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Policing Your Productivity

Seven tools to keep you focused.

Stephanie Vozza

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Being your own boss can also mean policing your productivity. For every hour the average American is online, 16 minutes is spent on social media sites, nine minutes is spent on entertainment sites and five minutes is spent shopping, according to a 2013 survey by Experian Marketing Services. The South African stats will no doubt be similar.

“Facebook and Twitter are almost always more fun than working,” says David Ryan Polgar, author of Wisdom in the Age of Twitter. He likens digital media consumption to dieting and says many of us are mentally obese, consuming an overwhelming amount of information every day.

“Willpower isn’t enough,” he says. “Entrepreneurs should take advantage of the available tools that can help you resist temptation.” Time-tracking and distraction-blocking software can help business owners boost efficiency and gain control of their day.

Seven programmes that will help you be more productive

1. RescueTime

RescueTime is like a performance evaluation you give yourself. The software runs in the background of your computer, measuring which websites and applications you use most.

The time you spend is grouped into categories – such as social networking, email and scheduling – so you can see how much time you spend doing different types of tasks.

Each week, you get an email report of your activities. You can also log into the dashboard to get real-time statistics. RescueTime works on Mac and PC. The basic version is free, and a premium version is $6 per month and offers features such as website blocking and time reports for individual documents.

2. ManicTime

Another time-tracking tool is ManicTime for PC, which also runs in the background of your computer, recording your activities while you work. The software generates a report of applications and websites you use, and provides a timeline of your day so you can pinpoint your best and worst productivity levels.

ManicTime offers a free basic version, and a premium version for $67 offers additional features such as time sheet generation and an inactivity alert.

3. LeechBlock

If you need to block distractions, LeechBlock is a free Firefox browser add-on that blocks or allows access to specified websites at designated times. For example, you can schedule a time each day to check email, network on social media sites, or catch up on industry news.

The rest of the day these sites will be blocked. You can override your settings by entering a password. LeechBlock also keeps track of the total amount of time you spend browsing the sites in each block set.

4. Focus Me

Focus Me is a distraction-blocking software with two modes: Block Mode and Focus Mode. Block Mode will block only the websites and applications that you choose. Focus Mode will block all websites and applications except the ones you approve.

Focus Me also includes a ‘take a break’ feature that forces downtime by deactivating your mouse and keyboard for a five minute period of time. Focus Me works on Mac and PC and offers a single user licence for $18.

5. Freedom

If the Internet is too tempting, Freedom is a programme for Apple users that totally blocks your surfing capabilities so you can be productive. Choose how long you’d like to be Internet-free – you can select up to eight hours. If you want to turn Freedom off, you have to reboot your computer. Freedom is available for a one-time fee of $10.

6. Anti-Social

If your downfall is social media, Anti-Social might be the solution. Developed by the creators of Freedom, it’s good for the entrepreneur who needs to be online for their business but is easily distracted.

The $15 Mac application blocks more than 30 ‘time wasting’ websites, such as Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Twitter and more. The only way to turn it off before the timer expires is to reboot your computer.

7. SelfControl

Finally, those with little willpower should download SelfControl, a free app for Mac that will force you to focus. The software blocks you from your mail servers, specific websites or the entire Internet for a period of time that you set.

You are unable to access those sites until the timer expires – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

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Productivity Power Tool: How to Use Time-Blocking. Click Here

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Stephanie Vozza is a freelance writer who has written about business, real estate and lifestyles for more than 20 years. A former small business owner, she recently discovered she's better at writing about them. She lives in the Detroit area with her husband, two sons and their crazy Jack Russell terriers.

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4 Ways to Stop Worrying in 2019

If you’re a bit of a worry-wart, you have to acknowledge this and get proactive about managing your stress, anxiety and worrying levels. Here’s how.

Fedhealth

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What if I can’t complete that piece of work in time? What if my home gets burgled while I’m on holiday? We all worry – some people more than others. A few of these worries are genuine concerns, but most are completely out of our control and are most likely never to materialise.

But still, they occupy our minds. And with the digital world now occupying even more of our time, we’ve been given even more material to worry about. Famines in far-away countries, children orphaned by a flood, if we simply turn on our TVs or look to social media, we can become completely overwhelmed by what we see. And it’s making us all desperately unhappy.

So, what do we do? If you’re a bit of a worry-wart, you have to acknowledge this and get proactive about managing your stress, anxiety and worrying levels. Here’s how:

Monitor and limit social media

social-media-management

We all know our phones are an addiction. And scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, you can compare your life to everyone else’s and add another huge worry to your ever-growing list: I’m not good enough/my life sucks. Which is why there’s a growing trend among Generation X-ers (and even some Millennials), to quit social media altogether.

“It was like breaking an addiction for the first few days, where I felt I was missing out, but after a few weeks I realised that the world carries on, and I was still in touch with those people I actually wanted to connect with. I felt lighter and happier,” says Caryn White*, a mother-of-two and small business owner. If you can’t quit social media for work reasons, then take it off your phone, and only access it on your desktop at specific times of the day.

Limit news

We’re not advocating sticking your head in the sand: just limit which channels you absorb news from, and how often you do it. The last thing you need is to open up your phone on waking up and read about the latest catastrophe, which you are powerless to do anything about.

Pick a few trusted news sources and check them at specific times. Avoid the news on the radio in your car; rather listen to fascinating audio books or podcasts that lift your mood instead of making you worry.

Assumption or fact?

This simple concept is incredibly helpful when faced with a worrying situation. Your child has a strange rash, you’ve Googled it and you’re pretty sure it’s chickenpox. Now the whole family is going to get it, you’ll miss work, your boss will be angry, and you may lose your job. Is the fact that your child has chicken pox an assumption or a fact?

Is losing your job a fact or an assumption? They’re both assumptions. So, take your child to the doctor, get a proper diagnosis and then take the next steps from there (a good medical aid can also help ease the stress of the financial cost of doctors’ visits). This approach is a simple way to deal with worries that start to spiral out of control in your mind.

Write them down

Worrying can seem insurmountable if it’s all in your head. Instead, try this strategy from Qualified FAMSA Counsellor Lynette Blomfield:

  1. Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed, until you calm down.
  2. Once you’re calm, write down the five most stressful things on your list. It could be increasing expenses, like a huge jump in medical aid costs per month.
  3. Brainstorm what you could do to change or eliminate the worry/problem (maybe you can move to a medical aid company that charges less each month?). If necessary, ask a good friend or colleague for advice.
  4. Focus on making progress, not ticking all your worries off and striving for ‘perfection’.
  5. Stay on course and come back to your list regularly.

Dealing with worrying is about being proactive. You’re the only one that can begin the process of reducing anxiety, so now’s the time to take some steps. If you don’t know how to begin doing this on your own, it may be best to see a qualified counsellor or therapist to get you started.

*name has been changed

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Self Development

These 6 Types of Music Are Known To Dramatically Improve Productivity

Just another example of how much you gain by listening.

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Music isn’t just a means of entertaining ourselves: it can also encourage creativity and help us become more productive. Listening to music can also be therapeutic, relieving feelings of stress so you can concentrate better.

Research has found that certain types of music can be beneficial to us while we work. Some types of music seem to help with learning and improve our ability to process information. Other types help block out distracting background noise. Still other types sync with our brain waves to induce “eureka moments.”

So, if you’re struggling with productivity and want to know what you should be listening to, read on. These are the six types of music that will give you a major boost in productivity.

1. Classical Music

beethoven

Researchers have long claimed that listening to classical music can help people perform tasks more efficiently. This theory, which has been dubbed the Mozart Effect,” suggests that listening to classical composers can enhance brain activity and act as a catalyst for improving health and well-being. Various studies have confirmed that listening to classical music enhances one’s ability to manipulate shapes and solve spatial puzzles.

The absence of words in the music may be one factor, as songs that contain lyrics have been found to be a distraction when you’re trying to focus. And classical music is known for being calming, relaxing and helping reduce stress. This genre of music has been found to help students perform 12 percent better on their exams. Some selections, like Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” seem to help students study longer and retain more information.

Here are other few classical selections you can use to boost productivity while working:

2. Nature Music

nature-waterfall-sounds

Listening to the sounds of nature, like waves crashing or a babbling brook, has been shown to enhance cognitive function and concentration. Nature sounds work best when they’re soothing sounds, such as flowing water or rainfall, while more jarring noises such as bird calls and animal noises can be distracting.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered that natural sounds boost moods and focus. The study found employees were more productive and had more positive feelings when nature sounds were playing in the background while they worked.

This may be because nature sounds helped mask harsher, more distracting noises, such as people talking or typing. Researchers found that workers not only performed better on tasks, but calming nature sounds also had a restorative effect on cognitive abilities.

Here are some selections to try:

3. Cinematic Music

the-bourne-identity

An intense film score can make you feel like you’re doing something inspiring or important, even if you’re just chipping away at your to-do list. A grandiose, epic soundtrack playing in the background may make even the most mundane tasks feel like you’re changing the world, thus heightening your concentration and productivity.

Cinematic music scores can be empowering, lifting your spirits and brightening your mood. So, if you’re feeling tired and drained, try listening to some epic-style cinematic music to give you that extra boost of motivation.

Some great movie scores to try include:

4. Video Game Music

halo-soundtrack

It might seem strange, but listening to music composed for video games can be a great tool to help you focus. Every element of a video game is designed to create an enhanced gaming experience for all your senses, and the music has been composed specifically to help you focus on your task without being distracted by a cacophony of sounds.

This music generally has no lyrics or human voices and is fairly fast-paced to keep you moving forward. Many of these video games involve solving puzzles and dealing with intense situations, so you’re subjecting yourself to simulated stressful challenges. Video games have invested a lot of resources in figuring out the perfect balance to the music they use.

Video game music is composed in a way that keeps you engaged as you evaluate, navigate and often fight your way through these make-believe worlds. These musical compositions may be just the thing to propel you onward and keep you zooming through your tasks and daily to-do list.

Here are some excellent video game music selections to check out:

5. Music between 50 and 80 beats per minute

bruno-mars

Some research suggests that it’s not the type of music that’s important in helping you stay focused and productive, but the tempo of that music. Studies have found that music with 50 to 80 beats per minute can enhance and stimulate creativity and learning.

Dr. Emma Gray, a cognitive behavioural therapist, worked with Spotify to research the benefits of certain types of music. She found that listening to music set in the 50- to 80-beat range puts the brain into an alpha state.

When we’re awake, we’re typically in a state of mind known as beta, a heightened state of alertness where our brain-wave activity is between 14 and 30 HZ. When our brain slows to between 7 and 14 HZ, we’re in a more relaxed alpha state of mind that allows us to be more receptive and open, and less critical. This state of mind is what scientists associate with activities that involve our imagination, memory and intuition, including our “eureka moments.”

If you have ever listened to music that you’re familiar with, only to find yourself deep in thought and not really hearing the music at all, this is an alpha state induced by music. You’re tuning out while being tuned in.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

10 Secrets To Finding A Job You Love

Entrepreneur and social media sensation Gary Vaynerchuk and nine others tell us how they found their calling and how you can find yours.

Entrepreneur

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Research suggests that more than half of us are unhappy at work. From lawyers to brokers and CEOs, these Advisors in The Oracles are proof it’s possible to be successful and have a job you love. Here, they share how they found work that fulfills them — and how you can too.

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