By Jenny Suri

Why do we feel we’re not getting things done?

It all comes down to time and how we use it. We want to spend more time on the things we love and less time on the things that weigh us down. But sometimes we don’t even know where time goes. Doing things intentionally by changing morning habits, managing time and tasks, and getting organized can help us get things done and feel good about it.

Work with your biological clock

Think you should start working as soon as you roll out of bed? Think again.
Use that initial hour to shake off sleep and get your body ready for work. Studies show that your body and brain are not ready to work until you’ve been up for an hour. When you wake up, stress hormones flood the body to move you from groggy to energized, but they also impair the formation of long-term memories. According to The Guardian, “Anything that’s important to remember should be saved for the second hour after waking.”
If you need this first hour to get ready for work, make a routine that you breeze through without too much thought. Try to make time for small activities you enjoy. Spend a few minutes outside. The sun will help flush out the melatonin from your bloodstream and get your brain working. Take a walk or sit outside. That first hour can help you prepare for the day ahead.
    • Find your optimal work time
      When do you find it easier to work? Are you an early bird or a night owl? You’re probably neither. Everyone has a chronotype that they are born with and determines when they get up and work best. If you’re like 40% of the population you’re what neuroscientist Dr. Michael Breus calls a bear; you wake up and go to bed with the sun and you work best between 11 am and 6pm. It’s not something you can change, so find your chronotype to discover your optimal working time.

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Mark Twain

Plan your day

Mark Twain’s words of wisdom work for me every time. Do your hardest and least desirable task first and everything that comes after it will feel much easier. But what do you do after you eat that frog?
    • Optimize your To Do list
      Making a to do list is useful, but the list can become unmanageable. You might wonder where to start and by the end of the day find that you didn’t get to important tasks. Reduce what you have to do right away and eliminate some tasks altogether with The Eisenhower Matrix. Use quadrants instead of a linear list to help you prioritize tasks according to urgency and importance. With this system you:
      Immediately do important and urgent tasks
      ️Schedule important and not urgent tasks
      Delegate unimportant but urgent tasks
      Eliminate unimportant and not urgent tasks
    • Take control of your breaks
      We need breaks during work because they initiate change and are important to staying on task. Our brain has evolved to seek and respond to change. Researchers at the University of Illiinois found that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance. And they suggest that “when faced with long tasks …it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself.”
      But don’t let your phone notifications decide when you take a break. You’ll have trouble getting back to the task. Instead, take limited, controlled breaks in which you decide what you do and for how long. Make your breaks productive by looking at things that make you feel good. Researchers in Japan found that people paid more attention to what they were doing after viewing pictures of puppies and kittens. Take these kinds of breaks to help you stay focused.

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” —-Dwight D. Eisenhowern

    • Take Control of your Time
      One effective way of controlling your work time and your breaks is through the Pomodoro Technique, a system of scheduled breaks developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. (So called because Cirillo used a timer shaped like a tomato or pomodoro.) With this technique you decide what task to do and set a timer for 25 minutes. Work without interruption until the timer goes off. Take a five minute break. After repeating four rounds you can start taking longer breaks. At the beginning you may find that 25 minutes never seemed so long, but that 5 minute break will be so sweet.
    • Organize your work space
      Spend your time working, not looking for things. Declutter your workspace to increase your productivity. Try these office organization tips from Softly to make a better working environment.
    • Get Help from your Phone
      Your phone can either be your biggest distraction or or your most useful tool. Use it for good and download productivity apps to make the best use of your phone and your time. This list of phone apps from Softly will get you started.

Become Intentional

Decide when you work, what tasks you take on, when you take your breaks, your working environment and how you use your phone. Use your time instead of letting it use you. You may find that not only will you become more productive, but you will be enjoying everything you do.

Can’t focus? Maybe it’s your body clock | Education | The Guardian

Wellness Challenge Week 1: Sleep | The Health Center

The Eisenhower Matrix: Time and Task Management Made Simple – Luxafor

Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find — ScienceDaily

The Importance of Novelty » Brain World

The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus | PLOS ONE

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