Instead of wishing for more hours in a day or working late into the night, creating smarter habits is the best way to accomplish more in your day without feeling burnt out.
It’s entirely possible to become more efficient, productive, and feel refreshed at the same time. As you retrain your brain and adopt these habits, eventually you’ll have more control over your day and a better sense of where your time goes. Here are our tips:
With all the successful people who are known to rise with the sun, there may be something to the old cliche “the early bird gets the worm.” Though waking up at 3:45 am like Apple CEO Tim Cook might be on the extreme end, waking up just an hour earlier each day can add up quickly (think of what you could do with an extra 30 a month).
The early riser is a step ahead of the rest. Rather than rushing into the office, you have that extra time to read emails, get organized, or check something off your to-do list. Trying to be more disciplined or tackle a new challenge? Science shows that willpower is strongest in the morning, so start early!
Work in intervals
It turns out that working in intervals isn’t exclusively beneficial to athletes, but it’s helpful to those working in office settings as well. A study by The Draugiem Group found that its most productive employees spent an average of 52 minutes engrossed in their work, took a 17-minute break, then went back to work.
This rule of “52 and 17” comes down to working in “sprints” of a high level of focus and taking frequent breaks. Next time you’re working, try 52 minutes of 100% focus, then treat yourself to 17 minutes completely removed from your work. What you’ll find is that working with purpose will afford you a lot more downtime, decrease boredom, and increase productivity.
Trying to tackle too many tasks at once is what leads to burnout, and actually lowers the quality of your work. Productive people find their success through managing their time effectively, which means hyper-focusing and knocking out tasks instead of juggling.
You may not even realize you’re multitasking if you haven’t learned how to manage your distractions. Jumping back and forth between a news article, email, online banking, etc, may all seem relevant but it still dilutes your focus. Research says multi-tasking to accomplish more is a myth and that task-switching forms bad “brain habits”. By fragmenting your attention, you’ll end up feeling mentally drained faster, and hitting your goals will take longer.
Align your short-term goals with your long-term goals
Are your goals in sync and supportive of your long-term goals? Research by psychologists Ken Sheldon and Tim Kasser shows the importance of ‘vertical coherence’ in goal setting. Those whose short-term goals were relative to their long-term goals were happier and more engaged in meaningful activity (as opposed to distracting activity).
Whenever you make short-term goals, think about whether they’re moving you towards your long-term goals. If what you’re doing today is not moving you towards where you want to be tomorrow, you’re courting dissatisfaction.
Create a ritual
A routine isn’t merely a chain of events you do out of necessity – research shows just how routine primes us mentally and physically for success. It’s no coincidence that the best athletes, artists, and thinkers often have rituals that they follow each day. The repetition of a good routine reduces stress and gives you plenty of practice in perfecting your process.
If you read the routines of most successful people, you’ll see that there isn’t just one recipe for a productive day. You can start doing something that gets you in a positive mood or centres you, like running with your dog, creative work, or a leisurely breakfast with the family. Or, you can jump into the kind of work you know you do best in the morning, as long as it’s consistent.
Create more “now” deadlines to accomplish more
Vague deadlines will always get pushed back, and back…and back. The way to reach your major goals is to pave the way with smaller goals with more immediate deadlines. This recent study revealed our natural inclination to categorize time, and how we’re far more likely to procrastinate when the deadline is distant.
For instance, when you tell yourself you want to accomplish something, like “saving x amount of money”, your brain needs a more refined target in order to take action. An example would be that you would make a budget by the end of the week, or deposit a certain amount every Friday. Those smaller goals are much more manageable, with greater odds of follow through.
As Aristotle said, “Excellence…is not an act, but a habit,” and as creatures of habit, it’s important to keep encouraging smarter habits while leaving the bad ones behind. Research shows that it takes roughly 21 days to form a new habit, and after that, it all becomes second nature.