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6 Ways to Be More Productive by Working Less

Ironically, scheduling breaks and walks outside actually helps you accomplish more.

Dr. Spencer Blackman

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There’s no denying it: We live in a “more-is-more” culture. And above all else, that can-do attitude applies to work. With so much to accomplish and so many ways to stay plugged-in at all hours of the day, it can be tempting to stay in work mode from morning to night.

Related: The Problem With Employee Rewards

In reality, extra time spent working doesn’t equate with an increase in productivity. In fact, a nonstop approach can have the exact opposite effect. According to Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” And if you’ve ever toiled for hours and days on a single project, you may have observed the phenomenon yourself: Long hours inevitably lead to interruptions in concentration.

Although the obvious solution is to offset those disruptions with more hours of work, studies have shown that this strategy comes at a price – increased stress, frustration, pressure and effort. It’s been well documented that too much work and not enough play may result in physical and mental stress, as well as depression.

But what do you do with this information in the face of a high-pressure deadline? Research suggests that you may want to try working less if you’re looking to accomplish more. According to one study, successful musicians whose schedules were tracked spent only 90 minutes a day practicing, napped more than their peers and took more breaks when they felt tired or stressed. Other research found that judges studied tended to make more lenient decisions immediately following a short break, suggesting that their time-outs boosted a positive attitude.

While you may not have aspirations to be a musician or a kinder, gentler judge, you can certainly benefit from the idea that less is more when it comes to building your own business. Here are some tips for boosting productivity by cutting back on long hours.

1. Get outside

Even if you’re just going out to grab coffee or tea in the afternoon, make it a point to stretch your legs and breathe in some fresh air. You’ll have a daily excuse to step away from your desk and give a boon to your productivity. A recent experiment using the productivity app DeskTime found that the most productive employees in the study took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.

2. Schedule short walks

Exercise is important, but not always easy to fit into a busy day. Schedule a walk, putting it on your calendar, the same way you would a meeting, even if your stroll is just a few minutes long. A recent study found that creative thinking improves during and shortly after a walk.

Related: How to Keep Your Stars Happy and Your Bench Inspired

3. Eat lunch with co-workers

Avoid the temptation to chow down in front of your laptop. Eating lunch at your desk is a surefire way to get less satisfaction out of your mealtime. One study suggests that skipping a proper lunch break may increase fatigue and decrease productivity. Schedule lunch with your coworkers, either in or out of the office, but away from your computers, to connect with office mates and unplug.

4. There’s an app for that

Apps like Workrave and Big Stretch Reminder force you to take breaks from staring at your screen, and can prompt you to step away from the computer when you’re tempted to keep your nose to the grindstone.

5. Reach out

Get in touch with a friend, relative or other loved one for a brief chat and an important reminder of your life outside of the office. Research indicates that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. A quick call can help you feel supported, and boost morale.

6. Write it out

It’s hard to remember to be mindful during a busy day, but taking a few minutes to jot down your feelings may help alleviate some stress and keep you grounded. Research has shown that expressive writing can improve mood disorders and even boost memory. 

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Dr. Spencer Blackman is a San Francisco-based primary care physician at One Medical Group. He practices relationship-centered primary care, blending a traditional sensibility with up-to-date clinical knowledge and a strong focus on disease prevention.

Work Life Balance

Avoid Burnout With These Small Changes To The Way You Work

Follow these five tips to work smarter, not harder.

Lisa Promise

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Workplace burnout is real. I know, because I’ve been there, and I know most others have as well at some point or another. Thrive Global’s Arianna Huffington is no different. She’s on a mission to fix what she deems a “culture of burnout,” after her own collapse from exhaustion in 2007.

Huffington rightly says: “When we take care of ourselves, we are more effective, we are more creative and we are more successful in a broad definition of the word.”

Medical News Bulletin recently published “Can Positive Psychology Traits Prevent Burnout?,” referencing a study where participants completed a survey about the balance of the effort versus reward from a job. This particular research was focused on the manufacturing industry in China, given the “monotonous and repetitive nature of their work,” but this can be said for many professions and sectors. It was found that hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism can help to manage work stress, and people with these qualities are less likely to become burnt out.

Related: (Video) Avoid Burn Out

There have been many studies published over the years that working less results in higher productivity (hint: the optimal number is less than 40 hours per week). Perhaps even more important is that it’s nearly impossible to stay focused for long stretches at a time. Some research suggests that you should be breaking as frequently as every hour.

Work smarter not harder

In line with that, I believe in working smarter, not harder. While there are 24 hours in a day, they weren’t all made for work. I’m in the camp that working eight hours nonstop is actually more unproductive than it is beneficial. Your brain has peak operating times, and what works for one may not work for another.

Some people are at their best in the mornings, while others are most efficient late at night. I firmly believe that dictating what hours you should work and when is not the best method to yield quality work.

I often get asked how I can get things done. I work from home, and some have the perspective that I have no one to hold me accountable throughout the day. Inquiring minds wonder everything from what my daily schedule looks like, to how I motivate myself to finish up a project or prospect for my next client.

Related: Even If You Work Hard And Love What You Do, You’re Still At Risk Of Burning Out

tim-ferrissLet me start by saying that I strongly value flexibility. It’s the reason why working for myself is the best fit for me. But I hold myself accountable, and there’s a certain amount of self-discipline involved in doing that. Everything I do is because I’ve set goals for myself.

I have a duty to uphold to my clients and my partners, and a commitment to myself about the success of my business. I also pride myself in the underrated aspect of efficiency. It’s not how long you do something for, but how well you do it.

Several books I’ve read over the years on this topic have stuck with me. Getting Things Done, by David Allen, addresses the two-minute rule. If you can do something in two minutes or less, do it now. Don’t make a note and come back to it later. The time you spend thinking about it, planning it and recording it is more than the time it actually takes to complete the task.

Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week covers the topic of efficiency as well. He’s a prime example of taking the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” to a whole new level. To be successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work more, only that you need to work more efficiently.

Based on experience, I’ve adopted these top five tips to do just that:

Free up your mind

There is no need to remember everything. You read that right. Why are you keeping everything in your mind, which only serves to bog you down and make you feel overwhelmed? Find a record-keeping system that works for you.

Related: Admin Hacks For Entrepreneurs

Some people prefer old-fashioned paper notes. I prefer electronic. With a Mac laptop and an iPhone, I use Notes and Reminders apps to store everything I need to do or think about. I schedule reminder times to make sure I’ve checked something off my list. No matter what device I’m on, I know it’s available to me.

Schedule

Plus, I schedule everything on my calendar – my morning activities to start my day, hours allocated for every client and even things like time to take a walk. But again, I’m flexible. I move things around as needed, but I know I have set time to focus on a task at hand.

Plan and bucket

Some projects seem daunting from the start, but they need to be done whether you want to or not. Oftentimes the hardest part of a project is starting it.

Create a plan and break it down into manageable chunks. If you can complete a portion each day, not only will your mind stay sharp, but that focus will also help to make the task more bearable. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Follow the 80/20 rule

I’m a longtime follower of the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle: 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the work.

Why are you spending time on things that take 80 percent of your resources but deliver 20 percent of the value?

Stop doing meaningless tasks, or outsource them if they must be done. Prioritisation is one of the most important keys to efficiency.

Take breaks

It might seem counter intuitive that you can get more done by working less, but the human mind was not created to work non-stop. As research suggests, breaks are beneficial. Go for a walk, have lunch away from your desk, read a book, catch up with a friend or colleague – I promise you’ll feel refreshed and ready to reengage.

Related: Is Working Too Hard Destroying Your Business?

The 40-hour workweek is so synonymous with the American culture that it’s unlikely to change in the corporate world anytime soon. Most of us know that 40 hours isn’t really 40 hours anyway, it’s “whatever it takes.” That being said, with influencers like Huffington working to educate companies on the detriments of overwork, there’s hope.

There’s nothing wrong with working hard – it’s to be admired and valued. But don’t work long hours only for the sake of it. The companies that are getting it right realise that face time isn’t everything.

The results you deliver, the reputation you hold and the relationships you build should always outweigh the hours of your workweek. As an entrepreneur, you can take advantage of this and you can evangelise this approach to others. Work smarter, not harder, and you’ll be better for it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

4 Ways Sleeping Naked Makes You Healthier and Wealthier

What if I told you in just ten seconds a day, you can sleep better, make more money, reduce stress and lose weight?

Travis Bradberry

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Sleeping naked can improve your sleep habits and income earning capacity, while reducing stress and helping you to lose weight. All you have to do is take off your clothes. While there are countless strategies floating around out there to help you improve in these areas, none is as simple — and many are less effective — as stripping down before you go to sleep.

Since only 8% of people sleep naked, almost everyone can discover the benefits of sleeping in the buff. This may sound far-fetched, but hear me out before you throw those cozy flannel pyjamas on.

1. You sleep better naked

We’ve always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but recent research from the University of Rochester demonstrates exactly how so. The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. The catch here is that your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep.

When you don’t get high quality, deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc and ultimately impairing your ability to think. This slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity and increases your emotional reactivity.

Related: 7 Motivational Habits That Drive Millionaires

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that lowering your skin temperature increases the depth of your sleep and reduces the number of times you wake up at night. Stripping down to your birthday suit is a great way to lower your skin temperature without changing the temperature of the room.

2. Sleeping naked reduces stress

We all know that prolonged stress is bad news. It suppresses your immune system and increases your risk of heart disease, depression and obesity, in addition to decreasing your cognitive performance. Stress throws your cortisol levels out of whack. Proper rest helps to restore normal cortisol levels, which improves your stress level, regardless of what’s happening around you. As described in the section above, sleeping naked will help you to get a better night’s sleep.

3. Sleeping naked is healthier

Sleeping naked has a slew of health benefits, including helping you to lose weight. A study conducted by the US National Institutes of Health found that keeping yourself cool while you sleep speeds the body’s metabolism because your body creates more brown fat to keep you warm. Brown fat produces heat by burning calories (300 times more heat than any organ in the body), and this boosts your metabolism all day long to help you lose weight.

In addition to the metabolic effects of sleeping in the buff, removing your clothes improves blood circulation, which is good for your heart and muscles. The quality sleep you’ll enjoy also increases the release of growth hormone and melatonin, both of which have anti-ageing benefits.

Related: 10 Things Successful People Tell Themselves Every Day

4. Sleeping naked builds confidence

Confidence doesn’t just feel good; it’s the pillar of success. It pushes you to try new things, take on challenges and persevere in the face of adversity. A University of Melbourne study found that confident people earn higher wages and get promoted more often than their less confident counterparts. Sleeping naked makes you more comfortable in your own skin. As your comfort with your body increases, so does your self-esteem and confidence.

Bringing It All Together 

The benefits of sleeping naked are many — so many that you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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Work Life Balance

Even If You Work Hard And Love What You Do, You’re Still At Risk Of Burning Out

And no, it can’t be be resolved by blowing off some steam or meditating for 30 minutes.

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When we’re deeply immersed in our work, we’re often committed to a goal and a quality standard and making progress accordingly. This is what people mean when they talk about “engagement.” Is the person not only working hard, but truly invested in what they’re doing?

Naturally, however, working hard can result in stress, which can lead to burnout, even if a person is extremely passionate about their work. A recent study from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that nearly one in five people are both highly engaged with their work and experiencing exhaustion and burnout.

The researchers conducted an online survey to suss out the conflicting emotions this group feels toward their jobs – these individuals are interested in their work, but they’re also frustrated and stressed out by it. They’re stressed out to the extent that they think more about leaving their current jobs than people who aren’t engaged with their work do.

Related: How To Go From Burnout To Breakthrough

In other words, there’s such a thing as too much engagement. So what can we do to make sure workers don’t get too wrapped up in their work? The answer isn’t workplace programs that involve nutrition or meditation, the researchers warn.

“While we know that chronic stress is not good for employees, company wellness initiatives are not the primary way to respond to that stress,” study lead Julia Moeller writes in Harvard Business Review. “Our data suggests that while wellness initiatives can be helpful, a much bigger lever is the work itself.”

The researchers break down the factors that determine a worker’s experience into two categories: Resources and demands. If a worker has tangible resources such as time, money and equipment at their disposal, as well as intangibles such as empathy or even friendship from their team, they’ll be better off. They’ll also benefit from rewards and recognition for the work they do.

But if all of this is coupled with an environment that doesn’t demand that they work or think too hard – one that fosters work-life balance and doesn’t involve goals so lofty they’re impossible to achieve – most workers with this set of circumstances will thrive.

Related: What I Wish I Knew About Avoiding Burnout As An Entrepreneur

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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