from experts on habits to decrease clutter, work on the essential, and concentrate harder. You aren’t always told that these same habits and methods can help your wellbeing–and your productivity.

This is why I was happy to come across Atomic Habits by James Clear and watch him talk on the subject in Nashville this January. Clear’s New York Times bestselling book collects all the current research on habits and distills it down to easily applicable principles you can use in your own life and work. In the end, it’s all about building good systems so you see the results you want down the road.

After listening to Clear, I found these three small habits really useful.

1. Stack your habits.

Habit stacking is a great way to jump-start a new habit. The idea is to use a habit you already have as a cue to trigger your new habit. Basically, it follows this formula: After [current habit], I will [new habit].

This idea, which originally came from research conducted by Stanford professor BJ Fogg, can be applied to many areas of life. For example, I found I wasn’t drinking enough water to stay hydrated. So I stacked drinking water onto something I already do, which is drinking a cup of coffee.

Getting my coffee fix is an automatic, preexisting habit. Once I have my favorite dark brew, I will drink three cups of water.

This can be applied to your productivity as well. Clear shared how a woman at a financial firm stacks her habits at work. She said, after she checks future prices, she will email her clients.

2. Change your environment.

A good habit doesn’t stand a chance against a bad environment. This is why those office cookies can keep throwing you off even if you work out and eat well. But if you design your own environment to encourage good habits or discourage bad ones, you will have more success.

I had read Tim Ferriss’s idea of cutting back on technology for wellness. So I designed my new environment to keep my phone and computer out of the bedroom. I would place them in a bowl on my living room coffee table, so if I wanted to use them I would I have to go out there.

When you’re already in bed, you don’t want to get out. This has allowed me to relax at night and focus on my new habit of practicing 10 minutes of mindfulness.

At Clear’s talk, he shared with the audience how he used environmental design to increase his own productivity. When he was writing his book Atomic Habits, he got way behind. In order to complete the book, he decided to change his work environment to make it less distracting.

Basically, Clear made it difficult to look at his social media accounts during the week. He accomplished this not by strength of will but instead by having his assistant log him out of his accounts every Monday–and change his passwords. He would then get the new passwords on Friday, leaving him free to concentrate on the book during the week.

3. Never miss twice.

People tend to be all or nothing with habits. You’re either someone who works out three days a week or doesn’t work out. You’re someone who eats salads or someone who eats office cookies. There’s no middle ground.

The problem is that life always interferes with cues and triggers for good habits. It breaks your routines.

Clear’s advice is we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about falling off track. The goal is to never miss twice. Sure, you may have missed the gym once this week, but that doesn’t mean the whole system is off. Chocolate may come into my office and I’ll have a piece, but as long as I don’t miss my good eating habits twice in a row, I can keep on track.

This can be applied to work as well. Clear shared how he used the idea of never missing twice with his online blog. When he started the blog, his goal was to publish every Monday and Thursday. However, sometimes life would intervene and he would miss a Monday. Instead of giving up writing altogether, he would just get back on track on Thursday. By not missing twice, he was able to consistently publish his blog and grow a following.

All three habits are great. His practical advice has worked wonders for creating habits that stick for me. Since applying his advice, I’ve been able to start new habits, stay focused, and, more importantly, get back on track if I lose out one day.

Personal Productivity Is A Personal Choice

Author Article

Many people live their lives by circumstance with no plan. As a result, some wind up unhappy. How many times a day do you hear, “I just don’t have the time” or “There are not enough hours in the day”?

We are all busy working on something — in our jobs or our personal lives, fulfilling commitments to others, striving to be productive. But as many time-management experts have said, we are often too busy to be productive.

There is an array of products and services available to manage time better; many of them are somewhat efficient. Still, most are based on managing circumstantial time — when to have which meeting, how long each meeting should last, etc. — rather than being goal-driven. Of course, there are goal-focused seminars and programs, but attendees sometimes come up with goals to appear as though they are participating. Those goals may not be real, and accordingly, they have no power.

“OK,” you may say, “what does work?”

Take The Path Of Common Sense 

Firstly, most of what I’m about to write is common sense. However, I’ve found that sometimes common sense is frequently less than common. People work too hard to make sense of what they are doing, making everything more complicated than necessary.

To keep things simple, I try to develop three sets of goals: business, family and personal. In setting these goals, I am diligent not only to assure that I can attain each but also include a genuine happiness level I will give myself when I succeed. Hence, the goals have power and prepare me to make the choices I need to meet them.

Common sense? Sure, but clearly, there is more.

For instance, it makes sense to keep a calendar, and a lot of executives work hard at abiding by their calendars. But often, others have control of that calendar, scheduling meetings, trips, even personal things like remembering anniversaries or perhaps a child’s play date, which augurs well for being programmed by circumstance.

To me, it’s common sense to control my calendar myself. That way, I empower me, not circumstance, to schedule by my goal-driven plan.

Stop ‘Trying To Do It All’

“Ah,” you may react, “that sounds great, but you can’t control the workplace environment — stuff just happens.”

That’s true to a certain degree, but if one is assiduous in planning against a set of goals, there will be enough time to react to and deal with the inevitable circumstantial events. Let’s take this concept a step further with one example.

Usually, by late Wednesday, I have enough emails about however many meetings there will be the next week. I look at all of them carefully and objectively and decide which meetings I must go to. If a meeting does not fit into my goal plan and somebody else can cover it, I decide to do something that advances my goals. These types of choices save me hundreds of hours a year.

Common sense, right? For me, yes. But I find that many people seem to feel as though attending every meeting or conference call makes them important. Consequently, they fail at being productive overall because they are too exhausted and stressed from “trying to do it all.”

Granted, as a senior leader, I may have more leeway in controlling my calendar than others might, but I firmly believe that anybody who starts with the confidence and diligence to control their calendar against a broader life plan will facilitate other time-management practices.

I’m not advocating that we cavalierly thumb our noses at things we don’t want to do. Responsible scheduling requires maturity and objectivity to assess reality. I am suggesting that by making a plan that includes conscientious, measured choices in how we control our time, we can generate the personal productivity it takes to attain our goals and enjoy the happiness that brings.

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