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Want to skyrocket your productivity? Try monotasking!I used to be a wizard at multitasking, but for more than 4 years “just one thing” has become my mantra. If I write, I write. I don’t listen to music (unless it is classical music). I don’t check my Facebook. I don’t answer my phone. Even if it is an emergency, it can wait.

Similar, if I am talking to a person, I direct 100% of my attention to the conversation. I don’t check my email. I don’t browse the internet. I don’t try to figure out what I want to have for lunch. I listen. That’s it!

It sounds so easy, but it actually took me a while to change my bad multitasking ways and, boy, I am glad I did.

Here are my reasons for becoming a ‘monotasker’, but I am sure that you can relate to some of them too:

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slow down tipsBusy, busy, busy – that’s how most of us spend our days. We are too busy to exercise. Too busy to meditate. Too busy to sit down and actually enjoy the lunch we brought to work.

I manage to squeeze in a meditation, and if I am lucky – I actually take time to sit on the balcony and savor my lunch.

What I can’t seem to get round to is cleaning. It has got to the point where I try to walk around the house looking straight ahead. I guess I hope that doing so will make it easier to ignore the fingerprints on my glass top of my coffee table, the crumbs on the kitchen floor and the layer of dust on the bookshelves. But no matter how hard I try, I still know that all of it is there.

For the last 6 days, I have woken up and promised myself that today is the cleaning day. But every time something more urgent came up and I let myself get pulled into a whirlpool of busyness only to go to bed in a bad mood.

Today, I finally managed to fulfill my ‘womanly duties’ and now my sweet home is sweet, airy and smells of a mixture of lemon and cinnamon spice.

And it is not because I had fewer tasks on my to-do list, or because I thought I would catch up with my work on the weekends. No. I made the time. And what helped me was a Slow Down Manifesto I accidentally stumbled upon this morning.

Here is what it said:

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall slow down in the office, and on the roads. We shall slow down with growing confidence when all those around us are in a shrill state of hyperactivity (signifying nothing). We shall defend our state of calm, whatever the cost may be. We shall never surrender!”

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what you can accomplish in 10 minutesThere are 1440 minutes in a day. I realized how long this was yesterday when I was reheating my lunch in a microwave. Two and a half minutes seemed like eternity.

This got me thinking about how much can be accomplished in just 10 little minutes: a race can be won, a business idea can be born, a satisfying meal can be cooked. The list goes on…

So here is my dilemma.

If so much can be done in a matter of 10-15 minutes and most of us stay busy all day long, why do we not feel like we have done much and go to bed hoping that we will be more productive the next day?

My guess is that we do not plan our days intelligently enough, so we let mindless activities and useless chatter suck up our precious time.

This is what happens to me. And I bet that this is what sometimes happens to you as well.

That is why I came up with the list of 10-minute activities that are fun, useful, creative, satisfying or helpful to others. If we can incorporate at least 2 or 3 of them each day, I believe that we will see huge positive changes in our daily routine.

So let’s not allow time-wasters to shorten our minutes and have our days go by without leaving their mark in our memory.

40 Things we can Achieve in 10 Minutes:

1. Take a nap.

Who cares if it is 2 p.m.? Some pretty convincing studies demonstrate that power naps are not only enjoyable, but are beneficial for some types of memory tasks.

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time managementMany people believe that being productive at work requires a lot of discipline. For me it is taking breaks from work which takes the biggest mental effort.

Maybe you can relate to this. Do you know when you get so carried away by a task and you lose track of time? Or when you want to finish whatever project that you have started so you push yourself to work more, even when your body could use a few stretches and your eyes a little break?

I am guilty of this. Often instead of taking a 15 minute break every hour, as I know I should, I write for 4-5 hours straight, because I am afraid of losing track of a thought or because I like the topic I am writing about and I feel particularly creative.

Later I pay the consequences. By the end of the day my neck is cracking, my eyes are hurting and I feel that sort of restlessness as if I have been locked up in the same room for the whole day, which, in fact, I have.

This past month I have been especially bad about taking breaks. Planted like a geranium I have sat in front of my laptop for hours. Big mistake on my part! I instead of getting more done, like I had hoped, my productivity has actually dropped.

Who would guess that to be more productive, we have to rest more and work less? Sounds too good to be true, right?

Then keep reading, because there is some convincing evidence that taking regular 10-15 minute breaks from work is the best gift you can give to yourself, your business or your company.

Taking Breaks at Work: 12 Reasons to Do it Now

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Have you noticed how sometimes time passes laboriously slowly and you continue to look at your watch every two minutes hoping to make it go faster? And there are also times when you have so much to do that you think “How am I possibly going to get it all done in a day?”

Why is it that sometimes we waste time and other times we find ourselves caught up in a frenzy of activity? How do we find the right balance and boost our productivity without having to sacrifice our family time?

After analyzing my own work patterns, reading tons of scientific research on time management, motivation and efficiency, I found that there are 10 primary productivity mistakes that cause 80% of our work stress and make us fall behind even on seemingly simple tasks. And I am not just talking about chronic procrastinators here.

Many productive people I run into, waste on average 2-4 hours a day, doing things that actually decrease their productivity, concentration and cognitive performance!

If lately you have been feeling tired, overwhelmed and underproductive here are 10 Things you should Not be doing:

1. Don’t start without a plan.

While most of us realize the importance of having a to-do list, when we are busy, it is easy to forget about planning and to just deal with things as they come in. Whatever is most urgent gets dealt with first. The least urgent tasks get postponed and often forgotten. But the problem is that getting urgent tasks out of the way rarely means being productive. If you want to ensure that you are focusing on the right things and using your time most effectively, get into the habit of planning regularly! Start each day by highlighting the three most important things you have to do and complete them first. This step alone will save you hours of wasted time and energy.

2. Don’t wish you were somewhere else.

We can spend hours wishing we were somewhere else, doing something better. But the problem is that while we are daydreaming – we are neither getting the work done, nor are we spending this time enjoying ourselves. In fact, the only thing we are doing is actively demotivating ourselves from taking any kind of action, prolonging what we already perceive as drudgery even more.

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Do you feel that your brain is ready to explode from the never-ending problems that require you immediate attention? Are you afraid to open your email and see 20 new emails from unhappy clients and a demanding manager in your inbox? Are you constantly forgetting about important tasks, because there is simply too much on your mind?

Life does it to us sometimes… It promises us attractive rewards, like a handsome paycheck, a big promotion, or Christmas bonuses and then it sucks us into the whirlpool of after-work hours, sleepless nights, days spent under the fluorescent office lights and stress-filled weekends.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this crazy whirlpool of work-work-work and no fun!

If you are tired of, seeing the sun light only out of your office window, not being able to spend enough time with your children or worrying too much about upcoming deadlines, here are 5 major steps to relieving stress, un-boiling your mind:

1. Accept the problem

While workaholism is almost encouraged in our society, because it is often linked to success and the ability to work hard, on the larger scale it is not much better than alcoholism or any other dependence problem.
On a physical level it can increase the risk of heart-disease, diabetes, and stroke, lead to weight gain and even provoke cancer. On an emotional and mindset level it can cause anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, and impede your ability to think straight and solve problems. The worst thing is that most of us do not even notice when our desire to work harder and become more productive turns into a workaholism problem.

Lately, I have meet a lot of people, who are overworked, stressed out, emotional and plain exhausted. Yet, when you try to tell them about the importance of ‘slowing down’, they immediately start naming all the reasons why they can not do this: ‘there is a deadline’, ‘everyone is waiting for this project’, ‘while the company is facing so many challenges, there is simply no way to work less’.

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“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose”Thomas Edison.

If lately you have been feeling stressed out and overwhelmed with how much you have to do, if you believe that you can be more productive or learn to manage yourself and your time more efficiently, if you have an incredibly busy week ahead of you – take a few minutes to read about the 7 Biggest and Boldest Time management Lies that are the main cause of our stress, burn out, and procrastination.

You might be surprised to catch yourself telling at least one of these lies before lunch time! 🙂

1. I Can Do It All!

This is one of the most frequent lies I tell myself. And then some few hours later, I have to admit that I was wrong. There simply is not enough time to do everything we usually plan on doing. Nor is there the need to do all of it. Often we are the ones who willingly put too much on our plate and then stress out about it.

So next time the thought “I can do it all!” crosses your mind – take a few deep breaths, relax and remind yourself that effective time management is not about doing more in a shorter amount of time. It is about enjoying what you do and doing it well!

2. It will Only Take a Minute!

This is another frequent lie I am guilty of. It just seems easier to get small tasks off your hands first and then dedicate yourself fully to the priorities on your list. However, priorities are called this, because you should complete them “prior” to any other tasks.

Do not kid yourself with the idea that “This will just take one minute”. Nothing ever takes just a minute – and even if it does, any such interruption usually costs you anywhere from fifteen to thirty five minutes of your productive “flow” time.

3. If I only had more time…

We often rationalize that if we only had more time we would be able to accomplish more. But the truth is that we are not going to get more than 1440 minutes a day, regardless of what we do or do not do. And no Time Management System will help us accomplish this. What makes the difference is not how much time you have, but how you choose to spend it.

4. I can do it better/faster than anyone else!

I often catch myself with this white lie. In fact, it might not necessarily be a lie. You could do something better and faster than your colleagues, assistants and employees. But it does not mean that you have to do it. This is so important that I am going to repeat it once again. Doing something better and faster than other people DOES NOT mean you should do it!

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Time management is a great theory. It helps us to get more organized, to set priorities, and to increase our productivity. Except for when it does not work…
I realized this yesterday, when I got home feeling exhausted after my 18-hour trip from Miami to Milan.
A cold shower, a nice breakfast and all the pep-talk about how much I needed to get done helped very little to overcome the sleepiness and lack of energy.
Two hours later I found myself mindlessly staring at the computer screen, without having the slightest desire to get any work done. And the monotonous sound of raindrops hitting the window and dark grey sky made me even sleepier.
When I finally took my eyes off the desktop and looked v e r y  s l o w l y at my do-to list for the day, the level of my enthusiasm and motivation dropped below zero. There was simply no way I could get it all done and no Time Management tips or tricks would have helped me to be more productive while I felt the way I felt.
Later thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that there is more to productivity than just managing 24 hours a day efficiently. Otherwise, we would all never feel overbooked, overwhelmed and underproductive. But the truth is that we do.
I believe that the main reason for this is that while we might be great at managing our time, we have not learned how to manage our levels of energy efficiently.
Here are 21 Keys to Energy management or the secrets of doing the right tasks at the right time:

1. Establish your “flow” times.

There is a certain time of day, when our energy and productivity is at its peak. I have noticed that I am most productive, focused and engaged in my work early in the morning and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. These are the times that I set aside for writing and brainstorming my ideas. Your “flow” time may be completely different from mine, but it is important that you learn it and organize tasks that you need to accomplish based on the level of energy that you have.

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We live in a society built on efficiency and productivity. We stay busy, invent new time management strategies, and learn how to fill every second with some kind of activity so that we can “save” more time and fill it up with even more activities. But the question is – What’s the point?

What is the point of working hard and checking off all these numerous tasks on our to-do lists when we misbalance other areas of our life like health or relationships, for one single idea – the idea that we must be efficient. Efficient at what? Work? Relationships? Life?
My friend recently came back from his family trip to Europe. And when I asked him how did it go, his first response was, “Oh it was very productive! We saw everything that we had planned to see and I even met possible business partners for my new project!”
Am I the only one, who does not understand the concept of a “productive vacation”?  Vacations can be unforgettable, fun, great, amazing or terrible at worst, but not productive. Because if this is the case, a vacation loses its essence and becomes a business trip.
This got me thinking that maybe we have taken the productivity concept too far after all?
Maybe we need to take a little break from all the new fad time management strategies and turn to ancient knowledge for guidance?
Here is what ancient wisdom teaches us:

1. “What you are doing does not matter so much as what you are learning from doing it.” – Egyptian Proverb

Most of us are familiar with the concept of prioritizing – you should always start with the most important and urgent task on our to-do list, leaving less important ones for later. But what if we look at it from a different perspective and instead of concentrating our efforts on the tasks that are supposed to bring us maximum result in the short run; we make learning our priority?
When you evaluate any activity from “What can I learn?” perspective, you are continuously expanding your experience, improving your skills, as a result becoming more efficient.
Action step: Look at the tasks on your to-do list. Often the most beneficial activity is not the one that seems the most important or urgent. It is the one that you learn the most while doing it!

2. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Our present is a direct result of choices and actions that we have made in the past. And most of those choices and actions are mainly influenced by our habits. It is no different with work. Each of us has developed our own rituals like checking emails, answering friends on facebook, looking for the latest updates on the soccer world cup or eating lunch at our desk.
What we do not realize is that we perfect what we repeatedly do. We become more efficient at answering emails, we learn to carry on conversations with 5 different friends on facebook, and we become much faster at searching for the latest news on-line.
Action step: Become aware of your work “rituals” during the day. What do you repeatedly do? What are you getting better at? And is it worth excelling at these tasks? Or maybe it would be better to invest your time in something else that has a greater impact on your career and professionalism?

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