become more productive

3 Easy Steps to Become More Productive, Lower Your Stress and Improve Your Sleep

This is the time of year when you hear everyone talk about goal setting and resolutions.  I think those are both great, but what I want to talk about today has more to do with my digital lifestyle. 

Weren’t all these devices supposed to make our lives simpler and more efficient?  That has not been my experience.

First, let me say that I love technology and all that it helps me do.  There is no way I could run a business like I do today out of my home without these wonderful modern digital devices.

However, along with all the benefits they bring, there is a dark side to technology.  I have noticed for myself over the past 5 years or so that I keep feeling that I am moving faster and faster without necessarily being any more productive.  I took some a long, hard look at my habits over the holiday season and decided on three main things that I am doing in the new year that I am about 99% sure will make me more productive, lower my stress, and help me sleep better.

1.  Turn off all phone notifications.

Ever since getting a smart phone a couple of years ago, the little notifications on the screen have been taking up a larger and larger bandwidth in my mind and of my time.  When I switched to an iPhone last year, I did turn off a lot of the notifications.  Do I really need to get a message every time someone likes one of my Instagram pictures or starts following me on twitter? 

For the new year, I am getting a lot more drastic.  I turned off ALL the  notifications, badges, beeps, and buzzers from every app including Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Gmail.  These were definitely the big 3 time suckers for me.  The only ones I left on were for the phone, calendar and messaging.

I really love all the cool apps I can put on my iPhone.  My meditation timer that keeps track of how many minutes a day and how many days in a row I keep up with my practice.  I have become much more diligent about my daily meditation practice since using the Insight Timer app.  The banking app that lets me deposit checks without even leaving my desk and Scannable, that lets me scan my restaurant receipts straight into Evernote before I even pay the bill. 

I can tell you that I have noticed a big difference in my relationship with my phone since it no longer lights up every time I get an email or a Facebook message.  My goal is to get back to using it as the amazing tool it is rather than the relentless task master it was quickly becoming.

2.  Take Gmail off my pinned browser apps.

I use Google Chrome, which lets you “pin” open tabs to your browser that always open when you open up your computer browser.  I used to work with people that had a ding go over every time an email gets done.  I find it hard to believe that any focused work could ever get done like that.

Gmail used to be the first thing on this pinned tab but not anymore.  I did my yearly email inbox purge over the holidays as well which is always fun.  Someday I want to learn how to work out of inbox zero, but that is a topic for another post.

Much like my phone, email has slowly gone from useful tool to time sucking monster over the years.  To deal with this, my new way of dealing with email is to bulk process it a couple times a day.  My old habit was to open my phone before I meditated in the morning and check my email.  Now, I will not check my email until I have started work for the day and then I give myself a window of time to sort through all the email I have received, decide what is important and made a list of things that need to get done and then I close Gmail. 

I haven’t yet figured out if I will go through email 2 or 3 times per day, for now I am doing 3 and see how that goes, but the rest of the day my email is off.

3.  Only go on social media during schedule times.

The last major distraction and potential massive time waster is social media for me.  Yet again, this is a 2 edged sword.  I have built most of my business off of Facebook (and now to a lesser degree Instagram) so I still want to be active and nurture relationships.  However, when I find myself watching cat videos or reading endless trolling comment threads on Facebook maybe I could be doing something more productive.

My new rule with Social Media for myself is to schedule the time in my day.  If I give myself an hour for Facebook, I make sure to get all the things done that I need before scrolling through my newsfeed.  A large part of the communication I do with my team is on Facebook through groups, so I spend some time there and updating my posts and then close the damn browser.

This is where mobile devices come in handy.  There are lots of times throughout the week when I am just sitting around with nothing to do and as entertainment, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram feed  reading random posts can be a fine activity as long as you don’t confuse it with work or being productive.

This is a big sticking point for a lot of new entrepreneurs that are just starting to do this whole online business thing.  It is easy to spend 2, 3 or 8 hours a day listening to videos, attending webinars and chatting with folks on Facebook.  All of these things are fine, but if you are not spending any time doing income producing activities, your are not really in business.  What you have is a hobby.

This is the tough love piece.  Sure, we all need to learn new skills and to do that we need to take courses, read articles, and watch videos.  The trick is QUICKLY putting what you have learned into place and not perpetually jumping on to the next bright shiny object when you have not developed a business that is paying the bills.

Find a few people to follow that have the results you want and then do what they say.  The biggest determination of whether you will attain your goals or keep your resolutions is if you have a plan in place to track your progress and keep you accountable.

So how does this all help improve your sleep.  I forgot my last piece of the puzzle.  Around 10 PM now, I take my phone and put it in “Do Not Disturb” mode until after my morning meditation.  I can already feel my adrenal glands starting to recover and heal themselves.

I would love to hear what sort of tricks you have to keep yourself focused and on track.

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