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How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

How you work is far more important than how much you work.

Travis Bradberry

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Some people have an uncanny ability to get things done. They keep their nights and weekends sacred and still get more done than people who work ten or 20 hours more per week than they do.

A new study from Stanford University shows that they are on to something. The study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

Smart people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities. They use their weekends to create a better week ahead.

This is easier said than done, so here’s some help. The following are some things that you can do to find balance on the weekend and come into work at 110% on Monday morning.

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Award-winning co-author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart -- a consultancy that serves more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies and is a leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, training and certification.

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13 Ways to Develop Laser-Like Focus

Here are some surprising ways to help boost your focus and performance

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If you want to be successful, you have to find strategies that will help you focus despite all of the distractions that prevent you from doing the task at hand. Luckily, with the help of science, developing laser-like focus is easier than you think.

To start, make sure you’re sleeping well and getting regular exercise. These are the basis of productivity, performance and focus. Next, simply look at the colour red – just the sight of red can boost performance and focus.

If that doesn’t work, turning up the thermostat in your office is another option. According to research, people who work in a room set to around 25 degrees are more successful and focused than people in colder work spaces.

There are plenty of things you can do to boost your ability to focus. To learn more, here are 13 ways to develop laser-like focus:

1. Sleep

Here’s a no-brainer: sleep has a direct link to cognitive functions such as the ability to focus and perform. According to the National Sleep Foundation, quality sleep, which is between seven to nine hours, helps us think clearly, remember more and make decisions.

Related: Your Crazy Erratic Sleep Routine Is Making You Less Productive

A lack of sleep can result in an inability to pay attention and focus, lower productivity, slower reaction times and forgetfulness.

2. Use the ABC method

According to Harvard Business Review, our brains are constantly distracted by “internal and external environments,” meaning thoughts, sounds or interruptions. One way to prevent distractions is the ABC method.

As HBR explains, ABC stands for: aware, breathe and choose.

To start, become aware of your options by choosing whether to pay attention to distractions. Next, breathe and relax while you choose to focus or get distracted.

meditate3. Meditate

From stress to anxiety, meditation has long been known as an incredible tool in managing emotions. Another advantage of meditation is its ability to help people focus.

Related: Work Smarter: Margaret Hirsch’s Success Habits

Researchers found that after three months at a meditation retreat, people came out with an incredible ability to focus and an overall improvement in cognitive functions.

4. Get dressed up

The saying, “Dress to impress,” stands true. When people dress up in order to prep for a particular project or task, their ability to focus goes up. According to a study, students who wore white lab coats while conducting experiments made half the amount of errors as the students who were dressed regularly.

5. Don’t multitask

While multitasking might sound like the more productive thing to do, it actually has a negative effect on your ability to focus.

Related: For Vusi Thembekwayo, Focus Leads To Big Wins

According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking and constantly switching between tasks will actually take away from focus because you’re not allowing yourself time to adjust to one thing.

6. Turn up the heat

According to research, a warmer workplace will help you focus better and be more productive. In fact, one study found that a group of workers in a room set to 68 degrees made nearly 44 percent more errors and were half as productive than employees in a 77 degree room.

plants-in-office7. Go green

Plants around the office have long been known to have a positive effect on employee morale, focus and productivity. However, it turns out you don’t necessarily need actual plants for this. In a study, a group of researchers found that by taking a 40-second break and simply looking at a computerised image of a green roof, employees’ focus on a particular task improved.

8. Look at the colour red

Whether it’s the colour of your bedroom walls or the background image on your computer screen, colour has a major effect on us psychologically. A 2009 study published in Science found that when people saw the colour red while they were focusing on certain tasks, their performance, memory and attention to detail improved.

9. Use natural light

Working 9-to-5 in a windowless room with artificial light is far from motivating and in fact can be downright distracting. A study found that people who work in offices filled with natural light experience substantially less eye strain, headaches and blurred visions, all of which deter focus and performance.

10. Get your cardio in

From better sleep to lower stress levels, exercise has many benefits, and that includes improved focus and performance too.

In an article published in Harvard Health, researchers found aerobic exercise increases the size of the area in a person’s brain called the hippocampus, which in turn results in better memory and thinking skills.

However, this was not the case for exercise such as weight lifting and muscle toning, which had little to no impact on a person’s cognitive abilities.

11. Drink some coffee

According to research, a moderate amount of caffeine – around one to two cups of coffee a day – is beneficial to a person’s focus, alertness, performance and mood. However, it’s important not to overdo it, which can result in dehydration, anxiety and headaches.

12. Take a break

It might sound ironic, but taking breaks can actually help improve focus. Research shows that short breaks restore a person’s motivation and help them achieve long-term goals.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Focused

According to an article published in Psychology Today, “Research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.”

13. Listen to classical music

Save your favorite rock or rap album for after work. Researchers from Stanford University discovered that classical music in particular triggers the part of the brain used for paying attention and focusing.

Why classical? According to the study, people’s minds tend to wander while listening to music but because classical music features many “transitional points” where there is silence, it helps keep people aware and attentive.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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5 Lame Excuses That Unsuccessful People Always Make

You need to eliminate these five excuses from your mindset immediately.

Jonathan Long

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Even the most determined and motivated entrepreneurs will come up with excuses as to why he or she cannot do something. Obstacles arise and then self-doubt enters the mind – making an excuse is the easy way out.

I made excuses in the past – several times. Looking back, those excuses resulted in missed opportunities and ultimately failure. It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, get an online MBA, hit a specific revenue milestone or start a business – excuses will be the cause of failure. Here are five excuses to remove from your mindset immediately – they are complete BS.

1. “I don’t have time”

Time is our most valuable asset. While we only have 24 hours in a day, we make time for things we want – people we want to see, activities we want to do, etc. The only thing getting in the way are excuses.

Have you ever been in a relationship and the other person dropped the “If you really wanted to see me, then you would make time” line? I know I have heard it several times in the past, and guess what? None of those relationships worked out because I didn’t want to put in the effort.

The same applies to entrepreneurship. Want to start a business but you are working a nine-to-five? Get up earlier or stay up late – if you want it bad enough you will make the time.

Related: Motivation-Boosting Tips From 8 Of The Greatest Entrepreneurs

2. “There aren’t enough opportunities for me”

If there are walls or barriers standing in your way you need to figure out how to get around them, or simply plow right through them. There is nothing easy about being an entrepreneur. There is never going to be a simple straight line from point A to point B.

Saying there aren’t enough opportunities is an excuse that allows you to quit before you even start. Create your own opportunity – figure out how to solve a problem and you can write your own ticket.

3. “I don’t want to risk disapproval from family and friends”

You need thick skin to play this game and not let the opinions of others influence your decisions. If your friends aren’t supportive, then you need new friends. While you can’t get a new family, you can remove yourself from their negative energy.

I was lucky to have had very supportive parents growing up. My dad was my biggest support system when I was just starting out, and the reason I became an entrepreneur. He passed away several years ago, but still remains my number one source of motivation – I bust my butt daily because I know how proud he would be.

The odds are very high that there will be family and friends telling you that the chances of succeeding are slim and that you should take a more secure or stable path — ignore them. It’s easy to agree with them, because it gives you an easy way out. Use their disapproval as motivation and wake up each day hungry to prove them wrong.

4. “I should be content with where I am and what I have”

Life is very short – the average lifespan in the U.S. is 78 years – that’s 28,470 days. Not very long when you think of it that way, right?

You should never be content and always strive for more. I have been going to night runs lately, taking advantage of the cooler weather this time of the year in Miami. The other night while running I was paying attention to the cars driving by – Phantom, Lamborghini, Ferrari, etc. – all the exotics were well represented.

Now, material possessions like cars don’t necessarily translate to happiness, but they do indicate one thing: The people driving them – or the people that bought them – were not content with average. Saying you are content is the equivalent of saying you don’t want to work any harder.

Related: Successful Adulting: Why Studying Isn’t So Scary

5. “I’m scared of the risks involved”

No risk, no reward.

It’s as simple as that. You have to accept that fact that every entrepreneurial venture or opportunity comes with risk, and a lot of it.

Take a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs and companies and you will see that there was always a lot of risk involved. Elon Musk received $180 million from the PayPal acquisition and he put $100 million in SpaceX, $70 million in Tesla and $10 million in Solar City. He then had to borrow money for rent.

Was he scared of the risks involved? Not a chance. Very few people would take $180 million dollars and roll it into new ventures – they would be on a permanent vacation. The risk was well worth it, as Musk is worth about $21.5 billion today.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Become A Life-Hacker

Life-hacking is about accomplishing more in less time, with less stress, at a lower cost with the use of simple digital tools.

Nadine Todd

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When Martijn Aslander was 17, he was running a company that had 60 part-time employees from the back of a classroom. By the time he was 21 he had two companies, and was directing 140 people. At 27 he decided to sell his companies, and ended up bankrupt as a result of the experience.

What looked like a complete disaster actually ended up being the single best lesson Martijn could learn. He woke up the next day and everything was still there. He had his arms and legs; he had his health. And the worst had happened, which meant that nothing could go wrong anymore. From that moment, anything was possible.

He then asked himself a key question: How big is the chance you will do this again? The answer was simple: There was no chance. Big lessons had been learnt. At that moment, Martijn realised that there was no point in ever getting upset when something goes wrong. It happens. The next time you will fly.

Martijn believes that we are always looking for the next challenges. Millionaires want to be billionaires. Billionaires want to win a Nobel Prize. There is always another goal. So how do you find success and happiness? By asking how you can contribute the most to mankind. In many ways, Martijn was already a life-hacker. At 17 he’d discovered a way to make money without doing much work, simply by being smarter and spotting a niche.

At 27 he learnt that possibilities are what you make of them, and the more you share, the greater your impact, and the more you will receive.

Related: 15 Scientifically Proven Ways To Work Smarter, Not Just More

These are his rules to becoming a life-hacker, and doing more in less time, with less stress, at lower costs.

1. Don’t operate on untested assumptions

Most of the fears that people have, and particularly entrepreneurs, are based on assumptions that they haven’t tested. And most untested assumptions are simply not true. They live as ghosts and monsters in your head, but they’re not real.

We live in a very interesting time, where it’s actually risky to be safe. Safe doesn’t exist, and it never has, because you are never in charge of all the events that take place around you. Change is the only constant. For centuries we’ve operated on the notion of survival of the fittest. He who is strongest will win. This is also a faulty assumption. Success today isn’t about strength — it’s about the ability to adapt to new circumstances. Over the last ten years more circumstances than ever before have changed, and the rate is just accelerating.

You have to have an open mind; you have to learn to be flexible.

2. If you’re in the business of doing business, you will soon be out of business

How do you measure business success? Be careful that your strategy isn’t focused on possessions — fancy offices, a big building, or cars as status symbols. If you’re too focused on things, you’ll be too afraid of losing your stuff. Entrepreneurs who are focused on a higher purpose concentrate on improving themselves, their people and doing the best for their clients. They’re far less afraid of sudden changes and turmoil, because possessions aren’t as important, which makes them agile and adaptable — exactly who you want to be in a changing world.

I see it as the rise of the ‘funpreneur’. The rise of a new breed of people who are focused on doing what they love, and who aspire to a higher cause, instead of just focusing on the business side of things. It’s tough to compete with people who don’t do business models, but focus on purpose instead.

3. Give your teams the freedom to adapt

There are two types of teams — those who are flexible, have an open mind, and are willing to adapt to new conditions and environments, and those who are terrified of making mistakes and therefore seldom venture out of the established norm.

The type of team that forms the foundation of your business is up to you. Are you hiring people with flexible, open minds and giving them the freedom to make mistakes, or do you stifle innovation in your organisation?

Remember that mistakes are often the only way to learn something. If people are really dissatisfied with their own errors and performance, they will internalise the experience far more deeply. There will always be some mistakes. My advice is to create an environment where everyone learns from mistakes — their own and those that others make — and try to make mistakes that you will benefit the most from by encouraging your team to take chances. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to make mistakes on purpose, but create a safe environment and deal with mistakes in a way that shares the lessons, and instils the learnings in your business.

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

4. Make a ‘not-to-do’ list

We’re so busy making ‘to-do’ lists that we forget to make ‘not-to-do’ lists. Remember that you’re in charge of your life, and you can go in any direction you want. Yes, there will be circumstances that influence your life, but ultimately you can change everything. There’s less financial risk than ever before in doing business. You don’t need big offices, buildings, or cars. Everything you need to make an impact is at your disposal. The only things holding us back are our assumptions.

While you are creating your to-do lists and strategies, take some time to write down what you shouldn’t be doing — what you don’t want to do, what you should avoid — the business or person you don’t want to be. Focus on what you love, and build a great life around those principles. Don’t allow yourself to live in fear.

5. Leverage the holy trinity of dynamics

I believe there are only three things you need for success: People, information and ideas. With these three things, you can set anything in motion.

An idea in itself is worthless.  It’s really nothing else but combined information; creatively connecting unconnected dots. The ability to make ideas materialise in this world however holds value, and for that you need people and information. Information is the bridge between ideas and the people who make them happen. What’s incredible is that we are living in an information society.

There are more people connected than ever before. We’re living in a network age and an information age, which means you can focus on all three, connect the dots, and unleash an unprecedented amount of ideas.

6. You don’t need a budget to innovate

The Chief Commander of the Dutch Army approached me to help him find a way to innovate that didn’t involve cutting into his budget. My question to him was, ‘Why do you need budget?’ There are 50 000 geeks in the Netherlands who dream of flying in a jet fighter or being submerged under the ocean. Simply by redeploying assets they already have, the Dutch Army can make these dreams come true.

So many organisations miss this crucial point. Money is naturally scarce, and the dynamics of money are weird. People are afraid to spend it because it’s scarce, and they’re uncertain if what they’re spending it on is a risk or not. As soon as there’s a financial risk, and you don’t know the outcome, you’re hesitant to jump in. And this ends up stalling innovation, because there’s an over-riding belief that you need money to innovate.

But what about applying other resources other than money alone? Always consider what you can do with the resources you already have. This will take financial risk out the equation, which will lead to less fear. Once fear is gone, people step in, open up and contribute. If you get rid of the risk, you enable your team. In many cases, finance is not an enabler, it’s a disabler.

Imagine if you could stop asking for money and setting your price, and instead asked your clients to pay what they believe your services are worth. You’d quickly either make more money, or realise you’re helping the wrong businesses, or not demonstrating your value clearly enough.

Entrepreneurs know this — they’re used to bootstrapping and being creative. The problem is that as we grow, we forget, and start becoming reliant on money to grow. And this stifles us.

So how do you begin to use the resources you have? Start by targeting the one percent of your clients that are able to do 100 or 1 000 fold what they are paying you in terms of money. What can you barter or trade with them? What resources can you offer each other that are actually more valuable than money? What could your clients potentially do for you that would actually save you money? Or what would they love to pay for, that you potentially aren’t offering right now?

Every single organisation has resources that they can deploy without financial loss. Start with 1% and build on it.

7. Build your social capital

Social capital builds monetary capital. It’s not the other way around, and yet so often we focus on monetary capital first. Instead, focus on achieving something that will lead to monetary capital. I give away my social capital freely. I share my books and ideas for free. It clears my mind, and I know that I can create ideas faster than you can steal them anyway. That’s how you should view ideas. Giving away social capital gives you access, and then you don’t need money — that’s the secret to success.

People are too careful with their social capital — particularly their ideas. I promise you this — the chances of becoming a millionaire with just one idea are miniscule. If that’s your strategy, it’s not only dangerous, but you’re wasting your time. If you become someone who can share ideas freely, and focus on bringing people, knowledge and ideas together instead, your chances of success have grown exponentially.

Remember, people love to share, and you want to tap into that. Look for zero plus, not zero sum.

Related: 101 Efficiency Hacks For Busy Entrepreneurs

8. Become a life-hacker

The term ‘life-hacker’ was coined in 2005 by tech journalist Danny O’Brien. He was covering a group of programmers who were very productive, and yet they weren’t stressed. They were satisfied. How did they manage to be productive and stress-free? The secret wasn’t only in what they were doing — but in how they were sharing those secrets and tools.

I personally use a few hundred tools that allow me to do a lot more in less time, and I’m happy to share the tactics that help me to work smarter. This is why I launched the lifehacking.nl website, but all the contributors on the site share the same philosophy — we freely share our insights to help others. This is a critical element to life-hacking. There is so much information out there, so many ways to access insights and information. Are you using them? Are you learning and using the tools available? There are tools that can save you hundreds of hours a year. Tap into them. We can learn so much from each other; get the best people possible in your posse and in your community.

9. Understand the dichotomies of knowledge workers

Knowledge work is something new. Traditional business systems are based on hands. You exchange time for money. But today we are working with our heads, and the reality is that you cannot work with your head for eight hours a day, particularly in artificially-constructed work hours. One third of the population work best in the evening, and yet they’re expected to arrive at the office at 8am sharp. Not only are they causing traffic jams, but they’re not working in their optimal conditions either. We need to rethink the model. We need to stop treating computers like modern typewriters. We seem to think that answering hundreds of emails is working. It’s not. We’re all just distracting each other.

Digital skills are nowhere on the strategic agenda of boards. The time and skills of your employees are the most valuable asset you have, and yet we aren’t doing anything to help our employees become life-hackers. Digital skills won’t only help your teams to work smarter and save time, but become real assets, and not just glorified typists. If you focus on digital skills, your ability to find information and ideas faster than anyone else will grow, allowing you to spread those ideas, learn faster than your competitors and entrench strategic skills in your organisation. Take these skills and invest in them heavily. It’s a true differentiator.

IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Create your own time

Life-hacking is all about learning from others and using tools and technology to do things smarter and faster. There are many ways to achieve this goal — you just need to be open to them. Take Pepe Marais, co-founder of Joe Public United, South Africa’s largest independent advertising agency.

Four years ago, Pepe decided to employ a driver. “This solution isn’t for everyone, and it took me a full three months to get used to the idea, but once I got over my own insecurities, it was a revelation. I have gained 32 hours a month — that’s the equivalent of one full work week — simply through using my travel time constructively.”

Related: 7 Tools To Increase Productivity And Efficiency

Learn from the Titans

learn-from-the-titans

Tim Ferriss is the master of getting more done in less time — and he’s made it his business to share these tips and lessons with others.

Read this: Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss’s epic amalgamation of hundreds of tactics, routines and habits, collected over the course of two years from the world’s most successful business people and world-class performers, and distilled into a notebook of tips and tricks to use in your every-day life and business.

Listen to this: A summary of the book is available on Audible.com (another key tool for life-hacking and a great way to maximise your time in traffic and the gym by listening to business ‘how to’ books and top biographies).

Watch for free: Accelerated learning with Tim Ferriss is a 13-minute video available on Youtube and below. If you want to maximise your ability to learn quickly and efficiently, start here.

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