Jumpstart Productivity: 7 Tips to Get on Track

productivityThose long lazy days filled with sunlight and flowers are nearing an end. Dawn and dusk last a bit longer as the sun’s angle lowers in the sky. Shadows dance through the trees upon the breeze while the air cools, just a touch. As the gardens wilt and turn to seed, shorts and tee shirts no longer comfort you. Instead, you reach for sweaters and pants each morning and enjoy the crisp new season. You begin looking forward to what autumn brings – change, purpose, and productivity.  While summer will be missed, you know it will come again. It’s bittersweet but the time is nigh to look ahead and plan for your most abundant fall and winter.

Here are a few tips to get started on making the new season a fruitful one.

  1. Establish a routine. The power of routine is immeasurable. Once you’ve created an order in your life that allows your brain to focus on higher level or creative pursuits, the mundane and trivial activities of everyday life become almost unconscious. This allows your mental effort to be applied to what you really want to accomplish, rather than getting bogged down in the details.
  2. Create accountability. Verbalize your goals with people around you to create an external source of responsibility to them. It’s motivating to answer publicly to your proclamations. Set clear boundaries and expectations for what you want. Use timers, calendars, and a daily schedule to keep on track.
  3. Clear your mind. Meditation is the most effective way of creating peace, clarity, and focus in your life. It can happen in just 20 minutes per day. It physically changes your brain structure to allow better coping with stress. Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Lady Gaga, Howard Stern, Katy Perry, and the list goes on… practice meditation to create a sense of calm groundedness amidst the chaos of a busy life.
  4. Just say, “no”.  This is an undervalued skill that makes life more manageable. How often have you overcommitted? When you’re frantically striving to complete many tasks, your quality of work is reduced. When you focus on only a few projects that are really important to you, your quality of work skyrockets. Practice the art of graciously declining invitations. It’s better for outcomes, relationships, and your health.
  5. Get some shut eye. The research into sleep is exploding. Recent studies are finding that sleep allows your brain to encode (save/remember) information, organize information, and cleanse itself of toxins. It not only allows your mind and body to rest, it can improve learning and memory, performance, and mood.
  6. Fuel your machine. Would you drive your car on an empty tank of gas, or expect your cell phone to ring when the battery is depleted? How could you expect peak performance from yourself without the proper fuel? Reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and other vices. Increase consumption of lean meats, leafy greens, fruits, fatty fish, and nuts. They provide nutrients that reduce depression, increase energy, promote healthy brain function, heart health, and immunity. The benefits of eating right are endless.
  7. Burn it off. Exercise increases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It lowers stress related hormones like cortisol & adrenaline. Combined, these improve energy and balance emotions. Getting sweaty develops brain regions responsible for memory and learning, improves your overall physique, and can boost your self esteem. Commit to regular exercise.

productivityWhile the long, lazy days of summer are coming to a close, a new season of growth and opportunity beckons. Go with the flow, stay in the present moment, maintain your focus. When you implement these tips, you will improve your life. Start small. Begin with one change that will get you closer to the way you want to experience life. Make it a habit. Reap the benefits.

 

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo
1st Photo courtesy of free digital photos.net. by David Castillo Dominici.

Psychology Today – Better Grades

Heather EdwardsHere’s another Psychology Today publication with Dr. Mark Banschick. This was posted here on January 10, 2016. It’s chock full of simple tips for acing your semester!

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You are back from break, and school has been a problem, with too many distractions, friends, sports…sometimes a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a break-up.

It is not working.

If you’re in college or grad school, no one’s supervising, which is great, butwhen you get distracted, it’s all on you. Even if you are in high school, it’s best to be self motivated.

So, now as you pick up the pieces from last semester and committing to a program of success.

Consider some tips from guest blogger,Heather Edwards(link is external).

Create a Routine:

Establish a study time, place, and structure that works from the start of the school year. The earlier you begin a routine, the easier it will be to stick with it as a matter of course.

Set aside a specified block of time each day to review notes, complete assignments, prioritize your work, and get tutoring if needed. Avoid counterproductive behaviors like going on-line to social networking sites, texting friends, and leaving your study space.

Stop distracting behaviors – like checking emails, before they become habits.

Minimize Distractions & Obstacles:

What is getting in the way of your effective learning? Identify the pitfalls. Studies have shown that loud noises and flashing lights are a huge external distraction of focus and attention. Find a study space that reduces these.

Set up timed email and Facebook notifications, or turn them off on your phone and computer. Silence your ringer, wear ear plugs or head phones.

Are you distracted visually by other students in class? Are you feeling rushed or constantly late? Is your mind wandering when it needs to pay attention? It can help to sit in the front of the classroom, arrive early, and participate in class discussions. Take a deep breath. Focus your attention on your attention. Avoid getting caught up in thoughts about your friends or weekend plans.

Proactively identify and determine strategies to reduce these snafus.

Study Tips:  

Stay organized – know your due dates. Prioritize your time by being aware of deadlines.

  • Review notes immediately following class – it will help encode the new information, or otherwise make it stick.
  • Highlight what you don’t know so you can return to it for further exploration.
  • Study in peer groups – the discussion and support can improve retention.
  • Write notes on flashcards.  Review them in alternating order.
  • And, get adequate rest.  A wakeful mind is a smarter mind.

Believe in Yourself:

Remember that you can do it!

Self-discipline is the hardest part. Notice the other things in life to which you apply your full focus and intention – like watching a movie, playing a sport, or listening to a friend. You can apply that same dedication and effort to grades. It might not come as naturally, but with practice and reduction of avoiding behaviors you can develop a a strong study habit, and thus better grades.

Reward Yourself:

This is the foundation of Behavior Modification. It’s what inspires and strengthens behavior patterns. Study time is simply that – a behavior you want to reinforce.

Set a goal for yourself – and a special treat when it’s complete. When you finish reading a chapter or writing a page of a paper, call a friend, go for a bike ride, or have a tasty snack. You deserve a prize for your accomplishment. It will give you something to work toward in the short term and will payoff a hundred fold in the long term.