How do some people get more done in a day than the rest of us? Why do some people seem to be stress-free? Here are some simple strategies, used by the world’s most successful people, that will increase your productivity and reduce your stress each day.
Reduce Decision Fatigue
Decisions are costly. Making decisions cost you time and energy. As you more decisions you make throughout your day, the longer they take and the more mentally fatigued you get.
Save making decisions for important things and reduce the number of decisions you make. Mundane tasks you repeat often should be put on autopilot. The more things you can do without making a decision, the more efficient you will be.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg actually wears the same outfit every day so he doesn’t have to waste time or energy deciding what to wear. That frees him to worry about bigger more important decisions.
What you wear, what you eat, how you get to work are just some examples of things you can automate. By making fewer decisions you’ll free up your mind to focus on things you care more about. Find a routine that works and save your mental energy for the stuff that really counts.
Go On A Diet
The simplest way to reduce mental stress and fatigue is to cut back on multitasking.
Your brain is not made to multitask. In fact, only two percent of the population can actually do it effectively. Besides autonomous tasks like breathing, making your heart beat, etc, your brain is very linear and likes to work on one thing at a time. Just walking down the street can be quite the endeavor as you add more and more tasks.
Odds are that you’re multitasking more often than you should be, and it’s killing your productivity. And trying to focus on too many tasks at once can cause enormous amounts of stress. Try to cut down on the number of tasks you try to accomplish at once. Making a checklist and prioritizing it is a great way to help you focus.
Prioritize the tasks using the ABCDE method:
A: Tasks I must do – serious consequences if it doesn’t get done
B: Tasks I should do – mild consequences if it doesn’t get done
C: Tasks I could do – no consequences if it doesn’t get done
D: Tasks I delegate
E: Tasks I never do
Work your way from top to bottom. Do not start any tasks in a category until the one above it is finished.
Another way to help you focus and reduce mental fatigue is to unplug, from everything. It’s so simple and yet it is the hardest thing for must of us to do. Many of the world’s most successful people are able to achieve so much precisely because they’re better at unplugging than the rest of us. Mute your cellphone, log out of Facebook, avoid browsing the internet. You’d be surprised how much time is spent worrying about other people’s lives instead of focusing on your own. That is a whole article by itself.
Unplugging entirely may not be practical if your company relies heavily on the Internet. But that doesn’t mean you have to constantly check email, Twitter, and Facebook all at the same time – all while trying to get real work done. Instead, schedule designated times to allow yourself mental distractions and be disciplined about keeping your browser tabs closed otherwise.
Just Say ‘No’
Your job, your family, and your friends are all going to request your time. It can be tempting to say “Yes” to everyone, whether you find the request interesting or you just want to please them. You likely tell yourself you can fit it all in, but overcommitment is the enemy of productivity. You can have it all, but you can’t do it all. Instead of being pressured into over-booking, have the courage to say “No.” If you are being bombarded with requests, make a list and prioritize it. Do not be afraid to say “No” to anything that does not fit into your priorities or time. If you need help prioritizing, look at your tasks and requests and choose the top 20% that will accomplish 80% of the work. Say no to anything else and don’t feel guilty about it. Your health and time are more important.
When was the last time you did nothing? Swinging on a hammock seems like an utter waste of time unless you are on vacation. But giving your mind time to wander aimlessly can actually be great for productivity. Just like when you are out of breath after a long run, your brain gets tired too. Decision making and multitasking cause a lot of mental fatigue and stress. That’s why the more you do it, the faster you lose focus. You’re brain needs time to relax and catch up. So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break — go for a walk, listen to music, take a nap, have a beer. Do something that will allow you to truly relax. You might be surprised by how much more you’re able to accomplish with a fresh mind.
Cut down on the number of decisions you make. Make a task list and focus on one task at a time. Unplug yourself. And relax.