New Year Resolutions: Using a Blueprint

As the first month of the year draws to an end, the resolutions and goals that we set are either slipping away or coming more into focus. While we might try to keep all of those promises to ourselves, just writing a list about what we want to achieve often just isn’t enough, and we need something more beneficial than a list of goals to keep up accountable and motivated. While the first three weeks of 2016 have already gone by, it’s not too late to get on track with a blueprint. Here’s more about one of the tools being used by productivity professionals to guide even the most manic of work schedules: 1. Start with Excel Excel is one of the most multifunctional kinds of software, but unless you’re number crunching or very good about drawing up a personal budget, how many of us really use it to its full potential? While some of us might be more used to Word or other kinds of word processing software, Excel, or any other number processing software, its actually very helpful in tracking the amount of time you spend on tasks. By creating a document called “[Your Name] Blueprint 2016”, you’re already on your way to managing your time better. 2. Block off times for tasks While we can write endless lists, and things to do in our diaries, wall calendars and even loose scraps of paper, what list really holds you accountable to what you want to achieve? Using a blueprint and sharing it with your family, friends and colleagues is a way to group all of your significant...

Wearable Technology and Productivity in 2016

We often talk about technology as something we use with our fingers, like a laptop, keyboard or something we initiate with the flick of a switch or a swipe. While there continues to be ongoing developments in the improvement and refining of technology such as laptops and smartphones, what about the smaller items that we actually attach to our own bodies to monitor everything from our heart rate to our levels of productivity? At the beginning of a new year, here’s a round up of some of the more popular examples of wearable technology that will be used in 2016: 1. Pebble A smartwatch that connects to either your iPhone or Android device, the Pebble is available in a variety of different styles, from the simple Pebble Time to the slicker Pebble Time Steel. With a week’s worth of battery life, a colour display and the ability to connect you to important data, Pebble is one of the many wearables that will help you to manage your day from your wrist. 2. Apple Watch In true Apple style, the Apple Watch is designed to complement the use of other similar devices. You can use it to manage tasks, track your fitness and even reply quickly to messages with the option of a few standard responses to save time. With a focus on personalising the smartwatch experience, you can even send your own heartbeat rhythm to another Apple Watch user, or a silly sketch. 3. Jawbone UP We all need a little bit of encouragement sometimes to keep active, even if it just means getting up at regular intervals to...

Is Technology Shortening Our Attention Spans?

We often like to think that if we just try hard enough, we could concentrate for hours at a time and get everything done. It gets frustrating when we struggle to focus on one task at a time, when the truth is that we’re constantly dividing our attention between all kinds of distractions, from phone calls to emails and from news feeds to other on-screen notifications. 1. Are Our Brains Are Working Differently? Recent research on attention spans conducted by Microsoft, revealed that our average attention spans have fallen from 12 to 8 seconds over the last fifteen years. Microsoft delved deeper into their research on the different ways that we pay attention: sustained, selective and alternating. Sustained attention is focus on specific tasks, and selective attention is being aware of distractions around you but still being able to focus on priority tasks. Finally, alternating attention is the ability to switch between different tasks across platforms. The summary of their research suggests that selective and alternating attention are becoming increasingly important skills in today’s world, as our attention spans adapt to working across different devices and using various online tools. This means that while we may still try to focus on doing one thing at a time, the truth is that the actual structure of our brains is changing. This is because, according to neuroscientific research, the brain actually changes in response to behaviour, for example having to learn how to use new technology. 2. Our Attention Spans and Productivity While we might become frustrated with our inability to focus for longer periods of time due to increasing distractions,...

Self-Awareness and Productivity

In order to be our most productive, we need to be constantly evaluating our behaviour and what works for us. We read books about productivity, advice from successful entrepreneurs and work hard to refine our routines. However, often it feels like we’re back to square one, just when we think we’ve got a hold on our workload and all of the challenges we face on a daily basis. With all of the literature available on productivity and self-improvement, could just being more self-aware help to alleviate the potentially exhausting cycle of falling down and picking ourselves back up again? In order to be more self-aware, we need to be conscious of what we’re good at and acknowledge what we still need to work on, according to an article by Inc.com, which explores the way in which self-awareness is essential for effective leadership. By being receptive to all kinds of feedback, we are able to become more aware of our limitations and work on improving certain skills, even though our instinctive reaction may be to pretend that we know it all and justify our behavior and decisions. Whilst being self-aware might be the end goal, the truth is that it is a constant work in progress, and there are many things we can do to constantly improve the way we approach all aspects of our life. One suggestion from Lifehacker includes writing a journal, which assists us in becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and what’s really going on inside our heads. Another suggestion is asking for feedback. This could be anything from a formal request to co-workers...

Left or Right Brain? Make It Work for You

Do we actually make the most of our day according to how our brains work? This essential piece of information alone could save you loads of time and frustration… 1. Left and Right Brain: Truth or Myth? Many of us have grown up with the notion of the left versus the right brain, and what that means for your preferences or personality. Recap: those who are more logical and organised are said to be more left-brain orientated, while those who are more free-thinking and creative are said to be right-brain dominant. When it comes to productivity, people who support this distinction advise different ways of approaching your studies or work. Left-hand dominated people are advised to work alone and be aware of their need for structure, whereas right-hand dominant people are told to try and be more organised and to focus on finishing a task. While we might all subscribe to this dichotomy to some degree, can we as complex humans be so easily divided into one of these two categories? Recent research suggests that this way of looking at how our brains work is limited, and that although there are focused centres for processing different kinds of information in certain parts of the brain, overall, activity takes place across the two hemispheres. Neuroscientists believe that maths skills are thought to be more logical and left-brain orientated, being good at maths actually requires processes that take place in both left and right hand regions of the brain. 2. Making the Divide Work: Brain Gym Take control and mesh the two sides together for optimum functioning. One method to improve...

Your Circadian Rhythm and Productivity

You wake up and expect to be alert and ready for the day, you’ve done your best to get enough sleep but for some reason you just can’t manage to get going in the morning like the others around you. Could it be that your natural biological rhythm is just out of sync with the predefined work day? 1. Get in Tune With Your Own Rhythm As much as we might try to conform to a predetermined schedule, our body clocks often work differently. For many years, scientists and those interested in productivity have been studying what are called circadian rhythms, our natural cycles of being awake or asleep. Understanding the way that these cycles work allows us to be less critical of ourselves when we don’t conform to the usual 9-5, as our bodies actually go through natural energy peaks and troughs throughout the day. By being aware of our own unique rhythms, we can actually find what works best for us, and give ourselves an advantage when it comes to being more productive. Besides from being able to get more done, paying attention to our body’s natural rhythms can also help us to function better in daily life. Our entire physical functioning is dependent on different cycles within the body itself, for example, the different hormones that are released in response to stimuli such as light. According to research by Dr. Steve Kay from the University of Southern California, your cognitive abilities are also better at different times of the day, most notably around late morning when the body reaches an optimum temperature after waking up. 2....