1. Focus on One Task at a Time
Single-tasking, you make have heard it called. It’s the antithesis of the decades-long obsession with multi-tasking. It entails focusing on one single task at a time, instead of hopping around between various to-dos, maintaining a frantic business but in reality, ending each day feeling like you didn’t get anything done.
Studies have demonstrated that single-tasking trumps multi-tasking by a landslide, resulting in greater productivity, time management, and overall sense of satisfaction with our work.
2. Whatever You Do, Do It 100%
Let me reiterate, because I cannot overemphasize this one. Whatever you do, do it 100%. Live by this principle each and every day, and your life will instantly become more meaningful and enjoyable.
Now let that sink in for a moment. Really, stop reading for a moment. Reflect on it.
Think about the myriad activities in which you partake each day. Some routine, others exciting and unpredictable.
Wake up. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Take a cold shower — or a hot shower, depending on your preference. Change the baby’s poopy diaper. Take out the trash. Drive to work. Stop at your favorite coffee shop; take a ride through the drive-through and order your “usual”: an iced mocha latte with coconut milk, one sugar, and a dollop of whipped cream.
Call your clients. Call your mom. Do some mundane paperwork at your desk. Listen to the next-door neighbors arguing. Stop by the drycleaners and pick up your presentation outfit. Outline your presentation. Rehearse your presentation. Tell your boss your presentation isn’t ready yet, and you need a deadline extension. You get it.
Whatever you do — yes, whatever you do, no matter how mundane and inconsequential in seems — give it your all. Give it 100%. Wherever you find yourself in this moment, whether it’s giving a speech, spending quality time with your spouse, waiting in line at the coffee shop, or simply running errands, be there fully. Give it your ALL.
Take the extra 30 seconds to ask the coffee shop worker how her day is going. Be kind. Listen to people. You simply never know how much a simple experience can impact someone’s life. Even your own.
When you are running errands or changing that poopy diaper, it may not be the most exciting event, but it’s where you are right now. So live it, and be there as fully as you can.
Which brings me to number three:
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an incredibly beneficial practice, with powerful effects on mental health and wellbeing.
Simply practicing it for 10 minutes a day will strengthen your mental habits and allow you to live life more fully. It involves being present, being fully aware and conscious of the present moment and all that it has to offer.
It requires neither thinking nor emotion, but don’t be surprised when these two habits regularly crop up as distractions. When you are able to successfully achieve a state of mindfulness, it can be immensely rewarding.
When practiced regularly, mindfulness eases stress, reduces anxiety, and improves depression. It fosters a genuine appreciation for life’s little moments.
Personally, I practice mindful meditation using Headspace, an awesome app that offers pre-recorded meditation audio clips tailored to your meditation experience. It allows the listener to meditate for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or longer.
4. Take Frequent Breaks
Especially when you are in the midst of work that requires sharp mental focus and concentration, taking breaks is crucial to productivity. Generally, my routine is to take a 10- to 15-minute break for every hour of focused work.
No matter how much progress I’ve made at that point, I take a break.
What’s important about your break is that it requires no sharp mental focus. The same focus that you’ve been employing for the last hour to work diligently. It’s precisely those cognitive skills that need a break.
When you give your mind a break, it allows the neural pathways to rest temporarily, giving yourself a chance to regain your mental clarity. Skipping breaks and “powering through” work will leave you foggy, burnt out, and significantly less productive. Work quality suffers at this point, too.
For an even more rejuvenating 15-minute hiatus, take a brisk walk around the office or town, or even jog up and down a few flights of stairs. Which brings us to number five…
5. Make Physical Activity a Vital Component of Your Routine
Physical activity has been shown to not only cause a marked improvement in mental acuity, but also act as an antidepressant in the brain.
Physical exercise is crucial to health and wellbeing, and there is a positive correlation between exercise and mood, productivity, and happiness.
Even a brisk walk will have positive effects on your cardiovascular health, mental sharpness, and emotional wellbeing. Getting outdoors and being physically active is increasingly being incorporated into professional medicine and mental health treatment, and with good reason!
Which is why, despite working from home and spending hours at my desktop each day, I am deliberate about incorporating physical activity into my routine.
Even strategically placing chores into your schedule (carrying a laundry basket full of clothes down the basement stairs, scrubbing the shower, vacuuming) can sprinkle physical activity into an otherwise sedentary routine.
Or, if you’re up for a bit more of a physical challenge, try sports, running, cycling, or yoga. Simply remember — physical activity is the perfect complement to mental activity!
6. Regularly Evaluate Your Progress, Far Before You’ve Achieved Your Goals
Lastly, sit back and evaluate your progress at regular intervals. Each evening before bed, or every Sunday morning, as you plan for the week ahead. Write up a bullet-point list of all your achievements/victories thus far. Acknowledge them, and give yourself a pat on the back.
Don’t wait until you’ve reached your desired end, or achieved your goal, to evaluate your progress. Progress is often slow, making it easy to undermine and dismiss.
Ever wonder why it’s so easy to give up? It’s far too easy to get discouraged when you feel that you simply aren’t making any progress. It’s a familiar sentiment, especially to writers who often wait months and years before reaping any tangible reward for their work.
But delaying gratification for one’s hard work often kills the motivation to persevere. You feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, so you abandon your work prematurely. You feel defeated, when in reality you were a few short steps away from making a huge impact.
Consider your progress objectively and deliberately. Give yourself credit where credit is due, and know that nothing great happens overnight.
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