Happiness Tip: Get More Done with Less Stress

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We parents are probably more squeezed for time than at any other time in history. And no time can mean lots of stress.  Here are three tips for getting things done–without also feeling so stressed out:

  1. Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking exhausts more energy and time than single-tasking does. Take it from productivity experts Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy:
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    Distractions are costly: A temporary shift in attention from one task to another–stopping to answer an email or take a phone call, for instance–increased the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25 percent, a phenomenon known as ‘switching time.’ “

  2. Build positivity. We need to consciously practice doing things that make us happy, especially during times when we are trying to accomplish something (this goes just as much for helping kids with homework or potty training as it does for finishing that big report at work). As psychologist Shawn Achor writes, “Positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative.”
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  3. Feeling anxious or agitated by how much you need to get done? Don’t let those negative emotions lead you into the downward spiral of a full fight-or-flight response, which is basically like being on a hamster-wheel. You might feel like you are working furiously, but the work is low-quality.
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  4. Stopping to do something that makes us laugh, or feel grateful or inspired, can renew our energy and get us back on a more productive, less stressed track.Simply taking a moment to write down what you are grateful for–or better yet, express it to someone else–can do the trick.
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  5. Practice “discontinuous productivity.”In other words, rest between periods of productivity. We can’t gun-it for eight hours straight; our brains just don’t work that way. After 90 to 120 minutes of high output, we need a period of recovery–or negativity starts to build, and productivity starts to decline.
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  6. Productivity experts recommend periods of focus followed by high-quality periods of rest. Rest periods needn’t be long (10-15 minutes will do) if you truly take a break: Go for a walk outside, chat with a coworker or neighbor about a new movie, eat your lunch outside or near a sunny window.
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  7. One of these productivity experts, Bob Pozen, even says he closes his office door after lunch and naps for 30 minutes. Pozen has worked as a top mutual fund executive, an attorney, a government official, a law school professor, a business school professor and a prolific author–often doing several jobs at once. If he can nap midday, for crying out loud, so can the rest of us.
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Take Action: Increase your productivity today by taking a break.  A real one. Maybe even a nap!

This is an excerpt from my Greater Good blog.

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