Productivity: The Art of Staying Focused

Whether you already have an efficient routine or you are yet to find one, many of us could do with mastering the art of productivity. Planning our working day as efficiently as possible enables us to reap the benefits of hard work, whilst also enjoying some free time too. This guide offers tips on how to foster productivity, minimise distractions, and the art of prioritisation.

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Sleep

Sleep sets you up for the day. Avoid waking up on the wrong side of the bed by getting the recommended 7-8 hours. Create a warm, cosy bedroom environment to make getting enough sleep as achievable as possible. Calm a busy mind before bedtime by utilising the 4-4-4 breathing technique. Breath in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, then exhale to the count of four. According to scientific research, slowing your breath triggers a relaxation response in the brain and body, setting you up for the perfect night’s sleep.

Efficient Planning Tool

Have you ever come across Eisenhower’s urgent/important matrix tool? If you have, I’m positive that you can testify its effectiveness. If you haven’t, you can check out a visual here. This time management tool is a powerful way to prioritise time, tasks and goals. The planner displays four quadrants which enable you to divide tasks by their level of urgency and importance. This matrix allows you to visualise and determine what tasks you need to do and which tasks should be prioritised. Often we are productive, but none of it has real value in the long run. This method will empower you to plan and prioritise long-term goals each week.

Start with the Most Important Tasks

According to Laborit’s law, we should start with the most mentally draining task at the beginning of the day. The following scenario may sound familiar to you. You have a dreaded task to do, instead of doing it right away you procrastinate, carrying out simpler tasks that bring immediate satisfaction. Also known as “The Law of the Least Effort”, we’re essentially perpetuating the sensation of that unpleasant task hovering over us. To master productivity, start the day with the most difficult task and reward yourself as soon as it’s finished.

Adios Distractions

Are you susceptible to distractions such as Whatsapp messages, aimlessly scrolling on social media or googling random thought processes? Guilty as charged! If, like many, you tend to get distracted by your phone, leave it another room. Keep it on silent and out of reach in order to let your focus flow. Also, try not to constantly check emails and carry out several tasks at once. Focus on the task in hand; monotasking, not multitasking, is the secret to getting things done efficiently.

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Get Inspired

The subconscious mind is one of the most powerful tools and, in turn, ultimately the key to our success. Every day our mind is shaped by the environment in which we live. Our memories, beliefs, fears, subjective maps of reality are all examples of our subconscious mind that govern the course of our life. It’s essential to override subconscious negativity with inspiration. Listen to podcasts, read books, and spend time with people that inspire you. Fill your environment with inspirational quotes, vision boards, get out in nature.

Productivity is the result of commitment, efficient planning and focused effort. I highly recommend Stephen R. Covey’s best selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to learn more on efficiency and expertise in purposeful productivity.

“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R. Covey

The Five Wonders of Working from Home

Many of us are currently adapting to COVID-19 and part of this means working from home. Initially, as a relatively new concept, working from home was a concern for many. Yet, studies have shown that it can increase employees’ productivity and it may even be better for the planet.

As a teacher and when I first embarked upon online teaching, I struggled. It was so different to face-to-face teaching and I missed classroom interaction and engagement. Fortunately, thanks to an abundance of accessible material and online features, I was quickly able to adapt. Plus, seeing a student start the class with a glimpse of sadness and being able to turn that into a smile is a great feeling.

So, what are the five wonders of working from home?

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Enhanced Creativity

Speaking on behalf of anyone who has had to change their approach to work, creativity is absolutely crucial. Exploring the amazing content online, learning about new software, and engaging in videos and quizzes galore, the transition demands creativity and an open mind. Working from home requires initiative in order to face the challenges of adapting to change. In addition to problem-solving skills, enhanced creativity also provides us with a sense of purpose and accomplishment at work to brighten up our day.

Enjoyable Office Environment

Right now, I am working away whilst soaking up the sun rays on my terrace. From cosy attire, to the familiarity of the dining room table with everything you could possibly want at reach, working from home really does have its perks. Plus, the endless cups of tea and coffee are a dream.

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Enhanced Productivity

Commuting is no longer eating away at our free time and, in turn, increases our desire to work efficiently. For many, the time saved with zero-commuting and flexible schedules lead to an increase in productivity levels. Plus, getting in the zone quicker and taking a break when necessary definitely helps boost productivity.

Pets

Nothing beats coming home from a day’s work to be greeted by your beloved pet. Working from home means we get even more time with our four-legged friends. In fact, pets can be a great help whilst working as they’re known to increase the feel-good hormones in our body such as serotonin and dopamine. Pets can calm and soothe you when feelings of stress or anxiety arise. Whenever you feel a cloud of negativity hovering over you, pets are there to brighten up your day.

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Reducing Environmental Impact

Less commuting results in fewer vehicles on the roads and less CO2 emissions. Fortunately, traffic jams and fuel expenses are reduced drastically when working from home.

So, these are the five wonders of working from home. Not only can it be great for enhanced productivity and creativity, but it also reduces our environmental impact helping our planet too.

Rising in the Face of Adversity: Life in Lockdown

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There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. In lockdown, I think I speak on behalf of many when I say these 168 hours in a week are felt much more. A time when everyone is safeguarded by the four walls that we call home, when physical social interactions and errands are on standby.

I reside in Spain where the cuarentena is pretty strict. We can only leave the house for something regarded as primera necesidad such as grocery shopping, a trip to the pharmacy, walking the dog or going to work if you are a key worker. I have become accustomed to my once-a-week visit to the supermarket and jump at the chance to take the bins out or recycle to see the outside world again.

This experience has opened up my eyes to the illusion of time. I really did believe, on many occasions, that I didn’t have much of it. Needless to say, I was wrong. The time spent in confinamiento has taught me two things: how to live life as a recluse and how to form good habits.

Let’s just say that the latter comes from self-discipline, the realisation that these 168 hours we are blessed with on a weekly basis are there to be put to good use. How it enriches us is about what we do with our time. How we spend our time parallels with our self-discipline and life values. In fact, time is rather underrated in this aspect.

Lately we are forced to spend a lot more time with ourselves, with our mind, our habits and our thoughts. This is something I am learning to embrace. At times it’s easier than others. I believe many of the good habits I have formed are due to this time spent at home. To name a few: setting my alarm a little earlier, reading far more than ever before, drawing, speaking to loved ones regularly, spending time with my rabbit, exercising and the list goes on.

Amongst all the good habits I have acquired, I have also endured a period of self-discovery. Sometimes I am a walking storm (my poor boyfriend) and at times I am calm and collected in contrast to my random bursts of being hyper. Before this bothered me, but now I have learned to embrace these dispositions. It makes life a lot more colourful.

Rising in the face of adversity is sublime. We see the dichotomy of the dark moments whilst learning to appreciate everything we are blessed with. There were many things I took for granted before confinamiento like seeing my friends or family or spending time in nature. Gratitude for what I have is what I have learned to focus on. During this strange time, it’s important to be grateful for the time we are gifted with and the people that make it so special. It’s a lesson to be learned. Let’s take these 168 hours and prove that adversity can, in fact, be our friend.

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

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