Rarely do professionals tell us to get up and walk away. But today, that is exactly what we are telling you to do.
That’s right. We want you to get up and walk away. We want you to take a few minutes to stretch. We want you to move your body. Because this is the missing key to being more productive at work.
For years, health professionals have been spouting on about the benefits of exercise. We are well aware that exercise is essential for managing weight and maintaining our overall health (organs like our lungs and heart seem to like it).
We are even starting to hear more about the importance of incorporating exercise into our work days to become more productive at work. Employers start wellness programs, offer gym memberships, and hand out pedometers like Pez candies.
Up until now, all those efforts were entirely focused on enhancing fitness, losing weight, and improving health. Instead of thinking about how many pounds we’ll lose (which is important), let’s look at how our brain, energy, and engagement levels are enhanced by exercise and see how 5-10 minute exercises can make us more productive at work.
Employees at New Balance shoe company participated in a study related to productivity at work. After the four month trial period, 239 participants weighed in on their findings; 42% reported heightened engagement and concentration as a result of their increased level of physical activity at work.
A study at the University of Bristol reported similar findings. After exercising, participants returned to work feeling more tolerant of themselves and more forgiving of their colleagues. Additionally, they exhibited higher work performance, better time management and improved mental sharpness.
Moreover, a report in the Journal of Applied Physiology acknowledged exercise makes us feel happier, increases mental alertness, makes us smarter, helps us feel energized and stay more productive at work and at home.
As we age, our bodies produce fewer and fewer brain cells. Fortunately, exercise helps prevent this deterioration. Therefore, by the time active people reach their 50s and 60s, they have more brain cells than their sedentary co-workers. The fact that we have more brain cells dedicated to the task of completing a project is a pretty obvious indicator of increased productivity.
For those who haven’t reached middle-age yet, there are definite short-term advantages to exercise too. Exercise affects our mitochondria – our cell’s storehouse of power. The mitochondria produces a chemical called ATP that our bodies uses for energy. Exercise stimulates the development of new mitochondria. More mitochondria means more ATP. More ATP means more energy – both physically and mentally. Bam. There you have it – being more productive at work without spending more hours in front of your computer.
What Do I Need to Do to Be More Productive at Work?
You don’t need to run a marathon to see these results. A study at the University of Georgia found that, while there was a huge difference in levels of productivity between sedentary and active individuals, there was no difference between those who were moderately active and those who were involved in low-intensity workouts.
Here are some simple suggestions for incorporating movement and exercise into your work day and be more productive at work:
• Take the stairs. This is a technique that has been encouraged by weight loss hopefuls for years. However, the activity is just as beneficial for your brain as your waistline.
• Use the farthest break room, water fountain, bathroom, etc.
• Instead of sending emails, get up and walk to your colleague’s desk. Talk to him or her in person.
• Encourage your employer to host standing or walking meetings. You’ll notice an increase of active participation and sharing of ideas which will make everyone more productive.
• Replace your desk chair with an exercise ball. You’ll build core stabilizing muscles which will prevent lower back pain. More importantly, the constant shifting and attention to balance will keep your mind sharp. Consider getting a yoga ball base to prevent your “chair” from rolling across the office.
• Stand up. Just that simple movement can make a difference.
• Do some simple exercises at your desk. This article has some great suggestions.
• If your boss will go for it, ask for a standing desk. There are quite a few reasonably priced models. And most are adjustable. If you get tired of standing, you can lower it to normal height and sit on your exercise ball.
Give some of these suggestions a try. Then, come back and tell us how you fared.
Did you feel more productive at work? Happier? More enthusiastic about your job?
Jessica Velasco is a freelance writer. She needs to constantly remind herself to get up and move around. One of Jessica’s clients, Trim Nutrition, sells vitamin injections and focuses on improving people’s wellness and quality of life.
As companies continue to downsize and expect more from their workers, it’s important to learn how to handle work deadlines effectively and cope with stress quickly. Those who can meet deadlines every time will rise to the top of the corporate ladder, but they will also have to learn better ways to deal with the mental strain that comes with it. Fortunately, achieving those deadlines can, on its own, help reduce some of that stress.
Ways to handle work deadlines
There’s no tried and true method for dealing with deadlines that will work for everyone, but there are certain strategies that most people will be able to incorporate into their work. Everyone needs to find what’s best for them, possibly making alterations to fit their particular situation.
1. Make a list
Whether writing them down on a calendar or pad of paper or using an application on a smart phone or tablet computer, maintaining a list of due dates, as well as any communications dealing with that project and expected results, is essential. One of the leading causes of stress in work is not being aware of when projects are due or who is responsible for what aspect. Keeping a list for each project can reduce this stressor.
2. Make a schedule
Determine when certain benchmarks of a project are due and write them on a schedule. If multiple projects are being worked at once, be sure to prioritize the due dates and put them in order. Many people find it helpful to check off when each benchmark is completed, since this shows progress being made.
3. Seek help
While it may seem like exhibiting weakness in the workplace, asking co-workers for help can be a far better option compared to banging one’s head against the wall when encountering a problem on deadline. A fresh perspective may be all the situation needs. When there is a real time crunch, asking fellow employees for help with certain tasks can get the job back on track.
Despite the name, deadlines many times can be negotiable, especially if a good reason is given. When faced with a logical argument as to why the deadline could not be met, clients may agree to a small extension of time. However, making a habit of missing deadlines may point to a need to reorganize the work flow.
Other ways to beat stress in the workplace…
While handling deadlines can help reduce some of the stress of the job, it will not completely eliminate it. There are other methods to ease mental strain, which can also improve job efficiency. Excessive stress can also have mental and physical impacts.
Though it may be difficult, engaging in aerobic activity can improve one’s mood, boost energy levels and sharpen focus. Experts suggest at least 30 minutes of exercise that raises the heart rate. If that is too difficult to fit into the schedule, break it up into a couple of 15 minute sessions, or even three sessions lasting 10 minutes each.
When most people are on tight deadlines, they choose to eat lunch or dinner out of a fast food sack. Eating right can also reduce stress because low blood sugar can make one feel irritable and anxious. Eating small meals more frequently can help maintain a steady level of blood sugar, which improves focus and increases energy. Snacks of fruits and vegetables are healthy alternatives to sugary munchies.
7. Watch commitments
Whenever possible, avoid scheduling due dates that are back to back. Allowing time between ending one project and starting another will allow the brain to decompress and get ready to start the next task. It also provides time for the focus to shift to the next schedule and increases your chances to handle work deadlines more effectively.
8. Get to work earlier
Rather than running around like crazy in the morning and rushing to the desk, try to leave 10-15 minutes earlier so coming to work can be a more pleasurable experience. Running late can add to stress levels.
9. Take breaks
Be sure to plan short breaks throughout the day that can help clear the mind. Take a walk around the outside of the office, or simply sit back for a few minutes. Getting away from the workstation during lunch breaks can be very helpful.
Stress in small doses can actually be a good thing as it provides energy and motivation to complete a task. When it becomes excessive, however, it can have negative effects on a person’s body and mind, reducing their energy levels, limiting their focus and impacting sleep patterns. Extreme levels of stress can lead to depression and physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
Finding ways to meet project goals efficiently and handle your work deadlines with ease can help reduce stress and double your productivity and improve your health. Making deadlines is certainly less stressful than not doing so. Achieving that goal may require changing some work and living patterns and even asking for assistance from other employees. But it is well worth the effort!
This is a guest post by Andrea Thompson of stagdoideas.net.
Working from home is a pretty appealing prospect to most of us. With significant improvements to broadband speed, Wifi accessibility and development to home computing and tablet technology, it’s never been easier to work outside of an office!
The thought of being able to roll out of bed in the morning, slump into your computer chair with a fresh cup of coffee is an attractive proposition for a wide variety of employees, including those who work in remote locations or have health issues meaning that it is easier for them to work from home.
Rolling out home working policies also has significant benefits for employers, both as a cost cutting exercise to minimise the physical resources needed to house staff, and as an inviting perk to capture the attention of job hunters. In fact, over 35 million people in the U.S currently work from home and this figure is predicted to almost double by 2016.
So, working from home sounds pretty good for all parties then, right? Well it is, but there’s one huge consideration before you run off to your line manager and tell them you’re not coming in tomorrow. Are you disciplined enough to work from home? Can you trust yourself not to get distracted and let your productivity dwindle? Whether you’re already working from home or just considering doing so, check the points below to help you stay professional and motivated!
Give Yourself Strict Working Deadlines When Working From Home
The easiest thing to let slip when working from home is deadlines. Sometimes you might feel you can finish work off later in the evening, or the next day and give yourself a little too much flexibility.
In fact, you should try and do the exact opposite. If ever you are given a deadline, bring it forward by a day. You want to work from home to enjoy a better life balance and more relaxing lifestyle right? Then what better way to get worked finished at home, ahead of schedule, so that you get to enjoy that way of life a little bit more.
Don’t fall into the trap of getting complacent; to be your own boss, you have to act like a boss!
Replicate An Office Environment
As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas all day and work with daytime TV playing in the background, it’s pretty unlikely to help your concentration levels. You should do as much as you can to replicate a normal working environment.
Dress the way you would dress for work, set up an organised and clean workstation or office area, make sure you have right software available on your PC or laptop and open up those curtains! Strive to ensure that your home feels like a hub of productivity!
One thing to remember is that it is also important to undertake a desktop work station assessment from home to ensure you’re physically set up optimally for work.
Get Out At Lunch Time
Don’t spend all day inside. Get out and stretch your legs. One of the pitfalls for those who regularly work from home is lack of exercise. Naturally, exercise is known to help productivity, so you should force yourself to go out at lunch every single day. With exercise in mind, you may also choose to start a morning exercise routine BEFORE you start work from home. You may even want to go for a run or hit the gym for an hour during lunch.
Working from home should be the best reason to start exercising MORE within your flexible time, not a reason to reduce this amount of activity.
Working 9-5 Hours From Home
This kind of ties in with giving yourself deadlines, but you should, if appropriate, always try and work a normal nine to five day. Having a regular routine is known to help maintain well being, and helps you maintain an important level of professionalism. The hours you choose to work also have a significant impact on your social life.
If you start working unsociable hours, you run the risk of isolating yourself, and before you know it you can unintentionally become a home hermit. This is a particularly important point to note if you live with a partner, as your work from home pattern could potentially cause friction in your relationship, which then has a snowball effect on your levels of productivity.
Avoid Social Networks
Arguably the biggest distraction to anyone who currently works from home is the temptation of monitoring social networks, without being under the watchful eye of a boss. We all know that a ‘quick check’ of our Facebook page or Twitter account can soon turn into hours of browsing, so why risk it when working from home? There’s no easy way to avoid ‘the social bubble’ effect, it’s about doing your best to stay disciplined and keeping this up over a period of time until it feels normal.
If you really struggle to avoid social media networks when working from home, you might choose to customise your internet settings to avoid social media profiles being accessed from a particular PC. It’s also a good idea to switch off any personal mobile push notifications and get into the habit of only checking your personal mobile phone during lunch hours.
Scott specialises in content regarding start-up business information, self employment tips and advice about credit cards for people with bad credit
Do you want to increase your productivity? This is a desire that is shared by a lot of people worldwide and the good news is that there are simple ways that exist for people to do this. In this article I will be sharing 4 tips that will be quite useful when it comes to increasing your output and at the same time deal with procrastination.
Tip #1: Prioritize
Sorting out the priorities is one of the most important skills that you will need to learn if you want to increase your productivity. You are not forced to do each and every job in one go and the key here is to choose the most important ones. This is why it might be important that you set some time apart each morning to prioritize your task. Some people like to create a to-do list which they will follow each day in order to keep them focus.
Tip #2: Delegate
No man is an island and sometimes you will need to learn how to delegate some of your tasks if you want to increase your productivity. Some people have some highly specialized skills and can accomplish some tasks much more quickly than you. It might therefore be more sensible to delegate such tasks as it can be a major time saver for you. One possible idea will be for you to seek the assistance of a virtual worker that will allow you to not only save time doing these jobs but also allow you to cut down cost.
Tip #3: Beat procrastination
This is a major problem for most people and can hinder productivity a lot. Procrastination is all about postponing task that you can do today for a later time. This is where it might be important that you learn how to motivate yourself in order to accomplish more. Also it might be important that you identify your more productive hours of the day. One simple tip that I often use is to accomplish the most difficult or boring task first thing in the morning when still fresh and leave the much easier task for the afternoon.
Tip #4: Change environment
In some cases changing your environment can also help you to boost your productivity. For instance you might want to switch workplace and try to work from somewhere else where you will feel more productive. This can be easy to achieve for those that work from home as you can try to work in some different room or even in the garden if you feel like. The key here is to make sure that you break from your everyday routine in order to provide a mental refresh.
Tip #5: Beware of perfectionism
Some people spend far too much time on perfecting tasks that would have been otherwise quite acceptable. Sometimes we pressurize ourselves in order to make a task as perfect as possible when we could have done it much more quickly. Getting rid of this mentality can help us accomplish far more work than we could have thought possible.
Tip #6: Reward yourself
Working intensively for a long period of time can give rise to burn out. It is therefore important that you learn how to reward yourselves from time to time if you want to keep yourself motivated. For instance you might want to have some ice-cream for every hour you spend at your desk or may be go on your favorite website. Doing this will allow you to focus yourself on the task ahead and ensure that you get your work done.
There are many different productivity tips that exist and the key here is to find the ones that fit your situation. Although you might consider some of your tasks as chores, it is only after accomplishing them that you will really understand the real benefits of these productivity tips.
Robert Bellarmine is the writer behind Visitask.com where he covers topics related to project management and other management topics as well.
Working from home is a great way to make a living. If you’re about to start your own online business or if you already have one, you may be looking for ways to ensure that your enterprise runs smoothly, efficiently and profitably.
But how do you streamline your efforts to ensure you are as organized and efficient as you can be? If you work on a computer, it is essential to know where you can find things fast. These tools are invaluable to anyone who has an online business.
8 Essential Tools
I’ve found the following eight online tools to be essential to my being able to work efficiently, collaborate easily and stay organized. All are easy to use and many are totally free!
1. Skype: Meet with other business people, designers and vendors anytime you want. Skype connects people across the world through online videoconferencing.
2. SnagIt: Screen captures and sharing them has never been easier. Want to inspire others with an image, connect them to stylistic look or offer logo suggestions? You can do that and much more with this tool.
3. Pamela: You’re busy and details from that Skype meeting can fade from your memory quickly. No problem. With Pamela, you can record up to 15 minutes of that meeting. This is just one of many great features.
4. RoboForm: Fill in forms, user names and passwords easily. RoboForm remembers all the information needed to make sure you never waste another moment looking for basic information.
5. PageLeap: Turn on your computer and PageLeap displays the websites that are invaluable to your enterprise. One click and you’re exactly where you want to be.
6. Carbonite: Be sure to backup every ounce of information on your hard drive by using this service. Carbonite connects your computer to a backup server that is designed to keep your data, records, financial information and more safe and secure.
7. Google Documents: You will always be able to access each and every one of your documents from any computer anywhere through this software from Google. Collaborate, share and save with this online tool.
8. Google Calendar: Never miss an appointment again, make sure everyone involved in a meeting or project are on the same page and coordinate schedules with ease using this calendar tool from Google.
Settling in, Making it Your Own
It’s important that you find your home office environment enjoyable. It needs to be a place that encourages you to work and in which you enjoy spending time. Take some time to make the space into a real office. What sort of decorations do you want? What types of plants are you going to include? How are you going to configure the furniture? Is your office light and airy? If not, can you brighten it up and find a way to open it up?
No Time Like the Present
The primary thing that you need to do is to get started. You probably have a day job and while you’re starting your online venture, you will need to keep that job. Use the weekends, evenings, lunch breaks and other times to work on your new venture.
You need to develop a plan for your business and office. Then it’s time to take positive steps towards creating your workspace. Your home office will be the anchor, catalyst and central nervous system for your company. With a little effort over the course of a weekend or two, you can be up and running.
It’s Your Energy and Dreams
Your home office is the crucible for your energy and dreams. It needs to be part inspiration, as it should at least support your desire to work (the perspiration part of the equation). If music gives you energy, personal photos inspiration and DVDs instruction, then add an entertainment unit to your space. These can add depth and variety to the space, while providing you with space for other useful technical devices such as a HD television, extra monitor and CD player.
By creating an efficient and pleasant home office space and equipping it for success, you’re well on your way to fulfilling your objectives and realizing your dreams. Be sure to make your home office a place where you will want to spend a lot of time working. Doing so will payoff in the long run.
Joan Mychreest is the publisher of allwalldecor.com helping consumers find wonderful resources and wall decorating tips and ideas. She specializes exclusively in wall decor and TV wall units for your home and office and has many years of experience in the art of wall design representing many major manufacturers in the industry, and working closely with interior decorators and large retail and home decor stores.
Have you ever noticed that your friends who seem to be the busiest also seem to get way more done than you? And everyone else, for that matter? How do they do it? It doesn’t make sense, right? Logically, busy people have less time to get stuff done, so shouldn’t they should get less stuff done?
It turns out, not so much!
People with more on their plate are proven to get more done than people with little already occupying their time. So, why is this? And how can you make this weird phenomenon work in your own life? Let’s break it down gently and see how you can follow the pattern, whether or not you’re the busiest person in the world.
1. The Hardest Part is Starting
You know the kind of task you put off and off, and off again? It feels like the worst thing you could possibly do and you find every excuse possible to avoid beginning? Eventually, worst comes to worst and desperate measures force you to begin. And then, you realize, “Hey, this isn’t so bad at all. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this months ago.” It’s because often, the hardest part of any task is simply getting the motivation to begin.
This is especially true when you’re not in the habit of starting tasks often. The less frequently do you it, the bigger/worse it seems. Busy people, on the other hand, are in the habit of starting tasks constantly. This means they are always already geared up. They’re in motion, and they just keep starting the next thing on the list without really thinking of it as “starting” and without making it a big deal. Yep, they skip the horrible build-up altogether.
2. Organization is Key
Busy people are often some of the most organized people you’ll run into. Because, let’s face it: they have to be. If they weren’t, multiple things (serious things like jobs and families) would rapidly fall to pieces.
People who are less busy usually also lack that drive to become organized because there’s little to no call for it, or at least a call of utmost importance. This un-organization, then, allows for tasks to get pushed further and further into the future. There’s something about deadlines and calendars that sparks a fire, a sort of spontaneous motivation. When you see a time frame on something, you tend to kick it into high gear.
Deadlines just don’t allow for you to do something “when you feel like it” or “when you get around to it.” Organized people also typically have a well thought out game plan. And, when things are planned, they typically go more smoothly and waste less time, therefore allowing more to get done! It’s a cycle!
3. Delegation Helps
If you notice, busy people also tend to know how to delegate. That is, they may be getting a lot done, but they also know how to be a team player and how to create a team to help them. Not only does this make things easier and allow more to get done, the end result is usually better because it involves using the right people for the right tasks. Taking on a project that’s too big for you or that includes aspects out of your frame of reference will not only mean an extended amount of time needed to get it done, it will probably mean the job won’t be completed as well as it could have. Bring in key players who know what they’re doing. You’ll finish faster, the job will be better, and you’ll have more hours in the day for your next project.
4. Motivation inspires Motivation
Always remember: inertia. Once you get in motion, it’s a lot easier to stay there. Busy people never slow down. And they never feel like they need to, because they’re constantly on a roll. If you can get started (ie: Step 1) then you’re 90% of the way there towards getting more done. Even before project one is finished, start another so that when you finish the first, you’re still in motion. If you don’t let yourself fizzle out, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
Author Lisa Trent is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about helping people live more fulfilled lives. She is currently residing in Orange County, CA where she writes and works alongside Coffee Home Direct.
Understanding the Nature of Productivity
Productivity is basically defined as how much stuff you can get done in a certain amount of time. Improving productivity means being able to do more stuff in the same amount of time. This is pretty a straight-forward idea, and there’s nothing ground-breaking here until you realize that the definition itself tells you exactly how to improve. According to the definition, there are only two core ways to become more productive: cut out tasks that don’t give results, and lowering the time it takes to perform tasks without sacrificing quality.
Step 1: Measuring Your Output
Before you can hope to multiply your productivity, you have to know what your current level of production is. Take a period of three workdays and keep a list of everything you do. Note the approximate starting and stopping times for each task you do, and make note of every distraction and period of procrastination that comes up. Improving productivity is a very personalized process, so you need to avoid the temptation to skip this step. The results you get from measuring your output are going to allow you to improve your productivity on a personal level with a plan that is tailored specifically to your needs.
Step 2: Identify and Reclaim the Biggest Blocks of Wasted Time
From the three days you recorded in step 1, identify the periods of time in which you accomplished the least. Take each one of these periods and try to analyze it with an eye towards what caused the lack of productivity. Sometimes this will be some sort of distraction, not having enough information about the task, or the lack of available tools that are necessary to get the job done quickly. Whatever the problems were, make a list of them, and keep track of which problems come up the most often.
Next, make another list of the periods of time in which you accomplished the most. Follow a similar process as before of listing what caused these tasks to be accomplished quickly and efficiently. Now you will have a list of personalized problems for your productivity, and a list of what causes you personally to work more efficiently. Apply your findings from the list of what works well to the list of problems to figure out what changes you can make to improve the problem areas.
Step 3: Work on the Small Things
A lot of productivity leaks occur in the small, repetitive tasks you find yourself doing over and over in work settings. Look over the three day period you recorded in step 1, and find which small or medium tasks you did the most often. From this list of small to medium tasks, find ways to shave a few seconds off of the next time you do that task.
It’s pretty easy to find five minutes each day by making the small things a little more efficient. Five minutes may not seem like a lot, but for every five minutes you free up each day, that will average to about one percent of your total work time saved. Anyone in business will tell you that a one percent increase in productivity is huge.
Step 4: Work on Handling Distractions
The number one parasite on productivity is the never-ending availability of distractions while you’re trying to work. The key to handling distractions is to cut out the distractions that you can ignore, and handle the distractions that you can’t ignore more efficiently. For distractions that you can’t ignore, you want to make the transition to dealing with it and the transition to going back to your work as smooth as possible to avoid losing time.
If you follow these four easy steps, you can multiply your productivity and see huge advances in how much you get done during the day.
More and more people are now interested to make use of virtual assistants in order to help them boost their productivity. The question that you might be asking is whether these virtual assistants can be really useful? In truth I don’t think there is a clear cut answer to this question and it will depend on a lot of factors. What I can do is to list the different advantages and disadvantages of employing a virtual assistant and it will be up to you to take the most appropriate decision for your business.
The main advantage that is associated with virtual assistant is that they are cheap. This can allow you to decrease your cost of production and thus increase your profit.
Work during your sleep
Given that most virtual assistants come from Eastern countries, this can allow you to have workers that will be working during your sleep. When you will be entering your office in the morning you will be able to resume work as quickly as possible. This can be a real boost for productivity especially if you need to do some boring and repetitive tasks.
Dealing with other cultures and people can allow you to generate some new ideas. This may allow you to find more effective or even new solutions to problems that you may have overlooked in the past.
You should remember that you get what you pay for. It is important that you make sure that the service that you will be getting is of good quality. The key here is to find out what other people are saying of the service before hiring your virtual assistant.
Given the distance barrier and also the cultural differences it can be difficult for you to communicate properly. You should keep this in mind when employing a virtual assistant.
Most of the service providers will provide you a free trial where you can assess the quality of their service. It is during this period that you should consider all communication problems.
It is important to have a contact person especially if you are dealing with a team of virtual assistants. This might be really important if you have some last minute change and you do not know who is in charge of your project.
As you have seen there are numerous advantages and disadvantages that are associated with the fact of hiring a virtual assistant. The key here is to make sure that the virtual assistant will add value to your business and will indeed help to boost productivity.
Enough of the talking now and I will like to hear from you. Do you think virtual assistant is beneficial for businesses or is it more of a hindrance? Please share your views below.
Charles Borromeo is the writer behind Justice-Explained.com, a site devoted to explain legal questions in layman’s terms. He is also a passionate blogger during his free time.
Some of us are naturally untidy. We just can’t seem to help ourselves. We place our coffee mugs down on the corner table and forget to take them back to the kitchen. We come in the door, chuck our hat and coat on the nearest chair, and they never quite make it to the cupboard. There are millions of us living with houses that never look their best, with clothes, washing up and hoovering always needing doing.
By changing your mindset and basic rules of behaviour, you can tidy your house without having to do anything. For example, take the hat and coat problem. All you have to do is designate a place where they go – the understairs cupboard and the coat peg – and do not put them down unless it is in the right place. This way, you do not get a proliferation of outdoors weather gear building up by the door.
Another trick is to treat a tidy house as a reward. When things start getting out of control, put away a few things – just 5 or 6. You’ll feel better for it, and the room will look nicer. A little while later, put away a few more things. You’ll gradually reinforce the idea in yourself that tidying brings about a positive response. The most important thing when starting off is only to tidy when you feel like it – make it a chore, and it won’t work.
A further idea, and one that has really helped me, is to tack a little bit extra onto every bit of work I do around the house. Take washing up, for instance. Once you are finished with the dishes and have wiped down the tops, try to do a little 5 minute job that you don’t do every week. Clean out a cupboard, give the windows a quick once over, clean out the fridge – any quick job that needs doing. This way you will raise the overall cleanliness and tidiness of the house without having to make the effort and set some time aside.
Lastly, for all the tea and coffee fiends out there, spoons and dirty cups can stack up quickly. Get into the habit of washing, drying and putting away every spoon you use and you will soon end up with a never-ending supply of clean, dry spoons. And with cups? Clean your mug or cup every time you use it. Just giving it a quick rinse out can leave stains around the top and bottom but a 1 minute scrub is all that is needed to keep it squeaky clean.
And, after all that tidying, you might be in need of a good massage. Alex, who wrote this article, works for The Sanctuary, a London spa that has a wide range of skin treatments and also offers beauty products such as body butter (ideal for hydrating hands stripped by cleaning products).
The Story of Don
I can still recall all those mornings when Don would glide into the office at around 11am. With the slight rustling of the gym bag zipper tabs hitting each other as he entered, foreshadowing the change that was about to take place. I didn’t even have to look up. No one did. We would all awaken to the slight awareness of feelings of both jealously and admiration. That was him. His presence would gently hush everything else around him. He made us all look bad, the guy was a superstar. Once Don was back from the gym, the office would get a little bit quieter. Not because he would ever say anything, only because we all unconsciously felt guilty for not rocking it like he did. No one else in the company, even those in charge, had that effect.
Don would come in at some absurdly early hour, when the winds were beyond frigid by our Californian standards. At lunch I’d see him mostly to himself, usually with programming magazines. Sometimes he’d be talking to the other senior programmers. He would be eating some eccentric concoction of spinach, lean protein, and something else that I couldn’t really tell what it was. I’m sure that it had a complicated exotic name though, and that it was really good for you.
He’d be the first one to leave work, before traffic. You could tell there was no guilt in him as he left first, he was solid and he knew he was putting in the effort. He was beyond all the rules because he delivered more than the rules were put in place to encourage. He was the most productive person there. I heard that he would go to the gym after work as well. I remember thinking in amazement of how disciplined this guy was.
Slowly I began to get to know him. I was surprised by how friendly and down to earth he was. He didn’t think of himself as being exceptional, he was just surprised that others haven’t made the same realizations that he had. When I asked him how he became so self-disciplined, he told me that it began with the awareness of this feeling he got when he felt he was making a contribution. When he felt that what he was doing had meaning. He then asked himself “where can I give the most value so that I can have more of this feeling?” He realized that he gave the most value in computer programming.
Once he made that realization, he said that the self-discipline began with little things. Reading in the evenings for half an hour before watching television. Writing out a plan of what he wanted to get accomplished in the day before working. Telling himself “5 more minutes” when he felt like stopping and taking a break. As he kept pushing himself, he kept cultivating that feeling he was after, that sense of personal fulfillment.
Many years later he tried going to the gym, which at first he didn’t like. He committed to giving it a fair trial and as he stuck with it he found that it let him do some of his best thinking. It ended up becoming the time of the day he looked forward to most. If he went to the gym he would have a really solid productive day. After he went to the gym, everything fell into place for the rest of the day he felt like he was coasting. His thoughts would reach new levels of clarity. It enabled him to do a better job at his job, which in turn made him feel like he had a bigger impact in his work, which made him feel more fulfilled. He even decided to go after work as well as in the mornings.
Don’s Self Discipline
When I looked at it through his eyes, I couldn’t find where the self-discipline came in. It appears that way from the outside but how hard is it to go do something that you look forward to? If you are clear on what the most important thing to do at that time is, action follows naturally, after all, what else is there to do? Now Don was very conscious and articulate of his reasons. Normally people forget how they learned to become self-disciplined. They didn’t think they would be tested on it.
I remember when I was learning how to drive stick shift the instructions I would get. “Put it first and then let the clutch out.” As I stall they think over what they said and come up with improved instructions: “Let the clutch out smoothly this time.” However the movement of letting the clutch out isn’t all that smooth, it has two movements. Really you have to let the clutch out until you begin to feel it catch, up until that point there doesn’t need to be anything smooth about it. Then when you feel this catching, or when you feel the motor begin to turn the wheels, you hold it there slightly until it gets some slight momentum and then you can release it completely. What they actually mean by “let the clutch out smoothly” is “do the movement so that the car moves smoothly.” But they have forgotten exactly how to do it. They are thinking in higher level concepts. They only describe it as “smooth” because they have hidden all that complexity into an unconscious movement labeled “let the clutch out.” Your mind does this to limit possibilities so that you don’t have to focus on the details.
Think about it, how much concentration do you need to drive to work?
Could this concept of “just do it” be the learning of a list of reasons for doing something and then the rationalization of “I don’t care what reasons there are for me not doing this, like not feeling like it. I am completely convinced that the benefits outweigh any disadvantages and so I’m going to focus on only on the reasons why I want this, so that I stay focused.” As you do this, the habit becomes stronger until you reach the point where you can’t even describe how or why you do these things. Then when someone asks you how you do these things, you shrug and say “I just do it.”
The Problem with Self Discipline
Self-discipline is sometimes thought of as making yourself do something when you don’t feel like doing it. And yet, someone who has to force themselves to do the things that they want to do will never achieve the success of people who can’t wait to take action on what they want to do.
This is because when you look at self-discipline as making yourself do something when you don’t feel like doing it, you have 2 problems. The first is you still aren’t convinced that you have a good reason for doing this, so even if you pull yourself to do it, you will probably do it with the same enthusiasm that I cleaned my bedroom when told as a child. I would put it off until I couldn’t anymore and then finish at the last minute by shoving everything into the closet, even the curtains. The second problem is that if you can’t bring yourself to do it, you are reinforcing this idea that you don’t have the “self-discipline” to do what you want to do. In effect you are training yourself not to take action because you lack this “self-discipline.”
This is the trap, by becoming deluded into thinking that you are prevented from doing what you want because you lack “self-discipline.” You end up waiting around until the perfect combination of boredom, inspiration, and free time line up.
Why we are lazy
The habit of laziness is built into you. You are designed to be very frugal with your energy on activities that don’t have a good reason. If we didn’t have this habit stopping us, you would find Americans lost in the tea fields of Sri Lanka looking confused and when confronted would then explain: “well I was at the office and I had this urge for some black tea, and then I thought that black tea comes from Sri Lanka.” You wouldn’t be able to stop yourself from doing impractical things.
If you don’t feel like doing something, this is an indication that you aren’t all the way convinced. In this situation it is much easier just to become very clear about what the reasons are for doing it.
Building Natural Motivation
“He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
My favorite way of doing this is by opening a file and writing: “Reasons why I want to do X” Do you see what I did here? The “X” part is where you write in your own goal. Then I begin writing answers, until I’m convinced. If you do this, you have a written list that you can look back if you forget your reasons. Eventually you will run into a problem, you’ll have more projects that you are very enthusiastic about and not enough time. This is a good problem to have. From here the most important projects to you will rise to the top of the list.
When you focus on the reasons why you want to do something, you will become better at finding them. These reasons will naturally move you towards action. This is better than coming up with reasons why not to do something. Either way, you will come up with valid reasons, but reasons for doing something motivate and reasons against doing something inhibit action.
You may be asking yourself “doesn’t it take self-discipline to come up with a list of reasons of why you want to do something?” Initially this list could come by accident from outside influences. However if you realize that constructing this list will motivate, then it could simply be the realization of “it would be great if I could influence myself to do the things that I consciously know I should be doing.”
Why bother with all this? We are drawn to the illusion that our life meaning and purpose will be given to us. And this does happen to a few fortunate people. We watch the movies where a normal guy is going about his business when he discovers something that gives his life a completely new meaning. It then takes him exactly one scene to come to terms with it and then he is now inspired with this new noble meaning. And now each struggle just makes the story better.
We all want this, a struggle that has meaning. Even suffering, when it has meaning, say to serve as an example, or to inspire someone, or simply to serve as an exercise for perseverance, no longer feels like suffering. It feels righteous.
You can view things this way with your own life. The adventure that it takes to get the promotion you want at work. The struggle and triumph to learn a new skill. The saga of being a great example to a child. The meaning is how you look at the situation. If you are going to choose to do something, put everything into it. It is more enjoyable that way and you are setting yourself up for success when you commit to pour your heart into it. You will wake up in the mornings feeling like lit dynamite, the clarity of why you do what you do flashing before you. You don’t stumble into new territory by arguing why you can’t get there.
Now, it would be simplistic to say that this is the only habit that you would need, there is more to it. For example you can be completely clear about what you want but not have the mental energy to do it, you would have to focus on increasing your energy first. Or perhaps you have unconscious beliefs that are in conflict with your conscious desires, such as fears that you won’t be able to do it.
However for some the only thing preventing them from acting is the misconception that self-discipline exists and that they lack it. When you can develop the habit of creating your own motivation, everything will feel like it takes much less effort.
Mark Petrik is a programmer who worked his way up as a high school drop out to working for Microsoft, to becoming self-employed. His goal is to create new ways of increasing the quality of experience. He is also the author of his own goal setting software.