Category Archives: 5 Quick Tips

5 quick tips on dealing with digital distractions

Digital technology puts information at your fingertips and keeps you connected with the rest of the world. But it also drains your productivity, distracts you from your highest priorities and slows progress on your major projects when it’s overused. It’s easier to update your Facebook page, watch YouTube videos, and check emails than do deep, creative work. 

Here are 5 quick tips on dealing with digital distractions: 

1. Get clear on what you really need to accomplish. If you neglect to design your day around your most important tasks, you’re more likely to seek the dopamine high that comes with consuming information online, posting on social media, and reacting to notifications on your phone.

Define which areas allow you to use your greatest strengths and tap into your key interests. Figure out where you derive the most long-term satisfaction and contribute the highest value. Curate the information you consume. Engage only with content that jives with your top areas of interest, and unsubscribe from content that doesn’t serve your highest priorities. By focusing on what really matters, you avoid going down the digital rabbit hole that leads you astray.

2. Put technology in its place. With digital devices, you can get turn-by-turn directions to where you need to go, send a quick message to a friend, and listen to a favorite podcast during your commute.  These are great modern-day conveniences to have. Use technology to help you execute on your priorities, but don’t let it dictate where you place our attention.

Processing emails is rarely the most critical use of your time. Resist the urge to respond to or read every single one of them as they hit your inbox. Surfing the Internet  and scrolling through news alerts on your break time feeds overwhelm and clogs up your headspace. Instead, take a walk, meditate, drink some water, or be with nature to truly decompress.

3. Turn off notifications.  The pop-up messages and sound alerts you get each time a text, or email comes in is bound to distract you from your real work.  Forget about checking it or replying to it within seconds or minutes. By end of day or next day is usually more than enough.

To reduce digital temptations when you need to be focusing on real work, remove automatic alerts and disable push notifications from social media.  Try online filters and website blockers like FocusMe (paid service), Freedom (paid service) or StayFocused (free service for Google Chrome users).

4. Have specific time blocks to go digital. Be intentional about when you check your emails, watch online videos, scroll through web pages, and engage with social media. Make it as hard as possible to reach for your digital devices at any time of the day. Avoid them first thing after you wake up (when you ought to be gearing  for your most significant projects), and right before bedtime (when you ought to be winding down and clearing your mind).

Before you start high-concentration work, close your web browsers and keep your smartphone out of sight – preferably in another room – with the Do Not Disturb mode on. (You can set it up so the most important calls still get through.)

Respond to emails and go online during chunks of predetermined time blocks on your own schedule. That way, you stay responsive and connected without being bombarded by digital distractions throughout the day. And carve out off-grid time, such as an entire Sunday, when you’re not responding to emails, surfing the Web, tweeting or retweeting, or liking posts on Facebook. Put away your digital device when you need to give undivided attention to the persons in front of you, such as when you’re having dinner with your family, meeting with a client, or engaging in conversation with a friend.

5. Track your technology use. Being aware of how and when you use your electronic devices is key to dealing with digital distractions. Do you know how much time you spend online in a given day? RescueTime and Toggl are among the time trackers available.

You might find that you are flooding your brain with useless trivia, fueling inner negativity by keeping up with the daily news, and wasting time on seemingly urgent things that are really non-essential. Perhaps you go digital to procrastinate because you don’t know where to begin with significant projects, or to alleviate boredom because you’re overqualified for your job. Or you might find that you use technology mostly as a tool to get important things done. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to do an audit of your technology use.

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Photo by: Phillip LeConte

5 quick tips on getting enough sleep

Sleep debt adversely affects your health, limits your cognitive function, and results in fatigue, moodiness, impaired memory, and slowed reaction time. Sometimes sleep disorders and chronic stress can cause insomnia. Other times lack of sleep is self-created.  Either way, you won’t feel refreshed and ready for your day without sufficient sleep. 

Here are 5 quick tips on getting enough sleep:

1. Determine how much sleep you really need. The amount of sleep you need depends on various factors, including your age, genetics, and natural rhythm. The sleep duration recommendation by the National Sleep Foundation is 7 to 9 hours, on average, for adults between the ages of 26 and 64. But it’s better to know your individual needs. Pay attention to how the amount of sleep you get affects your wakefulness throughout the day. If you are generally cranky, feel like dozing off when driving, or zone out a lot during meetings, you could be sleep deprived. For a week, such as during a vacation, try waking up without an alarm. You will tend to rise when you’re fully rested.

2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at a set time, ideally at 10 p.m. (according to sleep experts). Or if you know when you must wake up, set your bedtime based on how much sleep you need. Here’s the basic sleep formula:

  • The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long
  • A typical night of sleep includes 5 full sleep cycles
  • 90 x 5 = 450 minutes, or 7.5 hours
  • From your wake time, work back 7.5 hours to find your bedtime

Let’s assume you need to be in the office at 8 a.m. It takes 2 hours to complete your morning routine and commute. If you set your wake time at 6 a.m. and count back 7.5 hours, your ideal bedtime is 10:30 p.m. This means you need to be in bed and ready for sleep at that time. Travel, deadlines, family emergencies and unexpected issues can interfere with your sleep schedule, but do what you can to protect it.

3. Do a brain dump. Stress, worry and anxiety make it hard to fall asleep. Try daily mindfulness or meditation to observe racing thoughts without getting hooked by them. Write down unfinished to-do’s and big ideas to keep them from swirling around in your head. Have a plan and set a date for when to tackle them, drop them altogether, or move them to your someday list.

4. Create an evening ritual or routine.  Eat a light dinner a few hours before your bedtime, so you’re not too full or too hungry when you go to sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Start winding down 45 minutes to 1 hour before you go to sleep. Shut down your electronic devices and keep them away from your bed. If you habitually check your smartphone, nix the mobile alarm app for a zen alarm clock (Now & Zen recommended). Stay away from emails, social media, the Internet, TV, and any type of work during your winding down period. Do gentle yoga, listen to relaxing music, or read uplifting literature.  Turn off the lights, wear a sleep mask (Earth Therapeutics recommended), release tension, and notice your breath as you fall asleep.

5.  Make sleep a priority. In our pseudo-productive environment, it’s tempting to cut sleep short to get more stuff done or to move ahead on a project. But getting enough high-quality sleep is essential to managing your energy and doing focused work. Sleep is more important than food and exercise when it comes to your personal health and productivity. Consult a sleep specialist if you have a sleep disorder or need help developing deeper sleep. Use feng shui to make a sleep sanctuary for yourself.

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Photo by: Rachel

5 quick tips on surrendering

Surrendering is typically viewed as a sign of defeat, a mark of failure, and a showing of weakness. But one must be willing to surrender – again and again – to stop unnecessary suffering, move forward, and lead an awakened life.

Here are 5 quick tips on surrendering: 

1.  Redefine surrender.  In war, the term surrender means giving up power to another upon demand or defeat. It’s no wonder it has negative connotations in everyday challenges and disputes. But what if surrender means gracefully facing the inevitable, avoiding undue harm, repairing damage, finding closure, and dropping a cause that is no longer worth struggling for?  Consider the many ways surrender can be an empowering choice before you dismiss it as an option for losers only.

2. Choose your battles wisely.  Stand up for yourself. Resist attacks. Stay true to your values. Don’t ever be a doormat. Just be prepared for backlash when you start meddling in someone else’s business, instead of minding your own. You can’t force others to change so they don’t bug you anymore. Surrender involves quitting an action that’s not working, getting comfortable with discomfort, letting go bit by bit of the things you don’t control, and staying open to a myriad of possibilities.

3. Notice when you are in resistance mode. Pay attention to how resistance manifests in your body.  Clenched fists? Jaw tension? Stiff neck?  Shallow breathing? Taking stock of what resistance feels like to you will help you determine when and where surrender is needed.

4. Release the toxic thoughts that arise when you surrender.  If you were taught to fight for what you want and to make things happen, it’s natural to think less of yourself when you allow events to unfold naturally. While deliberate effort is healthy, the need to control the results is rooted in fear. Surrendering, in fact, requires strong acts of courage. Once you acknowledge this as a basic truth, your thoughts about it will start to shift.

5. Realize that surrender can be a good thing, even when it doesn’t feel good.Despite what self-help gurus or spiritual circles might say, surrendering doesn’t always feel freeing, peaceful and blissful. It can often feel painful, terrifying and maddening. But after the sadness, rage or disappointment from relinquishment settles, you can make use of the new space, time and energy to engage in more fruitful activity. Trust the process. Trust your decision to move through it.

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Photo by: Rodger Evans