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Increase Productivity & Reduce Stress



One challenge that many individuals face is the ability to balance all the tasks of the day such as their goals and priorities without getting stressed. Organizations are also empowering their employees with techniques that can be used to improve their productivity while reducing stress. Stressed employees are bad investments for organizations, because they project a negative attitude, take more sick days off, lack creativity, and reduce the morale of the other employees.    

If we are facing this challenge of stress associated with productivity, we can ask ourselves whether we are being productive or just plain busy. We often feel stressed because there is so much to do, and so little time. We have put so much emphasis on the importance of being busy, because we feel devalued if we seem less busy than someone else. It has become a competition and sense of pride to tell others how busy and stressed we are. We have conditioned ourselves to believe that being busy and stressed is a measure of success and productivity.

For those of us who are honestly seeking for a way to reduce stress, we can follow these three techniques.

1. Drop the Emotional Baggage – We have a tendency to carry all our memories and scars with us wherever we go. These memories and scars occupy space in our brains and do not allow us to focus on the task at hand. When we are working on a specific project, our minds recall incidents, interactions, and emotions from the past that distract us. To make it worse, worries about the future also distract us in the present moment. For us to perform our tasks efficiently, we must unclutter our brains from unnecessary thoughts.

Imagine holding a glass of water, initially it is very light; but the longer we hold on to it, the heavier it starts to feel. The same concept applies with the emotions that we are carrying. The longer we hold it, the heavier it gets; and eventually when we can no longer hold it, we breakdown.

In addition, we can replace the word “should” in are vocabulary with the word “must”. Often saying that “I should do this or should do that” and then not doing those tasks creates energy of regret. Instead, if we say that “I must do this or that” creates and energy of empowerment, and results in the tasks being completed.

Once we transform our speech and drop the emotional baggage that we have been carrying for years; we will notice a rise in our energy level as well as better focus to complete our tasks.

2. Relax and Restore – It is said that through our five senses we receive approximately 2 million bits of information per second. This is through our senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The conscious mind is unable to process so much information that is received so it filters it down to only approximately 134 bits per second.  The conscious mind filters the information by deleting, distorting, or generalizing the information that is received. The purpose of the conscious mind is to retain only the sensory information that we feel is important. For example, if we are walking on the street we do not notice the smell of the flowers; remember the benches that we have passed or whether there is a step or a ramp on the pavement. We also rarely listen to the birds singing, or feeling the minor temperature changes in the air.  Moreover, we also have misunderstandings with other people, because the filter of the mind distorted the information that they had presented. Due to this we also generalize the information since we cannot remember the specifics.

Now, imagine how magnificent every moment would be if we could sense the environment around us with a higher level of sensitivity. Fortunately, this is possible. We need to raise our level of awareness and sensitivity of the sensory preceptors.

We can achieve this by practicing on stilling the mind. When the mind is quiet, the sensory preceptors become more receptive. For example, at the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, music is played for about two minutes every hour. This is referred to as a “traffic stop”. During the two minutes, everyone must stop what he or she is doing and become present in the moment. This reduces the traffic of thoughts in the mind, raises the level of awareness, as well as relaxes and restores the body.

By incorporating this simple and profound technique into our daily routine the amount of stress is reduced. Every hour or two, if we pause for a few minutes we will realize that the mind and body have been recharged, and then we can continue working with more clarity.

3. Time Management – Effective time management can significantly improve our productivity and reduce stress.  We must first be very clear about our priorities and goals.  Throughout the day, we waste our time on so many tasks that are unimportant; that by the end of the day we wonder where did all our time disappear. This is also due to our habit of procrastination. The good news is that this is very simple to resolve.

A small amount of planning can produce magnificent results. As we start each day, we can divide our tasks and goals into four categories.

1)    Important and Urgent – List only the tasks that are important and need to be completed as soon as possible. Set this as priority 1.
2)    Important and Not Urgent – List only the tasks that are important to you, but do not need to be completed immediately. Set this as priority 2.
3)    Not Important and Urgent – List only the activities that may not be important to you, but may be important to someone else. The most effective option is to delegate this task to someone else, because it is clearly not that important to us. If it were that important, it would be labeled as priority 1.
4)    Not Important and Not Urgent – List the tasks that are not important and do not need to be completed as soon as possible. This is so simple to understand, but consider how much time we waste doing tasks that are not important and not urgent. Label this a priority 4, and then ignore these tasks.

Think about how many of the tasks listed as “Not Important and Not Urgent” do we prioritize as “Important and Urgent”? This is a complete waste of time and energy. Imagine how much more productive we would be if we focused on priority 1 instead of priority 4. Furthermore, as we complete the priority 1 tasks on schedule, we will eventually complete priority 2 ahead of schedule. We can then delegate priority3 to someone else, and not perform the tasks listed as priority 4.

Procrastination is another time management issue related to productivity. Many of us procrastinate either because the task is too difficult or the task is too boring. All it takes is a shift in attitude to overcome procrastination. If the task is important (priority 1), do not procrastinate and complete it as soon as possible, and if it is boring, shifting your attitude to one of acceptance and enthusiasm will make the task more bearable.

It is often a misconception that high productivity leads to happiness. On the contrary, it is the other way around; happiness leads to high productivity. If we recall the patterns in our past, we will notice that it was when we were happy and enthusiastic that we produced the best results.

If we simply follow the principals of letting go of past emotions, relaxing the body and mind, planning our time effectively, and ultimately performing each task with joy and enthusiasm; we can enhance our level of productivity while reducing stress.

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” – Leo Babauta

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