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Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

a pile of to-do lists

Are you a list maker? It’s ok, I am too! There is something wonderfully satisfying about making a list. Even more fulfilling is checking, crossing, staring or otherwise denoting the completion of one of its tasks. I think post it notes are a perfect stocking stuffer (even though my kids don’t) and having a stash of them at home, work, and in my car is necessary for me to live a productive life. That’s normal, isn’t it? Well, even if you do not have Glazomania (the unrecognized term for the love of making lists), research shows that I am not alone in my obsession, and perhaps making lists is actually one of my healthier habits. Read on as I list the reasons why….

NPR suggests (or lists) 10 reasons why people like lists: 

1. Lists bring order to chaos. My husband dreads my lists, but agrees that they keep us on track.

2. Lists help us remember things, like when we need to buy more milk at the store.

3. Most lists are finite.

4. Lists can be meaningful – think of a bucket list.

5. Lists can be as long or as short as necessary. New Year’s resolutions could be considered a list!

6. Making lists could help make you famous! Famous list makers include Thomas Jefferson, Martha Stewart, and Benjamin Franklin.

7. The word “list” can be tracked back to William Shakespeare.

8. Lists relieve stress and focus the mind.

9. Lists can force people to say revealing things – think best and worst dresses lists.

10. Lists can keep us from procrastinating.

According to Psychologist Dr. David Cohen, “we love to-do lists for three reasons: they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life; they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to; and they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.” I will add sometimes they are just fun; think David Letterman’s Top 10 lists. Psychologists Claude Messner and Michaela Wänke state, “the more we know about something—including precisely how much time it will consume—the greater the chance we will commit to it.”

However, E.J. Masicampo, an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University warns us about dangers associated with list making. He says they can become “mental graveyards”, meaning ideas go there to die. If we don’t accomplish the contents of out lists, they may become a source of anxiety, or worse, begin a cycle of unrealized ideas which can stunt our ambition.

For most of us, the physical reminder of a list can help manage the anxiety of a hectic week and bring order to our lives. In her book To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us author Sasha Cagen shares a compilation of her lists and discusses how she became known as a to-do list-ologist. I am going to stick with my post it notes, but for those who want to take their list making to the next level, there are apps for that. Check out these online favorites: Todoist, Evernote, and Monday.com. Feel free to list them in the order you like!

Written by Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Butler County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources

Cagen, S. (2007). To-do list: From buying milk to finding a soul mate, what our lists reveal about us. https://www.sashacagen.com/to-do-list-book/

Guardian News and Media. (2017, May 10). The psychology of the to-do list – why your brain loves ordered tasks. The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/10/the-psychology-of-the-to-do-list-why-your-brain-loves-ordered-tasks

Kent, L. (2020, July 14). The psychology behind to-do lists and how they can make you feel less anxious. CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/14/health/to-do-lists-psychology-coronavirus-wellness/index.html

Konnikova, M. (2013, December 2). A list of reasons why our brains love lists. The New Yorker. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/a-list-of-reasons-why-our-brains-love-lists

Weeks, L. (2009, February 24). 10 reasons why we love making lists. NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2009/02/24/101056819/10-reasons-why-we-love-making-lists

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On Saturday, I rushed through the kitchen and announced to my household: “Don’t follow my example. I’m trying to do too many things at once but here’s what I need you to do ….”  Some of the tasks I was trying to accomplish were putting groceries away in the refrigerator, reminding the kiddos what to get ready so we could leave for an event, and I needed to return a text with timely information. I thought I might have pulled it off until the next morning. Three food items that should have gone in the refrigerator were still sitting in the grocery bag on the counter. Ugh! I hate that I wasted time and money on food that was planned for the week.

Before I blame this pressure to multitask on modern expectations, the following quote is attributed to Mozart (1756 – 1791): The shorter way to do many things is to only do one thing at a time. The temptation to multitask is strong but the hidden costs of multitasking can build up. While we might feel like we are getting a few things done at once, research has shown that our brain is switching between the tasks and has to constantly re-focus on each new task. The challenge is “even though multitasking is wildly inefficient, it feels productive”.

“I’m trying to do too many things at once”. The next time that thought pops into my brain, or the words come out of my mouth, what can I do? I can take a mindful pause. It will not “waste” any time to pause, take a few deep breaths or even do a one-to-three-minute mindfulness practice. The immediate, rushed pressure of the moment will diminish. It will be easier for my brain to determine the order of the tasks or if I can delegate a task or if I can save a task until another time. Don’t follow my example when I’m trying to rush and multitask. Go ahead and follow my example when I take a pause, decide what needs to be done first and then do one thing at a time. 

Sources:

Carter, C. (2020). Three ways to help your kids succeed at distance learning: How can parents support their children at the start of an uncertain school year?. Greater Good Science Center. Berkeley University of California. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_ways_to_help_your_kids_succeed_at_distance_learning

Guided Meditations. UCLA Health. https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations#english

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/

Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A., & Ostergren, M. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation training on multitasking in a high-stress information environment. Graphics Interface Conference.  

Powell S. K. (2016). Mindfulness, Multitasking, and You. Professional case management21(2), 61–62. https://doi.org/10.1097/NCM.0000000000000141     https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26844712/

Wang, Z., & Tchernev, J. (2012). The “myth” of media multitasking: Reciprocal dynamics of media multitasking, personal needs, and gratifications. Journal of Communication 62 (2012) 493–513 © 2012 International Communication Association

Written by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County

Photo by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash

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picture of journal with note "Make it Happen"

Earlier this year I decided to do some research in to increasing productivity since I found myself saying or thinking how busy I was, even though I did not feel like I accomplished as much as I could or should. In my first blog about productivity, I rejected the notion of multitasking. In my second blog, I talked about taking breaks FROM work. I would be lying if I told you I have been doing well with either concept, especially the last couple months.

Over the summer, I have slipped back into my old ways. I have not been turning off email as often as I should (it is closed as I write this.) I have found myself starting one thing and then trying to do something else simultaneously. I have been taking breaks from my work on some days, but not as faithfully as I had planned. In fact, I was just telling my co-worker that SHE needs to take breaks from her work. I had to admit to her, that it was also a reminder for me to do the same. While my tendency would be to lament about my lack of progress, I have accepted that this is a process.

When we start something new or try to do things differently, there is bound to be a learning curve. As I am trying to learn different ways of working, I am likely to stumble, and I may even fall flat on my face. When this happens, I need to get back up and continue or start over. So, today I have my email turned off while I work on this blog. In a little while, I am going for a walk outside to help me reset and refresh. While I have not been as regular as I wanted to be with these changes, I am not going to be too hard on myself. I am going to regroup and make a concerted effort to get back to doing some of the things I committed to doing earlier this year.

to do list... "Later, tomorrow, today, Now"

Since my last blog, I have done some additional reading about productivity. In the article, “How to Boost Your Workplace Productivity” Tamar Shulsinger gives these suggestions:

  1. Develop a Morning Routine
  2. Prioritize Your Calendar
  3. Arrange Your Tasks in Order of Importance
  4. Communicate Efficiently
  5. Consider the Pomodoro Method
  6. Define What Work-Life Balance Means to You

I have been using some of these ideas, but again, not consistently. I want to become better about prioritizing my calendar, arranging my tasks, and using the Pomodoro Method. I will keep you updated in future posts as to how it is going. I would love to hear what tips or suggestions do you have for maximizing productivity. The more tools I have, the better.

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

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Images:

https://pixabay.com/photos/still-life-paper-no-person-3126536/

https://pixabay.com/vectors/now-concept-reminder-motivation-1272358/

References:

Cirillo, F. Do more and have fun with time management. Cirillo Consulting. Retrieved from: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

Harmon, M. (2019). Accomplish even MORE in LESS Time. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. Retrieved from: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/livehealthyosu.com/11895

Harmon, M. (2019). Accomplish MORE in LESS Time. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. Found at: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/livehealthyosu.com/11802

Shulsinger, T. (2017). How to Boost Your Workplace Productivity. Northeastern University Graduate Programs. Found at: https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/how-to-boost-workplace-productivity/

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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 a break?” Pozen suggests between 75-90 minutes of work followed by a 15 minute break is a good ratio.

empty office

I am going to be more intentional about taking breaks FROM my work in 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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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: Michelle Treber,

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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This time of year is always magical from a gardening perspective. Perennials and bulbs are blooming, greenhouses are open and neighbors are planting their annuals. Nothing brings us out of our winter blahs faster than the scent of hyacinths and lilacs or the beauty of daffodils and tulips. Did you know that flowers serve more than just an aesthetic purpose? They also can improve our overall well-being.

Lilacs

Planting or keeping flowers around the home and in the workplace greatly reduces a person’s stress levels. Natural aesthetic beauty is soothing to people, and planting ornamental flowers around the home environment is an excellent way to lower levels of stress and anxiety. People who keep flowers in and around their home feel happier, less stressed, and more relaxed. As a result of the positive energy they derive from the environment, the chances of suffering from stress-related depression are decreased as well. Overall, adding flowers to your home or work environment reduces your perceived stress levels and makes you feel more relaxed, secure, and happy. Flowers can help you achieve a more optimistic outlook on your life; bringing you both pleasing visual stimulation and an increase in your perceived happiness.

Having plants, going for a walk in the park, or even looking at a landscape poster can produce psychological benefits, reduce stress, and improve concentration. Flowers cut from the garden add a pop of color to the living areas in the home. Bringing potted plants into your work space helps improve productivity, as well as an increase in creativity and job satisfaction.

Flowers

Don’t have a green thumb, struggling with some plants, or just beginning to plant?  Want some creative tips for new projects? The National Gardening Association has tons of information to help you out.  Allow the outdoors to bring out your natural beauty. Behold the powers of flowers!

Sources:

http://ellisonchair.tamu.edu/health-and-well-being-benefits-of-plants/#.VzyCdrgrK70

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-mindfulness/200903/plants-make-you-feel-better

www.garden.org

www.onegreenplanet.org

Written by:  Melissa Welker M.Ed., B.S., Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County, Maumee Valley EERA, welker.87@osu.edu

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

 

 

 

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