Time Management

10 Good and 10 Bad Things About Procrastination

Photo by Aron on Unsplash

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Benjamin Franklin

“There’s nothing to match curling up with a good book when there’s a repair job to be done around the house.” – Joe Ryan

 

Everyone procrastinates. Some, in fact, are proficient at it. While I used to count myself in that category, I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways in recent years and I must say I’ve been quite successful in the endeavor. Still, the urge to put off what must be done occasionally plagues me. So, I found the research on what’s good and what’s bad about procrastination so fascinating I just had to share it. Here, then, are 10 good and 10 bad points to ponder about procrastination.

10 GOOD THINGS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

While much of the literature about procrastination – and public consensus – is that the habit is bad, there are some studies and research pointing out the opposite.

  • Procrastination helps you learn to manage delay.

The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about living the good life. In fact, Greek philosophers highly valued procrastination, as much as stating that it is good to learn to manage delay. Of course, there’s a significant difference between active and passive procrastination, where the former can be considered good and the latter – just sitting around doing nothing, for example – is decidedly in the category of bad. Knowing when to act, even though that may mean delaying action, is good advice.

  • Procrastination provides time to reflect on what’s most important.

You need time to think about what matters most in life. Not in the sense that you’re contemplating weighty philosophical issues, simply what’s most important to you. By taking your time to think through some things – or think of nothing at all so that your mind can clear, you’ll discover the kernels of importance that reside in your mind and heart. Then, you can act accordingly.

  • Much better decisions may result from procrastination.

Rushing in to deal with this or that task, project or item on your list of things to do doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be done well or provide any meaningful satisfaction for their completion. You might also find yourself accepting projects and tasks that aren’t right for you, that you’re ill-equipped to handle, shouldn’t do because they’re someone else’s responsibility, or it’s simply not the right time to get started on them. Just because something is on a list is not always a green light to work on them. By procrastinating, your decision may be better informed as a result.

  • Prioritization may be the offshoot of procrastination.

If you’re putting off things, procrastination could help you jumpstart prioritizing. This is helpful to get rid of unnecessary tasks, things you might have begun that weren’t worth your time, at least now.

  • Cooler heads prevail when you procrastinate saying you’re sorry.

While you might feel pressure to apologize when you’ve wronged another and anxious to get it over with, if you push yourself to do it immediately, who knows what might come out of your mouth? This is a case where allowing yourself time to think carefully about what and how (and perhaps where and when) you’ll issue the apology will result in a better, sincerer apology. Even if it’s taking an hour or so and breathing in and out deeply, you’ll be in a calmer state of mind and your tone of voice and body language will be more relaxed.

  • You can get other things done on your to-do list when you engage in active procrastination.

Sure, there might be some doozies on your to-do list, tasks or projects that are complex, complicated, time-consuming or just difficult, onerous and not something you want to dive into. You know you’ll have to deal with them eventually but tending to the half dozen or so small items on your list allows you to get a lot done, be more productive and feel a sense of accomplishment. This might be all you need to then tackle that big one you’ve been putting off.

  • Procrastination allows your mind to process.

Even when you’re not consciously thinking about what’s on your do-to list, your subconscious is. This may lead to an innovative or creative solution to the issue, task, project, errand or chore you’ve put off doing.

  • Active procrastination offers health benefits.

Research by Chu and Choi in 2005 found that active procrastinators were not paralyzed by worry. They also had lower stress levels, exhibited less avoidant tendencies, and had healthier self-efficacy.

  • Your most creative ideas may come through procrastination.

There is a school of thought that the first ideas or solutions to problems aren’t the best ones. Those are often the result of deliberating for a time to sort through different options and arrive at the most appropriate. Call this dwell time or mind-wandering or an example of the creative process. If it works, use it – sparingly. Some things can’t wait while you procrastinate.

  • Procrastination is normal.

Instead of agonizing that you’re guilty of a bad habit by your procrastination, embrace the realization that procrastination is normal. If it doesn’t get out of hand or become chronic, you shouldn’t have a problem.

 

10 BAD THINGS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

The list of what’s not so good about procrastination includes some well-known (and likely quite familiar) observations that each have some measure of truth.

  • Procrastination can lead to poor academic performance.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, a study by Case Western Reserve University determined that college students who procrastinated experienced higher levels of stress, increased episodes of illness, and poorer grades by semester’s end.

  • Higher levels of stress associated with procrastination may be linked to poor self-compassion.

Research by Sirois published in Self & Identity suggested that lower levels of self-compassion could explain some stress levels procrastinators experienced and observed that targeted interventions to promote self-compassion could be beneficial for those individuals.

  • Procrastination promotes negative feelings.

A study by Pychyl et al. reported in Personality & Individual Differences examined the phenomenon of negative feelings arising from procrastination by students. Negative affect resulted from the first instance of procrastination before an exam, yet self-forgiveness tended to reduce procrastination and negative effect on a subsequent exam.

  • Procrastination may have a genetic component.

Are you destined to be a procrastinator because of your genetic makeup? Several studies debate this origin of procrastination, or at least whether genetics is causative. A study by Gustavson et al. published in the journal from the Association for Psychological Science found confirmation for their postulation that procrastination is a by-product of impulsivity. Not only is procrastination heritable, both share a great deal of genetic variation, and an important aspect of this shared variability is goal-management. Even though you may be predisposed to procrastinate, however, doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.

  • Procrastination is self-defeating behavior.

While the debate goes on over the good versus bad points about procrastination, some scientists say that procrastinating conflates positive behaviors such as pondering and prioritizing. Furthermore, procrastination for any number of seemingly good reasons leads to the self-defeating habit of genuine procrastination, which is the absence of making progress.

Some say that procrastinating helps motivate them to do their best work under pressure. While that may be true for some small number of people, it isn’t the general outcome. Crashing to accomplish that oh-so-important project or school paper or business presentation at the last minute will probably not be your best work. Self-talk to the contrary is just an excuse.

  • With procrastination, you get things done, but they’re the wrong things.

Shoving the important task to the bottom of the list and focusing on several easy and quick-to-do ones you could do any time gives you the false reassurance that you’re accomplishing a lot. Granted, this example of procrastination allows you to get things done, yet they’re the wrong things – or are out of priority.

  • You add to the workload of others when you procrastinate.

No one likes having work dumped on them that another employee fails to do. That creates resentment, adds to the dumped-on employees’ workload and sets the stage for feelings of anxiety and piled-on resentment.

  • Procrastinators may be paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, a loss of self-worth.

People aren’t inherently lazy when they engage in procrastination. Just ask them. They’ll come up with a dozen distinct reasons for their delay to act. At the heart of the problem of procrastination, at least for some individuals, may be a paralyzing fear of making a mistake and thus suffering a loss of self-worth.

  • The end-product of chronic procrastination may be mental health issues.

A longitudinal study of the costs and benefits of procrastination, performance and stress found that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior pattern characterized by short-term benefits and long-term costs, including an increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash

 

“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.”Anne Frank

 

Does your to-do list today fill you with the desire to chuck it all and chill out somewhere? Maybe you’ve gotten so jammed up that your schedule simply has no breathing room, no time for you to do anything you want because you’re overcommitted, unable to say no, or way behind on projects, tasks and chores already. You might, indeed, feel downright lazy. This laziness doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible or that you lack skills and abilities. Rather, it may mean that you need to do a little prioritizing, let some things go and learn how to get what matters done.

Do a needs-based analysis of your workload.

How much of what you’ve allocated to do today – or that others put on your schedule – is an absolute must? Is it a task or project you could delay for a time and focus on something else that’s more pressing, that has an urgent deadline, or you’re pressured to get done? Not everything you’ve penciled in on today’s list must be completed today. Some items can wait. The key is to carefully analyze everything to determine what’s necessary and what’s not. This isn’t an idle exercise. It’s an essential part of organization and crucial to getting things done.

Give every task a number.

After you’ve examined every item on your list, some stand out as more pressing than others. These are the ones to prioritize. Go through the list again and assign every task a number, with 1 being the most important to get done, and 10 and beyond less time-sensitive. Hopefully, your list doesn’t go much past 10, since that’s a clear sign you’re overcommitted.

Have a work list and a personal list.

One way to avoid getting lost in numerous tasks in one list is to carve out two lists: a work list and a personal one. What’s important here is to draw the line at the end of the work day and don’t allow work to cross over into your personal time. When work intrudes on home, family and relationships, or vice-versa, there’s bound to be unnecessary conflict. You’ll also get little accomplished as you waver between tending to one area of responsibility at the expense of the other. Clear work-home boundaries help a great deal.

Take a break – literally.

Feel your chest getting tight? A bad headache coming on? Jitters or queasiness? These may be signs of stress from internal and external pressures to perform, be the top achiever, nail the contract, settle the dispute, or find the optimal solution to a problem. The best way to relieve stress in this instance is to do a hard stop and get some fresh air. This is a literal recommendation, as being outside in nature is well documented to reduce stress and increase a sense of overall health and well-being. After your break – and it needn’t be much more than 15 minutes to a half-hour – you’ll return to your responsibilities feeling refreshed and more motivated to tackle what must be done. You may even find you’ve come up with an ingenious solution or idea.

See the end game.

Sometimes you can’t envision what your efforts contribute to the desired outcome. This may or may not be your own goal. You may be so tied up in minutiae of details that a successful result is not easy to see. Here is where it helps to step back and separate the individual pieces of the project or task and put them into perspective with the ultimate goal in mind. When you can better see how everything links together, it can serve as impetus to get moving again. While it’s better to focus on the positive aspects of your part well done, it can also be motivating to recognize what might happen if you fail to deliver on your responsibilities. In any event, seeing the end game can be a powerful tool to overcome laziness.

Ask for help.

Suffering with a piled-on workload or shouldering more-than-your-fair-share of responsibilities is enough to make anyone stall in enthusiasm. No wonder you feel lazy. One of the most effective ways to pare down a heavy workload is to ask for help when you need it. Be sparing in how and when you request assistance, though, as you don’t want to appear as whining, incompetent, shirking your duties, or lazy. Also, be sure you reciprocate by helping others when they ask, if you’re able to do so. Once you’ve asked for and received help, your mountain of assignments or tasks won’t seem such a hurdle. There’s a lot to be said for cooperative spirit in getting things done.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Best Way to Effect Change

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

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Best Ways to Spend Idle Time

Best Ways to Spend Idle Time

Photo by Pacto Visual on Unsplash

 

If you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get things done, you’re probably overstressed, overworked and overcommitted. On the other hand, do you sometimes recognize that time stretches on, like you’re in a slow-motion movie, and it seems like this moment will last forever? How can two different views of time exist? Here are some of my favorite quotes on time that may serve as reflection on the best ways to spend idle time – and be time well spent.

Spend time with family.

“I absolutely love spending time with my family.” – Kevin Alejandro

You may not get to choose your family, yet you do choose whether to spend time with them or not. Too often, though, we tend to take family for granted, feeling they’ll always be there – until they’re not. Use spare time to do something with family, for it will always be some of the best idle time you’ve ever spent.

Find the beauty in each moment.

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” – Henry David Thoreau

When was the last time you looked at your surroundings? Really looked, not just allowed what’s there to serve as background? There’s true beauty all around, if you but make a conscious choice to look at it and be amazed by its power to enrich and nourish you.

Reflect on your blessings.

“I think, every time I’m on the mountain, I’m just so thankful to be there.” – Chloe Kim

I’m grateful to be alive, having experienced a brush with death more than a few times. Some might call me lucky, while others just marvel I’m still here. Nevertheless, what those life-threatening experiences taught me is to be profoundly appreciative of life. I’ve been blessed with many gifts, not the least of which is my ability to find the positive in almost any situation.

Relax.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris

Why put off doing what relaxes you when the science proves that relaxing activities help refresh, restore and revitalize your body, mind and spirit? Take a half hour for meditation, or engage in restorative yoga, or surrender to a luxurious massage. If something relaxes you, you’ll reap enormous benefits from using the time you have to do it.

Enjoy your passions.

“If biking is your passion, set aside time to enjoy a good ride.” – Patrick Dempsey

I’m passionate about many things. For example, I find the wilderness awe-inspiring and mysterious and treasure memories of driving, hiking, fishing, swimming and exploring America’s great national parks. That wilderness is also dangerous and ever-changing doesn’t lessen my passion to be in it. I just exercise appropriate caution. I have other passions as well, some of which many share. These include gardening, walks in nature, creating tasty and low-fat desserts, writing, decorating, shopping for the best deals, and painting. It isn’t the what but the fact that I do what I’m most passionate about. Whatever time I spend with my passions is the best time.

Have a cup of tea.

“Tea time is a chance to slow down, pull back and appreciate our surroundings.” – Letitia Baldridge

I love a good cup of tea. My favorite for the past year is green tea, sweetened with Stevia and organic honey. Perhaps some of the research around the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in tea swayed me when I first started drinking in during convalescence from a hospital stay, although I have to admit tea drinking is totally different from my daily latte experience. I do appreciate my surroundings when enjoying each of them, and I value the time I spend treating myself to both.

Walk in nature.

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Whatever the season, nature is always there to be experienced, appreciated and treasured. Personally, I’m fond of trail walks, possibly because there are numerous nature trails near my home. Whenever we travel, though, I’m always keen to explore the local trails and plan our lodging to take advantage of the most scenic trailheads. There’s a sense of peace and belonging I get from walking in nature. For me, it’s a kind of meditation. I’m conscious of breathing in and out, being in the present, fully aware and alive. What a wonderful and welcoming way to spend a little time. Besides, as  research shows, nature walks, especially in groups, can help banish stress and increase well-being. And, for women with depression symptoms, regular walking can improve their quality of life.

Play with your cat.

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud

You needn’t be a cat person, or even have a cat in your household, to derive benefit from playing with a feline. It can be a friend’s cat, or the beloved furry friend of a loved one, family member, neighbor or co-worker. I’ve owned several cats over the years and they’ve always amazed me with their never-ending curiosity, playfulness and independent spirit. Hearing and feeling them purr fill me with a sense of contentment and joy. I can be watching TV, listening to music, or just sitting back doing nothing else but playing with the cat. Nothing against dog-lovers, for spending time with dogs ranks just as high in satisfaction. In addition, pets have healing powers and much more, according to research. They make you feel less lonely, for one thing, which is incredibly useful for shut-ins and those without family.

Be flexible.

“Summertime, this is the time that you flex.” – Cardi B

Each season presents unique opportunities to spend free time. My favorite season has to be summer, however, since there’s invariably good weather (occasional thunderstorms notwithstanding) and myriad activities to choose from to have a good time. The key, I find, is to be flexible. If you’re intent on going for a hike and a friend invites you to go swimming, have lunch at a favorite café, shop a great sale, the more willing you are to rearrange your free time to accommodate this unexpected gift the more likely you’ll be glad you did.

Make a choice.

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben

While it’s true that each day contains just 24 hours, how you spend your time is very much your choice. Even if you must work, that’s a choice. Doing chores is a choice. Taking a break now and then is a choice. So is parceling out an hour for doing what you want, pursuing an interest, investigating something new, making new acquaintances. No one else dictates – or should be allowed to tell you – what you can or cannot do with your time. Own your destiny. Choose how you spend your time.

Savor a favorite food.

“We all need to make time for a burger once in a while.” – Erica Durance

Who doesn’t love a good burger? Whether its angus beef, turkey, salmon or veggie, burgers have long been a go-to form of comfort food for millions of people. The same holds true for many other favorite dishes, whether exotic cuisine or homecooked meals. That’s why turkey dinners are so scrumptious, why the smell of bacon makes you salivate, why the aroma of baking pies brings back your childhood. Instead of wolfing down a favorite food, pause and take in everything about it that’s special. Really savor it. This is the essence, I think, of mindful eating.

Make someone feel important.

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

If you want to go for the gold, use some of your spare time to go out of your way to make someone else feel important and loved. This act of self-generosity doesn’t need to entail spending money. Indeed, often it’s the mere act of conscious listening to what the other person has to say that results in them feeling important, the center of your attention for that brief span of time. Acknowledge what they say, offering words of encouragement, comfort, congratulations, assistance or whatever the person seems to need most. Doing so sincerely and without haste will make you both feel you’ve made good use of the time.

Cherish the moment.

“Time itself comes in drops.” – William James

Time isn’t like a daylong downpour. It doesn’t present itself in four-hour blocks. Instead, time is seconds and minutes, more like gentle drops of rain. Once this moment is gone, it’s forever lost. For this reason, be mindful of the fleeting nature of time and make a concerted effort to live in the present and cherish every moment.

Feel empowered.

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

I believe that every day I deserve to chuck my schedule aside for a while and do whatever I feel drawn to do most. I’m not talking about completely abandoning what must be done, just taking a short hiatus from tasks and responsibilities. The knowledge that I’ll return to my work or chores with a sense of renewal and feeling newly motivated further encourages and empowers me to do what I want with my idle time.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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7 Tips on Calming the Noise of Life

7-tips-on-calming-the-noise-of-life-photo-dominique-knobben-unsplash

Photo by Dominique Knobben/Unsplash

“Forget about your life situation and pay attention to your life. Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now. Your life situation is mind-stuff. Your life is real.” – Eckhart Tolle

 

Things tend to get jumbled up in everyday life. What you feel you need to do and what you should be doing for yourself often wind up being far apart. With so many distractions, so much of the mind-stuff going on, no wonder it seems like you’re spinning your wheels. How can you get back on track and stop getting diverted by every demand that you’re confronted with?

Here are some tips on calming the noise, distractions and mind-stuff of life.

Rein it in.

It helps to bring your attention back in, centering it on what’s happening right here and right now. All that other stuff? It’s just a mental maelstrom. Nothing good can come of obsessing over each and every thing. The only way out of this mind mess is to reclaim a sense of calm and stillness that resides inside of you. Then you’ll be able to pay attention to the moment, to find the richness and goodness and meaning in life as it exists in the present. For it is true that you only live in the present. You cannot physically inhabit the past or move around in the future. Time travel isn’t possible – not yet, anyway. The reality is here and now. How you choose to live your life is entirely up to you. No one else can make those choices – although some may try to influence yours.

Take time to reflect.

Make time for yourself each day to do some self-reflection. Go into a quiet room, a bathroom, or outside in nature, and sit comfortably and be still for 5-10 minutes. Have nothing else on your agenda but this quiet time for you. Allow your thoughts to come and go and acknowledge the mind-stuff that seeks to derail you and then let it go, gently, without anger or judgment. You’ll get the hang of this with practice. The result will be an ability to come back to the present less distracted and more in tune with the moment.

Eliminate unnecessary demands on your time.

Rid yourself of too many demands. Stop saying yes to everything others ask of you. Know your limits and be adamant that you have the right to say no. This gives you a little breathing room and helps you avoid accepting obligations you have no time, energy or desire for. It might be hard to do at first, especially if you’ve never asserted yourself this way, but you have every right and need to do this for your own well-being.

Learn to prioritize.

Prioritize what is meaningful and deserves your attention. This will help you avoid getting lost in details of some project or task that is better left to someone else, or that you can set aside for later. When you have a clear sense of what needs to be done and when, you’re less likely to feel the pressure to get on to the next thing. You’ll be more inclined to stay in the present, doing your best with your life now.

Be willing to ask for assistance.

Ask for help. It’s OK to ask your spouse, partner or loved ones to support your efforts to simplify your life. Work out arrangements so tasks are equally shared so as not to be a burden on any one person. This not only creates some breathing space, it also serves to improve the overall living situation. Everyone benefits from a little less chaos and more moments of harmony.

Reduce use of electronics and social media.

While staying connected is a good thing, overuse of all those handy electronic devices and an obsession with social media only tends to increase the noise of life. The key is balance. One way to tamp down excessive use is to remove the temptation. Instead of placing your smartphone within easy reach, leave it in a desk drawer across the room, turned off or muted so you’re not automatically drawn to answer incoming calls or respond to incessant tweets.

Practice patience.

No doubt the demands of life have you tied up in knots at times, racing to meet deadlines, worried you’ll disappoint others, anxious to get needed information from others and trying to stay on top of everything. Not only is this mind-stuff frustrating, it’s also self-defeating. The harder you press, the more disappointed and anxious you’re likely to become. When you introduce patience into your life, however, it’s like you hit the return button on the computer, ending a sentence and giving yourself pause before going on to the next thought, action or word. Practicing patience helps you be more accepting of others and yourself, instills a sense of perspective and smooths out some of those rough and raucous edges of life.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.

 

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7 Tips to Use Time Wisely

Photo by Andy Chilton/Unsplash

Photo by Andy Chilton/Unsplash

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

 

While we know that time is precious and a scarce resource, at that, how often do we find ourselves wasting what little time we do have? Frittering away hours at the computer, playing video games, watching endless hours of TV, and any number of other voracious time-wasting activities can leave you feeling edgy, restless and incomplete.

For good reason, since nothing good comes from deliberate squandering of time.

This isn’t the same as when you make a conscious choice to engage in a hobby or pastime or recreational or leisure activity. Everyone needs time to play, to rest and recharge, and to gain a new perspective on life. Play time helps lower stress levels, eases tension, and provides the opportunity to see things clearer and without distraction. Solutions come easier after taking the time to play.

But time that you waste? That’s just gone for good. The question becomes, how do you use time wisely? What tricks or tips can help? Here are a few to consider:

  1. Jot it down.

Go through your day in your mind and jot down everything you did, noting when you did it, how long it took, and what the result was. This exercise helps to identify time wasted.

  1. Analyze wasted time.

Next, analyze those times you wasted. What was it you were doing immediately before or after? Try to determine if you needed a break from something strenuous, complex or time-consuming or if you were avoiding the next thing on your to-do list. This analysis helps to narrow down instances where you choose wasting time over taking constructive action.

  1. List must-do items or tasks.

Make a separate list of things that are must-do items. This list can be for today or things you must do daily. This may include getting up and going to work, preparing dinner for the family, taking medications or vitamins, walking the dog, taking out the trash and so on. Are there things you do that you could streamline or make easier? Could you combine some so that you’re not repeating ground? For example, set the medications or vitamins alongside your breakfast so that you take them right after (or before) you eat. Take out the trash when it’s time to walk the dog.

  1. Prioritize what must get done.

Staring at a list of must-to items won’t get them done. Put them in order of importance. This helps in rearranging your schedule to accommodate what must be done. For example, that big project that’s due at work should take priority, or the boss needs an update every morning at a certain time. Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of taking care of high-priority items.

  1. Schedule a break.

Build in some slack time. This can be a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to go for a quick walk or grab a coffee or chat with your neighbor or co-worker. Getting up to stretch your legs puts a period at the end of what you were doing and is a nice transition from one activity to another.

  1. Add variety.

Vary your schedule. If you find that your biggest time wasters are because a lot of what you’re doing every day is boring or repetitive, jazz it up by allocating different days for different tasks. When you know you’ve got an hour on Wednesday to go bowling or have lunch with a friend, other items on your task list won’t seem so challenging. Variety also adds spice to life.

  1. Be present.

Be in the moment. Instead of always thinking you don’t have enough time, savor the present moment. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a task or something you enjoy, really be there. This adds to the appreciation of time, that precious commodity.

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10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

No matter what you do in life, you can’t escape Mondays. You can dread them, try to avoid them, delay the inevitable by coming up with all sorts of excuses not to do what you must, but Mondays will still arrive each week like clockwork. The best you can do is figure out how to embrace them. Here are 10 ways to make Mondays better that may change your mind about this day of the week.

1. Have something to look forward to when work is done.

Nothing motivates more than the prospect of doing something enjoyable after the workday is done. What that is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you put it in your schedule. Having fun, spending time with loved ones and friends, working on a hobby, participating in sports or a recreational activity, engaging in an educational pursuit, shopping, writing or whatever gives you a positive endpoint to your Monday that puts a lift in your step and jazzes your spirit. Mondays may even turn out to be one of your favorite days of the week. If not that, at least they’ll be more pleasant.

2. Get to work early.

Sleeping in, trying to grab the last few winks, throwing the alarm clock or jangling cellphone across the room won’t do anything to make your Mondays better. What may give you a leg up, however, is becoming an early riser — getting your legs out of bed a little earlier than usual. Go for a half-hour ahead of your normal wake time. That’s sufficient to help you gather your thoughts, prepare for the day, allow for unexpected traffic, weather or last-minute family details and get to work ready to go. Stopping for your favorite latte along the way is another reason you might want to get up earlier.

3. Go big.

Many employees put off the tough and difficult tasks until they’re smack against a deadline or the boss is banging on their door looking for answers. Another way to make Mondays better that seems counter-intuitive is to charge ahead and tackle something you know is important and demands your full attention. While it causes you to work a little harder than you probably want to first thing Monday morning, the sense of accomplishment and progress you’ll feel be getting to it is a huge boost to your self-esteem, self-confidence and overall well-being. Besides, the boss will likely take notice, and that’s always good for raising your work profile.

4. Prepare with good self-care.

If you’ve made a practice of partying until all hours from Friday night on, chances are you are still hung over or feeling the effects of such disdain for your well-being. You can turn this around by instituting good self-care. In addition to getting sufficient rest (forget the three hours of sleep; go for 8 hours), eating well-balanced meals (and no late-night snacking), cutting down on alcohol and curbing smoking, find other ways to relax, restore and rejuvenate. These include meditation, yoga or Pilates, walks in nature, listening to calming music, self-reflection and prayer. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. Greeting Mondays with a healthy body-mind-spirit makes the day so much better.

5. Map out time chunks.

Instead of looking at your to-do list with a grim demeanor and a sinking feeling that you’ll never get it all done, try this: map out time chunks. For example, if you have a report that’s due tomorrow, allocate one to 1-1/2 hours or so to work on it today. If it’s something critical, move everything else aside until you get it done. Set aside a half hour to tend to emails at a scheduled time, not whenever they come in. If you must answer emails from your boss, give them a priority with an alert. The point is to arrange your day in time chunks. This provides a sense of order and a schedule you can easily follow.

6. Craft a plan.

For any project or task, your best approach is to craft a plan. How will you arrive at the result you’re looking for – or that someone else demands? What resources do you need? Will you need the assistance of others? Are some elements missing? How will these items affect timing or delivery? With well-crafted plans, you’ll boost your self-confidence, knowing that you’ve taken variables into consideration and have a workable approach to pursue.

7. Take mini-breaks.

You can’t go breakneck speed without a break, not unless you want to risk crashing to a dead stop along the way. Exhaustion, physical or mental, work stress, tension, irritability, anger, disappointment and other negative effects from working nonstop will take their toll. Ward them off by the simple and quick practice of taking mini breaks throughout the day. Walk to the water fountain on the next floor. Get up and stretch. Do isometric exercises. Close your eyes and meditate. Take the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator. Whenever possible, walk outside instead of within the building so you get some fresh air and a different perspective.

8. Go somewhere different for lunch.

Like having something to look forward to at the end of the workday is the idea of going somewhere different for lunch. If you always brown bag it at your desk, go to a park or somewhere in your work complex to eat. If you go out for lunch only on Wednesday or Friday, switch to Monday to give your first work week day a changeup. Not only will this brighten your day, it will make it speed by.

9. Skip coffee and go for a walk.

Coffee may be a workday staple, but it doesn’t have to be a boring routine you’re locked into. For one of those times you’re headed to the coffee room or vending machine, skip the brew and indulge yourself with a brisk 10-minute walk. Outside is best, but even a walk in the building will suffice. You’re getting up and moving, always good for mental stimulation and physical exercise.

10. Celebrate all the things you accomplish.

While you’re busy working on Mondays, be sure to take the time to celebrate all the things you accomplish today. It may seem like a trivial thing, but giving yourself credit for your hard work is important to your sense of completion, tending to your responsibilities, seeing the fruit of your labors, and making progress. It also helps make Mondays better. What better way to start the work week than with a string of accomplishments?

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Related articles:

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

5 Tips on How to Make Plans

Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

How Do You Get Ready for the Day?

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

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10 Ways Lists Rule

Photo by Aaron Burden/Undplash

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

 

“Making lists helps me be more focused and productive, lowers my stress level and makes it easier to stay on top of tasks.” — Suzanne Kane

 

I’ll confess. I’m an avid list-maker. In fact, I’m so convinced that lists are beneficial that I’ve decided to reveal my personal thoughts on the 10 ways lists rule.

Lists:

#1 — Keep you on-track. I don’t know about you, but it’s sometimes the case that I get so deeply immersed in what I’m doing that I lose track of time. This is a good and a bad thing. It’s good that I’m so focused and being productive, but it’s bad if I lose sight of other things I also need to tend to. Lists help keep me on track. They can do the same for you.

#2 — Remind you what’s important. List have the very appealing benefit of showing you and providing a vivid reminder of what you deem important. When you prepare and pay attention to your lists, you’ll always have a ready guidepost to the meaningful tasks and duties in your life. It may mean reorganizing some items when one takes precedence over another or a new one demands attention. Lists help remind you when you may need this the most.

#3 — Give you something to do. Not that there are many times when you have completed everything you need to do and are looking for something else to devote your attention to. But lists can serve this purpose when you want or need something that’s not on the top of your to-do chart. Be sure to include some fun or for-whenever items on your list so you’ve got something readily available when the power is out, there’s a snow day, you’re on vacation or just have some free time on your hands you’d like to put to good use.

#4 — Provide an easy way to prioritize tasks. It’s simply impossible to do everything at once. There has to be a means to prioritize what gets done first, what can wait a while, and what you can tend to whenever you get around to it. Lists provide this in an easy and painless manner. Assign a number to each item, with #1 being the most important and #10 (or whatever number) the least important. Sometimes, you’ll work on the #1, 2 or 3 items first and intersperse that with a lower-priority item. That’s so you don’t burn yourself out working too hard in succession.

#5 — Take away the stress of trying to keep everything in your head. Your kid needs picking up from school. The cleaning is ready. Dinner plans are uncertain. Your boss just handed you an urgent project and everything else has to be put on hold. What about all the other items you have to do today? What if you forget some? Here’s where a list removes the stress of trying to juggle and remember it all. There’s no forgetting when you’ve put it down on your list.

#6 — Allow you to track progress and results. Once you’ve constructed your list, created a plan or approach and begun work on one or more items, you’ve got a ready-made template from which to track where you are with each. When you achieve a certain level or stage of completion, note that, along with any lessons learned and what’s left to do. Seeing results cements the value of making lists. After all, lists are meant to be helpful. They will be, if you use them.

#7 — Increase self-esteem. Lists are composed of items that are designed to be worked on in some sort of order. When you complete or finish one item, cross it off your list. This helps increase self-esteem and makes you proud of your accomplishment at the same time. It’s not necessary to cross everything off your list in order to boost your self-esteem. Doing one or more well or making significant progress on a few also elevates your sense of accomplishment.

#8 — Improve focus. By selecting one of the items on your list and doing some work on it, you’re helping to refine your focus. Doing one thing at a time does wonders for improving this critical aspect of successful accomplishment. Instead of trying to do many things at once, keeping to one task on your list at a time will help you be more focused.

#9 — Help you organize your thoughts. With so much going on around you, it can be hard to separate one task, project, duty or activity requiring your effort from another. You need organizational ability in your thought process to keep things in order. Lists help you do that in black and white. When an item is right in front of you, you can better figure out an approach.

#10 — Allay anxiety. Ever feel that gnawing and miserable sense of worry over not being able to get a handle on all the things you have to do? It’s no secret that everyday life throws a lot of unexpected situations your way, things you need to deal with immediately. With a list, however, you can feel confident that you’ve put down what you need to do and can come back to as soon as you tend to the pressing concern. Lists also remove the element of uncertainty. If it’s on your list, you’ve given it thought.

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Do you have other ways lists have helped you? I’d love to hear your comments. Maybe they’ll result in a follow-up piece on the topic.

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Stuck in a Rut? Tips on How to Break Free From Monotony

Photo by Mika Matin/Unsplash

Photo by Mika Matin/Unsplash

When you’re stuck in a rut, everything seems to run along the same track. Nothing ever changes and you find yourself doing the same things day in and day out.

Some might argue there’s nothing worse than endless monotony, but there truly are more serious situations. Like chronic pain, a sudden illness, trauma, financial disaster, losing loved ones, getting fired and so on.

Compared to what you could be experiencing, being stuck in a rut isn’t all that bad – if you want to continue living a life of sameness. But most people want more out of life than that. Once you recognize the rut you’re in and know you want to change, that’s the first major hurdle. Here are some tips on how to break free from monotony.

Scrutinize your daily schedule.

Maybe you think you know your daily routine inside and out, but do you really know how much time you spend doing various tasks? Here’s where you put down on paper what you do and when from the time you get up until you go to bed. This means jotting down everything and assigning the time you spent doing it, whether it’s brushing your teeth for two minutes or taking the subway to work for 45 minutes.

What you’ll discover is that there’s a lot of time spent looking for things you might have misplaced, time spent frivolously on social media when you could be tending to a work assignment, backtracking to fix an error you made because you were in a hurry to finish, and other instances where your head either wasn’t into what you were doing or you just got bogged down in the details and lost the objective.

Add up the lost moments and you’ll find that there’s a lot of time you could be utilizing to better purpose.

Examine your rituals and make adjustments.

If you do the same thing every morning that you’ve done for the past year, is there a reason why you continue? Is it a ritual you do to get ready for the day that you find helps you or has this become a chore you dread?

Whether it’s deciding what to wear or making something to eat, maybe switching what you do or the order in which you do it will remove the element of boredom and monotony and contribute to a more positive outlook on the day ahead.

The same principle applies at work or school. If your first order of business is to open your desk and take out the files for the day’s work, maybe you talk with your supervisor or co-workers first about the today’s top projects. If there’s something hot or new, you want to be the first to know about it.

When you’re not afraid to look at your everyday rituals and make adjustments, the result will be a lightening of the load and adding an element of change to the day.

Prioritize tasks and delete unnecessary ones.

No one has just one thing to do on any given day. There’s always a multitude of tasks, chores, responsibilities and duties to tend to. No wonder you wind up frustrated and feeling stuck in a rut. How can anyone not feel this way when there’s so much to do and only 24 hours in the day?

Knowing that you can only work on one thing at a time, it’s important to pick out the one you intend to work on first. This requires prioritization of your tasks and it’s not always easy to do. There might be an important assignment that you know will take a long time and you’re reluctant to get started on it. On the other hand, you know you can dash off a few short tasks. It’s going to be a trade-off. Sometimes, the prudent course of action is to do some work on a longer task and then intersperse it with several shorter ones.

During your prioritization of tasks, when you come to some that are purely arbitrary, have no real deadline or have outlived their usefulness on your list, delete them. Cleaning up your to-do list will leave you feeling more in charge and less stuck in a rut.

Factor in some free time.

Since you’ve made some changes in your daily routine already and also prioritized your tasks, you’ve likely created some space in your schedule. Use this time to your advantage to do something that you enjoy.

This could be as simple and uncomplicated as going for coffee with a friend on a break or making a lunch date, taking a walk in the park after work and before heading on your commute home.

It may be more involved, such as researching a goal you’re interested in, connecting with friends to arrange a weekend activity, shopping for clothing and equipment for a hobby you want to begin.

The important thing to remember about free time is that it’s just that: free time. This means you use it for whatever you want. By allowing yourself to enjoy your free time, you’re making great strides to break free from monotony and getting out of being stuck in a rut.

If you need help, ask for it.

Sometimes you may be in over your head, swamped with projects and beset with impossible deadlines. This is not conducive to your well-being. You aren’t superhuman and cannot possibly tackle it all at once. You need help.

It may come as a shock to know that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. Your supervisor won’t be surprised or shocked if you request assistance, an extended deadline or more resources. In fact, if he or she is, that means they haven’t been paying attention, or they may be getting pressured by their own higher-ups. In any case, when you ask for help, it’s a wake-up call. A good supervisor will accommodate in any way possible.

Once you’ve gotten the help, or the promise of it, this will alleviate some of the stress and tension of the overwhelming workload. Be sure you don’t take advantage of this assistance and dawdle on the projects or tasks. Work efficiently and make progress. That shows your boss you value his or her help and you’ve made good use of it.

It also reinforces your self-confidence and judgement to know that you’ve analyzed your situation and figured out where you need a helping hand.

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Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

Photo by Kalen Emsley

Photo by Kalen Emsley

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the benefits of rising at 4:00 a.m. so intrigued me that I felt compelled to pen a post about getting up before everyone else.

First, though, a disclaimer: I am not now, although I have been, a confirmed early riser.

My Time as an Early Riser

At one time in my career with General Motors I regularly commuted (twice a month) from Michigan to my home in Los Angeles. While I worked in Michigan, I had to travel to downtown Detroit from the suburbs where I stayed at the home of relatives. To escape the traffic gridlock, I left for work in the pre-dawn hours and returned well after the regular dinner hour.

Here’s what I learned from that experience.

  • Getting to/from work was a breeze – even in the worst winter weather. At least there were fewer vehicles on the freeway and surface streets to contend with. And having lived in Michigan most of my life, I knew how to navigate snow and ice.
  • I could catch up on emails before anyone else stumbled their way to their desks or hung out at the coffee room trading small talk.
  • Working on a speech, writing a press release, or editing a presentation was much easier when the din of conversation and machines wasn’t present. There’s something sublime about looking up and not seeing anyone else’s head in the room. This was such a productive time that I realized an early start was the best way to tackle an important project or task. I adhere to this strategy today and it’s never failed me.
  • Knowing that I got so much done in such a short period of time was like a gift. I knew that this was something I did for myself.

Today, however, I confess I get up at a much later hour. Unless I’ve stayed up late the night before, I’m usually awake and out of bed before 7:00 a.m. That may sound luxurious or indulgent from the standpoint of those who have to travel long distances or commute in heavy traffic, but consider that I work from home. The farthest I have to travel to get to my office is a few feet.

What I Like About Getting Up Early

Still, there are benefits to getting up early that I enthusiastically recommend. Some of these tips include:

  • Having some time for yourself.
  • Getting through your inbox without a deluge of new mail.
  • Spending a few minutes reflecting on what you’re most grateful for in life.
  • Prayer or meditation (which, for some, may be synonymous).
  • Leisurely enjoying a home-made hot latte, breakfast or juice smoothie.
  • Jotting down a list of priorities for the day.
  • Rearranging those priorities to suit a) preference, b) resources, c) timing, d) energy, e) due date or deadline.
  • Making full use of your creativity when it’s at its best.
  • No distractions to get in the way.
  • A sense of being ahead of the game.
  • Knowing that you’ve given yourself an added boost means you’ve got time left over to devote to something you want to do – like take a walk at lunch, meet a friend for an early dinner, go shopping, get a massage, make a date with your spouse or significant other…
  • No phone calls to interrupt your stride, demand immediate action or make you lose focus.
  • For those with small children, adolescents or teens (or all of these), getting a jump on the day means you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm to give to them – and they will soak it up like thirsty flowers. Been there, done that, highly recommend.

What Do You Think?

What benefits do you find from getting up early? I’d love to hear them. On the other hand, if you care to list what’s to love about getting up later, let’s get a discussion going on that topic as well. Could be the subject of another blog post.

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My 10 Favorite Ways to Waste Time — and Not Feel Bad About It

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

So much has been written about how not to waste time that I thought it might be fun to list some of the ways we waste time all the time. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, so here are my favorite time wasters.

I should add that I don’t feel bad about doing any of these. In fact, I rather get a kick out of how good I feel after I’ve lollygagged, been consumed with and totally exhausted from any of them.

 

Getting Lost in LinkedIn

 

Networking is an absolute must for anyone in business. Whether your business is writing or recruiting or manufacturing electric cars or anything else, who you know can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Need an introduction? Your LinkedIn contacts may be able to provide that. What about a recommendation or endorsement? Ditto.

Building a LinkedIn network (or any social media, for that matter) takes time. Often, that’s a lot of time.

I know. I’ve spent many hours reading profiles of LinkedIn members, absorbing their posts and likes, commenting on what I see and hoping others will reciprocate.

Come to think of it, LinkedIn is pretty essential to what I do. There’s no way this is a waste of time.

 

Searching for the Perfect Photo

 

When I write a Daily Thoughts or blog post, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect photo to illustrate them. I can literally spend a couple of hours searching for one photo.

I use multiple free and paid sites for photos. And I love discovering new photographers.

Since my profession is writing, it’s not a stretch to say that my time spent in pursuit of just the right photo is far from a waste of time. Yet I do find that I get a little carried away at times, continuing to search through photo albums and recent posting to see what’s new – in case I want to use it sometime.

 

Writing To-Do Lists – and Promptly Losing Them

 

I’m an inveterate list-maker. I’ve gotten it down to a science, in fact. I jot down items, then prioritize them, revise and add or subtract – and then put aside the list for later.

Somehow what happens more often than not is I lose the list.

Then I start over.

All is not lost in this seemingly hopeless endeavor, however. My mind catalogs what I’ve written, cementing it in place. It lets me know that there is a list somewhere, just in case I forget. So I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed something.

And that gives me great comfort.

Just don’t ask me where my list is.

 

Going for a Walk

 

Why do I walk? I used to think it was for healthy exercise, and there certainly is that component to it. But the underlying reason I walk is that I like being out in nature.

To me, a walk affords me the opportunity to connect with life outside the home. I take the time to listen to the birds and watch them flit from tree to flower to bush and back. I particularly enjoy watching the interplay between birds, protecting their mates and nest, doing the courtship dance, feeding offspring, etc.

I also feel good knowing I’m burning fat – but that’s another story. My sore muscles tell me if I’m giving it what I need or not. Still, my 45-minute walk may be considered a waste of time to some people, but not for me. I’ll do it any chance I get.

 

Working in the Garden

 

There’s nothing like getting my hands dirty digging in the garden. Granted, I’m not that fond of some of the bugs I have to pluck out, but wrestling with weeds to give my flowers, bushes and trees room to grow gives me great satisfaction.

It’s also wonderfully fulfilling to see the results of my carefully-tended garden. Worth all the hours I toil in garden, no matter what time of the year.

 

Shopping for Organic Produce

 

I’ll admit I was a little slow getting on the organic food bandwagon, but now I’m a firm believer. So much so that I can literally spend more than an hour just roaming the aisles of my go-to grocery store (even Costco) looking at the newest organic versions of produce I’ve eaten in old form since I was a kid.

If I had to excuse my wasting time on this activity, I’d have to say that putting the healthiest food into my body is a priority. I’m OK with any amount of time I spend looking for anything organic.

 

Doing Price Comparisons on Running Shoes

 

First, a confession. I don’t run – at all. But I am an aficionado of running shoes or cross-trainers or whatever the latest athletic shoe is.

My reason for the obsession is that I want my feet to be well taken care of. Whether I’m hiking a mountain trail in the preserve near my house or traversing the mall in search of a good deal or just driving, I want a great pair of shoes on my feet.

As such, I’m always looking for the best price on shoes and have bookmarked my favorite websites. Time just flies by when I’m on the hunt.

And I don’t regret one minute of it. So, there.

 

Going for a Massage

To some people a massage is an indulgence they can do without. Not me. I learned long ago that my Thumper I bought from Relax-the-Back does a great job easing out a kink, but I’d much rather get an expert to do the work for me.

It feels so much better when I don’t have to exert myself.

And the massage professional can reach areas I can’t.

Besides, the overall effect afterward is simply out of this world. The therapeutic aspects alone are worth the time I take from my day to get the massage.

Come to think of it, I haven’t had a massage for a while. Time to make an appointment.

 

Trying Out a New Recipe

I may not be the greatest cook around, but I do enjoy trying out new recipes. Like searching for the perfect photo, checking out recipes is a real time-hog.

Once I’ve found a recipe to make, I often have to go to the store to get the ingredients. Invariably I’m missing one or more. And I learned long ago that substituting what might work usually results in a disaster.

As a professional chef once told me, stick to the recipe until you’ve amassed years of experience and absolutely know what you can safely substitute without ruining the dish.

Regarding the mess that I have to clean up when I’m done, that’s another chunk of time that necessarily has to occupy my time.

 

Watching a Great Movie

Another one of my favorite pastimes – and a huge time waster – is watching movies. I love a number of different genres, so a drama doesn’t necessarily lose out to suspense, thriller, comedy or horror.

I’d much rather watch a movie that’s gotten stellar reviews, but I’m also game to check out the little-known or obscure flicks as well. This is especially true if they’re by famous directors or ones whose other work I’ve enjoyed.

Get out the popcorn, chips, ice cream and other snacks (OK, junk food, but sometimes you just have to indulge) and I’m good to go – for at least an hour or two.

Chores can wait until later.

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What are your favorite ways to waste time? Comment below and I may do a follow-up blog post mentioning some of them – giving you credit, of course.

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