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Business // Thinking Smart
David S. Chang

Tips For Being More Productive

Recent studies show that Americans are busier today than they have ever been, working longer than anyone else in the industrialized world.

With so much to do and so little time, here are some tips to help you be more efficient, productive and most importantly, maximize your time to live your life to its fullest.

* Plan ahead and prioritize. Plan your week ahead of time with your important priorities and tasks that need to be accomplished. This will help you keep focused on things that will help you reach your goals. Use checklists, especially a “daily top to do” list, to concentrate on what is important and that nothing falls through the cracks. Block out time on your calendar for key tasks and commit to doing it. Visit artofthinkingsmart.com for more tips.

* Have a daily ritual. Having a daily ritual will help you maximize your time. According to Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, spend five minutes in the morning to plan out your day and decide what will make it successful. Spend one minute every hour to stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and refocus. Ask yourself if you spent that last hour productively and look to see how effectively you will use the next hour. Manage your hours, don’t let your hours manage you! Then spend five minutes in the evening to recap the day and review how well you did things, what you learned and how you can make yourself better for tomorrow!

* Automate things. According to recent studies, decision-making and using willpower requires energy. The more decisions you make, the more energy it requires, depleting your reservoir of will and discipline. This is why at the end of a long day it is easier to procrastinate, pushing off important tasks and spoiling your diet by biting into that cookie. Automate tasks by making them into habits and routines so it becomes doing, not deciding. Using less energy throughout the day helps you become more productive. Break up large tasks into smaller ones so it easier to automate.

* Screen your calls and email. Email and phone calls are top distracters. Either set a block of time to answer emails or be vigilant in screening them for only extremely important ones. Studies show that switching tasks in the middle is counterproductive, since you have to completely shift your cognitive thinking. Even worse, it takes more than 23 minutes to switch back to the task!

* Be healthy and reduce stress. Stress can have a negative impact on work productivity. Studies show that the perception of control over a stressor alters its impact. In other words, feeling in control is one of the secrets to lowering stress. Deliberately plan ahead, get a clear idea of personal and professional expectations, and do things that increase control of a situation ahead of time. In addition, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest are crucial to lowering stress. It also is important to think positively and spend time doing things you love and to laugh!

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