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Take It Easy: How to Slow Down and Get Things Done
Posted: 10/15/2013 | Personal Development Comments
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Imagine an ordinary Monday morning. You sit down at your desk knowing you’ve got emails to answer and calls to return. Your big presentation is today, and you haven’t finished it. You also have lunch scheduled with an important client, and a coworker reminds you it’s your manager’s birthday and you’ve forgotten to order the cake. You’re probably feeling anxious, frustrated, and maybe even numb. There isn’t enough time, what can you do?

Time isn’t really the issue. Even if you suddenly received two extra hours tacked on to the end of the day, your workload would probably expand to fill every minute. The problem is the stress we create with our thoughts and feelings, largely unconscious. When we’re anxious and overwhelmed, we can’t think clearly and we don’t work effectively. When our brains are constantly cycling through the tasks ahead of us, we have little space for strategizing or problem solving. Working harder and faster only exacerbates the situation, but by slowing down we gain focus and clarity, and we actually get more done. We might find the joy we originally had for our work, inspiring new ideas and enthusiasm which in turn increases our productivity.

How do we do this? Here are a few ways to begin to slow down and get productive. Try taking on a new step every day until each becomes habit.

1. Out of mind, out of sight. Take a moment to briefly write down all those thoughts in your head jostling for attention. Make a quick list of everything you have to do, no matter how big or small, and put it aside for now. When you externalize that chaotic, stressful thinking, your monkey mind can relax, and you can focus on the task in front of you.
2. Breathe. Deep breathing can be done anywhere, anytime. It both calms your nervous system and oxygenates your brain so you can focus and think clearly. Close your eyes, inhale deeply, then exhale slowly. As you breathe, imagine a peaceful scene. It can be a serene and remote beach or something as simple as an open window with a soft breeze blowing through. Try to hold this peaceful image, as you breathe slowly and deeply, for 2 minutes.
3. Take frequent breaks. It may seem counterintuitive to stop when you’ve got so much to do, but taking breaks will make you more productive. According to researchers at the University of Illinois, “prolonged attention to a task hinders performance,” and, “deactivating and reactivating your goals allow you to stay focused.” Take a couple of minutes to stand and stretch, wiggle your fingers and toes. Take a brisk walk around the block or building if you have time, or just take a bathroom break, chat with a coworker and make yourself a cup of tea. Breaks also give you the opportunity to divide your work into more easily digestible chunks. It doesn’t feel so overwhelming if you know you’re taking the next step and only for a limited time.
4. If you get stuck, pull out your journal. When you find yourself procrastinating or spacing out, ask yourselves these questions: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t get it done? What will happen if I do get it done? As you write your answers you might find that negative expectations are killing your motivation to complete a task. Thoughts like, “If I finish this report, everyone will think that’s all I’m good at and I’ll have to do them all the time.” Or, “If I make all these calls, I’ll have to do that other task I’ve been avoiding.” When you examine these beliefs they’ll lose power, and you’ll create ease in your workflow.

While we’ll never get everything done, we can certainly slow our pace and really enjoy our experience of work. We can bring back some of that mental and physical energy we robbed ourselves of with stressful thinking, and we can enjoy a new level of productivity. With practice, you can get a lot done with focus, clarity and peace.

Please let me how this works for you. Your comments make a difference for us all.

For further information on accessing your wisdom, happiness, fulfillment, and peace you desire, click here to learn about Dr. Howard's Multiple Award Winning Book "Your Ultimate Life Plan: How to Deeply Transform Your Everyday Experience and Create Changes That Last."


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