In the pursuit of efficiency, people often begin to schedule every free minute.
But often this does not help to achieve better results, but only drains them. To get more done without burning out, it's important to strike a balance between striving for efficiency and rest. Here are a few ways to find it.
Follow the daily routine
One or two sleepless nights won't do much damage to your health or drastically reduce your productivity, but regular sleep deprivation is another matter. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has found that people who sleep less than four hours a day are nearly 30% less productive, and those who sleep five to six hours are 19% less productive. Insomnia, even in its mild form, affects productivity even more - productivity drops by 58%. So there is no sense to sacrifice sleep for work, the researchers believe: the productivity will be higher if you sleep enough - seven to eight hours a night.
To have enough time to recover overnight, doctors recommend following the rules of sleep hygiene: going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, do not use gadgets at least half an hour before bedtime, do not drink coffee during the night and create a suitable atmosphere in the bedroom - it should be dark, quiet and cool.
Also in the morning you should not set the alarm clock for a few minutes. This will only make it harder to get up: the body will not have time to sink into a deep restorative sleep and, as a result, the person will feel unrested.
In addition, the morning hours can be especially valuable: many people are most productive at this time. Especially when it comes to studying or learning new information.
Enter the state of flow
The term "flow" came into use thanks to the psychologist Mihai Chiksentmihaii. He described flow as "a state in which people are so engrossed in their activities that nothing else matters. There are several characteristics of this state: absolute concentration, a sense of time speeding up or slowing down, a sense of satisfaction with the experience, a general sense of ease, and so on.
In such a state, one uses one's skills to the limit, Chicksentmihai believed. The link between productivity and flow has also been found by other researchers. For example, a McKinsey survey of more than 5,000 CEOs found that when in a state of flow, people consider themselves five times more productive than usual.
The authors of a meta-analysis of 22 studies also wrote about the link between maximum engagement and efficiency. It showed that the flow state affects athletes' performance in some disciplines - for example, tennis, archery and swimming.
There is no universal instruction on how to enter the flow state. But it is possible to achieve it if several conditions are met, Chicksentmihai believed. One must clearly understand the goal of the work, receive immediate feedback, and balance the level of skill with the complexity of the task. This last point is very important, because if the problem is too complex, the person will worry, and if it is too simple - bored. Multitasking can be another obstacle to entering the flow state.
Concentrate on a single task
There are always plenty of reasons to get distracted, and it seems that nothing bad will happen if you answer emails or talk to your colleagues in parallel with your main work tasks. However, researchers doubt the effectiveness of such an approach.
Researchers from Stanford University decided to test how students who consider themselves to have multitasking skills cope with attention and reaction tests. Participants were asked how often they read print media, watched TV and videos online, used e-mail and sent messages. Also, how often they do more than one thing at a time. Response options ranged from "most of the time" to "never do that."
Then, those who often did more than one thing and those who tried to concentrate on only one thing were asked to take several tests. One of the tasks was for attentiveness: they had to remember how the red figures were placed on the picture. Then the picture was shown again and asked to quickly answer whether or not the arrangement had changed. Multi-tasking students were the worst performers.
Education researcher Sonke Ahrens believes that multitasking - that is, the ability to focus on several things at once - is impossible in principle. When a person tries to complete several tasks at once, he or she is really just quickly switching between them. This is tiring, and as a result the ability to cope with complex tasks is reduced.
Productivity is directly related to concentration and focused attention, which takes willpower to maintain. Ahrens believes that it is possible to learn to hold your attention for the necessary period. To do this, you need to forget about multitasking, get rid of distractions, and distribute tasks.
Use time control techniques
There are many techniques that help you prioritize tasks and allocate your time efficiently: from making a regular to-do list to breaking down a large task into several small ones.
A personal kanban is one of the simplest and most convenient techniques. The nuances may vary, but the essence is the same: you have a table or list with "What needs to be done," "What is in progress," and "What has already been done. As tasks move to a new stage, they need to be moved to the next column of the table.
In this way, all necessary tasks can be visualized and the number of cases in process can be limited to avoid too much workload and burnout. The kanban method is the basis for many services. This is how Kaiten, Trello, Shtab, YouGile and others work, for example.
The "must do - worth doing - want to do" system. To increase productivity, it is important to be able to prioritize. But this can be difficult: there can be several important tasks. A must-do/worth-do/want-to-do system will help you with this.
All tasks should be divided into three groups. The first group is the tasks that you must do, and the result should appear immediately. The second group is tasks which in the long run will affect something. And the third - the things that bring you pleasure. This exercise will not only help you figure out what to do first, but also add pleasurable things to your schedule.
Eisenhower Matrix. This is a table with four squares: in the upper left corner are important and urgent matters, and in the upper right corner are important but not urgent matters. The bottom left square contains unimportant and urgent tasks - you should try to minimize or delegate them. Finally, in the bottom right corner, unimportant and non-urgent tasks should be placed last. You can draw up a matrix on paper or use an app for this purpose.
Pomodoro Timers. The famous "tomato method": you need to focus your attention on the work and hold it for 25 minutes, after which, at the signal of the timer comes a short rest. After four periods of work, you need a longer rest - 15-30 minutes. There are many apps that can help you structure your work time in this way.
The importance of short breaks to increase productivity is shown by experiments of scientists. In 1999 scientists from Cornell University used a computer program for ten weeks to remind insurance company employees to pause, watch their posture and stretch. As a result, the number of errors in texts decreased by 13%.
Control your emotions
Some scholars believe that procrastination is not due to laziness or lack of time-management skills. Rather, it is a consequence of negative emotions.
For example, people are more likely to postpone starting work on a task if they feel stressed about it. Trying to avoid or at least postpone such a task briefly improves the mood, but threatens to intensify stress and unpleasant emotions. In addition, procrastination can affect wages.
A survey of 22,053 people showed that the annual income of procrastinators is markedly lower - in part because positions that require a high level of motivational skills and therefore pay better are less likely to suit those who procrastinate. And, of course, procrastination interferes with learning. Studies clearly show that it lowers academic performance.
Researchers recommend several ways to combat procrastination. For example, find better ways to regulate your emotions. In one study, students took a nine-week online course on emotion regulation. They actually ended up putting things off less.
To reduce the amount of negative emotions in your life, it is important to be compassionate with yourself. The tougher you feel about yourself, the more indignant you are about your own real or potential failures, the harder it is to take on a difficult task.
So it's worth reminding yourself that you are not the first and not the last person on the planet who puts off an important matter. This helps get rid of negative thoughts about yourself - and gives you an incentive to get better.