Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters

You may think that not getting enough sleep will just make you incredibly tired and a little irritable, but it goes beyond that. It can lead to health problems such as heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, and memory loss.

Most adults have incredibly busy lives. From trying to raise a family to working a full-time job and everything that happens in between, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Instead of going to bed when they are tired, they’ll spend that time catching up on items that weren’t accomplished during the day. While this may seem productive, it is actually harmful and can lead to sleep debt.

What Is Sleep Debt?

The term “sleep debt” is used to refer to continuously losing sleep. This generally happens when you decide to stay up an extra few hours to get a project done or get up early for the same reasons.

Insomnia can also add to sleep debt. In essence, anything that interrupts your ability to get between 6 and 10 hours of sleep each night adds to your sleep debt.

Every person is different, so how much sleep they need varies. Other factors that play into how much sleep a person needs include age, if the person is sick or impacted by chronic pain, amount and frequency of exercise, and if they are pregnant.

Things that can disturb sleep patterns include too much caffeine or alcohol as well as blue lights, which are found in electronic devices such as phones and TVs.

To determine how much sleep you need to feel rested, here is a process you can try:

  1. Go to bed at the same time you go to bed now and wake up at the same time you normally get up for work. Calculate the amount of time you slept.
  2. For the next 2 to 3 nights, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally do. Keep this up until you get 7 hours of sleep each night.
  3. When you’ve been sleeping for 7 hours for a few nights, take note of how you feel. If you find that you are still tired or that it’s hard to wake up when your alarm goes off, go to bed 15 minutes earlier the next night.
  4. Continue this process until you get enough sleep every night. Your body will tell you how it feels and if you’re getting enough rest.

How Do You Know You’re Getting Enough Rest?

The thing about sleep debt is that people are often so used to functioning with not enough sleep that they don’t even recognize the symptoms anymore. The body and mind are amazing things, and they can adapt to a variety of different situations.

While you may be able to function on not enough sleep and still get your tasks done, you’re damaging your health. Remember, sleep debt leads to heart problems, memory loss, diabetes, and weight gain.

Even though you’ve found ways to cope with sleep debt, your body will give you signs that it needs more rest. Pay attention to these things. While determining how much rest you need, it’s advisable to keep a journal during the day to keep track of the indicators of sleep debt. They include the following.

When you wake up in the morning, record how much sleep you got and how you felt. Note whether your alarm woke you up or if you woke up on your own. Do you feel rested? Do you feel good? Or do you feel groggy?

Throughout the day, record how many cups of coffee or other forms of caffeine you consume to feel awake and functional. How many times do you yawn throughout the day? If you find it hard to stay awake when at your desk, you may be adding to your sleep debt.

You’ll also need to keep track of your body’s cravings. If you find yourself constantly hungry for sugar and/or carbohydrates, it may be because you didn’t get enough sleep. Your body is looking for extra energy so that it can function.

If you find that you’re too tired to exercise, this can be another sign that you’re not getting enough sleep.

At the end of the day (or week), look over your records. This will help you determine if you’re getting enough sleep.

Can I Repay My Sleep Debt?

If you look at your journal and notice some patterns, including those that lead to sleep debt, don’t freak out.

While you’re not getting enough rest now, you can repay your sleep debt((Scientific American: Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep?)) and get back on track to feeling rested and improve your health.

Some people believe that sleep debt can’t be repaid, but studies have shown that parts of it can be repaid. It just takes time.((Forbes: The Good And Bad News About Your Sleep Debt))

Repaying sleep debt won’t happen in a weekend. Here are some things you can do to help get a good night’s rest:((Sleep.org: How to Get Rid of Sleep Debt))

1. Develop a Sleep Sanctuary

Having a separate work environment and a sleep sanctuary is important. This will get you up and moving during the day, helping you get rid of some excess energy as well as allowing you to stretch and keep muscles from getting stiff, which can make it easier to fall asleep at night.

Bill Becker, CEO and Design Director of BDI, which manufacturers ergonomically minded office furniture, including a series of standing desks said:

“The workplace can be one of the most challenging environments to adopt healthy habits, given that on average, the majority of workers sit nearly 6 hours a day, burning only 1 calorie per minute. More importantly, prolonged sitting has been known to lead to other health issues such as increased blood pressure, excess body fat and high cholesterol. This is where a sit+stand desk can make a difference. There are many mental and physical benefits to standing desks, and can be a great component of an overall active and healthy lifestyle.”

To create your non-work, sleep sanctuary, you need to have a comfortable bed that doesn’t increase or develop pain in your body. You also need to keep TVs out of the room, as well as computers and other mobile devices. The blue light from these can mess up circadian rhythms and keep you from getting good sleep.

Only use your room for sleeping, intimate activities, and other forms of relaxation, including reading or meditating. This will train your brain to recognize the space as a place of calm. It’s also important to only go to bed when you are tired.

If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep within a few minutes, you need to get out of the room and go somewhere else. When you are tired, go back into your sanctuary to sleep.

2. Exercise Regularly

It may seem counterintuitive, but exercising leads to better sleep at night. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can impact how well you sleep. It also increases how deep of sleep you get, as well as improves sleep quality.

Since sleep debt leads to weight gain and other health issues, exercising has the ability to counteract these problems. The better you feel through exercise, the better you’ll sleep at night.

However, it’s important that you don’t exercise within 3 hours of going to bed. This may keep you awake and add to your sleep debt.

3. Only Nap If Absolutely Necessary

You may think that getting in a good nap during the day can help you with your sleep debt. In some cases, it can. But keep in mind that if you’re napping during the day and then finding yourself going to bed later at night or not getting quality sleep, it’s not helping repay your sleep debt.

Sticking to a bedtime routine throughout the week and on the weekends is the best way to ensure that you’re getting enough rest, and more often than not, you won’t need to nap during the day.

While you may be tempted to stay up later on weekends to catch up with friends, family, or the TV shows you missed during the week, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Sticking to a routine is better for your body and your quality of sleep.

4. Watch What You Put into Your Body

Too much caffeine throughout the day can impact how well you sleep at night. You may find yourself in an afternoon slump after lunch, but reaching for another cup of coffee or an energy drink is impacting your sleep.

Limit your caffeine intake to the morning. To energize yourself in the afternoon, eat some natural sugars such as fruit or grab some protein. You may also consider going for a quick, 15-minute walk to help perk yourself up.

At night, when you’re winding down after a long day, limit the amount of alcohol you consume. It may seem like it’s helping you get a good night’s rest, it’s not.

Alcohol makes it difficult for your body to go into deep sleep, so you’re not getting the quality of sleep you think you are. A few drinks are fine, but watch how much you consume.

5. Skip the Sleeping Pills

When it comes to falling asleep fast, there are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription products to help people sleep. It may be tempting to use these as a quick fix, but keep in mind that these are generally used as a short-term solution.

While some people benefit from taking sleeping aids for a short amount of time, the vast majority of people abuse them, which can be harmful to health and hurt your sleeping ability. I

f you have questions about the effectiveness of sleeping pills, talk to your doctor.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is important. Humans can’t live without sleep. We need it to be able to function and to stay healthy. Sleep is when the brain and body repair themselves, without enough, you may find yourself feeling groggy, irritable, and unwell.

If you incorporate all of the suggestions above into your routine but still find yourself in sleep debt, you may have another issue that needs to be addressed by your doctor. Talk to them to find the best course of action so you can get a good night’s rest.

Sleep debt is a major concern for a lot of people. Thankfully, there are ways to repay this debt, and getting enough rest is beneficial in so many ways. Here’s to a good night’s rest!

More Resources to Help You Sleep Better

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How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.((Pew Research Center: Modern Parenthood)) Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.((Pew Research Center: Raising Kids and Running a Household: How Working Parents Share the Load)) In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

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How to Work Efficiently: The 2 Critical Keys to Productive Work

There’s a lot of research on the subject of productivity, but in my experience, most of it is bogus. 

So how to work efficiently?

Being productive really boils down to two key things:

  1. Prioritization
  2. Finding your flow

Each of these are distinct skills, yet they inevitably impact each other since honing your ability to prioritize improves your capacity for finding and staying in flow. So to maximize your efficiency, you have to work consciously to develop both.

Here’s what you need to do that.

1. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to Prioritize Better

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool to help you prioritize tasks in terms of urgency and importance. As co-founder of Dairy Free Games, I found it immensely valuable; there always seemed to be a thousand fires burning, but using this tool helped me decide which ones to put out myself, and when.

Here’s how the matrix breaks down:

  • Urgent and Important: Tasks that you yourself have to do right now, or conversations and decisions that you must quarterback quickly.
  • Not Urgent and Important: Projects requiring of planning and strategy, but that can be delayed for a bit. You’ll still need to set a deadline for these and carve out time on your calendar to work specifically on them, but you might not need to tackle them today.
  • Urgent and Not Important: Tasks which must be completed, but which you should delegate to someone else. Think: files, documents, or processes that need updating—jobs that need to get done fast, but that don’t require you or your best engineer.
  • Not Important and Not Urgent: Ideas which are best eliminated from your to-do list altogether. Or, at the least, tasks that should be postponed until all other important items have been checked off. These might be “nice-to-haves”––they’re not urgent or mission critical.

The most crucial piece here is deciding which action items must be completed by you, and which could be delegated. For many, you have the sense that everything that’s urgent is also important, and everything that’s important MUST be completed by you. But over time––through utilizing this matrix––you come to realize that urgent and important are in fact different qualifiers.

The most effective leaders are those who can differentiate between the two and plan their days around the tasks which they really must complete themselves.

2. Get into a State of Flow

Flow, meanwhile is something you have to consciously, personally optimize for.

Flow is a concept first defined by the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975. It is characterized, among other things, by complete psychological immersion in the activity or project at hand. It’s what most creatives––whether they be artists, engineers, writers, or designers––strive for when they sit down to get to work. Or, at least, it’s what they emerge out of after they’ve made something great.

If you’re a creator of some kind, you’ve likely experienced it, whether you were conscious of it or not. It feels, in a way, like a hyper-effective autopilot where words or algorithms seem to leap directly from your brain through your fingers and onto a page, and you’re only barely in control of the process.

But here’s the thing:

Forcing yourself into a mental state where it’s possible to get into flow is challenging––in fact, it’s something you need to actively and consciously optimize for.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of getting into a state of flow.

Here are some ways to do that:

Set aside time to “go deep.”

Flow requires intense, uninterrupted focus. That itself requires an investment on your part to minimize distractions––especially from tasks that are not important but potentially urgent (category 3 of that Eisenhower Matrix).

Set a clear objective.

It’s impossible to get into flow without having one specific goal to focus intently on––otherwise, you’ll find yourself inherently distracted. You can’t get into flow by trying to work on three things at once.

At best, your focus will remain at a kind of surface level for all three.

Autonomy in how to handle the task.

Integral to flow is freedom of choice. This is important when delegating important tasks to teammates, as well.

If the project is something that the person will need to enter into flow to complete, you’ll need to make sure they themselves are invested in it and actively choosing how to complete it.

The task should not be over-challenging or over-simplistic.

As I mentioned, it’s difficult to get into flow when the project at hand bores you or, on the other hand, confuses you. It needs to be challenging enough to be interesting––there’s a sweet spot. This is particularly important to remember, again, when delegating.  

Access to feedback.

The faster you can get feedback, whether that’s from your management, co-workers, or customers, the better. In fact, immediate feedback is the reasons that video games are so immersive and flow-inducing.

In a game, almost every action you take has clear positive or negative feedback.

The Bottom Line

Prioritization and flow are inextricably intertwined.

The easiest way to be pulled out of flow, after all, is being bombarded by tasks that aren’t important. That includes emails that seem to demand quick responses, Slack messages from teammates, creeping pressure from action items you didn’t correctly define as “Urgent,” “Not Urgent,” and so on.

You must, in optimizing for flow, protect yourself from these kinds of risks.

But, again, that skill comes from practice and from prioritizing effectively––setting aside time for focused, deep work, for example, or delegating potentially distracting yet important items to other team members.

That’s why, ultimately, you need to develop and nurture both of these skills in tandem—both for the benefit of your team and for yourself.

More Resources to Boost Productivity at Work

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How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips

Your clock began with just a blink of how late it had gotten. Now, it screams at you that the night is far underway. Yet, there you remain – awake and still uncomfortable.

Perhaps, you had just barely begun to doze when the pain unfairly awakened you. Sleeping with lower back pain is not always as easy as just lying down and closing your eyes. You must plan ahead for a proper – and enjoyable – night’s sleep.

Preparing your mind and body for rest is just as important as preparing your sleeping space.

So how to sleep with lower back pain?

Let us help you figure out a few alterations that may help you sleep better tonight. From that, you will be more equipped to choose which tips will most benefit you.

Where to Start?

It is no secret that exercise, food, and rest each have a balance that is required for general health. Creating an environment in which you can relax is imperative for minimizing tension. So, how can you do this if your body is in pain?

If a back injury has been sustained, the first step is to ensure that the source of the pain has been eliminated or is under review. If you are aware of an injury, it is best to ensure that proper care is received for the best chance of a timely and effective recovery.

If you are uncertain what may have caused the pain, speak with a medical professional to determine what may be needed for recovery.

How to Sleep Better Tonight

What can you do at home to help work through some of the pain for a better night’s sleep? Perhaps, it is already bedtime and you are just now realizing that pain from the day has begun to settle into your lower back. What can you do to get through tonight? What can you do to be ready for tomorrow night…and the next night?

Let’s look at some new ideas for sleeping with lower back pain. Find a couple that you want to try first. Combine them, mix them up, and find out what works for you. Alternate some of the options to keep it interesting. Be sure to incorporate any information given to you by your chiropractic doctor.

Take one or two nights with each of these 13 sleeping tips for lower back pain. Decide which ones help you the most. Feel free to adjust each concept to your lifestyle and physical needs.

1. Recognize the Power of Your Brain

The human brain is an incredible tool for directing what happens throughout the body. Pain signals are sent to the thalamus telling us that pain is present.((HowStuffWorks: How Pain Works))

What does the brain do? It sends a signal telling our hand to, “Move! There is something beneath your hand that is too hot for your skin to handle!” How do we respond? We yank our hand into the air, “Ouch! I’m not sitting on that park bench!”

Why is it important to understand the brain’s power? Recognizing that the pain is part of the brain’s alert system can help us see that something isn’t as it should be within the body. This is especially important for us as humans because we cannot feasibly walk around with an MRI or X-Ray machine and constantly take stock of our insides. Pain signals take care of this for us. They act as an alert system that can help stop us from causing further damage.

Does that mean that we have to like the pain? Of course not! We can, however, take the messages from those pain signals and use them to help direct us to a reasonable recovery.

Will we always get rid of all pain all the time? That depends on the cause for the pain and what steps are taken to minimize its source, as well as any underlying conditions that may require medical attention.

Will crashing on a snowboard be automatically healed simply by recognizing the pain? Nope – but rather than going along day by day in hopes that the pain will subside magically on its own, recognizing the pain’s presence is a great first step.

2. Understand the Relationship Between Pain and Tension

Pain and tension have a closer relationship than we might realize. You may even hold your breath to avoid sending movement through your body in times of great pain.

Helping tight, tense, and sore muscles to relax release the tension held in them can help get you on the way to feeling better faster.

If an injury is present, we may easily compensate for the pain by using other muscles more. Holding tension in one portion of the body to avoid pain puts greater strain on the surrounding muscles.

Chronic pain can easily find its way into your life through stress and tension that is not dispensed with regularly.((Verywellhealth: 9 Things that Make Chronic Pain Worse)) Pain is often increased by our desire to resist its presence on our bodies. You may find that the pain becomes greater with a lack of sleep. An ache may start small and become progressive with little or no sleep.

3. Be Warm, Not Hot or Cold – Especially During Sleep

The human body shivers to gain warmth when it is cold. This brings tension to the muscles. We may not even realize this added tension until warmth is regained.

If pain is present and muscle tension is increased, we risk further stressing the neuromuscular system. Our nerve endings can detect changes in temperature.((The Weather Channel: Why Do Cold Hands and Cold Feet Hurt Worse in Winter?))

Not only does this take them away from their job as pain signal devices in the body, it also alerts them that an adjustment should be made. Allowing the body to stay cold for long periods during the day can cause the body to retain unnecessary tension, which may increase pain.

Sleeping too hot can simply make us uncomfortable and prevent sufficient REM sleep. Tossing and turning because your body is trying to dispense heat does not help you eliminate back pain while sleeping. Rather, it can put increased stress on your body during the time when it is meant to be recovering.

4. Try Not to Procrastinate: Understand that Hard Work Deserves a Break

Allow yourself to rest and rejoice after working hard. Try not to push a task to the end of its time. Plan to work hard and then take a break. Schedule breaks into undesirable endeavors – and then allow yourself to enjoy those breaks.

Why is this important for lower back pain? Back pain is often the result of overworked muscles. If an injury has occurred in the past or if you are seeking to recover and avoid chronic back pain, you need to let your muscles take a break.

If your mind is geared to finish a task but you find that your body is not willing, planned break times might help you feel as though you are still on task.

Break bigger projects up into separate days. Enlist the help of a relative or neighbor and enjoy the scheduled break together. Why is this important for sleeping with pain?

If you can work to minimize or eliminate pain before it gets underway, you are less likely to be troubled by pain as you sleep.

5. Create a Balance in Your Body

Recognize the work your lower back does to help the rest of your body. Try to take some of the stress off of your lower back by treating your body as a complete unit. We do not mean that you must fill your time with crunches or a complicated weightlifting regimen.

Simply, your body will heal itself more efficiently if it is permitted to function as a unit. When you rest, it is time to allow your body to relax and rejuvenate itself from the interior – all the way through your extremities. Yes, over time working on core muscles can help with lower back pain. Thinking about intense workout procedures while you are in pain may not be so desirable.

Instead, choose a few stretches or yoga poses that can help your body relax and function more efficiently. Choose positions that bring you joy and do not cause pain. You might be a bit uncomfortable if you have not tried stretching techniques for lower back pain – but the rewards are amazing once you get the hang of it!

6. Work to Clear Your Mind

Fixating on your lower back pain will not help you rest or heal. Find activities that help you separate the pain you experienced during the day from your sleeping routine. In the evening, enjoy a favorite book. Go for a walk outside. Play with the kids – make a mess!

Find something that makes you laugh! Take your mind off of the pain as much as you can a few hours before it is time to put your head on your pillow. Clear your mind of anything that distracts you from joy.

7. Focus on Your Breathing Patterns

Breathing is something that our bodies naturally do by design. We often simply do not realize that we are taking in oxygen and dispensing carbon dioxide.

However, if an event takes place and we are not permitted to complete this basic physical task, we won’t live long.

Focusing on the body’s ability to be so completely amazing is a wonderful way in which we can divert our attention from pain.

8. Meditate as You Prepare to Sleep

Meditating for a better night’s rest can increase your ability to rest comfortably. While taking a moment to ponder and reflect at any time of day may be helpful, taking a moment to decompress shortly before sleep offers another level of relaxation.

Similar to a focus on your breathing, find something else for your brain to interact with as you lie in bed attempting to sleep. Plan to enjoy a few moments in your preferred sleep position as you allow your eyes and ears to interact with something that calms you.

You may find these night time meditation techniques beneficial:

  • Select a night light that slowly dims up and down. Enjoy watching the color(s) change as you prepare your mind for sleep. Ensure that the light shown does not become bright enough to alert your ‘daytime’ thinking. Blues and greens are best if available.
  • Look out of your window and watch the sky, a storm, or the trees blowing.
  • Listen to the sounds of your home. What do you hear? Wind rustling outside?
  • Place an interesting image that glows in the dark on your ceiling. Observe how this image is shaped or designed. What do you appreciate about the image?
  • Enjoy a projection night light that throws your favorite design onto the wall or ceiling. Some children’s night lights offer fun cartoon images, too!
  • If you prefer having your eyes closed, consider listening to your favorite calming music for a few moments. Listen to the words, and focus on trying to hear phrases you may have missed in the past. If you prefer to listen to sounds without words, classical music, ocean sounds, or rustling river sounds may be preferred. Try to follow the sounds with your mind.

With this many meditation ideas, it will take several days to try them all! Be sure to allow your body to relax during this time.

Once you feel somewhat comfortable in bed, begin with whatever technique you have chosen for that night. The idea is to distance your mind from the day you just enjoyed (or endured).

Getting started is often the most difficult part. You may desire to set a timer if your chosen technique utilizes technology. Set it for 30 minutes and adjust up or down as desired the next evening.

Meditation is also a wonderful way to work through pain that may arise overnight. Be mindful of the sleeping habits of others. You may want to think ahead and have one of the techniques ‘ready to activate’ in case you do wake up from back pain and are unable to sleep.

9. Discover What Actions or Positions Cause or Increase Pain

You may already be well aware of what positions are the most and least painful for sleeping with lower back pain. However, have you tried really relaxing as you search for comfortable positions? Moving around trying to find comfort can easily cause temporary tension in your muscles.

Choose a position that is moderately comfortable, and take the time to breathe in and out 8 to 10 times without moving from that position. Give your muscles time to dissipate the tension in them.

Releasing tension from overworked muscles can be hard at first. Give yourself time to feel the difference in how your lower back responds to the decrease in tension.

You may or may not need to dramatically alter your preferred sleeping position. If you prefer to sleep on your side, simply place a pillow between your knees to align your spine.

Back sleeper? Ensure that your back is supported by your sleeping surface so that it does not bow and cause your muscles to strain overnight. You might prefer a pillow under your knees. Stomach sleepers may benefit from placing a pillow at or just above the hips for added support.

Many people simply do not realize the importance of their pillow for lower back pain. Too thick or too thin, your pillow may place your spine into a position that creates too much pressure on your lower back.((University of Rochester Medical Center: Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back)) Choose a pillow that places your head in alignment with your spine.

10. Understand How Proper Support Helps the Lower Back While Sleeping

Be prepared to adjust your sleeping position a few times each night. Your spine contains sections that permit you to bend and move as you direct. The ability to twist and contort is a wonderful feature if you must reach something on a shelf. When you sleep, your body still retains the same ability for movement.

As you lie down, your body conforms to the space on which you place it. Shoulders and hips tend to push into the surface beneath you. Your middle may curve too far pulling your back muscles into a position that creates undue stress on your spine and back muscles.((TruContor: Back pain during sleep? Poor sleep posture may be the cause))

If this is the case for any length of time, your lower back is likely to complain to your brain, “Help, I’m having trouble completing what you are asking me to do while your body is asleep! I can’t do this anymore. I need support down here!”

11. Decide Not to Utilize a Mobile Device if Awake Due to Pain

The light projected directly into our eyes from a device with backlighting can trick our brains into thinking that daylight is present. Why is this important? If you are awakened by lower back pain and wish to return to sleep, telling your body that morning is close does not give your brain a true perspective of your need for rest.

A mobile device may help take your mind off of the pain for a time – but it will not be the best thing for returning to dreamland.

If you really must read something, consider a few moments with an old school flashlight and paper.((Psychology Today: 6 Ways That Night-time Phone Use Destroys Your Sleep)) Then, perhaps, focus on your breathing, meditate, stretch in bed, or adjust your sleeping position accordingly. (Be sure not to awaken your sleeping partner.)

12. Consider How External Factors Play a Role

Is something, in addition to lower back pain, causing you to be awake (e.g., caffeine, stress, particular unpleasant sounds)? If so, include changes to those matters in your preparations for sleep.

Are there external factors that add to your lower back pain (e.g., work requirements, exercise choices, yardwork, childcare considerations)? Existing pain will not likely diminish if the situation that caused it still exists in your life.

You may find that once you remove some of the sleep inhibitors, it will be easier for your body to allow you to sleep in spite of any remaining lower back pain.

13. Inquire with a Musculoskeletal Expert

Work with your chiropractor to determine the source of your lower back pain. Medical imaging can be done to ensure that possible injuries are properly assessed. From that, you and your chiropractor can work to set a goal for an efficient recovery. Receiving care as early as possible is beneficial for helping to avoid chronic back pain.

If your back pain has already been present for some time, your body may have begun to heal and simply is not able to properly tell your brain that the major injury itself is no longer present. Chiropractic care works to realign joints so that nerves can more efficiently send communications to the brain.

In opposition, you may be experiencing pain symptoms that mean your body still retains an injury and needs healing. Not sure what chiropractic care does for lower back pain? Chiropractic care seeks to find the source of pain and eliminate it from within the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems in the body.((Better Health Chiropractic: What Does a Chiropractor Do for Lower Back Pain?))

Finding Your Next Step

Which tips will you try this evening? Consider observing your breathing, meditating, and clearing your mind at various times throughout the day.

Releasing tension as we encounter it is beneficial for muscles, joints, and nerves. Do what you can to minimize the effects of stress and potential injury during your waking hours.

As evening approaches, be willing to let go of the day and focus on sleeping pain-free

More Resources About Back Pain Relief

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16 Less Known Gmail Hacks That Will Super Boost Your Productivity

You are probably an ardent user of Gmail and use it almost every day. Do you think you’ve utilized every function of Gmail to ensure maximum productivity when you work? Likely not.

In fact, not all useful Gmail features are spelled out explicitly. So in this article, I will run you through 16 less known Gmail hacks that will super boost your productivity.

1. Unsend a Sent Email

Email blunders are extremely common. An AOL survey, covered by CBS states that around 32% of people accidentally forward the wrong email.

A wrongly sent mail with an undesired attachment or carrying confidential knowledge may create a bad impression as a professional or can even ruin your career.

Keeping this common error in mind, Gmail has created a feature that can help to “unsend” a sent email within a time span of up to 30 seconds.

To do this, simply go to the “Settings” page of your Gmail account. Enable the Undo Send button and set the invalidation period according to your wish. The below given screenshot will help you to understand better.

2. Get All Emails in One Tab

Are you the kind of person who hates tab hopping? Would you rather see all your emails at one place rather than different tabs like Social and Promotional?

This hack ensures that all your emails, irrespective their category are all neatly stacked up in your primary Inbox.

To achieve this, simply go to the settings of your Gmail and click on the Inbox tab. You can un-select the promotional and social check box and now all your email would be in one place.

The following screenshot should help:

3. Get More Tabs

However, if you are not someone who likes a laundry list of things, you can likewise add tabs like Updated and Forums and further segregate emails.

Emails will now automatically be clubbed into the new tabs, helping you focus on important emails.

4. Self Destruct Email

Gmail has developed a custom software script that hosts a self-destruct feature. Using this can add a timer to your mail and it will be self-destructed after a certain interval of period.

This helps when you don’t want an email to be forwarded to someone else. To do this, click on the padlock icon near the send button before you send out the email.

A new tab named Confidential mode opens with the option of Set Expiration. Make the necessary changes here. Refer to the screenshot and easily self-destruct emails!

5. Send Mails with a Verification Code

The confidential mode discussed above also allows you to send an email with a verification encryption sent via SMS to the recipient.

This will enable you to build an additional coating of security to your mail. Using this feature, you can be sure that the mail is read by the intended recipient only.

6. Keyboard Alternatives

If you use your desktop or laptop computer to check your emails, you can use shortcuts from your keyboard to enhance your productivity. Some popular Gmail hacks to improve your productivity are –

  • Use the alphabet key “N” to read the next message and “P” to read the previous message if you are reading a multi-message conversion.
  • By holding Ctrl + Enter you can send your composed message.

To utilize the keyboard alternatives, you have to enable it from the settings of your Gmail as given in the screen capture below:

7. Display Density

If you are not receiving a lot of emails, I’d recommend you to decrease the display density of your Gmail Inbox.

It serves like a multi-window function. It is also helpful for you to glance at the just important part of the email.

8. Reply All

Occasionally, we forget to select the “Reply All” option while sending a response to multiple recipients.

However, Gmail has come up with a solution to this problem. Just click on the settings tab and go to the general tab. Scroll down to the “Default Reply Behaviour” and select the Reply all option.

Now the “Reply All” option will always be the default option selected when conversing with multiple recipients.

9. Showing Maximum Number of Emails per Page

If you are receiving too many emails in a day, then you should definitely explore this option.

It gives you the ability to access more conversations per page. To achieve this, go to settings, click on the General menu bar and scroll down to “ Maximum page size”.

Thereafter set the number of conversions you want per page. For reference, check the screenshot given below:

10. Conversion View

If you are a fan of the classic Gmail, this is a handy hack.

To avoid a “thread” view in favor of the old conversation view – just follow these steps. Go to the General menu in the setting tab and simply scroll down to the “Conversion View” and select the option “conversion view off”. Refer to the screen capture underneath.

11. Desktop Notification

If you live off your emails, then this is a great option. You can simply add a chrome extension of Gmail or go to Settings > General > Desktop Notification and turn it on. It is also extremely helpful if you have set up email alerts for critical functions . The screenshot shared below will help you get it set up.

12. Advanced Search

This is one of my favorites of all the features. You probably would be using the regular search feature for your Gmail.

However, with the sheer amount of emails in the inbox, it is difficult to find specific information. This is where advanced search comes in.

Using this feature you can search a specific mail among hundreds of email of your inbox by applying useful filters as illustrated below:

13. Insert Google Drive Files

Need to send a large file? Not a problem with Gmail’s new integration feature. You can insert Google drive files as attachments to your mail.

Simply click on the Google drive icon on the lowermost portion of the window. It will convert your file as a link or an attachment as shown below:

14. Right Click Menu

Previously absent from the classic feature. The good old right click is here. Now if you right click on your emails, you can get the option to mark it Unread, Archive, or remove a message. All at a click of a button, straight from your Inbox page.

15. Vacation Responder

On leave? Don’t have time to reply to all the email you get? Head to the auto-responder option in Gmail.

You can customize what message you want to send out to people. To activate it, simply go to settings, click on general tab and scroll down to the vacation responder.

16. Account Recovery

I get at least one email a day that is spam that tries to hack into my account. So for security purposes, do update your account recovery options. This will be helpful when you are unable to remember your password or have been hacked.

It is just a series of questions you need to set up while opening the account (or update later on).

Additional tip: You’d need to remember the answers. So choose something you have negligible chance of forgetting or getting it wrong.

The Bottom Line

If you spend considerable amount of time on Gmail, theses hacks are sure to boost your productivity and better your email using experience.

Start adjusting your Gmail settings and make use of all these hacks for maximum productivity!

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11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

Failing to organize will often lead to chaos or, at the very least, an increase in stress levels. This occurs as you attempt to make sense of everything that surrounds you for the sake of making life easier.

The need to have organizational ability becomes even more important when you are the leader. After all, people turn to you for inspiration and it will hardly be inspiring if they see you freaking out.

But where do you start by becoming more organized? Well, I’m about to guide you through 11 key organizational skills that every leader needs to know. By the end, it will mean that you are in a better position to be a more effective leader.

So, let’s get to it!

1. Dealing with Time-Management

Poor time-management is at the root of so many issues within a company. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that things run like clockwork. This is only possible by having a firm understanding of what it is to be organized.

Failure in this area will lead to you being unable to stay on the task in front of you. Suddenly, your ability to juggle everything at once diminishes before you. It won’t take much before it all comes crashing down, resulting in you being viewed as rather unreliable.

Be aware of the following: the tasks for completion, their deadlines, the amount of work required and anything that cannot be delayed or avoided at any cost. Make a note of it daily and see how you fare with your list.

2. The Ability to Plan

Planning makes organizing easier but we are often lacking when it comes to being able to plan ahead. Again, poor planning leads to disorganization and more pressure on you.

Remember that planning takes different forms including dealing with time and how a project must proceed. However, a smart leader has to take things one step further to make a difference. You must also be aware of the plans of others and how they fit into your own approach if they are to make a difference. This becomes more important when dealing with a multi-disciplinary team where co-ordination can be problematic without adequate planning.

This is achievable even on a minute level although that is not always necessary. A complete absence of planning will only ever lead to problems.

3. Understand Scheduling

Even though this skill does overlap with those mentioned earlier, it’s still important enough to merit its own individual point. Having a schedule, followed by keeping to it, is known to be an effective tool for organizing your life.

Scheduling indicates to others that you have an awareness about what they are doing. It also shows you have a firm grip on what is being done and that there are no issues with balancing a number of projects.

Thanks to scheduling, your understanding of the time taken for different aspects becomes improved. This helps you to keep control of a project as well as coping with problems thanks to an understanding of events.

4. Being Able to Organize Resources

It’s important to get the most out of your resources and this too requires organization. Even knowing when to use those resources is important to prevent them becoming exhausted or used at incorrect times.

Organization in this sense means being acutely aware of the resources at hand and those you may call upon with a project. Your strength should also be in linking the correct resource to the right requirement to ensure it fits into their own abilities. Failure to do this means wasted resources and this will not reflect well on you.

To be certain of organization in this sense, you must first of all identify resources that may be relevant before beginning a new project. This prevents you from scrambling around searching for help when you need it the most.

5. The Ability to Delegate

Delegation is an art form and not everyone has mastered it. An effective leader also understands its importance for a project to run smoothly.

It’s impossible to handle each aspect of a project yourself, and that is where delegating tasks can help. Being aware of who is best for a particular task prevents that overwhelmed feeling which will free you to oversee each aspect of the project.

An organized leader will know their team and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.((Work Spirited: Why are Organizational Skills So Very Important in Leadership?)) Being aware in advance means you will not stress when a problem arises as you know who to call for help

Thanks to organization, your team will work more efficiently and complete each task with less stress on your shoulders.

Take a look at this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

6. Understanding Priorities

Being capable of prioritizing things will make your life easier. Creating a ‘to-do’ list and understanding which deadlines come first then leads to better planning as well as less stress. As your experience builds, you become more confident at knowing which tasks are the most important.

Disorganized individuals tend to cope in a haphazard way and deal with things as they arise. This is incorrect as you put energy into the wrong areas, and the most important things fall by the wayside. Prioritization keeps you on track with the order in which you need to complete things.

For this, you must be aware of the tasks at hand and the process for each one. Check deadlines and other pressing details in advance to allow you to be better organized.

This article will help you prioritize better:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

7. The Ability to Work Together

The correct collaboration makes life easier. The only problem is that it does require organization on your part. An organized leader is aware of those individuals that may be the best person for a particular task. Not organizing leaves you in a position of searching for help when it should be plain sailing.

This is about more than mere delegation. Instead, the skill is with knowing in advance who you can call upon to make a project run as smooth as possible. This may also involve other leaders of various departments, so working in unison is key.

With this skill, you must become aware of who you may need to collaborate with before the need arises. Do your research and know who to call upon at any point. This allows you to then cope with any problem in a cool and efficient manner.

8. Targets and Setting Goals

An organized individual will find it easier to set goals and targets, and then achieve them. A smart leader is able to show others that they can set goals, work towards them and ultimately achieve them. The only way in which this is done is by organization.

It will be impossible to reach a target if you are unaware of the path to follow. You must understand the actions that are required or you will never achieve anything. Organization also helps you to identify each step and any problems connected to it.

Here, you must identify the target or goal at the earliest opportunity and then bring forward the other organizational skills that I have mentioned.

9. Efficiency

Organization and efficiency go hand in hand as you cannot have one without the other. Efficiency leads to the need for planning as the smoother something runs, then the fewer problems you encounter and the happier everybody tends to be.

Being efficient also allows you to know where you are in a project at any moment. This is due to you having organized things to such an extent that you are able to counteract problems before they occur. Remember that efficiency and your ability to identify issues work in unison. If you fail to be organized, then it is impossible for this to happen.

To learn this skill, you must set aside time for each project and break it down into individual segments. Understand how each step must progress and who will be responsible for each part. Identify problems and how to resolve them to allow in such a way that everything can run like clockwork.

Efficiency is a skill that develops over time, so continue working on it and how to improve problem areas to become a stronger leader.

10. Clear Communication

A strong leader needs to be able to communicate clearly at all times.((Center for Creative Leadership: Why Communication Is So Important for Leaders)) With your organizational skills, you will find that this is easier to do.

Thanks to these skills, you always know what is happening and can clarify any issues. You are also able to communicate exactly what you need simply because you are organized and know the status quo at that point. You will find it easier to get things started in any way that you wish due to your ability to put things across in an easy and concise manner.

To have good communication, you have to be confident in your own abilities as a leader. If you use the different skills discussed above, you will notice a greater confidence in your voice which then has a positive influence on the rest of the team.

If you want to be more confident in your communication skills, check out this article:

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

11. The Ability to Look After Yourself

Nothing mentioned above is possible if you are not organized in your own life. The ability to look after yourself is the glue that holds everything else together.

You need to eat and sleep well, along with taking care of your general health. Organization in each aspect of your life is essential to ensure you have a healthy balance. Feeling under the weather, tired, stressed or anything else negative will have a profound impact on your abilities as a leader.

Look at what people expect of you in each part of your life and adopt the same strategies for each aspect. You can then expect a certain synergy to occur between the different areas allowing them to work with a certain fluidity.

This simple guide will be helpful for you to take better care of yourself:

The 5-Step Guide to Self Care for Busy People

The Bottom Line

These 11 skills are, in my opinion, essential for any smart leader who wishes to be more organized in everything that they do. By bettering yourself along these lines, it will lead to not only a greater sense of confidence in yourself, but also towards those that look to you for both guidance and inspiration.

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Utilizing The Productivity Improvement Plan: 7 Rules To Never Forget

How effectively we use our time can make a significant difference to our personal and professional productivity. Working smarter, not harder, is the key to effective productivity, and in turn, to better results and an improved life.

When I worked in a corporate environment, I used to work for about 14 hours a day. Working these long hours gave me the opportunity to advance my career and work with many global brands.

As I moved into more leadership positions, I started to think and work differently. I realized that I was missing out on valuable time with my family. One too many missed family dinners, bath nights and reading with my children changed my thinking.

Rather than just taking these long hours as the norm, I decided there must be a better path to success.

I created some tools and systems that allowed me to be more effective and productive at work, but gave me more time freedom to spend with the people that mattered most. I began to understand that working less could actually deliver improved results.

When I started my coaching business, working with successful entrepreneurs, I realized that many of them were also working long hours, but not seeing the results they wanted.

Rather than leveraging their time to achieve the most productive result, they were stuck in an endless cycle of long hours and busyness.

We all have the same 24 hours a day. Some of us can get a tremendous amount of productive work accomplished each day and still have time to enjoy life and do more of the things we love.

Yet others, have no time and spend most of their day with no energy feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with what they have on their plate.

Everyone wants to make the best possible use of their time and be as productive as possible. How effectively we manage our time can make a significant difference to the success of our career or business.

What if you had a strategy for maximizing your time and improving your productivity?

If you could spend more time focusing on your highest value activities; have time to plan for the future; have time to set goals; be able to create a plan to make them happen; have more time to spend with your loved ones; and have time to do more of the things you love how would it feel?

The key to improving your productivity is to understand why you want to do it and have clarity on the difference it will make in your personal and business life.

We all want to work a bit less, do more of the work we love and make more money, but how can we do it?

During my work with entrepreneurs and leaders, I’ve developed 7 Productivity Rules that help people achieve their most productive working day, no matter what the day involves.

1. Get Clarity up Front

To create a Productivity Improvement Plan, we must first understand and measure where we are right now before developing plans to improve. We need to look at both internal and external factors when we think about measuring and improving our productivity.

The best way to measure is to review our performance from the present moment back to when we started. This gives us a true sense of the improvements we’ve made, what we’re doing really well and the things we’d like to get better at. It focuses on our strengths initially, giving us the confidence to make the productivity improvements we want to make.

Focus on Specifics

Have a clear purpose around the productivity improvements you wish to make. Do you have clarity on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what your ideal outcome looks like?

Once you are clear about this, you can create more ‘intentional productivity’ and set specific, measurable improvements you wish to make.

The more clarity you have around any given situation or project, the better and faster you are able to achieve your desired result.

When you are clear on the result you want and are motivated to achieve that result, you will start working more effectively to achieve that result.

Understand the Big Difference It Will Make

It is important to understand how making specific improvements will make a difference in your business and life.

Without that future focused motivation, you may make changes for a short period and then fall back into your old ways.

  • Will you be happier?
  • Do you want to work less hours and spend more time with your family? If so, what will you do with that time?
  • Is building an effective team a priority? If so, what could you achieve with a better team?
  • Are you focused on career progression?
  • Do you want more time off to travel?
  • Are you focused on freeing yourself up?
  • Is this about achieving higher levels of revenue?

2. Focus on Strengths

When we spend more time using our unique strengths, we experience more happiness, are more productive and deliver greater value.

Doing more of the things we love to do delivers better results whilst increasing energy, confidence and creativity.

Identify Your Productivity Strengths

Start by focusing on your strengths:

Get a sheet of paper and just write down all of the things you do well, where you felt on top of your game, where you felt confident and you produced results you were happy with.

Rather than look to develop weaknesses, instead focus on your personal strengths and those of your team if you have one.

When I worked for a marketing agency and we had an important pitch, we brought together the best people with complementary strengths and skills to respond to the brief.

I understood that each person had specific talents, that when brought together with other complementary talents, created a much more powerful result.

Look to focus on your strengths and bring together other strengths to create a multiplier effect.

3. Delegate and Outsource

To maximize our productivity and leverage our time, we need to understand we can’t do everything ourselves.

We must determine what’s important, both personally and professionally, and eliminate activities that are low value.

The Pareto Principle (80:20) rule((Brian Tracy: The 80 20 Rule Explained)) states that 80% of the results come from 20% of actions, yet busyness often keeps us away from the high value activities there our most productive energy lies.

If we are spending large amounts of time doing things we simply aren’t very good at and don’t enjoy, it’s far more productive to let someone, or a team take on the work.

When we simply need help to complete a project, rather than increasing stress by trying to do everything, simply ask for help when you need it.

Instead of wasting time and energy overloading yourself, let others help so you can focus your time on your most important and valuable tasks. Other people have skills and strengths as well, so it is important to identify who can help and where they can add value.

To make this part of your long-term productivity improvement plan look to remove, delegate or outsource 3 projects or tasks every 90 days to free up your time and improve productivity even more.

4. Manage Yourself

You can choose to constantly react to external triggers or strategically create your day from the inside out.

When you’re clear on your priorities and how your unique strengths can deliver the results you want, you will feel more energized, more focused, more productive and achieve high performance results every day.

Create Your Version of a Productive Day

The key to a productive day is your intention to have a productive day, rather than just reacting to your day and working through your to-do list set your day up in advance.

Instead of working on things you think you “should” do, choose what you want to do, have the intentional mindset to do it and then follow through and do it.

Pick Just Three Things to Do Each Day

Increased productivity comes through prioritization. Many people use a daily planner or keep lists of the things they are going to work on each day. This helps them eliminate distractions and removes some of the complexities in their life.

Learn how to get rid of all distractions in this guide:

Easily Distracted? Here’s Your Solution

But the problem for many is that this task list is simply a list of things they want to get done or feel they need to get done. When there is no clarity, there is no focus about the tasks to be worked on and why they are important in the first place.

A simple way to increase your productivity is to get more clarity about your priorities. I recommend picking and working only on 3 Key Tasks or Projects each day, with the most important being first.

Focus on One Task at a Time

Despite what you may think, you simply can’t multitask effectively. Instead, focus on just one thing at a time.

Starting one thing, stopping, and switching tasks reduces your energy and productivity.

Unfinished tasks can create an environment of self-doubt and self-blame. Choose the most important from your top 3 and work on it until finished.

Work in Blocks of Time

To support your focused, productive work on just one thing, start working in blocks of time.

Look at the task you’re working on and decide how much time you need to invest in its completion.

If it will take you four hours to do, and it’s a big priority block out those four hours.

I suggest using the 60-60-30 method. Work for 50 minutes, take a take minute break.  Follow the same process again and then take a 30-minute break.

Follow the same process again until the project has been completed to increase your productivity.

Take More Breaks

To make the above strategy work, you need to ensure you are strict about taking those breaks.

You can use the Pomodoro technique or just set a timer on your watch (not your phone, too many distractions).

You’ll find this actually increases your focus, concentration and productivity. It ensures that your energy is always high.

I recommend going for a walk, having a healthy lunch or doing something that rejuvenates during your breaks. If you feel yourself getting really tired and losing focus, you can always take a quick nap.

5. Manage Your Energy

It’s essential to preserve and nurture your physical and mental strength to ensure you are energised, focused and productive every day.

Below are some tips you can use to set yourself up for peak performance:

Get Enough Sleep

It’s important to get plenty of sleep so you set yourself up for as productive a day as possible. I have written before about the benefits of sleep.

If you’re struggling to get enough sleep and want to wake up productive try this night routine from Lifehack’s CEO:

The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

Take More Time Off

Strategic Coach Founder Dan Sullivan believes there are two ways of looking at the world: through the lens of time and effort, or through the lens of results.

For him, it’s all about maximizing results while minimizing the time and effort involved to produce them. His time system is about focusing your time, energy and creativity to produce your best results.

He suggests taking regular ‘Free Days’ (a 24-hour day, from midnight to midnight, during which there are no work-related activities) to set yourself up for periods of high productivity and creativity.((Dan Sullivan: How To Stay At The Top Of Your Entrepreneurial Game))

“Instead of seeing time off work as a reward, see it as a necessary precondition for success.” — Dan Sullivan

This time off helps to ensure you are well rested, rejuvenated and ready to take on your biggest challenges.

Create a Morning Power Hour

Creating a morning routine can give you the intentional motivation to have a productive day. Rather than reacting to your day, you strategically set up your day to be one of inspired high performance.

Take an hour or 90 minutes to focus on yourself and your most important tasks. This could be a mix of meditation, exercise, reading, eating a healthy breakfast, expressing gratitude and laying our your Most Important Tasks for the day.

Find a routine that works for you. Mix and mix a few different things until you find the meaning, motivation and purpose that feels right.

For tips on creating your morning routine read The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

Start Saying No More Often

Instead of working longer and harder, we should focus our time and energy on the activities that deliver the biggest results and bring us more happiness.

Stop saying yes to people, projects and things that lower your energy and bring little or no results.

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett

Stop Worrying About Perfection

Many people are continually gearing up to get started. They are waiting for the perfect moment to take action.

If you wait for the perfect moment, you may never get started. Perfectionism is made up in our minds. It is an unattainable goal.((Lucemi Consulting: How to Defeat Perfectionism Once and For All))

It’s much more satisfying to simply get started and complete a project simply by doing great work.

If you live in a world of ‘Should Do,’ you may never really be sold on the project and be emotionally engaged enough to complete it in the first place.

However, if you come from a place of ‘Want To’ you have chosen to make this project an area of focus for you.

If you want more advice on avoiding perfectionism, take a look at this article: How Perfectionism Secretly Screws You Up

6. Continually Measure and Review

The foundation of any productivity improvement plan has to include progress you can measure.

When we’re making progress towards our goals and making improvements, we feel a lot happier and more confident.

Vague or general goals won’t give us the same feeling of accomplishment as something specific.

If you set up your productivity improvement plan in terms of specific, measurable progress, you will feel more grounded and less overwhelmed.

Measuring your own personal productivity progress also ensures you don’t compare your performance with others.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Set Productivity Goals

To build up your goal setting muscles, write down 5 specific personal and professional productivity improvements you wish to make in the next 90 days.

Make them measurable so they can be tracked, and review on a monthly and weekly basis.

This may include cutting down your work hours by a specific number or committing to try a morning routine for the next 14 days.

Decide what is the most important and what could make the biggest difference.

Review Project Performance

Your productivity goals and action plan will create a tangible difference to the projects you’re working on.

Before you start, set up a number of success criteria and then review the finished project based on that criteria.

Note down the improvements that have been made through your productivity changes and any further things to work on with your next project.

7. Simplify

The key to improving your productivity is to simplify and then simplify further as much as possible.

We all have so much complexity in our lives, it is difficult to stay in control and focused on our most important activities, both personally and professionally.

This might be an out of control calendar, a bulging inbox, a massive to-do list, mental clutter too many demands on your time or too many deadlines to meet.

This causes a feeling of being stuck or overwhelmed and can lead to ongoing fatigue and stress. I wrote about this in my article How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out.

Keep trying to simplify your life by focusing on the activities that deliver the biggest results and bring you the most joy and satisfaction.

If you can keep freeing yourself up from low value, energy draining activities you can create a bigger impact on the things, people and projects that really matter.

This is an ongoing process but think about how much better your life would be if it keeps getting simpler and simpler.

Any and all, improvements will further bolster your confidence.

The Bottom Line

These 7 Rules and supporting strategies can be put in place to help you take that first step towards increased effectiveness, confidence and productivity.

Why not pick one or two and see how they can make a difference in your business and life?

Every bit of progress and improvement in your productivity and happiness could make your life more enjoyable and ensure your results keep improving.

The most important thing is just to get started on your productivity improvement plan.

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