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11 Morning Routines to Save Your Day

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11 Morning Routines to Save Your Day

The morning routines of nearly every person have been turned upside down over the past year. As a consequence of lockdowns, self-isolation, working from home, and other family responsibilities, creating productive morning routines can seem like a difficult task. And, now that things are somewhat returning to normal, routines are shifting yet again.

However, instead of dismissing these changes as an inconvenience, implement a morning routine that will save your day. As Hal Elrod, author of “The Miracle Morning”, writes, “Focused, productive successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days – which inevitably create a successful life.”

With that in mind, here are 11-morning routines you should try out today.

1. Wake up 15-minutes and be selfish.

Mornings, according to Chief Hop in Stranger Things, “are for coffee and contemplation.” And, I couldn’t agree more.

Personally, I’ve never been the type of person to roll out of bed and jump into the day. I need to wake up and just be for a couple of minutes. Coffee or tea is another requirement. And, as I’ve gotten older, this quiet time allows me to catch up on the news, respond to emails, or review my plans for the day.

At the same time, I also understand that this isn’t possible for everyone. If you have a newborn, having any amount of free time is wishful thinking. But, if you constantly feel like your mornings are a chaotic rush, you might want to get up earlier.

That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to get up at 5 a.m. — especially if you’re not a morning person. But, you could just set your alarm 15-minutes earlier. It might not seem like much, but you can spend that time however you want, like engaging in a daily self-care routine.

2. Engage in morning creativity.

“Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world,” Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the former president of the American Art Therapy Association, told NPR.

“Anything that engages your creative mind — the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways to communicate — is good for you,” adds Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University and a researcher in art therapy. Specifically, being creative helps you imagine a more hopeful future and activates the brain’s reward center. And, it can lower stress and strengthen your focus.

Know that you have 15 extra minutes in the morning, you can color, sketch, write, or knit part of a scarf.

3. Exercise…for under 10-minutes.

“The benefits of breathing and meditation are undeniable; just a couple minutes of relaxation can make your mind sharper, your senses more alert, and your entire body more peaceful,” notes Lily Herman over on The Muse.

“But in practice? Taking time to step away and meditate can seem daunting, not to mention confusing and difficult in the beginning,” says Herman. “I’ve personally tried getting in the zone to meditate on many occasions and have never really been able to find pure relaxation.”

The answer? Trying out the following two super-quick exercises;

  • To increase your energy, set a timer and close your eyes for two minutes. Next, breathe in through your nose and four counts and out for three. This will stimulate your sympathetic nervous system making you feel more active and animated.
  • To feel calmer, do the opposite. Inhale for three counts and exhale for four. This will trigger the parasympathetic nervous system making it easier for you to relax.

If you want to get your body moving, and you have the time, consider going for a morning run — or at least a brisk walk. You could also try a 10-minute yoga workout. Physical activity increases blood flow, stimulates the brain, and enhances your mental performance.

4. Establish a tech-free zone.

For the most part, I’ve done a solid job of following my circadian rhythms. Because of this, I tend to follow the same wake-sleep pattern. And, that means I’m not reliant on an alarm — my dog also shares this routine and gets me up at the same time every morning.

But, not everyone is as fortunate. So, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra layer of security. In this case, an alarm clock.

Instead of using your phone though, go out and purchase an actual alarm clock. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. After all, it serves one purpose, to wake you up at a specific time.

The reason? It’s a simple way to prevent you from laying in bed and scrolling through emails, social media, or the news. In addition to being a waste of time and distraction, it’s not good for your health and well-being. Case in point, in the midst of this seemingly neverending pandemic, doomscrolling has become an unhealthy habit.

5. Take care of the little things and then eat your frog in the morning.

If you’ve ever searched for productivity hacks, I’m sure you’ve come across the saying “eat the frog.” You’re not eating an amphibian for breakfast. Rather, it’s a metaphor for your tackling your most important or challenging tasks for the day first.

In theory, this makes sense. We tend to have the most energy and focus not too long after waking. What’s more, this presents distractions and procrastination from holding us back. And, we can all take a sigh of relief once these responsibilities are done and over with it.

But, there’s something to be said about addressing the little things first. While you may not consider these a priority, they can interfere with your focus by creating mental clutter. For example, if you have to make an appointment with your vet or answer a question in an email, these will keep nagging at you until they’re crossed off.

So, why not get these out of the way bright and early? As an added bonus, this will also help you build momentum to actually eat that frog.

6. Quell negative thoughts and refocus.

Dr. Greg Hammer, a physician and professor at Stanford University Medical Center and author of Gain Without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Health Care, recommends taking a four-step intentional approach to start your day.

  • Gratitude. Regardless if this is in a journal or a mental note, acknowledge three things that you’re grateful for.
  • Acceptance. Observe, feel, and accept whatever you can not change.
  • Intention. Make the decision to direct your energy towards the things that“are healthy, whole, kind, praiseworthy.”
  • Non-judgement. If you catch yourself categorizing something as good or bad, stop yourself and embrace“benevolent indifference”

7. Listen to your morning playlist.

“Regardless of whether you end up at a downtown office or sitting behind your in-home office desk, the morning is where you find the energy you need to power through the day,” writes Jordan Taylor Sloan for Mic.

“Scientists have found that songs with heavy bass (hard rock and hip-hop) inspire feelings of power, and produce a surge of confidence and more complex conceptual thought — a perfect start to any day,” he adds.

8. Activate all of your senses.

You’ve probably never realized this before. But, as soon as you rise and shine, all five of your senses are being put to work. It could be the sound of the alarm clock or birds chirping. If you have a coffee maker with a timer, you might smell that brewing. And, you can feel and see the sun on your skin.

Instead of tuning out, pay attention to these five senses. And, infuse them into your morning routine. Examples could be noticing how your feet feel on the floor when you first get out of bed or what colors you see. Savor the taste and smell of your breakfast. And, consider how your morning playlist makes you feel.

Tapping into your senses will help you make better decisions. And, more importantly, it can help you slow down, be more present, and appreciate what you have at the moment.

9. Take a shower.

“Humans tend to perspire at night,” says Dr. Gary Goldenberg, a dermatologist in New York and a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “When you wake up in the morning, there’s all this sweat and bacteria from the sheets that’s just kind of sitting there on your skin.” So, taking a shower in the morning will “wash all of that gunk and sweat off that you’ve been sleeping in all night.”

While we tend to balk at taking a cold shower, you might want to give it try. Exposing yourself to cold water can increase blood flow and neurotransmitters.

10. Soak up the morning sun.

In the morning, sunlight promotes wakefulness in the body. The reason? It suppresses the production of melatonin, which gives you more energy. Open the blinds as soon as you wake up and/or flip on the lights to give your body energy. And, make sure you get plenty of sunlight throughout the day, whether you’re walking your dog or sipping your cup of coffee on the patio — just don’t forget the sunscreen.

What if you wake up before the sun has risen? Purchase an alarm clock that can mimic a sunrise. Examples include the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock or the HomeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock.

11. Don’t overload your morning routine.

It may seem counterproductive to say this after giving you so much advice. However, your own morning routine should be one that is most effective for you. Also, make sure to keep it short and simple so that it’s not overwhelming. After all, it’s not sustainable to have a morning checklist or routine that makes you stressed before you even wake up.

Strategies and Habits that Can Help You Reach Your Full Potential

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Strategies and Habits that Can Help You Reach Your Full Potential

This year is all about new beginnings and discovering strategies to help us reach our full potential. 2020 threw everything it had at us — and yet we overcame all of its challenges. Better yet, we grew stronger, found new opportunities, and learned more about ourselves in 2020 than we ever knew prior.

To honor those new beginnings, we should all be striving to become better versions of ourselves in 2021. It’s time to shed those quarantine pounds, budget out your dream home, and pursue your highest aspirations.

One formula that I have found to be a good resource in helping people reach their full potential is the Full Life Framework developed by Leon Ho, the founder and CEO of Lifehack. This framework is built on five steps that enable you to live your life to the absolute fullest. Let’s break them down:

Life Missions

What do you hope to get out of life? This is the question to answer in the first step of the Full Life Framework. You need to have a mission, and specific strategies to reach your goals. Without these two vital pieces in your life — you’ll end up wandering aimlessly without purpose or direction.

Some people’s mission in life is to work hard and retire with the house on the hill. For others, it’s to help people through service or a meaningful career. Others still want to pursue their passions in art, music, or travel. Any of these goals are a wonderful representation of a life well-lived and are okay, as long as your mission is deeply personal and worth dedicating your time toward.

Compromise the Method, Not the Mission

Once you’ve honed in on your life’s mission, don’t let go of your dream. Too many people let the obstacles they face in life derail them from pursuing their life’s mission. One twist in the road and some will let their entire mission be compromised. But twists and turns are a part of life — and life is difficult. Don’t put your heart and life in the rearview mirror to be left behind forever — pick yourself up — over and over again.

Let’s say your dream job is to work for NASA (SpaceX might be more likely at this point), but you get offered a comfortable desk job right out of college. While the pay and benefits are nice, you know that taking this job might dash all hopes you have of getting your dream occupation. Is anything worth the sacrifice to leave your dream behind — or should you take a new strategy that keeps your vision intact?

Adopt a Progress Mindset

There’s one thing that stands in the way of your full potential; failure. Not only failure itself but the constant fear of failure that stops you from stretching your limits and challenging yourself. In order to adopt a mindset of progress, you’ll want to cast off such fears and thoughts.

Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, think to yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Learning from each error you commit makes you stronger and smarter. You’ll rarely make mistakes twice if you use each of them as a strategy to move forward.

Self-Control Systems

True progress doesn’t come overnight. Nothing worth doing comes easy — all proficiency requires hours upon hours of diligent strategies to get from where you are now to where you want to be. The learning curve kind of dedication requires a lot of work and self-control.

The truth is, few people are capable of self-control based on sheer willpower alone. Recognizing and understanding the value of this step is important because it teaches you to develop a system that makes self-control become automatic.

Managing your time and efforts to develop habits will pave the way for you to reach your full potential, rather than climbing a metaphorical mountain every single day.

Life Multipliers

Last but certainly not least are the life multipliers. These multipliers are exactly how they sound; skills and attributes that when self-applied will greatly add upon the value and experience you get out of life.

There are eight life multipliers, each of which can be deeply expounded upon. For the sake of brevity here’s an outline of each multiplier and its importance.

    • Self-Empowerment: Your goals are as far away as you make them. If you don’t take the initiative, you won’t get any closer.
    • Self-Control: As was just discussed, you need to show some self-control so that procrastination doesn’t take hold of your life.
    • Renewable Vitality: Your health is incredibly important. If you’re not physically and mentally caring for yourself, you won’t be as well equipped for life as you’d like.
    • Emotion Mastery: Life is full of trial and error, which can get frustrating at times. Don’t let your negative emotions get the best of you.
    • Conscious Communication: Rarely will anyone make it through life by themselves. Communicating with your family, friends, and colleagues will make the journey much easier and a lot more enjoyable.
    • Smart Focus: Work smarter, not harder. Definitely work hard, but try to put an emphasis on efficiency whenever possible.
    • Learning and Adaptability: Constant learning is how you will be able to reach your full potential. Applying what you learn and even relearning some topics keeps you in the driver’s seat.
    • Constructive Thinking: Brush up on your problem-solving skills. You’ll need them quite frequently on your journey to the top.

The Full Life Framework

The Full Life Framework

The Full Life Framework by Leon Ho

Fulling your life, your passions, and your dreams through The Full Life Framework is a lot to take in — but don’t sweat it.

You have a lot of life left to live; give yourself a few years to get the hang of The Full Life Framework system. It is worth every effort you determine to put into your plan.

Start working on living your life to the fullest today and you’ll always look back with no regrets.

How Your Calendar Can Save the World

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Moon Calendar

Is it ambitious to want to save the world? Sure. But, as Eddie Vedder sings on one of my all-time favorite Pearl Jam tunes, “Sometimes.”

Seek my part, devote myself

My small self

Like a book amongst the many on a shelf

Whatever you truly care about, spending any amount of time championing it can make the world a better place — even if it’s just in your small pocket of the world. After all, if we all made a little effort, we could have the power to impact our little third rock from the Sun positively.

Of course, time restraints are always holding us back from making a difference. But, thanks to your trusted calendar, that’s no longer an excuse. In fact, thanks to the calendar, we can all participate in saving the world in our own unique ways.

1. Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

“In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others.”

If you’ve ever flown, then you’re familiar with that announcement. But, why? It’s straightforward.

If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, then how can you assist those who can not? After all, the lack of oxygen will cause you to pass out. As such, this will leave others in a precarious situation.

The same is true in your daily life. If you don’t carve out time to attend to your own health and wellbeing, then you aren’t in the best spot to make a positive impact. For example, if you’re too burned out from work, then you aren’t going to have the energy to help struggling employees or volunteer in the community.

What’s the best way to help yourself first? By adding self-care to your calendar.

Self-care, as explained  in a previous Calendar article, “is when you regularly engage in activities and practices that make you feel calm and re-energized.”

“Some might consider this being on the selfish side,” adds Deanna. “But, self-care is a proven way to reduce stress. It’s also key in maintaining our own mental, emotional, and even physical health.” Because of this, self-care is “vital in protecting and enhancing our short- and long-term health and wellbeing.”

While you may think that you don’t have the time for self-care, you can use your calendar to make this possible by:

  • Following a routine that at least “encourages a consistent sleep-wake cycle, meal schedule, and workflow. If possible, try to base these around your circadian rhythms,” Deanna states.
  • “Regularly scheduling 2-3 nutrient-rich meals per day.” To make this easier, schedule deliveries from companies like Misfits Market or SnackNation.
  • Blocking out periods of time for physical activity and setting reminders to stand up and stretch.
  • Setting office hours so that you can actually unplug and detach from work. You should also share your calendar with others so that they know when you’re available and when you’re not.
  • Scheduling social activities.
  • Reducing screen. Instead of being glued to your phone, replace that with other activities like walking or reading a book.
  • Penciling in alone-time so that you can reflect and engage in self-talk.
  • Leave blank spaces in your calendar so that you can spend that time however you please.

2. Cultivate Gratitude

Looking for an uncomplicated activity that can lower stress, improve sleep, and strengthen your relationship ships. Look no further than practicing gratitude. In particular, try the GIFT Technique, as suggested by Anna Hennings, MA, a mental performance coach in sport psychology:

  • Growth: personal growth, such as learning a new skill
  • Inspiration: whatever has inspired you
  • Friends/family: those who are supportive and enrich your life
  • Tranquility: those small and meaningful moments, like sipping on your morning tea
  • Surprise: acknowledging unexpected surprises

Keep that acronym when identifying what you’re grateful for. After that, jot these items down in your journal during your morning or evening routine.

In addition to writing in a gratitude journal, actually show others how much you appreciate them. Examples include greeting your employees when they come into work or sending handwritten “thank you” cards. Other recommendations would be to publicly acknowledge others, offering thoughtful gifts/rewards, and being respectful of their time.

3. Volunteer Your Time

“When you volunteer your time, you are helping others in need while also spending your time in an excellent way,” note the folks over at Wheels For Wishes. “Not only are you making others happy, but you will also feel great about yourself.” However, since there are so many organizations where you could volunteer, where can you start?

Thankfully, the Wheels For Wishes put together the following list to help you get on your way:

  • Walk dogs at an animal shelter
  • Adopt or foster a pet
  • Volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation
  • Give blood
  • Serve food at a soup kitchen
  • Organize a fundraising event
  • Volunteer at a children’s summer camp
  • Donate your hair
  • Adopt a highway and keep it clean
  • Pick up trash in your neighborhood
  • Spend time at a nursing home
  • Organize a food or coat drive
  • Tutor or mentor
  • Run errands for the elderly
  • Knit hats for those going through chemotherapy

Go through your calendar to check your availability. For example, since my calendar is wide open next weekend, and the weather is supposed to be pleasant, I’m going to collect the trash along the side of my road. By adding this to my calendar, I’m committing to it and not letting anything else take its place.

4. Offer Your Services

What skills or knowledge do you possess? Put them to good use by offering them up for free.

For instance, if you’re a doctor, you could spend your downtime at a free clinic. Are you a lawyer or accountant? Offer free advice at community or senior centers when needed, like right before tax season. Do you know how to code? Build or update the website for a nonprofit.

5. Make a Donation

Don’t have the availability to volunteer or offer your services? No problem. You can still give back to others through donations. For instance, you could go through your kitchen and donate perishable food items. Go through your closet and donate blankets, coats, or hats you no longer wear.

But, what’s there’s more! Animal shelters could use old towels, cleaning supplies, or unopened pet food and treats. Nurseries could take baby blankets off your hands, while daycares might be interested in books or art supplies.

You could also donate your vehicle. And, you can never go wrong with a cash donation.

6. Commit to a Regular Contribution

Is there a cause that you’re passionate about? Then why not become a regular contributor? It’s pretty setting-and-forgetting your contributions. For instance, you could make an automated monthly donation to NPR or The Adventure Project — just put a reminder in your calendar so that you keep your bank account in good order.

$10 a month may not be much to you. But, it can truly make all the difference in the world for those in need.

7. Be Informed

What are you passionate about? Whatever it is, learn as much about the topic as possible during your downtime.

Let’s say that this is climate change. You should keep informed via sources like Nature Climate Change; the “Ask NASA” website, CleanTechnica. You could also listen to podcasts, watch TED Talks, or attend online events.

The more you know, the more you can educate others or find ways to make a difference.

8. Get Involved Politically

No matter your political affiliation, always go out and vote both locally and naturally. I would search for election dates in your neck of the woods so that you can mark your calendar to prevent forgetting. Remember, there are way more elections out there than the Presidential Election that takes place every four years.

But, there’s more you can do besides casting your ballot. You could volunteer for a campaign, like phone banking, knocking on doors, or registering new voters. And, keep politicians accountable by contacting them or attending town hall events.

9. Use Your Voice

Do you disagree with how a brand treats its employees? Send them an email voicing your concerns. Is a company polluting the environment or abusing animals? Let others know through social media and in-person conversations.

You might think that this is time-consuming. These are all actions you could take when batching tasks like cleaning out your inbox or updating your social channels.

10. Conduct an Energy Audit

An energy audit is pretty self-explanatory. It’s when you go through your home or workplace to find out where it’s losing energy so that you can correct this problem. While there are professionals who can do this, you can schedule to do this on your own by:

  • Finding and sealing air leaks coming through doors, windows, or gaps along the baseboard.
  • Checking insulation levels in the ceiling and walls.
  • Annually inspecting heating and cooling equipment.
  • Estimating the energy use of your appliances.
  • Switching to more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Replacing your old bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

11. Create Reminders to Power Down

“All things plugged in will bleed some energy,” writes Vanessa Vadim for Treehugger. “Called ‘standby’ electricity loss because it’s so often associated with electronics in standby or idle mode, it’s also known as ‘phantom’ or ‘vampire” electricity.’”

But, what if you turn off all of your appliances. Doesn’t matter. They’re still drawing power.

“The Natural Resources Defense Council says the cost of plugged-in but not used devices is about $165 per household or $19 billion across the U.S.,” adds Vadim. “That amounts to about 44 million tons of carbon dioxide, or 4.6% of the country’s total residential electricity generation, points out The New York Times.”

One way to resolve this would be powering down and unplugging the electronics you use at work before leaving. If you usually “clock-out” by 5 p.m., then spend the last 30-minutes organizing your workspace and flipping off your power strip. And, you can do the same thing before bed in your home.

Suppose you know that you won’t be home or in the office for an extended period, add a calendar reminder. For instance, if you’re leaving at 9 a.m., then receive a reminder 15-minutes before so that you can turn off the lights and unplug unnecessary appliances.

12. Set the Ideal Temperature

Thermostat wars are fairly commonplace at both home and the workplace. However, constantly fiddling with the temperature doesn’t just cause rifts between family members and colleagues. It can also impact everything from your sleep to productivity. And, it’s also detrimental to the environment.

The answer? Install an automatic thermostat and set it at the right temperature at the right time. For example, the Helsinki University of Technology’s Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning state that the ideal temperature for the “typical” office is around 71.6 F. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), however, recommends keeping the thermostat between 68 and 76 F.

Regardless of your exact preference, keep the workplace comfortable so that you aren’t shivering or sweating. At the end of the day, though, crank down the heat or turn up the air so that you aren’t wasting energy when no one is around.

Better yet? Invest in a smart thermostat. It will learn your patterns and adjust accordingly. You can also sync these devices with your calendar. For instance, you can connect your Google Calendar with Google Home/Nest to control the temperature of your residence or workplace from anywhere.

Moreover, Project Drawdown anticipates that “smart thermostats could grow from 3 percent to 58-63 percent of households with Internet access by 2050.” If so, this means “1,453-1,589 million homes would have them,” and it could avoid 7.0-7.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

13. Reduce Unnecessary Mail

41 pounds. That’s how much junk mail the average American receives each year. In order to produce that much requires the cutting down of between 80 and 100 million trees annually!

Besides the environmental impact, junk mail is annoying and sometimes time-consuming if you happen to the type of person who reads every correspondence they receive. To stop this, you can:

  • Opt-out of credit card and insurance offers via OptOutPrescreen.com.
  • To stop receiving unwanted direct mail, register on the National Do Not Mail List.
  • Opt-out of catalogs and magazine subscriptions by contacting Catalog Choice, CoxTarget, or Publishers Clearing House (800.645.9242 or [email protected]) and Readers Digest (800.310.6261).
  • Directly ask for your name to be removed from the mailing lists of companies or nonprofits.
  • Download the PaperKarma app. Just snap a pic of the piece of mail, select the name or address you want removed, and press unsubscribe. Easy peasy.

And, even though it’s not junk mail, make sure that you go paperless. As opposed to receiving monthly statements and mailing payments, you can do all of this online.

14. Prepare Your Meals

“Today, an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste,” notes the World Wildlife Fund. “That’s equal to about 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains that either never leave the farm, get lost or spoiled during distribution, or are thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens.” That’s “enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet.”

“But wasted food isn’t just a social or humanitarian concern—it’s an environmental one,” adds the WWF. “When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.”

It’s actually estimated that roughly “11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food. In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.”

To prevent food waste, plan your meal ahead. For example, you could spend Sundaymorning coming up with a menu for the week. When you go to the store, this ensures that you’ll only buy what you need. And, then you can actually prepare your meals.

I’ve gotten into the habit of this. And, I’m a fan. It’s a type of batching where I don’t have to do much cooking throughout the week. Even though I enjoy cooking, this saves me time, money and even has reduced the packing waste.

As for leftovers? I either freeze them or get creative. For instance, if I’m on day three of veggie chili, I make chili quesadillas out of them to have something different. The rest is in my freezer, ready to be thawed on one of those cold and dreary days we tend to have in the Northeast during the winter.

Bonus points if you make a weekly trip to a local farmer’s market. If that’s not an option, most markets are seasonal around me, look into produce subscription boxes like Misfits Market, Imperfect Foods, Farm Fresh to You, Farmbox Direct, and Farm to People.

15. Regularly Eat Together as a Family (or Team)

Growing up, my family ate together—6 o’clock sharp. No exceptions. As we got older, this became less frequent. But, we still had Sunday dinner.

As a kid, this might have been frustrating. Why would I want to sit down to eat when I could be playing outside or hanging out with my friends. Little did I know, eating together as a family was key in keeping us connected.

It turns out that throughout the years, research backs this assertion up.

While it doesn’t have to be dinner, having meals together is beneficial as it:

  • Teaches children better eating habits. In fact, teens ate more fruits and veggies, and less fast food and sugary beverages, if they ate with their family.
  • It can prevent psychosocial issues. These include eating disorders, substance abuse, and depression.
  • Curtails weight problems later in life. Even just gathering once or twice a week can help protect children from weight problems as adults.
  • Improves children’s self-esteem. During meals, children can talk about themselves, which in turn, makes them feel more self-confident.
  • Bolsters communication skills. Between socialization and conversations, children can become better communicators.
  • It helps kids bounce back from cyberbullying. With more guidance from their parents, kids experience setbacks from cyberbullying like anxiety.
  • It can be used to supplement family therapy. If a family is seeing a therapist, meals provide an opportunity to share the lessons learned.

Before it gets filled up, schedule regular mealtimes with your family in your calendar. It’s a surefire way to avoid conflicts. Plus, it makes planning easier since you can build your schedule around family time.

Moreover, if you’re leading a team, try to have regular lunches together — even if they’re virtual. Studies have found that groups who have lunches together have higher morale and productivity.

16. Shop Locally

What happens when you shop locally? Well, here are 10 positive outcomes courtesy of Independent We Stand:

  • “For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community.” That’s only $43 at a national chain.
  • You’re embracing what makes your community unique.
  • You’re creating “jobs for teachers, firemen, police officers, and many other essential professions.”
  • “Buying from a locally owned business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging.”
  • It nurtures the community since it’s been found that “local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.”
  • You’re reinvesting your tax-dollars back into the community.
  • There are more products and services geared for your specific area.
  • You can actually get friendly, expert advice.
  • You’re supporting local entrepreneurship.
  • It helps make your community become a destination.

Where’ your calendar come into play? Well, you could mark it for dates like Small Business Saturday or when there will be sales events throughout the year. Or, you could build this into your schedule. If your farmer’s market is only open on the weekend, then do all of your local shopping on Saturday or Sunday.

17. Run Errands At Once

Piggybacking off that last point, reduce your carbon footprint by doing all of your errands in one shot. Let’s say that you have Tuesday afternoon wide open. Since you have the availability, block that timeframe out so that you can buy groceries, pick-up your dry cleaning, or fill your car up with gas — as opposed to running back-and-forth throughout the week.

As an additional perk, you’ll also save valuable time. And, this could be a chance to spend quality time with a family member or friend — which can help you achieve work-life integration.

18. Walk or Bike

Getting outside and getting the blood pumping is a win-win for your overall health and wellbeing. But, if you have spare time and the weather is cooperating, leave your car at home when running errands. While not always possible if you have a car full of groceries, if you need to pick-up items at a farm stand, this is beneficial for you, the local economy, and the environment.

19. Extend the Life of Your Lithium Battery

“One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries,” Christina Valimaki, an analyst at Elsevier, told Wired. Consequently, mining operations are impacting local communities, such as those who grow quinoa and herd llamas in Chile.

What’s more, this process can “scar the landscape” and cause toxic chemicals to bleed into water supplies. As if that weren’t bad enough, some mining operations rely on child labor.

Since it’s futile to give-up our lithium battery addiction, we can at least extend the life of our current batteries so that we aren’t constantly replacing them. The easiest way? Not letting your battery completely drain.

“Try to keep batteries charged at an average 50% or above most of the time — at the very least somewhere between 40% and 80% — to preserve an optimal life span,” suggests Jackie Dove and Paula Beaton for Digital Trends. “Even though your charger can control electronic input to prevent damage, you should unplug the phone when power hits 100% and, if possible, avoid overnight charging.”

You can achieve this by putting your phone on airplane mode when you’re working, eating, or sleeping. Other recommendations are keeping your apps up-to-date, removing apps/widgets you don’t use, dimming your screen, using dark wallpaper, and disabling location services.

20. Frequently Check-In With Others

During your morning or evening routine, check-in with a family member, friend, or colleague. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a simple text message or a quick phone call letting them know that they’re on your mind.

Just checking in on others strengthens relationships, improves your health, and can help you become more comfortable opening up. Most importantly, this can help them overcome any issues that they’re struggling with. Or, at the very least, it can provide a healthy distraction.

The good people over at I Don’t Mind have ten questions you should ask during your check-in. And, after you’ve opened up the lines of communication, schedule a video call and put it in your calendar for a more in-depth convo.

21. Take a Vacation

Vacations are a proven way to improve your life satisfaction, productivity, and both your mental and physical health. It can spark creativity, give you new perspectives, and allows you to bond with others.

While that’s great for you and your relationships, traveling could also support local economies — especially those that have suffered from events like natural disasters. You could also volunteer while abroad. And, there are even options from companies like Responsible Travel that support communities and preserve nature.

If you can’t get away because of COVID or your schedule won’t allow it, plan a staycation. It may not be the same. But, this still gives you a chance to unwind, spend time with those closest to you, and back to your local community.

22. Add Holidays and Observances

Finally, open up your calendar and add lesser-known holidays and observations. Why? Because this allows you to observe and spread awareness on worthwhile causes thoughtfully. Some suggestions are:

Beware of Toxic Productivity

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Beware of Toxic Productivity

It may seem like a modern concept — but we’ve been striving for productivity for centuries. For example, one of the earliest mentions of productivity can be found in the classic economics text Wealth of Nations, written by Adam Smith in 1776.

What’s more, Benjamin Franklin came up with the first to-do-list in 1791. Even the day planner has been around since 1850. But, in the 21st Century, technology has almost made us obsessed with productivity.

Don’t believe me? Google “productivity” for the heck of it. You’ll get around 561,000,000 results!

On a daily basis, we’re bombarded with tools and hacks that promise to make us more productive. The problem is that eventually, we get burned out.

Then, the pandemic hit. For many of us, that meant we had “extra” time on our hands. With a scrapped daily commute, blank social calendar, and nothing else to do, we could be even more productive.

To make matters worse, this is what we were advised to by experts. Our social feeds were filled to the brim with people who suddenly became bakers, musicians, or contractors. There was no longer an excuse not to get things done.

What is toxic productivity?

“It’s tough enough to be productive in the best of times, let alone when we’re in a global crisis,” Chris Bailey, a productivity consultant and the author of “Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction.” told The New York Times.

“The idea that we have so much time available during the day now is fantastic, but these days it’s the opposite of luxury,” he said. “We’re home because we have to be home, and we have much less attention because we’re living through so much.”

Next thing you know, you have new responsibilities and obligations. Eventually, you feel so overwhelmed that it’s like your underwater. And, you actually have less time to kick back and relax.

Even worse? You might have felt like a failure if you weren’t making the most of every minute in lockdown.

“It’s called toxic productivity,” explains expert nurse Emma Selby, clinical lead at health & fitness brand Results Wellness Lifestyle. “It can be defined as an obsession with radical self-improvement above all else.”

“Ultimately, it’s an unachievable goal,” adds Selby. Regardless “matter how productive you are, the result you are left with is a feeling of guilt for not having done ‘more.’”

Obviously, that’s counterproductive. More concerning is that this can impact your health and wellbeing during these uncertain times.

The signs of toxic productivity.

Not all productivity is toxic. Throughout the pandemic, a lot of us figured out how to get more done in less time. How so? By finally identifying our priorities and not dealing with distractions like in-person meetings.

A study from Prodoscore actually found that calendar time had dropped almost 23% vs. the year prior. However, from May to August 2020, productivity levels were up 5% when compared to 2019.

The downside? People were working through the weekend. The study reports that “year over year from May through August, employees are working 42% more on Saturdays and 24% more on Sundays in 2020 than in 2019.”

And, the latter is an example of toxic productivity. But, since this is different for everyone, here are some common red flags to determine if your productivity is toxic.

  • It’s impacted your mental health. You feel more anxious, depressed, or restless.
  • You’ve forgotten obligations and personal responsibilities. Examples include not remembering a family member’s birthday or skipping your workout, a healthy meal, or a good night’s sleep.
  • Your relationships have become stained. Are you not fully “present” when interacting with others? Have you been told that you’re working too much? Have you alienated those closest to you, like not responding to texts or making time for them?
  • You have unrealistic expectations. For instance, putting in a normal 8-day for work when you also have to homeschool your kids.
  • Feeling like you’re on the verge of burnout. Usually, this involves feeling less energetic and focused.
  • Attaching self-worth to hours worked. Just because you worked for 8-hours doesn’t mean you were productive. In fact, if you work more than 55 hours per week, productivity begins to drop sharply.

How to avoid toxic productivity.

Have you noticed any of the toxic productivity signs listed above? If you answered yes, don’t fret. There are simple ways to put a stop to toxic productivity before it interferes with your health, work performance, and relationships.

1. Don’t be productive, be smart.

Productivity is focusing on things that matter most to you. It’s those baby steps you’re taking to reach a goal. And, certainly not trying to keep with what you’re friends are posting on social media.

In short, don’t be productive just for the sake of being productive. Instead, be smarter and do more in less time by;

  • Scheduling your most important work about your internal clock.
  • Use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage, like cutting deadlines in half or gamifying tasks.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule so that you’re focusing on the vital few.
  • Manage your energy, not your time.
  • Stop chasing perfection and think done.
  • Re-use previous materials.
  • Keep tabs on your emotional exhaustion.
  • Keep your saw sharp by taking breaks and enhancing your skills.
  • Set your ideal schedule and then work backward.

2. Adjust your goals and expectations.

I’ve enjoyed working from home — and for some people, they’re actually mote productive without commuting, meetings, and talkative co-workers.

At the same time, there also days when you aren’t going to get as much done at home. You may have children to take care of or catch-up on household chores. There will be certain tasks that you literally can not do at home since you don’t have the right tools or equipment.

Additionally, there’s only so much you can actually do in one day. Don’t overcommit yourself. And, be honest about what you can realistically accomplish.

3. Redefine what breaks are.

Taking breaks doesn’t mean that slacking off. These are vital if you want to stay fresh and rejuvenated. Besides, there are perks to being lazy every now and then.

Besides taking frequent breaks throughout the day, disconnect on the weekend. And, if you feel like you need a personal day, go ahead and take it.

4. Embrace simplicity.

“Whether you call it minimalism, Kondo-ing, or simple living, there are certainly benefits to this type of lifestyle,” writes Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. “Mainly, saving time and money. But, it’s also good for your health and productivity.”

Rather than adding more to your life, scale things back. When you do, you’ll enjoy the following perks;

  • Having blank spots in your calendar allows time for self-reflection.
  • You’ll reduce decision fatigue.
  • You’ll finally have the chance to engage in self-care.
  • There will be fewer misplaced items.
  • It removes friction and conflicts from your life.
  • It strengthens relationships, focus, and effectiveness.
  • You’ll have a clean and organized home and workspace.

5. Establish clearly defined boundaries.

It’s not always possible. But, try to stick to a routine where you have a clear working and non-working hours. Even if your schedule is flexible or changing, leave work at work when you’re done.

Of course, this is a challenge. However, it’s not impossible. You could designate tech-free zones in your home, put your phone on “do not disturb,” set time limits on email, or ask a family member to hold you accountable.

6. Focus on positive self-talk.

“Do you define your sense of self-worth by how productive you are?” asks Dr. Therese Mascardo, Founder of the L.A. Digital Nomads, and CEO and founder of Exploring Therapy. “If so, you may find yourself caught in a cycle of chasing accomplishments that give you a temporary sense of worth until that wears off and you need yet another accomplishment to make you feel valuable.”

“To heal your self-talk, start seeing that your value is not in what you produce or accomplish, but in who you are,” advises Dr. Mascardo.

“Ask yourself, ‘Would I have these same expectations for someone I care for deeply?’” No? “Then you shouldn’t have these expectations for yourself, either.”

In fact, get into the habit of talking to yourself like you would a friend. And, if you’re really struggling with self-talk, get support from a therapist. They can help “you heal toxic narratives that have kept you stuck in a cycle of addiction to productivity.”

7. Don’t compare yourselves to others.

Social media is always a two-edged weapon,” writes business analyst Man To Ip. “On one hand, social media like LinkedIn allow us to explore opportunities like never before. With the help of these tools, it is way easier nowadays to expand our network and get the latest information from companies.”

On the other hand? “These platforms promote a kind of competition among peers or even among strangers.”

“During this lockdown period, it is common to see that many people posting what online courses they have finished, what skills they have picked up, or generally ‘how they have used this period wisely,’” he adds. “Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that we should not equip ourselves with various skills or we should not give advice to other people.”

“Overall, these feeds have no problem at all, but toxic productivity comes in when we over-compare ourselves with others because of this information. It is, of course, good to have done five online courses in a month, but by no means you are a ‘loser’ simply because you have just done three courses instead of five.”

Motivation Secrets of Productive People

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Motivation Secrets of Productive People

Make no mistake about it. Motivation will increase your productivity.

“Motivation and productivity are twin concepts in organizational development,” wrote Kristina Dems for Bright Hub.

“First, motivation works as the means toward attaining productivity as an end. Another point: Motivation is the best road to follow to reach productivity as a favorable effect. Lastly, motivation is the stimulus to trigger productivity as a response.”

Think about how this effects you and effects your life. When you’re not feeling motivated, you’re not going to accomplish much. That’s because you don’t have the drive to get things done.

And, to put it lightly, that sucks.

Now you’re behind on your planned goals or a task, which means you’re going to get behind another and another. Eventually, everything starts to pile-up. With no end in sight, you become even less motivated.

That’s why the most productive people employ the following motivation secrets to guarantee that they’re always ahead of the game.

1. When plans are made, they anticipate obstacles.

Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University, in New York City, conducted a study in 2009 that compared two groups of women who wanted to be more active. The groups were both provided information on how to live a healthy lifestyle.

However, the second group was also taught how to foresee obstacles by using if-then statements. For example, if they wanted to jog, but the weather is poor, then what will you do? The women would say, “if it’s snowing, then I’ll go to the gym and use the treadmill.”

Suffice it to say, the second group fared far better.

Gollwitzer concluded that those who plan for obstacles are more likely to follow through on projects. This is because they don’t have any excuses for completing the task at hand.

2. They “don’t break the chain.”

Years ago software developer Brad Isaac asked Jerry Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comedian. Seinfeld told him that the only way to become a better comic was to create better jokes. And the only way to create better jokes was to write daily.

But, that was just scratching the surface. Ultimately, the legendary comic unveiled his unique calendar system that kept him motivated every day.

Jerry told Isaac to get a huge wall calendar “that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.” Then, go get a red magic maker.

He told Isaac that for each day he writes to to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” Seinfeld said again for emphasis.

Isaac says that this “works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes.” And, those daily actions build habits.

3. Live life from their calendars.

According to The Busy Person’s Guide to the Done List, by Janet Choi and Walter Chen of iDoneThis:

  • 41 percent of to-do list items are never completed.
  • 50 percent of to-do list items are completed within a day, many within the first hour of being written down.

Why is this the case when so many people swear by to-do-lists?

For starters, tasks on your to-do-lists are distinguished between those that only take a couple of minutes and those will last hours. Additionally, they emphasize the urgent instead of the important. And, they can add unnecessary stress.

Because of these reasons, highly productive people don’t use to-dos. They live from their calendars instead.

“Use a calendar and schedule your entire day into 15-minute blocks,” says Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of The Art of Charm. “It sounds like a pain, but this will set you up in the 95th percentile as far as organization goes.”

“If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get done. If it’s on the calendar, it gets done no matter what. Use this not just for appointments, but workouts, calls, email blocks, etc.”

4. They don’t multitask.

Despite the myths, multitasking doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, it slows you down. This is because your brain is switching tasks and focus, which means it takes you longer to complete tasks.

In order to stay productive, you need to focus on thing at a time. Due’s Miranda Marquit uses the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused on one specific task at a time. This also boosts productivity since you’re dedicating your mental energy on one specific item.

As a perk, since you’re giving this one task 110 percent, chances are that there will be fewer mistakes. This means you won’t have to back and fix your errors, you can just move onto to something else.

5. Not controlled by technology.

“I was a Division I college athlete, and I grew up with five brothers and two sisters. I’ve always been a competitor. [But] I’ve learned that productivity should not be a competitive sport. You’re never going to win,” Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, tells Fast Company.

“I am responsible for almost 80,000 people. I prioritize people over tasks. One Note allows me to put different tasks [involving] each of my executive-team members in a tab. That way when I talk to them, I can be more effective, because the five things I want to talk to them about [are right there].”

“If I looked at email and Twitter and texts [during the day], I don’t think I would ever give my full attention to anything. You cannot be insightful if you’re deluged with information.”

Engelbert adds, “We’re all drowning in data. We all need moments of recovery. For me, that includes not going right to my phone when I wake up in the morning. I got on a plane about six months ago, and I forgot my phone. For two days, I didn’t have my phone, and nobody died.”

Her final words of advice? “Technology should help you do your job, not control your job.”

6. They use a notebook.

Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Sheryl Sandberg all carry a notebook around. The reason? They rely on pen and paper to keep track of and remember all of their thoughts and ideas.

“I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t had a pen on hand to write down my ideas as soon as they came to me,” Branson wrote in a blog post.

“You think you’ll remember, but you won’t, and you’ll forfeit all the thoughts that flood you after you’ve freed your mind from remembering the initial spark,” adds Drew Hanson.

For Sandberg, she uses a notebook as a kind of daily planner. She jots down her to-do lists. Once she’s accomplished those items, she rips the pages out of her notebook. It’s a simple way to stay motivated for staying on track.

7. They work backwards from the future.

Steve Jobs once asked, “If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

“If too many days passed by with the answer being ‘no,’ he’d adjust his lifestyle until he hit a consistent yes,” explains HubSpot’s Scott Tousley. “This forced Steve to define long-term goals and stay motivated.”

This may sound drab, but the most productive people “think about the end of their lives,” which helps them define their legacy.

With this in mind, they then “work backwards to achieve those goals.”

“This touches on the psychological theories and models of motivation. If we’re driven by a purpose, we’re more likely to work extra hard,” says Tousley.

But, how does starting with your purpose keep you productive and motivated?

Starting with a purpose or “personal mission statement,” leads to the creation of long-term goals. Long-term goals lead to smaller goals, which create to-do-lists.

So, if you want to productive like Steve Job, define your purpose first and everything else will fall into place.

8. They’re friends with time.

Really productive people, or RPPs as Marie Forleo calls them, are friends with time. In other words, “they don’t look at time as the enemy.”

If you do, you’ll end-up always struggling with productivity and motivation. And, this makes sense. Whenever you could something the “enemy” it’s only going to end-up being a source of pain.

Instead, make time your ally. You can start by ditching time-stealing habits like multitasking and procrastination. You can achieve by practicing:

  • Mindfulness. This will help you focus on one task at a time.
  • Acceptance. Concentrating only on what you can control.
  • Authenticity. This encourages self-management since it helps you decide what to do and when to do it.

9. They create theme days.

Want to know how Jack Dorsey juggles all of his obligations at Twitter and Square? He creates theme days. Here’s what Jack said about this in 2011:

“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company, the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.”

How has that schedule help Jack work eight hours at both companies?

The first reason the schedule works is that it establishes a rhythm. You know what to expect every day because you’ve created a routine to keep you focused.

Secondly, it challenges you to complete tasks on certain deadlines. If you record a podcast every Tuesday like John Lee Dumas, then you know that you have the podcast prepared by that day.

Finally, it batches similar tasks together. This keeps you productive since it streamlines activity and eliminates distractions.

10. Bring optimism and fun back into the picture.

This may sound hokey, but research shows that the key to motivation is bringing optimism and fun.

Ron Siegel, a psychology professor at Harvard University, explains:

“Our modern brains are still wired up for the ancient evolutionary purpose of surviving in a dangerous environment. Over a million years or so, we developed specialized neural structures that selectively tuned in to danger signals. The prospect of getting attacked necessarily outranked all other neurological priorities.”

And, unfortunately, we still go into that survival mode. Instead of thinking about the pleasurable and rewarding experience of conquering a task, we focus on anxiety and fear.

For example, you just started a new business. You’re probably dwelling more on the fear of failure instead of the excitement of improving your community.

The best way to overcome this? Create basic two-columned pros and cons list so you can notice that the joys outweigh any fears or anxieties. When you actually see the positive, you’ll get yourself out of the rut you’re headed into.

As Rick Steves has written, “Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something is not to your liking, change your liking.”

Busy vs Productive: 9 Ways To Be Productive, Not Busy

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Busy vs Productive: 9 Ways To Be Productive, Not Busy

I recently caught up with an old friend. The first thing he asked was, “How are things goin’?” I replied, “Busy.” That “busy” response was automatic, and I’d even say it’s probably the most common response anyone would receive from entrepreneurs and professionals. For me, the statement also happens to be true, and my team members have also been hard at work Calendar. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have you ever asked yourself if you’re merely acting “busy?” If you’re looking busy just to be a pretender — is that a bad thing? I would respond, “yes,” just being busy (as a pretender) is a “bad” thing. If you’re juggling multiple tasks, like responding to emails and being active on social media — business productivity is not made up of these types of careless actions. Admit to yourself that you’re staying busy under the guise of being productive, and these actions will not help you move closer to your goals. In short, you’re just wasting your time.

To make sure that you’re not falling into the “busy for nothing” trap — here are nine ways you can help yourself be productive. As a result, you’ll be more effective at work and will have the time to focus on what matters most in your life.

1. Identify what is important and necessary.

Busy people are known for jumping quickly on every assignment. They have no hesitation in accepting requests for their time — and people love them for that. The thing is when you’re continually putting out fires you end-up focusing on things that are urgent, but not essential.

If your choice is to be involved in the crucial but not critical — have a clear understanding of what you are doing. These actions will have you failing to meet deadlines and you won’t reach your goals. Productive people can identify what is important and necessary. They make the most important things a priority over the things that can either wait or that don’t have a deadline.

2. Optimize your organization.

Are you so busy that you don’t have time to sit down for five minutes and do nothing? Even people who are running multiple businesses aren’t that busy. The truth is that you’re just not organized. There’s a vast difference in the mental processing of the person who is ahead of deadlines and someone who is perpetually late.

Instead of running around frantically — productive people have a solid organization strategy. The key is finding the methods, techniques, and tools that work best for you. Some of my personal favorites are:

  • Creating a simple to-do-list with no more than three “most important tasks” (MITs).
  • Using to-do list apps, such as Wunderlist or Todoist, to organize and share my lists.
  • Automating recurring tasks. Automate using Buffer or Hootsuite for social media updates, canned email responses, or chatbots for customers service. Calendar can make smart scheduling suggestions and there are also tools that can send out recurring invoices.
  • If you create content for your business, then you need an editorial calendar and template. The editorial calendar and template will keep your company’s marketing goals on track.
  • Rely on proven time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique. It helps break down larger projects into smaller chunks and will remind you to take breaks.
  • In the kitchen, a chef has a system called mise en place.” This chef system is a process they use to arrange all of their ingredients and tools before cooking. This prep-work helps account for their time, prevents looking for misplaced items, and helps them concentrate. I like laying out my clothes the night before work and having all tools (computer, cords, materials) in the bag ready to leave.

3. Create a system to minimize distractions.

You’re in your office preparing for a meeting. You hear an email notification go off on your phone. Instead of ignoring it — you stop what you’re doing and read the email. Now you’ve lost your train-of-thought and can’t get-back-on-track for a couple of seconds. These seconds and microseconds add up over time to a lot of distraction.

Distraction is a common occurrence with busy people. They allow themselves to get distracted.

Those who are productive, however, have created a system and put it in place to reduce distractions. For example, they work on their most important tasks in the morning. During this time they close their door and turn-off smartphone notifications. When completed, they have a specific amount of time dedicated to mundane tasks like email.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Another difference between productive people and those who are not — is that busy people get lost in minor details. Productive individuals focus on macro issues. As long as you get from A to B efficiently, it doesn’t matter the exact route you took. It just matters that you got there.

Skip striving for perfection and obsessing over every little detail. Focus on hitting key milestones that help you achieve your objectives.

5. Say “yes” strategically.

Busy folks rarely say “no.” They say “yes” to most requests — whether that’s taking on a new assignment or RSVPing to a party. “Yes-ing” everything will eventually pack a schedule with things that do little to improve a persons’ lives.

Productive people are more strategic with their time. They know that saying “yes” is a time commitment that prevents them from focusing on priorities. They will only say “yes” to requests if it helps them achieve their goals. If their value goals are not being pursued, they’ll politely say “no.”

6. Be willing to make sacrifices.

There’s a belief that as entrepreneurs or business owners you have to sacrifice things like spending time with family or doing the hobbies that we’re passionate about doing. There may be some truth to that if you want to be busy 24/7.

Productive people are willing to make sacrifices if that gives them more time to rest, spend with the people who matter most and pursue interests like a side-hustle. Establishing “business” and “out-of-office” hours helps to reserve needed quality time. Examples would be unplugging on the weekends and quitting committees or organizations that are not building you in some manner.

Some people may not get you and you may even frustrate others when you’re not available on a Saturday afternoon. But, you’ll feel less hurried, overwhelmed, and stressed. Most importantly, it ensures that you aren’t neglecting your own self-care and priorities.

7. Surround yourself with productive people.

A 2014 study found that friends can influence our choices. Depending on your friends, that could be either good or bad.

For example, productive people surround themselves with those who encourage, support and motivate them. These productive people are usually competent with their goals. On the other hand, busy people surround themselves with those who indulge them. It may be fun to veg out and watch movies all day, but that is rarely the best use of your time.

8. Weigh the pros and cons before jumping on a trend.

Whether it’s the latest social or business trend, busybodies are all over it and that’s not always the worst thing in the world. But, these trends may not have enough lasting value. As a result, busybodies spend time jumping from trend-to-trend.

Before jumping on any bandwagon, productive people will weigh the pros and cons of the trend. If it’s not providing value or improving lives, then the direction isn’t worth the time or financial investment.

For example, it seems like everyone wants to have their own podcast or YouTube channel. People are making a fortune with this type of content. However, if you take a step back, you’ll realize that it’s only a small fraction of people who are making money on these channels. Are these channels the type that would help you with your career or life goals?

9. Be honest about your progress.

At the end of the day ask yourself if you had an incredibly busy day without any rhyme or reason? Or did the work you did today bring you closer to your goals? This honest introspection should become a daily ritual. Asking yourself these questions about your productivity and will help you put your work in perspective. You’ll be able to differentiate between what’s a priority and what’s not.

Questioning yourself will give you an opportunity to think about what went well with your day and what didn’t — giving you the opportunity to make adjustments going forward.

12 Productivity Hacks You Probably Aren’t Using

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Sometimes the conventional wisdom and obvious advice that you’ve heard a million times doesn’t cut it when need a major productivity boost. During these times you might need to think outside the box and use the following 12 productivity hacks to get you back-on-track.

Sometimes the conventional wisdom and obvious advice that you’ve heard a million times doesn’t cut it when need a major productivity boost. During these times you might need to think outside the box and use the following 12 productivity hacks to get you back-on-track.

1. Work when you’re most effective.

“Everyone has times of the day when they are more efficient. They also have times of the day when they tend to drag their feet,” writes Max Palmer in a previous Calendar article. “If you want to maximize your effectiveness throughout the day you need to identify your peak hours.”

After you’ve identified when you’re more effective, “it’s time to optimize your schedule,” adds Max. “The tasks that require the most concentration need to be taken care of when you’re at your best.”

For example, if you’re at your peak between nine am to noon, and you’re a freelance writer, then that’s when you should writing your most important, challenging, and undesirable assignments.

Once you’ve eaten that frog, you can tackle those smaller, more enjoyable, and less important writing gigs.

2. Unsubscribe and unfollow.

Our tastes change frequently throughout life. For instance, if you got into Crossfit several years ago you probably started following trainers on social media, signed-up for newsletters and purchased the proper gear and Paleo cookbooks.

Today, however, your body can’t handle Crossfit. Now all of those newsletters and feeds aren’t relevant to you. But, they’re still filling-up your inbox and feed.

Take a couple of minutes to unsubscribe and unfollow newsletters and feeds that are no longer providing you with value. This way you won’t be spending as much time maintaining your email and social accounts since it’s lean and mean.

I would do this at least once a month so that your inbox and social feeds don’t become too cluttered.

3. Work from a communal space.

Most of us can’t focus when there’s a conversation right next to us. You can forget about getting any deep work done when that jackhammer is going to town on the sidewalk in front of your office. As a result, we tend to lock ourselves in a completely silent office.

The fact, however, is that ambient noise can actually make you more productive.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found ambient noise of 70 decibels increased productivity more than relative quiet.

So if you work from home relocate to a co-working space. Instead of shutting your office door spend a couple of hours at your favorite coffee shop. The white noise, vibe, and java will keep you going.

4. Use a treadmill desk.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people raving about the benefits of standing desks. But, how about you take that to the next level with a treadmill desk?

Researchers at the University of Queensland found that standing up while you work and walking on a treadmill desk reduces stress and boosts productivity.

Lead researcher Nicholas Gilson, an associate professor with the university’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, said in a press release, “We found people who use activity-promoting desks were more able to focus on urgent tasks, avoid non-urgent tasks and manage stress better than people sitting at a desk all day.”

Dr. Gilson added, “The workers who used sit-stand or walking desks allocated attention most effectively and had lower levels of cortisol – known as the “stress hormone” – in their saliva.”

You can purchase a new treadmill desk, like the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5, on Amazon for just over $1,500. You could also purchase workstation to go with your existing treadmill or, if you’re creative, you can probably build your own for a couple of hundred bucks.

5. Create a mini-crisis.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this all-of-the-time, but there are moments when we work best under pressure. Let’s say that you’re heading out-of-town for a business trip or family vacation. I can guarantee that the week leading up to your departure you’re going to be hustling so that you don’t have to worry about work while you’re away.

You can recreate this sensation by blocking out less time than you think you’ll actually need to complete a task. Instead of blocking out three hours for writing, cut it down to two. Instead of an hour dedicated to emails, spend only 30-minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll get accomplished when you have less time to spend on a specific task.

6. Sleepless.

This doesn’t mean that you should only get four hours of sleep per night. After all, quality sleep ensures that you’ll have enough energy to make it through the day.

This means that you don’t need to sleep for eight or more hours every night.

Clinical studies show that we only need 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Imagine what you can do with that extra hour or two of time instead of sleeping.

7. Optimize your workspace.

It’s no secret that maintaining a proper workspace boosts productivity, creativity, and energy. But, how many of us actually take the time to optimize our workspaces?

You can start today by making these quick workspace changes:

  • Invest in ergonomic furniture — particularly your office chair. It can be a bit pricey, but it’s worth it if you want to become more efficient while remaining comfortable.
  • Clean and organize your workspace. This means putting stacks of paper away, cleaning-up messy computer cables, and placing everything back where they belong so you can find them when needed.
  • Locate your workspace to a spot where you’re exposed to natural light. If there aren’t any sunny spots, purchase a full spectrum light.
  • Put some live plants in your workspace. They purify the air and come with psychological benefits that can boost productivity.
  • Face your workspace towards the door. Having your back to the door can make you feel insecure.

I’d also add that you set your workspace to the right temperature. Researchers at Cornell have found that offices, where temperatures were 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, made 44 percent more mistakes. Offices at optimal room temperature, which is around 77 degrees Fahrenheit, made fewer errors.

8. Listen to the right kind of music.

As mentioned above, white noise can increase your productivity. This also includes music. In fact, according to research from Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, those who listened to music while working not only completed their tasks faster, they also had better ideas.

The caveat here is that you have to listen to the right type of music. This includes classical, ambient soundtracks, video game music, epic music, and the sounds of nature.

[email protected] is a handy app that can boost your productivity by finding the right music to help you focus more.

9. Take a cold shower.

This may seem a little out there. But as noted by researchers at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, “Cold bathing is a common custom in many parts of the world.” In fact, humans have experimented with water temperature variation for centuries. “In ancient times, Roman bathing was based around the practice of moving through a series of heated rooms culminating in a cold plunge at the end.”

Modern research has found that taking a cold shower can strengthen your immunity and circulation, help you recover after exercise, and make you more alert and energized.

This doesn’t mean you have to take a 5-minute shower in freezing water either. You can start off with a warm shower and follow that by a 30, 60, or 90-second blast of cold water to get your day started.

10. Hydrate.

If you want to be at peak productivity, then you need to be fully hydrated.

It’s been found that even just a one percent drop in hydration can result in a 12 percent reduction in productivity! A three or four percent drop in hydration can lead to between 25 percent to 50 percent reduction in productivity.

To stay fully hydrated, make sure that you’re drinking at least two liters of water daily. Make sure to update this in your academic calendar as well!

11. Know exactly how long your breaks should be.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but we need to take breaks throughout the day. But, as As Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, perfectly explains, “Without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”

Studies have found that in the morning we can stay focused on a task for around 90 minutes before we start to lose focus. As such, we should then take a 20-minute break every 90 minutes. That makes sense it follows our natural body rhythms.

In the afternoon though, we should use the Pomodoro Technique where you work in 25-minute chunks and then take a five-minute break. When the fourth time comes around you take a 25-30 minute break. This works better in the afternoon since our biological rhythms have stabilized.

If that’s too much too figure out, break for 17 minutes every 52 minutes throughout the day. The idea is that we need frequent breaks throughout the day in order to stay focused and energized throughout the day.

12. Declutter your Calendar.

Do you wake-up in the morning, look at your calendar, and become instantly stressed? It’s probably because you’re calendar is too cluttered. And when you have too much planned in one day, it’s impossible to accomplish everything that needs to get done.

Take the time to clear the clutter from your calendar by:

  • Every night review your calendar and select only your top 3 priorities for tomorrow.
  • Review all of your recurring events and commitments. Some of these may no longer be valuable or fit into your schedule and may need to be removed.
  • Stop filling your calendar with tasks that only take a minute of your time.
  • Share your calendar with others so that everyone knows your availability.
  • Keep a separate calendar for work so that you’re calendar isn’t jam-packed with work and personal entries.
  • Stop saying “yes” to every request and invite.
  • Use a scheduling assistant, like Calendar, to eliminates those back-and-forth communications when scheduling appointments.

How Much Does Your Workspace Affect Your Productivity?

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How Much Does Your Workspace Affect Your Productivity?

Our physical environments have a major impact on our well-being. If you fall asleep in your bedroom with the lights on and the TV blasting do you think you’ll have a good night’s rest?

The same can be said about your workspace. If it’s filthy, cluttered and located in a dreary basement with no light — the likelihood of a highly productive day won’t be possible.

You want a place that gives off  happy, creative, and productive vibes. An office spot that inspires you. Simply put, your workspace needs to be optimized so that you can be more efficient and productive.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at how your workplace can affect your productivity. You can make the appropriate changes.

Desk Clutter

While a little clutter may encourage creativity, the fact of the matter is that cluttered workspaces are threatening your productivity.

For starters, when we have a messy and disorganized workplace it’s much harder to find items when you need them. For example, if you wrote down an important phone number on a post-it and it’s somewhere in a pile of papers, how much time will waste looking for it? Even worse, there’s a good possibility that it’s gone for good.

In case you’re curious, the average American spends 2.5 days annually looking for misplaced items. It also costs households a whooping $2.7 billion a year in replacement costs.

Secondly, neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that physical clutter negatively affects your focus and ability to process information. That’s because instead of focusing on the task at hand that workspace clutter is distracting you. What’s more, clutter like multitasking forces you to shift focus, overload your senses, reduces creative thinking, and makes you feel more stressed.

This doesn’t mean that your workspace needs to be Mr. Clean approved every day. It just means that it should be tidy and organized so that you can easily locate items when needed and eliminate being distracted.

If this is a challenge, here’s a couple of ways to get started:

  • File your documents and properly identify them using folders.
  • Trash any documents you no longer need.
  • Group notes by priority and chuck any notes pertaining to completed tasks.
  • Keep frequently used items nearby.
  • Give everything a home and return them when not being used.
  • Label items so that you can locate them when needed.

Background Noise

Unless you’re in solitude, there’s most likely going to be background noise from others talking. It could be your spouse on the phone while you’re working at home, a couple chit chatting next to you at the coffee shop, or co-workers gossiping next to your desk.

This isn’t just annoying and distracting, it’s also the hardest noise to tune out.

Here’s where this harms your productivity. You spend a lot of energy attempting to filter out this type of background noise. As a result, you deplete your executive functions faster and have to work harder than you have to. That’s definitely not good.

To block out background noise from others, try to find a quiet space when working on your most important and challenging tasks. If that’s not an option, then you might want to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones and download an app like Noisli or White Noise.

Lighting and Color

Did you know that Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors? That’s not just depressing, it also proves that we need more access to natural light.

Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, conducted a study that found that “workers in daylit office environments reported an 84 percent drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision symptoms, which can detract from productivity.”

Additionally, the study found that employees sitting next to a window reported a two percent increase in productivity.

“The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity,” said Hedge. “As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations.”

If you don’t have access to natural light work under “blue-enriched” light bulbs that are 17,000K. These bulbs can boost work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality, and alertness. Researchers at the University of Greenwich discovered that those working under “blue-enriched light bulbs” reported feeling “happier, more alert and had less eye strain.”

Besides proper lighting, choose the right color for your job. For instance, since red is stimulating it’s a great fit for those in physically-demanding jobs. Blue and green are calming and aids in concentration so it’s ideal for office workers. Yellow is perfect for innovators and entrepreneurs because it sparks creativity.

Add Plants and Artwork

One of the simplest, and most effective ways to optimize your workspace is by surrounding yourself with a plant or two. Researchshows that office plants can reduce stress, improve attention capacity, and help employees recover from demanding activities.

On top of surrounding yourself with plants, bring-in some artwork as well.

As Karen Higginbottom writes in Forbes, “Research by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier — they’re also up to 32 percent more productive.

Temperature

There was another study conducted by Cornell that found when employees are cold they make more mistakes, while warmer workers perform better.

To find this out, researchers recorded the amount of time employees in an insurance office keyboarded and the amount of time they spent correcting errors. For this specific study they used an environmental variable; temperature.

“At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate,” said our friend Alan Hedge.

“Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”

Ergonomics

“One of the surprising factors that can affect productivity is workplace ergonomics,” writes Kayla Sloan in a previous Calendar article. “Not everyone buys into the concept, but it truly does have an impact.”

This actually makes a lot of sense since ergonomics can help reduce health risks. Poorly designed workstations can definitely affect your back, hands, wrists, and joints. As a result you feel drained and are focused on how much you ache. Productivity can drop if you have little aches here and there. When this happens — you may not even know it’s pain because you have gotten so used to b being uncomfortable.

Here’s a couple of ways that you can change the ergonomic environments around in your office — even your home office:

  • Invest in an ergonomic chair.
  • Position your computer screen correctly by using a screen or laptop support.
  • Use a palm rest on your chair can help keep everything aligned when you are typing.
  • Keep your hand, wrist, and forearm aligned when using your mouse — the palm rest can help with this situation as well.
  • Use footrests so that you can rest your feet naturally. Much of the ergonomic sense is according to your height and weight.

Air Quality

Finally, after a 10 year study researchers at Columbia, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, San Diego found that air pollution like dust in the air, carbon emissions, and forest fires can lower productivity.

Plants and air filters can help improve the air quality in your workspace. However, if there is a pollutant that you can’t reduce, you may have to set-up shop in a location that has better air quality.

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