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How to be More Productive businesswomen-illustrations_web

The key to productivity isn’t having more hours to burn, it’s having the fuel to power the time we do have. Being your best at work comes down to energy management.

It’s energy that makes or breaks our lives. We have [periods] in which we have maximum alertness, the most focus, and we can engage almost effortlessly.

Learning when those most productive moments are, and how to build your workday around them can make a huge difference in your performance—not to mention your stress levels. There are even ways to broaden the hours when you’re at your best—which, when it comes right down to it, is even better than being granted extra hours in your day. Here’s how to maximize your energy levels for a more productive, and less stressful, workday.

women-hitting-snooze_webAssess Your Sleep Schedule

Your hours of peak performance are largely determined by your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. Whereas night owls come alive after 5pm, morning people are ready to go when they wake until about noon.

Morning people are those who don’t have a problem waking up in the morning and want to get up and get moving. Evening people stay up much later, have a harder time getting up, and hit the snooze alarm repeatedly. “The trick is to schedule your hardest, most demanding work during your peak hours.”

sales-meeting_webAdapt to Your Work Hours

“Because they have to get up with the rest of the world, night owls get less sleep, are tired in the middle of the day and don’t start coming to life until early evening,” says Loehr. That might be okay if you’re self-employed or do shift work, but if you keep traditional hours, you’ll never maximize your potential. Though it may feel like your propensity to burn the midnight oil is set in stone, you can actually change your sleep patterns. And, if you work in a 9am-to-5pm environment, Loehr strongly recommends it. “When we change people from night owls to early birds, they become much happier—and more productive.”

Here’s how: Go to bed at 10pm every night. Set an alarm away from your bed, so that you have to get up to turn it off. As soon as you turn it off, turn on all of your lights and pull back your curtains. Wakefulness hormones are triggered by sunlight. Though it’s a difficult transition at first, the body is very responsive and will eventually automatically switch over, says Loehr.

businesswoman-working-on-computer_webDig Right In

Even though most of us are at our peak in the morning, we squander those hours by chatting with coworkers or checking email as soon as we arrive at work. “Without question, you want to tackle the items that require the most brain power, decision making, focus and effort in your most productive time of day.” s

To that end, do not check email first thing in the morning (or, for night owls, when your workday begins at 5pm). “Instead, decide on an important project you want to make progress on and spend your first hour or so working on that”.  Don’t waste it doing paperwork, making routine phone calls or surfing the web.

brain-storming_webTap Into Your Creativity

There is one type of important project that is better left for your non-optimal hours.

Though it seems counterintuitive, fatigue makes our mind wander. This inability to stay rigidly focused makes us more likely to dream, think big picture and land on out-of-the-box solutions. When your attention is naturally waning during these less productive times of day, try scheduling brainstorming sessions or working on innovative projects.

time-management_webPractice the Two-Hour Rule

Never give yourself an entire day to work on a project, because you will fritter away most of that time. You can stay energized and focused for about two hours at a time. Scheduling your day in two-hour chunks. “Anything that needs to happen can be done in two hours.” This gives you enough time to get into any task so you can make significant progress, but not long enough that you get burned out.

Between projects, take mini breaks. “We are physical creatures. Our energy waxes and wanes, so we need those recharge periods. You will be far more productive than if you try to sit there for eight hours straight” . Another live-by rule: Never eat where you work. “It forces you to change context, which can give your brain a mental refresh” .

tired-businesswoman_webFend Off the Mid-Afternoon Slump

Whether a night owl or an early bird, we all experience the mid-afternoon slump.

“We shut down a little bit, partially due to eating lunch and partially to hormone secretions”. This is when the entire animal kingdom rests or preens. Since we can’t very well tell our boss we’re checking out for a siesta, use this time to make phone calls, or to do something that gets you up and moving.

“Doing detailed work is very difficult” . Still, if a deadline looms and you have no other option, you can counteract this sluggishness with quick bursts of exercise. Oxygen fuels the brain. Take a brisk walk outside or climb up and down the stairs, we call this the “no-sweat threshold.” Invigorate yourself as much as you can without getting sweaty for five minutes. Do this every 30 to 45 minutes, and you will be much more focused, energized and productive than if you tried to simply power through the fog. Going to bed early also helps ward off the effects of the afternoon slump.


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Leadership Thought #313 – You Need To Manage Your Thoughts.

via Leadership Thought #313 – You Need To Manage Your Thoughts.

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Don’t Check Your Email for the First Hour. Total Waste of Time

Reading e-mails first thing in the morning is not productive. If something urgently needs you, they will call or text me.

Not all of us can roll into the office whenever we happen to get there, but most of us with jobs that don’t require constant on-call awareness can trade e-mail for organization and single-focus work.

If you need to make sure the most important messages from select people come through instantly, AwayFind can monitor your inbox and get your attention when something notable arrives. Otherwise, it’s a gradual but rewarding process of training interruptors and coworkers not to expect instantaneous morning response to anything they send in your off-hours.

Gain Awareness, Be Grateful

Set up an “Hour of Power,” “30 Minutes to Thrive,” or at least “Fifteen Minutes to Fulfillment.”
Part of it involves light exercise, part of it involves motivational incantations, but the most accessible piece involves 10 minutes of thinking of everything you’re grateful for: in yourself, among your family and friends, in your career, and the like. After that, visualize “everything you want in your life as if you had it today.”

Get your Free “Hour of Power” audio stream.

Do the Big, Shoulder-Sagging Stuff First

Mark Twain said that, if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you’ve got it behind you for the rest of the day, and nothing else looks so bad. Combine that with the concept of getting one thing done before you wade into email, and you’ve got a day-to-day system in place. Here’s how to force yourself to stick to it:

Choose Your Frog

“Choose your frog, and write it down on a piece of paper that you’ll see when you arrive back at your desk in the morning. “If you can, gather together the material you’ll need to get it done and have that out, too.”

One benefit to tackling that terrible, weighty thing you don’t want to do first thing in the morning is that you get some space from the other people involved in that thing–the people who often make the thing more complicated and frustrating. Without their literal or figurative eyes over your shoulder, the terrible thing often feels less complex, and you can get more done.

Ask Yourself If You’re Doing What You Want to Do

Feeling unfulfilled at work shouldn’t be something you realize months too late, or even years. Consider making an earnest attempt every morning to ask yourself:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

“Customer Service” (or Your Own Equivalent)

Your own version of customer service might be keeping in touch with contacts from year-ago projects, checking in with coworkers you don’t regularly interact with, asking questions of mentors, and just generally handling the human side of work that quickly gets lost between task list items. Do your customer service on the regular, and you’ll have a more reliable roster of helpers when the time comes.

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Counting on willpower alone is not enough. “When you rely on willpower to meet your expenses, important financial obligations such as timely payments and depositing to an emergency cash or retirement fund are left up to your personal choice and can easily be mismanaged.”

“Make your important payments automatic so bills get paid on time, and important savings deposits that protect you and your family don’t get missed.”

  • Make payments automatic to avoid late fees.
  • Set up shadow payment dates by subtracting seven days from the real due date.
  • Make payments automatic using your bank’s or the payee’s online bill pay.

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Some people believe small expenditures don’t matter. Bach calls this your “latte factor.”

Look seriously at your daily spending of small dollar amounts for such things as coffee, cigarettes or eating out. “You may tell yourself you can’t save $10 per day, but you’re already spending it. If you saved it, you’d have a healthy cash emergency fund or hundreds of thousands of retirement dollars over 40 years.

Save your money instead of spending it.

  • Identify one wasteful daily spending habit and stop it.
  • Determine the monthly amount you will be saving, no matter how small, and pay yourself first through an automatic deposit from your paycheck to a savings or retirement account.

Write down your exact plan to break your bad financial habits so you will be more likely to stick with new positive habits.

“Use a family meeting to determine exactly how each member will contribute to changing the family’s finances for the better.”

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Avoiding retirement planning in favor of spending on the here and now is a costly mistake

“People think it’s an all-or-nothing program and they don’t have enough to put toward retirement, so they do nothing. But you can start small, as long as you start.”

Begin the plan for your retirement.

  • Replace excuses with the affirmation, “I may want to stop working someday, but I will need money forever.”
  • Meet with a financial planner who offers a free initial consultation to discuss all of your retirement savings options.
  • Set up automatic deposits, no matter how small, to retirement and cash emergency savings accounts. Build your plans over time.

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Paying just the minimum is a good way to stretch out your debts for as long as you can.

“When you only pay the minimum amount due on a credit card, you’re effectively rolling over approximately 97 percent of the balance and adding the interest applied.” This is very profitable for mortgage companies and card issuers, but not you. “The only way to reduce your balance quickly is to pay more than the minimum, avoid fees and stop adding to balances.”

Pay more than the minimum with every payment.

  • Set up automatic timely payments of a higher amount than the minimum.
  • For fastest results, create a “debt snowball,” in which you pay as much as you can toward the lowest-balance card until it is paid off. Then you apply that same payment amount plus the new payment amount to the card with the next-smallest balance.
  • Consider taking advantage of the automatic biweekly mortgage payment plan your lender may offer. For the one-time fee, the quicker pay-down is worth many thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.



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