Create the perfect workspace.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get everything ready for the work you need to do. Collect all the materials the night before so you don’t have to waste time looking for them in the morning. This includes reference materials (bookmark them in your browser or write notes to have on hand), a daily plan (a checklist of tasks to complete), a bottle of water at the table, and an energy snack (power bar or fruit nut mix). A few more tips to consider:
Too much noise from family or roommates? Collect all this and go to the library, then find a table at the back so that no one distracts you. Do colleagues communicate without interruption? Buy a good pair of noise-canceling headphones and, if possible, step away from your desk for an hour and find a table in the cafeteria or an empty conference room so you can focus on the important deadline.
Always have a goal to strive for.
When you have specific goals that you want to achieve, you’re less likely to waste time on things that aren’t related to those goals. Bonus: everything you do starts to feel like it has a purpose. To help you better focus on your goals, try this technique:
Begin each day by asking:
What is the ONE thing I am willing to complete today? This question forces you to prioritize, helps your brain focus better, and streamlines the work you have to do on that particular day so you don’t get stressed out and overwhelmed by having to make too many choices. Find out how your brain works.
There is a way to work smarter (in less time) rather than harder (in more time): optimize your brain. For one week, keep a journal of all the mental activities you do in the morning, afternoon, afternoon, and evening. You will notice a pattern in how your brain works at certain times of the day. Then adjust your schedule to accommodate activities based on what works for your brain and when. For example:
Mornings can be great for doing deep work, which is work that requires a lot of your concentration. Some scientists call this the time of maximum brain performance, and after about 2-4 hours we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6 a.m., your peak time is between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Block this time so that the analytical brain can perform the most complex tasks that require a lot of attention. Early evenings are great for collaboration. This covers 12-4 pm. the time slot when you take your lunch break and a few hours later when you’re more likely to socialize. This is a good time to schedule meetings, brainstorm ideas with others, and collaborate on projects where you can provide feedback and get recommendations on your work. Evenings usually around 5-9 pm, can be scheduled for strategic thinking. This is when the brain settles down at a different pace and when it can be more creative. If you set goals and strategize where you want to be in 6 months or a year with your personal development or career, that’s when you can map out your next steps. This is a great time to create and contemplate the big picture. Become a time management pro.
Why are you spending hours at your desk but not as productive as you could be? Try a different approach to your work:
When you’re ready to start learning, use a timer to divide your time into manageable increments that allow your brain to focus more purposefully and efficiently. Set a timer for 30 or 60 minutes to maximize concentration. For even shorter periods of focus, try the Pomodoro Technique, which consists of 25-minute blocks of time followed by 5-minute breaks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5-minute walk to get some fresh air, stretch your body for a few minutes, grab a cup of coffee, or tea.
Ignore distractions successfully.
Distraction can easily make you slip away from the work you are focused on and can waste time without even noticing you. Reading email and constantly checking Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter keeps you focused and can make you feel overwhelmed. Even worse: studies have shown that this multitasking can lower your IQ by 10 points!
Make a conscious effort to avoid distractions as much as possible. Here’s how:
Set your phone to airplane mode when you need to focus without distraction. Set others’ expectations by letting them know that you won’t be available for the next few hours so they don’t interrupt you with requests, questions, or comments. Check your email and social media apps only 2-3 times a day (around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and evening). Avoid surfing the Internet or reading the daily news; save these activities for later, after you have completed all the items listed in your daily plan.
Only answer phone calls from people who are on your favorites list
Why waste time picking up the phone when it rings. That’s what voicemail is for. Think about it: every time you pick up the phone, the person calling you takes ownership of your time. Try this instead:
Get smarter with your phone: check your calls, call back if something is urgent, and otherwise keep an eye on when the time is right.
Watch your daily TV reception.
Watching a TV show that you love to follow is one thing. But often that hour passes and you find yourself scrolling through the channels, finding another show, then another, then maybe a movie. The next thing you know in 3, 4, or 5 hours, you realize that you should already be asleep.
Try another entertainment source that doubles as a learning experience:
Looking for Joe. This is a documentary about mythology professor and writer Joseph Campbell and the concept of the hero’s journey: why the hero myth is still important to us, how we can learn what excites us and gives us greater purpose, and what we can do to apply these ideas in personal travels in our lives. YouTube Fight Mediocrity channel. This is a channel dedicated to fighting mediocrity with big ideas, using self-improvement books and animated important concepts in short video format. BBC documentary series The Ancient Worlds. British historian Bettany Hughes shares her passion for ancient societies and chronicles daily life in ancient Alexandria, Rome, and Athens. She examines in detail the organization of society among the Minoans, Spartans, and Moors. BBC travel in 3 parts Ibn Battuta: The Man, who walked the world. This show is about a 14th-century scientist who spanned 75,000 miles, 40 countries, and three continents in a 30-year odyssey.
Be smart with your commute.
Whether you’re walking, taking the bus or train, or driving to school, or working every day, all that time adds up. Why not plan ahead so you can maximize your commute to learn new things and gain strategic insight on how to achieve the goals that matter to you?
Podcasts can make your travel time so much more interesting by feeding your brain, keeping you alert and focused, and boosting your curiosity. Here are some ideas:
Optimization with Brian Johnson (My top pick: More wisdom in less time to help you live a better life. Condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and micro-classes on how to apply those ideas.) Inquiry (debate on a controversial topic in the news and 4 experts arguing each other with two views, for and against a topic) Intelligence Squared (the world’s leading forum for debate and intellectual discussion, led by great speakers and sharp minds) Achieve your goals with Hal Elrod (creator of The Miracle Morning) , offers ideas to improve your morning routine and increase your productivity) Planet of Money (stories about smart people, economics, politics) Radiolab (a show about curiosity, interesting ideas, science, philosophy) It’s Your Life with Michael Hyatt (a podcast on intentional leadership ,to help you live with more passion, work with more focus and lead with extraordinary influence) Happier With Gretchen Rubin (a fun show led by bestse One of the authors of the Happiness project, with little ideas that you can apply in your life to practice muscles of happiness) Radio Headspace (a podcast to inspire you to live a healthier and happier life, with topics like mindfulness, happiness and changing the world)
Don’t focus on your mistakes.
This is a secret waste of time. There is a big difference between learning and making mistakes. Think about it: you either learn to fail or you don’t. Making mistakes is a normal part of life. What matters is how you approach them. For example:
Try a different strategy for viewing your past by forgiving yourself for the mistakes you made. Meditate on them, learn from them, but don’t hold on to them. This applies to your relationships, career, education, and other areas of your life where you feel like you haven’t achieved what you wanted or haven’t reached a certain level. By changing your attitude towards mistakes, you will give yourself more freedom to better manage your future.
Don’t waste time talking to toxic people and obsessing over social media updates your friends (or complete strangers) make.
Toxic people may claim they are your friends, but they are not. What for? Because they don’t support you, they don’t listen to you, and they most likely won’t change just because you want them to. Be very picky about who you spend your free time with, and the next time a toxic person wants to monopolize your time, just say no. Tell them you’re busy. Don’t engage in negative banter. You are better off spending your free time on your own, doing things that make you relaxed and happy. It’s easy to get sucked into the latest Facebook or Instagram updates. Try to take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Most likely, the photos and updates are not the reality of your friends; this is the version of their reality that they want you to see. Instead, focus on what are you doing for yourself in your life. Practice gratitude for the little things, stay true to your goals, and don’t let others stop you from accomplishing what you set out to do. What for? Because you made a commitment when you set your personal goals. And because they should be what matters most to you.
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