Tag Archives | productivity

Kickstart 2013: Kindle Fire Giveaway

As 2012 pulls to a close, we want to empower you to ignite your best self and blast into 2013 with a free Kindle Fire!

We’ve got a Kindle Fire preloaded with 6 apps and 5 e-books that will really help you start kicking ass in the new year.

Out with the bad habits, in with some better ones!

To read all of the details about everything you will receive if you win, just visit our giveaway page, where entering to win will take you less than a minute.

Best of all, if you win, you’ll receive your preloaded FREE Kindle Fire just in time to start the new year off on the right foot.

No strings attached! This is simply our way of thanking everyone who reads TinyShift.

Good luck!

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Six Ways to Survive Separation

Photo courtesy of View from 5’2
Today’s contribution comes to us from DailyPath reader Shauna Stebler.

Marital separation is extremely difficult to get through especially if you are receiving mixed messages or are unsure of the direction things are moving.  You don’t want to be spending every day thinking about your spouse, wondering what went wrong, and what’s going to happen now, or the dreaded replaying of every conversation and overanalyzing everything that was said and done.  You will drive yourself mad!  I know this from experience.

Distractions are fundamental during this time.  The more distractions you have, the less time you spend wearing yourself out with the unknown.  Worrying about it isn’t going to change anything.  Let’s talk about focusing on the things you can control, versus the things you can’t.

1.  Career and Finances:  It may be difficult to focus on your job right now, but I encourage you to put everything you have into it.  If you don’t like your job, maybe it’s time to find a new one.  You could go back to school, which would be productive with your time.  It can also give you a sense of accomplishment.  If your finances are out of control, you can always find ways to improve it.  Pick up a book to get you started.

2.  Health and Well Being:  Get adequate sleep, eat right, and start an exercise program.  I took up bellydancing.  Find a fun way to exercise!  Do something with the kids such as bike riding. This will give you a tremendous amount of energy and help to lift the depression.

3.  Friends and Family:  Invite a few friends over to play cards or for makeovers.  Go get mani’s and pedi’s together.  Just spend some time getting to know your friends again or go out and make some new ones.  There’s always something going on with kids, whether it’s baseball games or dance class.  Start spending some real quality time with your kids.

4.  Personal Growth:  Part of our personal growth journey deals with our failures and the areas that we would like to improve on, but the other part to that is being able to let go of the past and choosing to heal.  Self improvement books are wonderful.  Choose to move forward with your life even if it’s without your spouse right now.

5. Fun and Recreation:  Do something fun!  It gets your mind off of your problems.  No chick flicks, enough said.  Spend some time on hobbies.  Learn a language.  Find a sports team to join.  Grab a friend and go shopping.  Get a massage.

6. Physical Environment:  If your house makes you feel dark and depressed, make some changes.  If you walk past something that makes you miss your spouse every time you see it, put it away for now.  Don’t sit in the dark.  Fresh flowers and scents relax the senses.

Schedule things to do.  This will help you to find the motivation you need to not sit at home by yourself.  Surround yourself with positive people, places and things.  With each passing day, you will start to feel more like yourself, and happiness will once again seem attainable.

Shauna Stebler is a 37 year old single mom working on her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She also leads an online support group called Surviving Separation



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A Five-Step Approach for Effective Multi-Tasking

Photo courtesy of Leo Chuoi
Working from home has afforded me the ability to spend more time with my children. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, by no means is working from home easier than working outside of the home.  My previous job allowed me a quiet, organized desk with all necessary documents within easy reach, but it also took up 10 hours out of every day. Working from home affords me the luxury of spending more time with my family, but requires my brain to work more efficiently in order to multi-task.

While many people – not just working parents - often wear more than one hat simultaneously, few can do it seamlessly. Effective multi-tasking is considered an oxymoron by some, but with this reasonable five-step approach, it can be done, within limits.

  1. Plan, plan, plan.
    This is the single most important piece of advice when it comes to juggling multiple projects and people at the same time. Split your day into segments dedicated to appropriately grouped responsibilities, and adhere to the plan.
  2. Leave personal items for later.
    When I first started working from home, I often got sidetracked by non-urgent items. Now I schedule an hour at the end of every day for tasks that don’t need immediate attention so that I can dedicate more of my brain power to paying projects.
  3. Learn to “let go.”
    While this may seem like the opposite of following a strict plan, effective multi-taskers delegate some of their responsibilities. In my case, I assign many house duties to my children, with specific instructions to ensure that the jobs are done right. They invoice me for their work, and I hand out paychecks. This allows me to delegate while also teaching the value of hard work.
  4. Work in layers.
    The human brain isn’t naturally wired to actively focus on too many similar tasks at the same time. However, you can complete multiple tasks together, as long as they are relatively simple and use different areas of the brain. Completing auditory and physical tasks simultaneously works well because they aren’t wired on the same brain pathway, and they won’t cause you to burn out.
  5. Perfect the art of focusing.
    Multi-tasking is not for the weak minded and should only be performed when you are well-prepared. You can slowly “train” your brain to juggle, but only if you are working at your best. If you find yourself unable to focus on what you’re doing, you’ve combined too many things, and you’ll need to subtract a task so that your work doesn’t lose quality.

Naturally, certain tasks simply do not allow for multi-tasking and must be completed separately in order to receive your full attention. Regardless of your situation, however, you can learn how to use your time more effectively. It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on a rock solid plan to bundle your work in layers, your brain will become more efficient, leaving you to enjoy more hours out of every day focused on life.

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Just How Far Will Flattery Get You?

Photo courtesy of lover-of-life
Just when I thought the art of flattery was dead, I got a gushing e-mail from a client complimenting some work I recently completed on a project for him. When I realized that he took actual time out of his work day to deliberately write me an email for the sole reason of giving me a virtual high five, I was so moved that it made me stop and think: did kudos go out of style when Myspace did?

If you think about it, in our daily lives, whether at work or at home, compliments are kind of hard to come by these days. Bosses, clients, coworkers and sometimes even family members are quick to point out our flaws and shortcomings, but seem less likely to let us know when we’re rocking it. According to a recent survey that I just found, one out of eight women said that they had not received a compliment in the past three months. Not one single compliment in ninety days! Things are dire, dear readers.

As human beings, we need to be told that we’re doing a good job. Sure, we get a paycheck every week, but sometimes we aren’t sure if that means we’re a stellar employee or because they HAVE to pay us. We all need to hear that we are appreciated, and that what we do makes someone else’s life easier, right? Hearing that we are appreciated and needed encourages us to perform even better, and gives us the motivation to hone our skills even further.

The problem may be that some adults are uncomfortable with receiving compliments, which tends to give others less inclination to praise them. However, even if someone repeatedly brushes off your flattery, rest assured that they are secretly internalizing those positive comments and their self-esteem is getting a boost. You can make someone’s entire week with just a few small words. Imagine that! You have the power to change someone’s WEEK from bad to good with one sentence and a smile!

Naturally, sometimes in the garden of life we encounter a few thorns that need to be tamed or pruned a bit so that they do more good than harm. But when life gives us roses, be sure to point out how lovely they are, and how sweetly fragrant they smell. You might see them bloom even bigger, right before your eyes.

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How Your Health is Affecting Your Professional Success

Photo courtesy of idovermani

Once I decided to start working for myself from home, my diet admittedly became less than optimal.  I mean, the kitchen is right there. That delicious Easter candy is so close I can smell that Reese’s peanut butter cup. I began eating whatever was appealing to me on any particular day, instead of being forced to eat the healthy lunch I had packed for my previous office job. I began to realize that this whole “working for myself” thing, while ultimately the best choice for my particular situation, might be taking a toll on certain aspects of my health.

Bloggers, writers and other work-from-home entrepreneurs tend to do a lot of activities that can cause us to be less active than most people. We spend many hours a day coding, typing, reading, proofreading, emailing, posting, marketing, editing websites….and although we love what we do, it is extremely important to keep our bodies running well so that our minds can continue to produce the creativity that makes what we do possible. Additionally, our businesses could possibly skyrocket to a whole new level if we work on optimizing our overal general health.

We can take a look at the foods that we are fueling our minds with, and make some easy changes by cutting out sugary drinks and processed foods all day long. These will sap our energy and our creative levels will plummet.  Taking regular breaks to eat healthy meals and snacks is vital and can really energize productivity levels.  Making time during the work day for brief exercise breaks is a good idea too.  A benefit of working for yourself means that you don’t have totally set hours! Take a half hour in the middle of your work day for a yoga session or a walk around the neighborhood.

Of course, this applies to everyone who is employed, no matter what your job title is, and regardless of who is the boss.  However, working for yourself means that you have to impose many rules and routines onto yourself, without someone telling you, “You will now take a break and eat.” We have a lot to be in charge of as entrepreneurs, and sometimes we put our physical health on the back burner.  Put your health on the front burner! You’ll see a rise in your motivation level, your productivity will increase, and your business will be more successful than ever.



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Give Your Brain a Break by Creating Effectual Habits

Photo courtesy of *CQ*

One day my psychologist looked at me and told me I needed to change my habits. I was confused. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol, I eat well, I go to bed at a reasonable time, I don’t use drugs (illegal ones anyway), and I’m trying really hard to stop cracking my knuckles. I told her I didn’t really have any bad habits to break other than biting my nails and plucking my eyebrows too much. She seemed bemused by my naïveté. Oh my dear, sweet patient, ye who has so much to learn. She then shared with me yet another one of her almighty wisdoms that would help me succeed in life.

It turns out that more than 40% of our actions are actually habits rather than real decisions that we put thought and effort into. Understanding how habits begin is the key to being able to break the bad ones and replace them with habits that can help improve our lives. Habits actually form in a three-step process which is known as a ‘habit loop’ – a cue is followed by a behavior which is followed by a reward. The behavior is what we all associate with the habit, but what we need to recognize is that the entire process is important if we want to make significant changes.

Habits and decisions are carried out by entirely different parts of the brain, therefore, as soon as a behavior becomes habitual, our brains slip into ‘automatic’ mode, which allows us to focus mental energy on other things. Studies show that we typically perform behaviors the same way if we are in a familiar environment. Simple acts like the order we put on our shoes or the way we brush our teeth remain habitual as long as we are ensconced in our daily routines receiving subtle cues. By changing our routines slightly, habits are easier to change and create. Breaking or starting a habit is usually extremely effective on vacation for this reason.

By changing some of your decision making acts into habits, you can free up some of your brain power to do other things, like achieve success professionally or be more present while parenting. Regardless of the act that you want to automate, create a cue for yourself that will spark the desired behavior at the same time and place every day. Force yourself to perform the action or behavior routinely, and give yourself a pre-planned reward every time until it becomes habitual. Save decision making for the most important aspects of your life, and leave the rest to HABIT.

For further reading and information about creating new habits and how they are formed, check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

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How Small Changes Can Rejuvenate Your Productivity

Photo courtesy of Theophilos Papadopoulos

We’ve all been there at some point in the past—one day we’re working fine, efficiently, and then the next, without explanation, we discover we can’t work anymore. Writers get writer’s block; artists find they can’t decide where the next brushstroke should go. For whatever reason, something in our brain clicks and we lose that spark that tells us we’re good at what we do.

This condition of ‘being stuck’ is often attributed to feelings of inferiority as a professional. Sometimes the effects can be trivial, lasting mere hours or days, but in worse cases they can lead a person to go years without successfully returning to work, or sometimes giving up their craft altogether.

I’ve been in this situation several times in the past, and it isn’t pleasant. I was frustrated with myself because I just wasn’t feeling motivated to work. So I decided to change things up. Instead of working at home like I was used to, I went out and tried working at a local coffee shop. At first, nothing seemed to change. In fact, I found the new environment distracting. Then over time I started to work again, just a little at first, but enough. Then I returned home, and astonishingly I was able to work more efficiently than I had before. I’d killed my artistic block.

If you really want to get out of your creative rut, I would suggest changing something in your workflow in order to rejuvenate your productivity. Change your environment – go outside, work in park, a coffee shop, wherever. Change your tools – your paints and brushes, your software. Change the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Change your hours. Change everything about your workflow if you think it’ll help.

And make the decision to take time off too. Listen to music. Watch movies. Play video games. Read. Study the work of other professionals in your craft. Just because you’re not working at the time doesn’t mean you won’t take something positive away that will benefit your workflow later. Inspiration can be found in absolutely anything, so enjoy yourself while you’re not working.

It’s surprising how a little change can make all the difference to your workflow. If you’re stuck in a rut, try changing something in your day-to-day life and see your productivity flourish.

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Working in the Present: 3 Ways to Tackle Seemingly Endless Tasks

Flying Kick
Photo courtesy of Umberto Salvagnin

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a task you couldn’t see the end of? A few months ago, I was involved in a project that required a huge amount of perseverance (not to mention several gallons of coffee) to see it through to the end. After the initial excitement of starting something shiny and new had worn off, I began to realize the enormity of the task I had set myself, and somewhere along the way, I lost all hope that the project would be completed at all.

An overreaction? Perhaps. But all too often this occurs with large-scale projects. After weeks of repeating the same tasks without respite, team members can become frustrated at the seeming lack of progress, and the whole project starts to crumble under the weight of its own ambition.

In these situations, we often convince ourselves that everything is far more difficult to complete than it actually is, simply because we can’t see the end. Instead of looking for the finish line, however, we should try to be more concerned with what is happening right in front of us, so as to better manage the task at hand. Here are a few tips for breaking down the monotony:

1. Take each day as it comes. Start each day by making a list of attainable goals to be completed before the end of that day; don’t think any further than that. By only concerning yourself with what needs to be done in the present, even the most gargantuan tasks can seem a lot more manageable.

2. Treat yourself. Reaching particular milestones in your project deserves rewarding. Allowing yourself some kind of treat – be it food, drink, or an entire day off (see below) – can be just what your body and mind need before hitting the work again.

3. Take time off. Seriously, taking 24 hours away from your project can work like a miracle cream for morale. Do whatever helps you to de-stress in that time, whether it’s taking a bike ride or killing zombies with peashooters, and see your productivity return stronger than ever on your return to work.

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