Do More: Seven Life Hacks to Improve Your Productivity

Have you ever been caught in the cycle of  “Too many  things to do and yet so little time?”

Have you ever ask yourself why do you keep on rushing your work to keep up with the deadline?

Or does it take you forever to finish your tasks?

We often wonder how other people do so much things in a day while we can’t even account where did we spent most of our time. I was like that too.

For so many years, I dreaded the word “Deadline” because that would mean working longer hours and crunching time so I would be able to finish my task on time. However, my dilemma would be there were so many things that require immediate attention (read- ASAP, Urgent, Need This Now!). So what would I do?

Luckily, I discover several ways on how to manage my time and to increase my productivity in no time. And surprisingly, these life hacks are so easy to do! Even more impressing is that these foolproof hacks are highly used and recommended by achievers and successful people too.

Do you want to know the secret of increasing your productivity and getting more things done in no time?

Let me share to you seven easy life hacks to boost your productivity. There are so many ways to do it. But you can always start with the easiest ways.

  1. Wake Up Early

The old adage “the early bird catches the early worm” is an understatement in this productivity hack. Successful people start their day early so they can do a lot of things in a day.

According to Kristina Karlsson, founder and CEO of the Swedish stationery brand Kikki K., all her big ideas were written at 3 AM. Thus,

Waking up early gives you more time to do your personal stuff or your daily rituals so you won’t start your day cramming up just to prepare yourself for the day. Yes, it includes your weekends too.

My typical work day starts at 4:30 in the morning. That accounts for my “getting ready for the day” and to give me ample time to commute going to work which by the way takes up one hour to one a half hour depending on the traffic. I do my planning and journalling  in the morning while eating my favorite breakfast and sipping coffee. Sometimes, I can leisurely read a chapter or two of my current read or wath a Tedx Talk to inspire me throughout the day.

So imagine if I wake up a little bit late? I will not have time to enjoy the little personal pleasures that I do every morning because I will be constantly hurrying up not to be late to work.

Key point: Time can be your friend or your enemy when you want to be productive.

2. Tidy Up Your Work Space

No, just because you know where to find every little knick knacks in your work space you will neglect to clean up. Study reveals that the state of your work space affects your mood and your ability to do your task. I mean, who wants to work in a cluttered work space, right?

When you spend most of your time looking for that pen that must have been buried somewhere in your table or you come in late for a very important meeting because you missed that paper somewhere in your file, you are losing valuable chances to increase your productivity and achieve bigger goals.

Save yourself from the hassle of missing out important things by decluttering your work space before you start any task you scheduled for a day. Remove unnecesarry things that may distract you from your work on your table and stow them away neatly in your drawers or cabinets.

Do note that this includes your computer’s desktop too. Organize your file in your computer and if possible leave only folders or files that you will be using to perform your tasks in your desktop for easy access.

3. Have a To- Do List

So, what now? Where do you begin? When is that important board meeting going to happen?

Most of us do not know how to start our work. We only see tons of works which are either urgent, important, or need this ASAP. Thus, it is important to make a to- do list so you will know how to progress within the day.

Start by blocking off the time of important meetings that you badly need to attend in your calendar so you will have a visibility how much time is left for you to do the different tasks within the day.

Then list down all your tasks and start categorizing them as (1) “Important & Urgent”, (2) “Important But Not Urgent”, (3) ” Urgent But Not Important” and (4) “Not Important & Not Urgent”. All tasks that fall under no. 1 should go to the top of your priority list while tasks under no. 2 can be park and scheduled for another day. Delegate to others the tasks under no. 3 and do follow up before the end of the day and refrain from doing tasks under no. 4 to avoid distraction.

Be realistic with your time. If you can only finish 1 important and urgent task in a day because it is difficult to do, so be it. Schedule the other tasks the following day.

4.Warm Up

When you exercise or you play any sports, you might be aware of the importance of warming up before starting your game. The same way, you need to do a warm up task prior to any big task to set your mood and your work rhythm.

Choose one task that you can easily finish in five minutes and complete it before you jump into your bigger task. It may be as finishing a simple school assignment or downloading references for your paper.

Finishing an easy task allows your brain to transition to working mode without stressing yourself too much. It also gives you motivation to tackle your task at hand because you already accomplish something early on.

If you cannot find something to start on, you can always go back to tip number 2. 😊

5. Steer Away from Social Media

A lot of us are guilty of this. Nowadays, un-necessary mobile browsing is one of the biggest culprit why we do not finish our task on time. We know that that paper is due tomorrow but you just can’t resist the urge to peek on your FB or IG or Twitter.

If you find yoirself constantly spending your time on your mobile device than finishing your task, mute that notification button and put down your gadget face down (so you will not see the screen). If this does not work wnf you are still tempted to sneak into looking at your messages, turn off your gadgets and put it away from your reach until you finish your task so you can avoid distraction.

Just make sure that if you are turning off your gadgets especially your phones, notify your loved ones so they will have a peace of mind that you are not MIA.

6. Use Pomodoro Technique

I really sweat on this prpductivity trick. Pomodoro technique helps me survive even the toughest task that I need to finish.

Pomodoro technique helps you break your task into manageable span with just enough concentration that is bearable to you. Here’s how it works.

Set your timer to 25 minutes and do you task within that period of time. After 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break. Repeat the cycle of 25 min work- 5 min break until you finish your job. In the 4th cycle of 25: 5, take a longer 10- 15 minutes break.

It’ s easy,  isn’t it?

This leads us to our last productivity tip.

7. Take a Break

Don’ t be confused. Breaks are good for you.

Taking a break provides you the opportunity to recharge your mind and your body. If you take short breaks in between doing your tasks, you will be more likely motivated to go back and finish it. Why? Because you will be looking forward to a longer break when you are done with your job.

So take time to walk, eat or even have a power nap in between task to ensure that the flow of energy in your mind and body is continuously replenished.

If you are overwhelmed by these productivity tips, try out one to three tips first and gradually incorporate the other tricks when you already get the habit of doing them.

Stay motivated and productive everyone! 😊

 

 

 

 

 

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Happiness: It’s Not Really Complicated

Last April 14, I have attended one of the highly anticipated conference of which aims to spread happiness to the world. The Mission Happiness Conference 2018 facilitated by no otheBer than Ms. Sha Nacino is truly a fun-filled learning experience to all its particBeipants. All the teachings impart by Ms. Nacino on how to be happy is a no non-sense, straight forward approach as to uplift one’s emotional well- being and develop a holistic view in achieving a Happy, Inspired and Meaningful life.

I have yet to indulge myself into the four key learnings that I have learned during the workshop. Here are some of the key points that I have picked up on the discussion that is truly simple yet we oftentimes forget to look for in our quest of true happiness in life.

Find the things that matters to you most

There is a saying that we often neglect to see the light of the moon because we are busy chasing the stars. In our every day lives, we often have so many things that we need to do and most often than not, these things are the contributors of our stress and unhappiness. We blame our unhappiness to the stress brought about by work, our relationship with others or even the traffic that we encountered in our every day commute. But have we ever thought that it is our own choice why we need to go through all these things every day? Is the life we are living now exactly the one of our purpose and passion?

We often hear life coaches talk about passion and purpose but what they exactly mean to ordinary people and how important they are to our lives? For me these two simply mean the things that really matter to you. These are the things that you really want to do and that you do best. These are the things that make you excited to wake up every morning and not feel stressed whenever you need to tackle tasks related to them. These are the things that make you optimistic even if the odds are against you.

Finding things that really matters to you is important so you will be able to do things that you enjoy most. And if you are not yet there on your ideal place, at lwast you have the inspiration to work so you will be able to pursue what you really want in life.

Be a blessing

There is a connection between doing an act of kindness and happiness. It is said that our body and mind are hardwired to giving. The more we do good deeds to others, our cortisol level (aka stress hormone) goes down and our endorphine (aka happy hormone) increases. Thus, we become happier. There is this kind of euphoria when you are able to accomplish one goof deed or an act of kindness more than any material things in the world.

So if you are stressed or overwhelmed, do one random act of kindness and find the good vibes slowly slip into to your being.

Develop an attitude for gratitude

How often do you say thank you? And what are the things that you are grateful for? Do you know that gratitude is a secret to a happy life?

Being thankful even for the smallest and simplest things that come your way such as waking up in the morning and living another day, or having a hearty breakfast is the best way to find contentment and happiness. To borrow a lyrics from a Jose Mari Chan song, “when you are weary…count your blessing instead of sheep.” When we concentrate on the good things in life instead of those things that make us anxious and unhappy, we can derive a sense of calm that although we face so many challenges in life, there are still beautiful things that happen to us that we can be grateful for. In gratefulness we find our strength to face every day with hopes in our hearts that all will end well.

Strive to grow as a person

Remember the excitement you get when you achieved a milestone when you are young? Even as simple as learning to write our names make us excited and happy, right?

Most of the people who already stepped out of school and started working, rarely have the time to celebrate or find time to seek new milestones for themselves. It seems that they stop to grow anymore. That is why they see each day as just another busy, hectic day to live. As one author puts it “we work hard to earn a living but we stop to live a life.”

Why don’t we seek those little milestones again in our lives and celebrate little victories in achieving them? Instead of just putting up with mundane, every day routine, we find time to seek growth for ourselves. Even as simple as learning soft skills like managing your temper, or curbing your vices, or striving to have a healthy relationship with your family are considered life’s milestone and contribute to your growth. Self- improvement will bring back the joy to your life and it also changes your perspective of who you are to the world. It teaches you self-appreciation and the more you recognize your feat, no matter how small it is bring you contentment and happiness.

I learned so many things in the span of four hours and I left the venue a changed person. Now I am looking forward to share what I captured during the workshop to spread the message that happiness is not that complicated to find at all. 😊

Learning to Say “NO”

Photo: pixabay.com

I have a colleague at work who we dubbed as “Mr. No”. Why? He would practically say “no” to all the incredulous demands even from our bosses. Knowing our company mantra of “making things possible”, saying “no” to our bosses really needs a lot of guts to do.

Declining a request however, does not necessarily mean a bad thing. Albeit, denying someone’s request or demand especially those in the upper level of the heirarchy in your organization or even your clients is very hard to do. In fact, it is an innate human nature to please and not create conflict or confrontation with others.

But learning to say “no” is one way of boosting your productivity. How? It allows you to screen out unnecessary things that may take you out of your focus from the important things that can add value to you and to your work. This is specifically handy when you feel that you are already loaded with work which in turn affects your performance and productivity.

But how do we say “no” without having the guilt feeling that you might have offended the other party? Here are three points that you might want to consider.

1. Have a solid reason of saying “no”. This is very important since you may need to do some explaining when you decline someone of their request or demand. Tell the other party why you honestly cannot accept the request or demand. This will help others understand why it is not possible for you to take on a certain task.

2. Propose a compromise. If the other party still negotiates with you to do the job even after you explain why you cannot do an extra load, suggest ways on how can he be able to pull through the task without compromising your own schedule. Either you help him find someone who can help him with his request or negotiate with him for you to do the task after you finish your priorities. If you choose the latter, be transparent on when can you actually accommodate him so he can weigh his options. In this way, it would lessen the hard feelings of being declined because (1) you are saying “no” while trying to be helpful and (2) the other party may come to his own realization (hopefully), that you really cannot do his request and may choose to find somebody else to do it.

3. Be wary of your tone. This is one of the keys to successfully turn down someone without sounding offensive. Oftentimes, even with our good reason and intention, people misunderstood our context just because of the way we deliver our message. If you sound to be argumentative or irritated to other party, he will dismiss your explanation as just just mere alibi to escape from the task even if you are telling the truth. On the other hand, people tend to accept your reason if you say it in a calm or even a little apologetic voice. Just don’t be too overly apologetic else they might see you as a scheming person.

If all else fail, you can always find someone to back you up to convince the other person to just let it go. 😊

How I Manage My Time and Maximize Productivity

If you believe in all the movies and novels that glamorize the corporate world as a place where you look chic every day and you get a hefty pay for working in an airconditioned office, a lot of insiders would tell you that corporate setup is a jungle. Corporate world is very fast-paced and will take a lot of your precious time. In fact, it is not for everybody. I particularly work in a very demanding industry with a very high customer expectation. As my colleagues would jokingly tell me, my day would not be complete if I did not eat stress for breakfast (and dinner too!).

Working corporate for ten years I would say that your the major enemy is TIME. Thus, you must learn to do time management so you can increase your productivity. And mind you, being busy is different from being productive. Rendering overtime almost every day doesn’t mean that your efficient. In fact it can be viewed otherwise.

Learning time management is a major feat. There are a lot of time management and productivity tools out there and you just have to choose what works for you best. Let me share to you the productivity tools that I am currently using.

Bullet Journal

Planning your task is one essential way to improve your productivity. Thus, a good planning system is a must. While I use digital calendar in my phone and my laptop to keep track of my appointments and tasks, I keep a planner handy in my bag or in the office. However, I prefer to use a bullet journal instead of a pre-made planner because of its flexibility. Since a bullet journal is basically a blank notebook, I can customize it according to my productivity needs. I am not limited to the layout of pages that most of the planners in the market has to offer. My bullet journal contains my calendars, to-do list, trackers, notes, brain dump for ideas, journal, etc. It is my one-stop shop planning system and this is the only planner that I really maintained.

Eisenhower Matrix

Have you ever experienced being drowned on your to-do list with no clue as to where to start? It always end to not doing anything at all right? One strategy I discover in tackling my enormous to do list is to use the Eisenhower Matrix or Eisenhower Box. It is basically a box divided into four quadrant which is then further classified by the Urgency and Importance. Take a look at the box below.

Photo from contactzilla.com

The quadrants on the left hand-side represents the things that are Urgent while the right hand side quadrants are for the Not Urgent tasks. In terms of importance, the upper half of the box is for the Important tasks while the bottom ones are for those Not Important.

To use the box for decision making label the Quadrants as follows: Q1 (Urgent & Important)- DO; Q2 (Not Urgent But Important) – DECIDE/ PLAN; Q3 (Urgent But Not Important) – DELEGATE; Q4 (Not Important & Not Urgent) – DELETE / DON’T DO.

Every morning I write down all my things to do in a piece of paper and then put each task in the quadrants base on the task’s urgency and importance. I make sure that I do the things under Q1 in the morning and do the tasks under Q2 afterwards or in the following day. I find persons who can help me out on the tasks under Q3 so it can also be done within the day. For things that will fall under Q4, they are immediately scratch off from the to-do list altogether. In that way, I can focus my day accomplishing tasks that has higher impact to my day and yield higher productivity.

Pomodoro Method

Photo from UKCAT Blog

Working on your daily tasks, however you divide them by priorities is exasperating especially if you are working on big requirements such as project presentations, project analysis and project updates that take a big chunk of your time and suck the energy out of you. It is important for me to have a balance between my work and some rest so even if I tackle a big task I don’t feel like losing too much energy in the work. So I use the Pomodoro method in my advantage.

How does it work? Before I start any task, I set my timer to 25 minutes. I do my work for the full 25 minutes without distraction- no checking of emails, sms messages and social media. After the full 25 minutes is over, I take 5 minutes break. On the fourth cycle of 25 minutes, I take a 10 minutes break. I find out that I am more productive in finishing my task using this method rather than beating myself into finishing the task straight without any small breaks.

Mindmap

Photo from advisortweets.com

I am a visual person. In order for me to retain details in my memory or to make a good analysis of data, I like to arrange the information in a way that I can easily see the cause and effect. Thus, in doing crucial reports, I make a mindmap of the subject in question. Mindmapping is simply breaking down the subject matter into smaller, important information and arranging them in such a way that it can easily be understood. I use tree diagrams to create my mindmaps or a fishbone one if I need to do critical analysis.

Cornell Method

My usual work week is incomplete without any meetings. In fact, I have two scheduled recurrent meetings every week. So it is important for me to have a clear, concise notes of the minutes to reference decision points and important instructions for the project. For my note- taking, I still use the same method that works for me back in my university days- the Cornell Method. It is a simple yet very efficient way of note taking method to extract important information during meetings.

The method divides your notes into 3 parts: (1) Cue column in the left hand side of your paper where you put keywords, or questions, or reference names; (2) the main note taking area is the right hand side of your paper where you take down details; and (3) your bottom 3rd is your Summary area wherein you can summarize your minutes afterwards.

The reason why I like this method is that it enables me to write my MOM in telegraphic form then afterwards, I can review and summarize the details in full sentences. If there is any clarification on the data I have noted while I am writing down my summary, I can easily go to cue column and note my clarification question so I would remember them. In this way, I will remember to ask the question via email or on the next meeting.

So there you have it. I hope that these simple techniques that I have shared can help you boost your productivity and time management 😊.

How to make budgeting less stressful and more fun

IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY

Are you the type of person who sucks at budgeting? Well, most of us do. They say we are at the age where consumerism is a trend and the advent of technology (i.e., the internet) makes it easier for us to buy stuff even if we don’t really need it. But if this becomes a habit, it will really take a toll on you financially. 

Making a budget is admittedly one of the most difficult thing to do. In fact, it is dreadful for some to address financial issues that may arise relative to your budget. But, with a little practice and a little trick up on your sleeve, you can make budgeting less complicated and a bit fun. 

Set a goal. Whether you are simply saving up for a future investment or a dream vacation or just simply wanting to buy new things, having something to look forward to makes it easier for you to let go of some unwanted expenses. 

Think of something that you want to have and write it down. Know how much you need to get to your goal so you would initially know how much you need to set aside and for how long.

Make a list. List down all your usual expenses and break it down to two categories: (1) needs (food, rent, utilities, transportation, debt payments,etc) and (2) wants (entertainment, new clothes, gadgets, etc.). Review how much you spend on each category and compare it with how much you are earning. If your expenses are much lower than what you earned, that means you will only need little adjustments on your goal. However, if your expenses is way more than your income, then you need to re-assess.

 Carve out. Let’s face it. Deciding to cut on your expenses is a difficult thing. But to be realistic in achieving your goals, you need to learn how to spend less on some things. Cutting your lifestyle spending (i.e, buying trends, gadgets, dining out, etc.) and re-routing it to your savings will make a great impact in your budget. 

Celebrate your milestone. Create a savings milestone and celebrate this little success by treating yourself. Aside from the goal you have set, this little tokens will give you the motivation to stick to your budget. This will also prevent the thought that you are depriving yourself. 

Keep the faith. Just like any other things, you may encounter set backs in sticking to your budget. Never give up. When you have set back, just reset and go back to your track. 

It takes a lot of discipline for you to stick to your budget. But keep on going.  Once you completed your goal, enjoy the fruit of the hardship and then start again. 

A cup of tea

Well, it’s a chilly mid-week morning today. As I sit into my cubicle with my hot cup of Moroccan tea while browsing the net, I noticed that I haven’t visited my blog for EONS of years (hehe)! So, where have I been eh? No, definitely not visiting the Queen. 

Seriously, I was just busy on several projects that I neglected to write (sorry…). However, my hiatus has given me opportunities and more experiences that I will share here (promise). For starters, I have started two personal projects that have taken a lot of my time and effort for the last few months. 

Be Fit

Admittedly, I had neglected my health for several years that resulted to health complications and obesity. I started this year with a goal to lose at least 20 lbs this year. So I drag myself to the gym, started working out and choosing healthier food options. And I am so happy that I already achieved my goal in just 6 months! 

From 200 lbs in 2016 to a 180 lbs by June 2017 😉

 Be Ready for Rainy Days

I realized that I am not young anymore and that I need to be more disciplined with my finances if I want to retire in peace when I am in my senior years. That is why I have set up my financial goals this year and push myself very hard to save and invest. And that means learning to curb my spending and be more financially literate. So my first step is build my emergency fund by opening a savings account and take on the 52- week challenge. So far, I stick to my savings plan and now I am reviewing several policies for other investments such as VULs and mutual funds. ✌

Less spending, more savings 👌

In between these two things, I still have my 9am to 6pm regular jobs and family to take care of so my hands are really full. Nevertheless, I am back. 😉

Five Useful Hacks for the Busybees

Are you the type of person who easily gets overwhelmed by the tasks that you need to tackle? Or do you always forget the things that you need to do so you end up not doing your top priority? Maybe you lost track of time and you have to hurry to get into your appointments so you feel less prepared. 

If your busy schedule is already driving you nuts, here are some tips for you, busy bees, to save you from insanity because of tight schedules and gigantic task.

Plan Ahead

Nothing beats good planning everytime you have so much things in your hand. Set a side a time to sit down and write down all the things that you need to do for the whole week. Determine how much time you need for each task and decide for the best day to do them. Start from your top priorities to things that can wait. The best thing to keep track of your task is jotting them down in a planner. You will be surprised that after you’ve written down your plans, they are less daunting to tackle anymore. 😊

Put together a capsule wardrobe

(Image: http://www.decoist.com)

Half of the time, the reason why we are late for an appointment is that we cannot decide what are we going to wear. And this is true when you are faced with a closetful of clothes. The best thing to do is put together a capsule wardrobe in one part of your closet. This is a collection of a no brainer, classic and versatile pieces of clothing and accessories that you can throw on when you are running late. 

Keep your things in strategic place

(Image: http://www.thatgirlcathy.me)

Assign an area in your house or even your room to place the things that you almost always need to bring with you when you leave the house. This can be near your door or on your bedside table, wherever it is handy for you to grab and go if you are in a hurry. 

Invest in a bag organizer

Changing your bag when you are trying to keep up with your busy schedule may freak you out especially if you cannot find all the things that you need to bring with you. Buying a good size bag organizer that will fit most of your bags is definitely worth the investment. You can easily put everything you need to bring in all its compartments- wallets, keys, makeup kits and other essentials- and have your things easily transferred to another bag in no time if you need to change your purse.

Edit your makeup kit

Looking your best is one thing that you need to maintain even on a very hectic day. But lugging too much makeup can be so distracting as well. Keeping your makeup kit to a minimum is the best way to address your beauty needs without goig overboard. Use products that are multi-functional and can take your look from day to night so you can pare down the number of palettes and tubes in your kit. If you want to throw in some extras, you can keep a small stash in your office drawer or car compartment, just in case you need a little more. 😉

Learning a few tricks to lessen your prep time will definitely improve how you look into your busy schedules. Once you master these tricks, tackling your daily tasks will never be stressful again.