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6 Simple Tools to Accomplish More by Working Smarter, Not Harder

The healthy habits I implemented to boost productivity and safeguard my emotional well-being

ImYanis/ Shutterstock
ImYanis/ Shutterstock

We can all relate to feeling overwhelmed at work. You may find yourself looking to blame the demands of your job or your career aspirations, but you should probably be looking in the mirror. You are the author of your own life, and the one in charge of making sure you aren’t overworked, overloaded, or overcome by stress.

I used to be proud of my ability to multitask. I was closing major deals on the phone while answering important emails and getting glammed up for another networking event, all while simultaneously scarfing down my dinner and texting my friends and family back. I would feel pleased and proud, almost superior, that I was accomplishing five things at once until I realized that I was actually failing myself, and the people around me. 

I saw that I had been putting my mental health on the back burner for quite some time, allowing my levels of stress to bubble up to a boiling point. My “always-on” work mentality was untenable, and something had to change. I found myself increasingly impatient, exhausted, and easily agitated. I had horrible migraines, and started to feel unhappy and unfulfilled. I needed to work smarter, not harder, or I was going to burn out. Or even worse, I was going to fail altogether.

The truth is that you cannot function on all cylinders all the time. Trying to give everyone and everything 100% of your constant focus and ability is simply not sustainable nor healthy.

If you recognize some of these traits in the way you are currently working, the good news is that there are simple techniques that you can enlist to ensure you continue to thrive in your career, while also safeguarding your mental and physical well-being.

These tips are mostly common knowledge but not common practice. By organizing our lives more deliberately, we can reach our goals while also staying healthy, motivated, and keeping the fire of inspiration burning brightly.

Here are some of the top tools that I use to both flourish professionally and look after my wellbeing at the same time:

1. Plan To Be Productive

“Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.” ― Jim Rohn

We all have the same amount of time in a day, so how do some people achieve more within their 24 hours than others? Taking time to plan your time may sound counterproductive – but time discipline equals time freedom.

If you spend 15-20 minutes to map-out your week in advance, you’ll find that you can focus and accomplish more with less stress. And this goal-getting technique will repay you with more hours to enjoy the activities you love in life.

Also, always plan to do your most important work that requires the greatest amount of energy at the beginning of the day or early in the week. If you push bigger projects off until later, you might not have the clarity and stamina to do your best.

2. The Myth of Multitasking

“The scarcity of time is the reason we have to concentrate on one thing at a time.” – Matt Perman

You might think you are getting a lot done at once when you multitask, but your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Instead of doing multiple tasks simultaneously, your brain is actually switching tasks quickly.

There is a start/stop/start process that goes on in the brain that makes you less efficient, causes oversights and mistakes, and saps your vital energy, which ultimately hurts your overall health and well-being.

The key is to approach your tasks in an orderly and organized way. Multitasking is the last thing you should do when you have a lot on your plate.

3. Schedule Downtime

“Burnout is not an indication of how much work someone has. Burnout is a failure to schedule time for recovery.” -Brendan Burchard

When you reach a point of mental overload, you’re not at your optimum ability to think clearly or perform at your best. The ideal way to break free from emotional overwhelm and reboot your brain into working productively is to rest. Many of the top performers take regular breaks throughout the day as they understand that recovery is the key to productivity too.

Try to avoid seeing downtime as wasting time. By organizing quality rests into your schedule, you will accomplish a lot more in the long run.   

4. Say No

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything” – Warren Buffet

Adding tasks to your to-do list that do not enhance your happiness, bring you joy, or move you towards your professional goals can be a toxic way to work.

You have to remember that by saying “yes” to one thing, you are essentially saying “no” to something else. With there being a finite number of hours in a day, you will want to spend your time on your top priorities. You can do this by saying “no” to those tasks that don’t enrich your life or enable you to focus on what really matters.

By filtering out and rejecting those jobs which do not serve in your best interests, you will uncover a more fulfilling, motivating, and successful method of working.

5. Sleep Productively

“It feels like we have two threads running through our lives: one pulling us into the world to achieve, the other pulling us back to replenish us. These threads can seem at odds, but really they enforce each other. It’s not a trade-off between success and sleep. Science shows that sleep is a performance-enhancement tool.” – Arianna Huffington

Some wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor, but what they don’t realize is that the most successful and productive people in the world understand that getting seven to eight hours of quality rest per night is integral to their accomplishments.

Data shows that if you’ve been awake for 17 to 19 hours, you have the cognitive impairment equivalent to that of a 0.05 percent blood alcohol level. That’s just under being legally drunk. A lack of sleep also lowers your mood, reduces focus, and can lead to memory problems.

There is no time like the present to retrain your body to start going to bed earlier and reaping the rewards of rest.

6. Have Fun!

“We get hung up on the idea that joy comes from achievement. The ironic thing is that we have it totally backward. By having fun and leaning toward joy, we achieve our goals with much less effort. In truth, our goal isn’t to achieve something. The goal is to have fun along the way to what we desire.” – Gabby Bernstein

Don’t forget, it’s important to have fun while chasing your dreams!

Self-care is essential for success, and when you’re able to nurture yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally, as well as bring joy and enthusiasm to the process, it will make you happier and more energized to pursue your goals.

So get plenty of rest, give yourself breaks throughout the day, be organized, get comfortable saying no more than you say yes, and ENJOY THE PROCESS!

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