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I bet you’re busy right? At least you’d better be! Today, we tend to wear ‘being busy’ as a badge of honor. It shows that you’re a serious, dedicated hard-worker and generally a ‘good person.’ In fact, there is so much pressure to be busy and productive that not being busy can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Slowing down, taking a break, or spending time doing anything moderately enjoyable can even produce intense feelings of guilt.
People tend to worry about being perceived as being lazy and unmotivated when the truth is, we all need a break. We have a right to work at our own pace according to our own priorities.
Constantly pushing yourself to work long hours can lead to burnout and stress-related illnesses. It weakens the immune system and leaves you more susceptible to colds and flu. Interestingly enough, a Stanford study showed that after working more than 50 hours per week, productivity sharply declines. Working 70 hours only yields about the same results as working 55 hours while well-rested.
Highly successful people also tend to be highly productive; they work less but get more done. Here are a few habits to help you slow down and get more meaningful stuff done by working smarter, not harder.
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Focus on your mental energy first
Focus on your mental energy by detaching from insignificant tasks and making a plan to move forward more mindfully with conscious, deliberate decisions on how you will spend your days and your time. Slow down and take time to do this every day.
Is it useful, enjoyable, or necessary?
Take an honest look at where you’re spending your time (there are lots of apps for tracking this!) Ask yourself if what you are doing fits one of these three criteria: Is it 1. Useful 2. Enjoyable or 3. Necessary. If not, why are you doing it? Consider cutting it out.
Apply the 80/20 rule, remember what is important when you slow down
Spend 80% of your time on high-value tasks and only 20% on necessary busywork. It’s easy to get caught up with busy administrative type work because it is less demanding and challenging but you still feel like you’re doing something. Schedule an hour or so a day to get these small tasks done and then set a reminder for yourself to refocus on the important stuff.
Remember: Busy does not necessarily equal productive.
Be active for at least 10 minutes each day
Not only does exercise make you healthier, but the more your blood circulates, the better your brain performs. As little as 10 minutes of exercise reduces stress and can help you to come up with new ideas.
Work in sets of 3
Make a list of everything that requires your attention for the day. Prioritize the list, dealing with the most crucial things first and non-essential things last. Every third task, reward yourself in some small way. Continue to work your way through the list in sets of three.
About the Author
Certified Professional Life Coach
Hunter has an M.A. in Psychology and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. For more than 10 years, she coached clients to find and follow their passion and live their best lives. Hunter has also done youth mentoring work with Covenant House, realizing that this is such a challenging and important time in life.
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