Getting caught daily in the endless cycles of productive work, we move towards extending and optimizing our productivity, not once thinking of stopping and taking a break.
The most overlooked key to productivity is to pause and rest, something that feels counterintuitive.
Productivity warriors are so past ‘rest mode’ that even watching a complete movie in a relaxed manner is a challenging experience. We need to intentionally and thoughtfully design a restful off day, something that is increasingly difficult.
It is especially hard when we have our work desks right in the bedroom, or even on the bed. We need mental and physical demarcation to help separate our work from our life.
We need to do a mental check up on how we feel mentally, emotionally and physically, taking stock of our current and upcoming workload. A few pointers:
You can design a super-restful off day according to what makes us enjoy our life. It can be a healthy activity or doing something that does not require you to use your brain. Self-care is also a good idea, with a hot aromatic bath or pedicure making you feel better and relaxed.
You may also do your normal routines like preparing a cup of coffee, simply because it is relaxing to you. It feels restful and nourishing to freely let the day unfold, without any pressure or expectation. An off day is supposed to help you just be, not just doing something as always.
An evening stroll in the park or at the mall can be relaxing, as can be just staying in bed. The trick is to not let the normal work-related activities interfere with your restful off day. Do not measure this beautiful day with what you have accomplished, as that is missing the point entirely.
The purpose of this day is to help you feel better physically and mentally.
Prioritizing tasks at work involves getting all your tasks and commitments in one place. Take a piece of paper and make a list of everything you need to get done. Questions to help you:
Find your goals. Without them, it is impossible to prioritize your tasks. Try to set 90-day goals, which is long enough to make meaningful progress. Questions to prompt goals:
Prioritize your list of possible goals using and expected value (EV) calculation. Expected Value = Resources Required x Return on Investment x Probability of Success
Take the list of everything you could potentially work on over the next 90 days and then rank them by these criteria.
This method consists of ranking your tasks into five categories.
The priority matrix allows you to look through your to-do list and categorize based on their urgency and importance.
Categorize your tasks by how much value they generate for you or your company. Tasks can be assigned as either $10/hour, $100/hour, $1,000/hour or $10,000/hour.
We might think of the value of the tasks as linear, where some tasks are more important than others. But the difference in value can be huge. For example, one new product could dramatically grow the business while the minor website update might make a negligent difference.
Some examples of things that often waste time:
Update all the tasks on your list and prioritize them. Then put them on your calendar based around your energy levels. Ask "Given my current energy level, what's the most valuable task I can do now?
At the start of each day, look over your calendar and task list for that day, and quickly write down three things you are grateful for your priorities of the day.
Writing on paper makes it less likely to keep adding as the day progresses. Crossing the tasks off as you complete them feels very satisfying.
Time is our precious resource. It is perishable, it is irreplaceable, and it cannot be saved. It can only be reallocated from activities of lower value to activities of higher value.
Time management refers to how you schedule and organize your time for different activities.
Your “frog” is your most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
If you have two important tasks, start your day with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Focus on completing it before you go to the next one.
We tend to confuse activity with accomplishment: we attend endless meetings and make plans, but at the end of the day, no one does the job and gets the results required.
“Failure to execute” is among the biggest problems in organizations today.
For you to develop sufficient desire to develop time management and organizational skills, you must be intensely motivated by the benefits you feel you will enjoy.
You must want the results badly enough to overcome the natural inertia that keeps you doing things the same old way.
Emotional distractions are a symptom of our workplace culture
Workplace isolation sends us to Twitter and Facebook. Or to check in on email and chat every 5-10 minutes to see if there’s a new message.
Solution: Creating a daily routine with time to connect with the people you work with and not just resorting to impersonal communication.
Living in a space of constant half-attention causes our brain to lose focus.
Solution: Adopt a work schedule designed around single-tasking. for that, learn to prioritize. Because distraction might actually be just confusion about what matters.
Our work environment rarely lends itself to focus. So get more comfortable with distractions.
Our brains are brilliant at noticing anything that doesn’t match a pattern. We’re drawn to novelty, which makes a distraction—like a loud coworker or hearing a one-sided conversation—in an otherwise monotonous workday very hard to ignore.
Our perpetual busyness only encourages and grows our culture's obsession with work and being a workaholic.
We pride ourselves with how busy our schedules are working or going out with friends, but we rarely ever do make time for ourselves.
With having a strong work ethic, one must also have a rest ethic that is just as strong. To be able to function in our best, we must find the time to give ourselves proper rest. Think of it as breathing; if you keep inhaling, there will come a point where you'll reach your limits and need to exhale.
Burnouts are incredibly common nowadays and so it is even more reason to give yourself a well-deserved break.
In our current society which has never ending workloads, having control over your own time is better than having someone else control it.
Resting is never a bad thing to do. Most especially if being able to rest gives us peace of mind, a sense of clarity, and stability.
As Max Frenzel once said about rest: it is an“investment into productivity, and into creativity.”
If you focus on getting the small stuff done but not the big stuff, or switch between tasks all the time, you’ll be less effective.
Pick one important thing to focus on at a time and learn to evaluate what tasks and projects are of higher value to you.
It's best done by focusing on the smallest first step and practicing just launching into that.
Pick the tiniest first step, and launch into it.
Pick a short interval (10 minutes, 15, 20, or 25) and practice focusing on one task during that session, until the timer goes off.
Then take a break, and try another focus session.
It's a great skill for keeping yourself focused and Getting Stuff Done. Choose a to-do program, put your tasks in the to-do list and every day just pick a few to focus on.
And at the beginning and the end of each day step back and taking a look at the overall picture, to adjust your plan and refocus.
Don't worry about perfectionism, just get the task done. Then go back and revise.
But don’t overthink it, just focus on doing.
It means not blaming others for your difficulties in getting things done.
Recognizing the obstacles but taking responsibility for finding a way, or accepting what needs to be accepted, or recognizing your part in the dynamic you’ve created.
Communicate clearly and honestly, so that everyone is clear on responsibilities and boundaries and consequences of not honoring those responsibilities and boundaries.
Having a minimal structure is good. You can adjust over time:
How will you start your day so that you’ll work on the important stuff? How will you do your focus sessions so you won’t be too distracted? How will you review your day so that you’ll learn from what happened? How will you create accountability?
The desire to do too many things at once is not new. It takes on an extra form at new year - the desire to also add a total life makeover, sorting out your work backlog, fixing relationship issues, your health, and your home repairs all at once.
The urge should be resisted. The one ingredient for a happier and more meaningful new year is the opposite: to improve your ability to do only one thing at a time.
Doing various things at once is usually a way to quieten anxiety. When you're drowning in to-dos, it's calming to feel that you're getting to lots of them at the same time. It's also reassuring to think that you're handling all the issues, not just one.
But the feeling is misleading. Research shows that you waste time and energy "task-switching". Worse, each activity becomes a way of avoiding the next. It means that you make less progress in many areas, and you make less progress overall.
The biggest part of learning to do one thing at a time is trying to control that discomfort that comes from knowing what you're not getting done.
Success comes from building one thing at a time. There are limits. You can't put your job on hold while writing, or stop parenting while you work on your fitness. But you can strive to move your life in the direction of having only a handful of projects at any one time.
Use an app to get you into the routine of doing certain activities daily and weekly.
At first, it might feel silly to write day-to-day tasks down in an app, but the process of ticking them off and tracking your progress helps to get you into a routine.
If you find your mind frequently jumping around, an app can be life-changing to help you focus.
It can train you to notice when your mind is wandering, and help you to get back on track.
The modern working environment is making our ability to focus on a huge issue: Open-plan offices, social media, etc.
When you need to do deep work, remove the distractions and work on a single task. The task will get done quicker and to a higher quality.
How much time you should spend on deep work will depend on your job.
E-mail can destroy your focus.
Read up about the daily routines of other CEOs, sports stars, etc.
You might not find an exact routine to suit you, but you might find some amazing ideas to use for your own life.
Mindfulness and meditation are effective strategies to still and center our thoughts and emotions but they do not seem to help much during a wait.
We feel anxious during the wait because that time is imposed on us, with us being unable to control anything. Waiting is also used by people to remind others about their power. That is why the ‘needy’ person in a relationship or even at the interview venue is kept waiting.
Fuming over waiting is only scratching the surface, and is short-sightedness towards a symptom. We need to dig deeper and look for the cause, asking oneself the reason for the wait.
We can then begin to ask ourselves who the beneficiary of the waiting game is. We can sometimes benefit ourselves from waiting, as it builds our patience, and also helps others(as in case of a traffic light).
We hate waiting as it breaks the day’s flow, putting us in limbo. This wait mode is what gets to us, as it pulls us to the present moment, which we are trying to avoid most of the time by remaining distracted in the world. This time can be used to unlock the default mode of our brain, using daydreaming and our imagination network.
We need to embrace this forced present tense of our lives, that holds us in front of ourselves. This precious time is full of infinite possibilities to make the future even better.
Waiting can be a method to build radical empathy with other people.
Time is generally viewed as an individual and scarce resource. It is actually intertwined with the time of others, and our self-made boundaries make us selfish and uprooted from the universe, in conflict with everyone around us. When we understand this phenomenon of the intertwining of time (called temporal awareness) we end up managing our own time, as we do most of the time, and diminishing the time of other people, tearing our social fabric.
Waiting for a Disneyland park ride seems vastly different from waiting for justice in the court of law, and every wait has a different colour and hue. Certain injustices that are harming us have to be dealt with by taking appropriate action, instead of enjoying the wait time, which may be a ploy of the other to keep the injustice on.