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excited kids looking at a computer

A couple months ago, I wrote a blog titled Accomplish MORE in LESS Time. I was tired of feeling like I was so busy at times, yet not feeling like I accomplished as much as I could or should. I wanted to make some changes to my schedule and my work habits. I started researching proven strategies for increasing productivity. I am going to review my progress and provide some additional information about productivity.

Since I denounced the concept of multitasking in my last blog, I have reduced the amount of time I spend trying to multitask. I check my email in batches: first thing in the morning, mid-morning, before and after lunch, and later in the afternoon. Logging out of email has helped reduce disruptions in my work flow. The downside is that I have been late getting on to Zoom meetings because my calendar did not give me the 15 minute warning. So, I have learned to set the alarm on my phone for these times. This allows me to keep email closed, yet not miss other obligations.

Another thing I have been doing, is avoiding ‘visiting’ with my co-workers first thing in the morning. More people tend to be productive and creative in the morning, rather than later in the day. This one has been challenging since I am a people person. At first I felt like I was not being friendly, so I explained my rationale to my co-workers so they would not think I am just being antisocial. This has been helpful for my own productivity. I have intentionally been designating morning time to work on projects like blog articles, webinars, and other “thinking” work and saving my socializing for the afternoon, unless my co-workers initiate a conversation.

While, I have been doing things that I learned from my research on productivity, I still have a lot of room for improvement. I want to get better at taking breaks from my work. I have a treadmill desk, so I often think I don’t really need to go outside or for a walk since I am able to walk anytime I want to right at my desk. This could not be further from the truth. According to MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen people who take regular breaks FROM their work are more productive. He suggests the question to ask yourself is not how many breaks you should take in a day, but “what is the appropriate time period of concentrated work you can do before taking break?” Pozen suggests between 75-90 minutes of work followed by a 15 minute break is a good ratio.

I am going to be more intentional about taking breaks FROM my workempty officein the next couple months. I have used socializing with my co-workers as one of my breaks from work, but I have not incorporated many other breaks aside from the occasional web-surfing in to my day. I want to incorporate LEAVING my office and/or building for at least a short walk or just to sit outside and enjoy the outdoors as my next goal for increased productivity.

I welcome any tips, tricks, or suggestions you have for increasing productivity since this is a journey for me. Feel free to leave your comments below.

Photo Credit:

https://pixabay.com/photos/children-win-success-video-game-593313/

https://pixabay.com/photos/simpolo-india-morbi-tiles-ceramics-2020200/

Sources:

Griffin, J. (2017) 4 Ways Multi-Tasking Decreases Productivity (And How to Avoid It). Northeastern University Graduate Programs. Retrieved from: https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/why-you-shouldnt-multitask/

Harmon, M. (2019). Accomplish MORE in LESS Time. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. Found at:  https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/03/28/accomplish-more-in-less-time/

MIT Sloan Executive Education. (2017). Want to be more productive in 2018? Take more breaks. MIT Management Executive Education. Found at: https://executive.mit.edu/blog/want-to-be-more-productive-in-2018-take-more-breaks#.XOL8RSB7lhE

Wharton School. (2013). Productivity in the Modern Office: A Matter of Impact. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from: https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/productivity-in-the-modern-office-a-matter-of-impact/

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County, dellifield@osu.edu

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Picture of phone screen, tablet screen, computer screen and television screenCan you and your family go a week without looking at screens when you’re not at work or school?

This is National Screen-Free Week. Most of us have our cell phones handy at all times.  We text, email or connect to social media without thinking about it.  Our children are playing games, watching videos and messaging others on their phones or tablets.  Plus the television blares in the background whether anyone is watching or not.  In fact, 52% of moms think they check their phones too often with 45% of children saying their parent checks their phone too often.

Can’t go screen-free for the week?  How about cutting back? The average child watches more than 2,300 hours of television each year, but only spends about 1,200 hours in school.  “We Can!” has a nice chart to print off to record the amount of time or times different screens are used.  Try these to limit screen time:

  • No screen zones in the bedrooms, only allow televisions and computers in the family room.  Park cell phones for the night in the family room before going to bed.
  • Set limits for watching television, playing video games, and using the computer, tablet, or cell phone.
  • No television or other screens during dinner. Talk to each other.
  • When watching television don’t just sit there, get up and move, at least during commercials.
  • Don’t use the television or other screens as a punishment or reward.

Screen time often limits the time children play creatively or communicate with the people around them.  Children need to explore their world through play using their imagination and curiosity.  This helps them gain skills of creativity which helps with problem-solving.  Communication skills suffer due to too much time spent watching screens and not interacting face-to-face with others.  Too much screen time has also been linked to an increase in obesity.

Try some of these 101 Screen-Free Activities:Picture of little girl blowing bubbles outside

  • Play outside – play a game of catch or Frisbee, jump rope, blow bubbles, sidewalk chalk
  • Paint a picture
  • Clean up or redecorate your room
  • Read a book
  • Learn a skill – cooking, change the oil in a car, craftingPicture of boys jumping in the air outside
  • Make dinner together
  • Play cards, charades or board games
  • Go for a walk or ride bikes
  • Study sign language
  • Put together puzzles, legos
  • Go bird watching
  • Plant a gardenPicture of two girls playing in the sand
  • Go through closets and donate items not used or have a garage sale
  • Listen to the radio and dance to the music
  • Sing songs together

Enjoy time together! Have some fun!

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University

Reviewer:Tammy Jones, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University

References:

Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Skip the Screen.  Available at http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/storage/documents/pdfs/tipsheets-may-2018/ght-skip-screen-eng-span-bleedsfixed-091117.pdf

National Institutes of Health.  (2018). We Can!  Available at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/screen-time-log.pdf

Screen Free.  (2018). 101 Screen Free Activities. Available at https://www.screenfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/101-Screen-Free-Activities.pdf

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causeway

Every day on my drive to work I cross over the Mosquito Creek causeway.  Driving over the lake is always beautiful with the scenery of birds, and ice anglers in the winter and an array of boats and skiers in the summer.

Driving over the causeway twice a day,  enjoying nature has provided me a moment to reflect both before and after work.  Over the years, this time is important to me, preparing me for the day and reminding me to slow down and take a moment to pause.

We all live busy lives. Our workdays are busier.  Digital technology has extended work into late hours.  Our work/life balance suffers.  Recently, at our Extension Annual Conference, keynote speaker Theresa Glomb gave an inspiring talk on how we can improve our work and home lives.  She shared a relatable message with the following action steps:

 

Work Hard

Have Fun

Choose Kind

Be Present

 

Work Hard–

Create a routine to accomplish goals or make significant progress on a project.

Plan for 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted work.

Have Fun–

Create a positive work environment.

Reflect on one good thing that happened during the weekday.

Share positive events with team members.

Choose Kind–

Ask a co-worker how their evening was last night.

Give a compliment for a job well done.

Be respectful.

Be Present–

Pay attention. Focus on the task.

Engage in mindful practices daily.

Pause before answering a question, text, or mail.

This advice is easy to remember and a simple tenet of how we can choose to spend our days in a more meaningful way.  Take a moment today to pause…. What strategies will you incorporate into your daily life?

Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Sources:

https://www.bravenewworkshop.com/creativeoutreach/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Work-Hard-Have-Fun-Choose-Kind-Be-Present-Lecture-BNW-MNovation-2018.pdf

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Does that question cause you some anxiety? Even thinking about it may feel impossible!
Our phones are used for so much these days; banking, shopping, entertainment, keeping in touch, navigating and more. Even my kids share ways their teachers incorporate their phones into their school day with quizzes and classroom research. 

cell phone

As our use of our phones has grown, so has the research suggesting that our phones can impact our health: physically, mentally and emotionally. With this in mind, taking a break from your phone can be a powerful way to improve your health and well-being. The benefits of taking a break from screens are vast and impact many areas of our daily life. Improved mood, better sleep, a healthier work/life balance, being more present in everyday moments and even a more focused driver are all positive benefits from a break. 

Putting down your phone can be easier said than done.  It doesn’t have to be permanently. Just a few small changes in the way phones are used in your daily life can have a big impact. Here are a few to consider:

Remove phones for transitional moments in your day: walking, getting ready in the morning, driving etc.  Instead of allowing your phone to distract you focus on walking from your car into the grocery store.  Be present in the moment. Pay attention to your breathing, what you see, what you smell.

Consider other ways to fill down time: We haven’t always had our phones. What did you do with your downtime before?  Our phones often control or take over our downtime with checking on social media or playing a game.  Think about what you used that downtime for before you started crushing all that candy and try to implement some of those activities or hobbies.  

Put your phone away before bed: The blue light emitted from our phones can impact sleep, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Our mind needs time to unwind after technology use throughout the day.   Shutting off your phone 30 minutes before bed can help you achieve more restful sleep and help your brain produce the melatonin it needs to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Find opportunities to explore the real world: Get outside, spend some time in nature.  Focus on building real relationships.  Walk over and have a conversation with a neighbor face to face instead of texting.  Call a friend or make plans that don’t include screens or your phone. 

Put your phone away during conversations:  Studies show that people feel less connected to conversation partners, and found their partners less empathically attuned, when a cell phone was present during the conversation. Having a phone present can be a barrier to a deeper or meaningful conversation. These conversations require trust and undivided attention.   Putting your phone away shows your loved ones that you are listening and focused on them. 

Whether as a temporary breather or an opportunity to create enduring change, there is much to be gained from taking a break from your phone. Screen-Free Week is April 29- May 5. Take the online pledge and you’ll receive support and tips for going screen free.
There is no need to go it alone- consider getting close friends, family, and household members to join you in this effort.

 

Resources:

Commercial-Free Childhood. (2019). Rediscover the joys of life away from screens. Retrieved from https://www.screenfree.org/

Gomes, M. (2018, April). Five Reasons to Take a Break from Screens. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_reasons_to_take_a_break_from_screens

The National Sleep Foundation. (2019). Three ways gadgets are keeping you awake. Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/ways-technology-affects-sleep/

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County

Reviewed by: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County

 

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Stress is something that every person encounters in life; relationships, weddings, jobs, births, finances, vacations, deaths, etc. all create stress.  Some events might be happy, positive events, like having a baby, but they still can be stressful.  According to the Mayo Clinic, stress effects our bodies physically, mentally and behaviorally.

Common effects of stress on your body:road sign - one pointing right with the word stress and one point left with the word relax

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems

Common effects of stress on mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression

Common effects of stress on your behavior:

  • Overeating or underrating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising less often

If stress isn’t managed properly it can wreak havoc on your body.  Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Southern California, Kim Goodman says “Chronic stress can lead to depression, anxiety, low tolerance levels and interpersonal relationship challenges.”    Our ability to effectively cope with stress is determined by how we respond to it.  Jack Canfield developed a formula to explain this concept E (event) +R (response) = O (outcome).  He states “every outcome you experience in life is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event in your life.  Likewise, if you want to change the results you get in the future, you must change how you respond to events in your life…starting today”.   Here is an example of putting this formula into practice:  you’re stuck in traffic (E) + you cuss, beep your horn and yell out the window (R) = your angry, anxious, experience muscle tension and your blood pressure increases (O).  Now let’s use the same scenerio but change our response and see if the outcome is different.  You’re stuck in traffic (E) + you turn on some music, maybe return phone calls or spend the time contacting a friend you haven’t had time to connect with (R) = you remain calm and relaxed and your productive.   It really isn’t about the event/situation, rather it’s about YOUR response to it that determines what the outcome will be and whether stress controls you or you control your stress. 

So what are some self-care practices that will help improve the way we respond to different events/situations?

  • Exercise daily
  • Eat well
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Take time for yourself

Remember, you have a choice in how you respond to stress and the toll it will take on your physical, mental and behavior health.  So choose wisely!

Resources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/news/why-stress-management-important-self-care-tips-anyone-can-put-practice

https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/the-formula-that-puts-you-in-control-of-success/

https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Taking-Care-of-Yourself

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County

Reviewed by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County

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open laptop with smart phone on video call in front of it

How many times a day, a week, or a month do you say, “I am so busy?” When I look at my calendar, yes I still use paper, there are times when I get a little overwhelmed and wonder why I am so busy. I color-code my calendar to denote meetings, presentations or classes, blogs, and personal appointments. This allows me to quickly glance at it and prioritize my work, in theory. However, at times, my calendar can leave me a bit stressed.

Have you ever heard someone bragging about how great they are at multitasking? I admit, I used to. I could be working on several things at the same time and keep it all straight, or so I thought. I realized I was not completing these tasks as well as I could or should. The truth is that there is no such thing as multitasking. Yes, I just said that. This former self-proclaimed multitasker just denounced the entire concept!

Research shows that multitasking is a myth. Our brains are good at switching tasks very quickly. So much so, that we mistakenly think we are able to do several things at once. Now, there are exceptions. For instance, as I type this blog, I am walking on my treadmill. These two activities require different areas of the brain; therefore, I am able to both of them simultaneously, reasonably well . I also have been walking for 4+ decades, so it requires very little brain power. Now, if I was trying to learn a new physical activity while compiling this blog, I would likely have trouble.

I decided to look at proven strategies to help increase productivity since I sometimes feel soo busy. I discovered some interesting research. For instance, employees at green companies are more productive, blue skies may decrease productivity, negativity in the workplace can hurt productivity, and hiding from your manager may increase your productivity. While these all make sense, I really wanted to focus on things that I can do immediately.

According to an article by Heather Stringer called Boosting productivity, these are a few tips to start with:

  1. Grow your attention span. Even though technology can empower us to accomplish things faster, Larry Rosen, PhD has found that those benefits can disappear when digital distractions are so readily available.
  2. Write out your goals. Many people who work are familiar with the idea of setting goals for themselves, but achieving those goals can be elusive. Research is showing that establishing a habit of writing about goals can boost performance.
  3. Get together. The idea of fitting in another meeting may seem counter-productive for people working in group settings, but research ­suggests that taking time to debrief as a team can improve productivity in the long run.
  4. Get out of the chair. Researchers are finding that employees with stand-­capable workstations may be more productive than their seated counterparts.

I plan to implement some of these strategies to help increase my productivity and reduce how often I feel soo busy. I will keep you updated in future posts as to how it is going and I will add more suggestions. I would love to see your tips for increasing productivity in the comments.

Reviewer: Your Name,

Image:

https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-computer-technology-asus-425826/

Sources:

Newman, K. (2019). Why You Never Seem to Have Enough Time. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_you_never_seem_to_have_enough_time

Stringer, H. (2017). Boosting productivity. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/boosting-productivity

Henion, A. and Johnson, R. Workplace Negativity Can Hurt Productivity. Research@MSU. https://research.msu.edu/workplace-negativity-can-hurt-productivity/

Noble, C. (2013). Hiding From Managers Can Increase Productivity. Working Knowledge. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/hiding-from-managers-can-increase-your-productivity

Hewitt, A. (2012). Employee at ‘green’ companies are significantly more productive, study finds. UCLA Newsroom. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/study-certified-green-companies-238203

Noble, C. (2012). Blue Skies, Distractions Arise: How Weather Affects Productivity. Working Knowledge. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/blue-skies-distractions-arise-how-weather-affects-productivity

Weinschenk, S. (2012). The True Cost of Multitasking. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201209/the-true-cost-multi-tasking

Hamilton, J. (2008). Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again. NPR. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794

 

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One of the biggest joys of being an Extension Educator is hearing the stories of others and sharing the highs and lows of daily life. I love living in the community, and have come to realize that if I want it to be a better place, it begins with conversations with others.

Every day, each one of us lives in joy, in sorrow, in anger, in sadness, in the known and in the unknown. And yet, we don’t always share with another the truth of how we are feeling. When asked, “How are you?” A standard response is “Good”. When in reality, we are happy, excited, frustrated, sad, exhausted, silly, or many other emotions. It is so important that we begin to share our emotions with one another, that we share one another’s joys and sorrows.

When talking with a group of young adults about finding balance and setting boundaries in relationships, one of them asked me, “How do you do that without hurting someone else?”

While helping dairy farmers learn more about sharing one another’s joys and burdens with family and friends, one of them asked me, “How do you start that when it’s not what I was taught?”

During a class for parents going through a divorce, one of them asked me, “How do you help your child when they are isolating themselves?”

Each of these questions, asked with honesty and openness, led to a shared discussion for everyone present. The beauty in those moments was the community that was built for each person present.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) shares that “emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times.” For optimal emotional well-being they suggest 6 strategies for improving your emotional health:

  • Find the positive
  • Reduce Stress
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Allow yourself to grieveteam-386673_1920
  • Spend more time with others
  • Practice mindfulness

The NIH also reminds us that “positive social habits can help you build support systems and stay healthier mentally and physically.” Through our relationships with others, we learn how the world around us works. Being in relationship with others is an important part of our well-being. What are the ways that you are involved with others each day? Some places you might be involved within your community are: service groups, exercise, social groups, family, athletics, work, school events, the grocery, driving from here to there, and many more.

Building a community is the responsibility of each of us. Be vulnerable. Try something new. Reach out to someone you have not talked to recently. Through our sharing of our life experiences, each of us will learn that we are not alone and we are loved. Take time today to reach out to the community you currently have created and don’t be afraid to look for community wherever you are.

Written by:  Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County

Sources:

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Emotional Wellness Toolkit, https://www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Social Wellness Toolkit, https://www.nih.gov/health-information/social-wellness-toolkit

Queensland Government,Social and Emotional Wellness,  https://workplaces.healthier.qld.gov.au/public-resources/health-topics-ideas-for-action/social-and-emotional-wellness/

Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/team-motivation-teamwork-together-386673/

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