In a hurry? Slow down.

Four ways to be more productive

I've often told my staff that when the pressure of a deadline looms, and stress levels are high because so much work has yet to be done, they need to slow down. Work methodically, not instinctively; make a check list and cross tasks off as they get completed. Don't run around like a headless chicken. Slow down. Do one step at a time, and finish on time. If you can make this an ongoing habit, not only will you get more done, you'll be happier and have a more fulfilling life.

Most of us start our day by looking at our phone. Check email, check WeChat / WhatsApp / Messenger / <insert social media platform of choice>. Then read the news. Then respond to the messages from people that just responded to our messages. And it begins there. For the rest of the day we're looking at our phones constantly, and dealing with incoming bombardment of messages, requests, comments, news etc, and in the process we ignore what is right in front of us. We get distracted, and with the influx of incoming streams to our phones, we tend to stay distracted.

First things first: Be focused. We've become a race of people that are struggling to keep up. We're plagued with worries about how we're going to keep up or stay ahead in today's fast-changing and high-pressure world. Slow down. Plan. Set goals. Work methodically, but don't confuse that with working slowly, work with precision and purpose. To do that, you have to be present, not distracted. Decide to spend 45 minutes on a task. Turn off your phone, or put it on silent and out of sight. When you feel the urge to reach for it, resist. Get back to the task at hand. Be present. You'll be surprised how much work you can get done in 45 minutes of focused effort.

Stop multitasking. I don't buy that bit about doing multiple things at once. That's like running in several directions at once. Stop, pause, think, plan, focus and run in the right direction. Don't mistake being busy with being productive. Do one thing, finish it, move on to the next. At the end of the day, you'll be amazed with how much you've struck off your to-do list.

Learn to say "no". The most overworked and unproductive people are the ones that have the most on their plate. They are also the people everyone goes to with requests. If you don't respect your time, no-one else will. You don't have to do everything that comes your way. Every time you say "yes" to something, it is taking up space in your life. And it is keeping you from your existing commitments. Learn to say "no". At the very least, learn to say "not now." It is important that you choose and dictate the pace and choice of tasks in your life.

Finally: Be mindful. Learn to live in the present. If you're mindful of the 'now' you'll get much more accomplished, and you'll derive far more pleasure and gratitude from your life. If you're speaking with someone, be in the conversation, be attentive, be with them entirely. Don't be preoccupied with an unreplied email or a pending task. If you're having lunch, appreciate the food, savor the taste and texture. If you're walking, take notice of your surroundings, smile at a stranger, smell the freshly-mowed grass, appreciate the environment, no matter where you are.

Do yourself a favor. Slow down. I leave you with a philosophy that I've tried to live my life by:

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. 
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. 
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. 
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. 
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. 
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. 
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann