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How to Stay Productive When the World Is on Fire

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https://www.wired.com/story/productivity-tips-coronavirus-work-from-home/

wired.com

How to Stay Productive When the World Is on Fire
It feels impossible to get anything done right now. Here's how to keep your head above water—without falling into the busy trap.

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Taking breaks is key to better productivity

Taking breaks is key to better productivity

The harder and longer you work, the less productive overall you'll be. Research confirms that taking breaks before you're mentally exhausted is essential for productivity.

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Setting healthy boundaries

Set your personal boundaries, so you have dedicated time to take care of yourself, your family or household, and your professional responsibilities. You won't be any good to your family...

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Technology and productivity

We all have tools in our pockets to help us.

  • For example, consider using your phone's built-in alarm for taking breaks, or giving yourself a reminder to eat lunch, or taking a sc...

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Assess your media intake

Be less informed about the business outside your door. There is a point where bad news can wait.

It's essential to take a step back and think about what it means to sta...

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Don't value yourself by your productivity

The goal is to get the things you have to get done finished and spend more time on things that you want to do.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Flexibility with remote work

Flexibility with remote work

Usually, working from home is about flexibility. Every single person will have a different schedule, which will make them more productive.

Early risers and night owls

  • Early risers may work from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., take a break to get kids sorted for school, then start work again at 8:30 a.m and be finished by 2:30 p.m.
  • Some may sleep in and only start working around 10 a.m. They may stop at 3 p.m. and work again between 10 p.m and 1 a.m. when the house is quiet.

It's not always a matter of early versus late. Some people work longer hours on some days to give themselves a break on other days. It's all a matter of fitting work into your lifestyle and when you're most productive.

Batching for productivity

Batching is a common productivity strategy - group similar tasks together so your brain doesn't tire with too much context switching.

For example, to break your day into three-to four-hour work sessions with two- to three-hour breaks or naps in between. That way, you can focus on specific tasks during each session.

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Breaks keep us from getting bored

The human brain just wasn’t built for the extended focus we ask of it these days.

The fix for this unfocused condition is simple—all we need is a brief interruption (aka a break) to ge...

Breaks and brain connections

Our brains have two modes:

  • focused mode, which we use when we’re doing things like learning something new, writing or working) and 
  • diffuse mode, which is our more relaxed, daydreamy mode when we’re not thinking so hard.

The mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming—something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower.

Breaks help us reevaluate our goals

When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. 

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Make planning a habit

Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for you...

Align your to-do list with goals

  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.

Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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Cognitive biases

Cognitive biases

...are common thinking errors that harm our rational decision-making.

We don't always see things as they are. We don't simply glean information through the senses and act on it; inste...

Optimism Bias

Is our tendency to overestimate the odds of our own success compared to other people's. 

Overly optimistic predictions can be dangerous, leading us to waste time and resources pursuing unrealistic goals. In the real world of business, things don't always work out for the best, and it serves us well to know when conditions are not on our side.

How to control the optimism bias

  • Be skeptical of your own rosy expectations for your work. 
  • Assume projects will be more difficult and more expensive than you initially think they will. 
  • Don't trust your good ideas to manifest through positive thinking - be ready to fight for them.
  • Trust the numbers. Numbers are firm but fair, and getting intimate with your business's cash flow can help you make more rational decisions.

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Building habits

Our habits have the power to enable us, most of the time, to live a more organized life. However, we might find it quite challenging when it comes to establishing new habits, as they require...

Set measurable targets as habits

When trying to build new habits, be specific by thinking about ways to measure the evolution of your action: set clear targets that can help you, when the deadline previously decided on approaches, to evaluate your progress.

The pros and cons of building new habits

When picking up a new habit, think it well through: take into account the possible inconveniences as well as the most attractive advantages. 

Remember that sometimes it might get harder to keep to the habit, but eventually, you are doing it for a good cause that is related directly to yourself.

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Exhausting icebreakers

Now with our social life in quarantine, calling a friend on a whim feels normal.

“How are you holding up?” Or, “How is quarantine treating you?” Or, “You guys ready to kill each other ye...

How you can stay social

Instead of triggering more anxiety by rehashing your quarantine situations, think about what you can do to make your friends feel good and how to be there for them from a distance.

Tell them they matter to you and that you miss them. Then keep the conversation focused on things that make you both feel good.

Conversation suggestions

  • What’s something that made you smile or laugh this week?
  • What was the highlight of your day or week?
  • What have you been watching recently?
  • Have you read any good books or articles?
  • What’s your favorite podcast right now?
  • What have you been enjoying about working from home?
  • What have you been cooking?
  • Have you ordered out from any good restaurants lately?
  • What is making you feel most productive right now?
  • What is making you feel most at peace right now?
  • Have you found any fun ways to be creative?
  • What’s the most absurd thing you’ve seen on social media recently?
  • Where are you finding a sense of purpose right now?
  • What hobbies are you leaning into?
  • What are you doing to relax?

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Constraints and productivity

If you make work a scarcer quantity, you’re more likely to use time wisely and get things done than if it feels like an endless to-do list.

And you cand do this by restricting your hou...

Time vs workload

  • Restricting hours: set aside a certain chunk of time for work and don’t work outside of it. For example, the Pomodoro technique for working in short bursts of time.
  • Restricting workload: instead of deciding on a set number of hours, you decide on a set number of tasks. 

Constraining time

The biggest advantage of constraining time is that it’s always unambiguous. If you decide to work for three hours and then stop, there’s no confusion there.

Disadvantage: time constraints can encourage a sloppier attitude towards work. For example, you might decide to spend all day studying in the library—but without tasks to constrain your productivity, you end up checking your phone.

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Uncertainty Triggers Fear

Constant communication with the team is crucial for a manager, and the current state of affairs, when the world is in turmoil and most employees are sitting at home, it is increasingly difficult fo...

Two Tasks of a Manager

  • The first task for a manager is to be transparent, explaining to the team exactly what is known, and what isn’t known, and not to keep any team member in the dark.

  • The second task is to provide hope and a sense of possibility to the employees facing an uncertain future ahead.

Steel Yourself

Before any word is uttered to the employees, you need to understand your role and channel your leader 'avatar' in a time of crisis, as if preparing for a battle. Your steel nerves will be contagious(!) to your team members. You need to sound convincing, and it’s a good idea to follow the basics, like eating well, plenty of sleep and regular exercise.

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Using a productivity system

Using a productivity system

The idea of a productivity system is to organize the stuff you need to do.

There are many systems out there. But you may have no idea which system to pick. You may start we...

The purpose of using a system

There are only three different kinds of systems:

  1. The system of other people: You respond to the time pressures of other people.
  2. The system of feelings and moods: You might work a lot when you feel creative.
  3. A system of your own design: Moods and outside pressures still matter, but they're not the only guiding factor on what to do.

Building a habit of a productivity system is about creating a buffer between you and your temporary emotions or external pressures.

Your system needs to fit your work

Any system is designed using a particular set of assumptions about your work. The assumptions need to fit your situation.

For instance, the weekly/daily goals system works well when you have a number of concrete tasks to complete. But if your tasks are open-ended or contain only one task, then the system doesn't fit the task.

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