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Do you struggle to achieve work life balance? Your work, family and home need your attention. But you can get things done effectively if you set priorities using Eisenhower Matrix

As a work-at-home parent you need to take many decisions on a daily basis.

But do you find yourself trying to do everything, and still not being able to achieve anything?

Crossing off those items on your to-do list at the end of the day is such a relief.

But are you sure those things really matter? Do they add value and growth to your mission?

To really grow as a person, you need to have all aspects of your life balanced. Work-life balance is not hard to achieve. But for that, you need to plan your days wisely.

 If you know your priorities, you can balance your work-from-home career and life easily.

I have found Eisenhower Matrix works effectively when I need to set my priorities.

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance Using Eisenhower Matrix?

Eisenhower matrix- how to set priorities

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961.

He developed this matrix as a tool to help himself decide and focus on the most important tasks he should do each day.

This matrix was popularized by Stephen R Covey in his book, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

The matrix has 4 quadrants.

Let me explain what each quadrant stands for.

Eisenhower matrix to set priorities work from home

Q1 – Urgent, Important

The tasks in the first quadrant are urgent and must be dealt with right away.

Examples: 

  • Your kid is sick. Take him to the hospital.
  • You must submit the project report today.
  • Finish and send your guest blog post by evening.

Q1 activities have time constraints.

Q2 – Not Urgent, Important

This is the second quadrant. Everything in this quadrant should be scheduled.  It is the tasks in this quadrant that we tend to postpone more, since they are not urgent. But they have a direct impact on our job, relationships, health and happiness.

Examples: 

  • Working on your home based business
  •  Spending time with family
  • Exercise
  • Journal writing
  • Daily planning
  • Household chores
  • Retirement savings
  • Preventive maintenance at home
  • Preparing healthy meals for family

According to Covey, if you spend more time on this quadrant, you can most probably avoid things that fall in Q1.

Let me elaborate.

If you spend time to plan your days, and put it into action, you get things done on time (Q2). Thus, there is no urgent work waiting for you (Q1). 

If you take your time to do preventive maintenance and service at home (Q2), you can prevent damage and thus reduce the risk of breaking down of appliances or motor vehicles (Q1). It also saves your time and money down the lane.

 If you spend more quality time with your spouse and kids (Q2), you wouldn’t have to worry about spending time and energy later on mending the damage caused by the lack of your presence (Q1).

Since activities in Q2 are not urgent, most people spend less time here. They spend most of the time in Q3 and Q4, thinking they are busy and productive. But the truth is they are ‘busy’ doing nothing.

To bring true value and growth in your life, you must decide what is truly important.

Starting a journal can help you in this. Take your time and reflect on what it is that you want to achieve from each of your roles, that is, as a spouse, parent, a homemaker or a businesswoman. Write them down.

Now you will begin to understand what your priorities are.

Related: 10 reasons journaling will transform your life

Unlike other quadrants, Q2 tasks might not give instant results. But those tasks will help you succeed in the long run and have a secure life.

Q3- Urgent, Not important

Quadrant 3 tasks are those that are urgent but not so important that you yourself have to do them.

 But these are still urgent and should be done. I would say these are tasks that do not require your presence as such, so that if you can delegate to a trustworthy person, they will be done perfectly as you would have done them.

Examples:

  • Unimportant meetings
  • Requests by other family members
  • Technical issues
  • Answering certain emails

People spend more time than needed on this quadrant thinking they are doing urgent work. And it is also because they get the satisfaction of accomplishing the tasks. This is where you  need to distinguish between “urgent” and “important”.

It helps to check constantly if the tasks you have in hand, align with your goals. If not, do not ever hesitate to delegate.

Q4- Not urgent, Not important

The time spent on quadrant 4 activities should be avoided or reduced to the minimum.

Examples:

  • Watching TV
  • Surfing web mindlessly
  • Spending too much time on social media
  • Shopping

If you are spending more of your free time on social media and not with your kids, you know it is going to reflect on your relationship with them in long term.

But I am against completely eliminating Q4 activities, as you should get to pamper yourself after a long day. I always look forward to the end of the day, after I have done the work on my blog and kids are put to sleep. And I can relax with my favorite TV show with something to munch on. It is my reward to myself for working hard during the day.

But be aware of the time you spend in Q4, as it should be the minimum. I would aim for 1 or 2 hours a day, according to the availability of time and if my day’s work is done.

If the important tasks for the day are not done for some reason (life happens!), I am willing to let go of the Q4 activities for the day, since I know my priorities.

Journaling has had a huge effect on my work-life balance, as it helps me remember what my priority tasks are, for each day. I note down the important tasks for each day in my bullet journal. I have always felt that writing down in a journal gives me a push to do the tasks, even if I feel lazy or want to procrastinate.

In fact, research has proved that writing down goals increases the odds of achieving them.

I must say, you should consider journaling when you set out to find your priorities in life when you have to balance between work and life.

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Do you struggle to achieve work life balance? Your work, family and home need your attention. But you can get things done effectively if you set priorities using Eisenhower Matrix

 

 

You must complete the project today.

But no matter how hard you try to focus, your mind keeps wandering to the la-la land.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Improving your focus can greatly increase your productivity.

Whatever task you are trying to do, be it working on a file in office, or studying for an exam or even if you are a mom trying to cook a new dish in the kitchen, you need focus to complete tasks in the best manner.

What is focus?

Focus is defined as a center of activity, attraction or attention.

When we decide to focus on one thing, we set aside everything else and work on it. But the problem arises, when our mind starts wandering and we can’t just get it done.

Here are some tactics to increase focus and concentration.

1. Declutter your mind and work environment/home

how to increase focus and concentration declutter

Clutter affects your brain and its ability to focus. Clutter can be physical as well as mental.

Sometimes, your mind is filled with items on your to-do list for the latter part of the day. Or you are thinking about the behavior of your kids.

The solution?

Identify the most important tasks for the day.

Schedule these tasks so as they get done in the morning.

When the most important tasks are done, you can be relieved from the mental clutter.

When other tasks come up, schedule them for another time, may be in the evening. So if you know it will get done later, you can focus on the current task with full attention.

But, when you schedule an important task for the evening, it is all you can think about from the morning till evening. It makes you lose focus on whatever you are doing in the morning.

For night owls, they wake up after having done the important task at night. For them, it’s the right time to be distraction free and get the creative juices flowing.

The key is in finding the right time that suits you to reduce the mental clutter to increase focus.

Also, you must get rid of the physical clutter.

According to a study done at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, clutter competes for your attention and it affects your ability to focus.

So clean your desk on a daily basis.

Imagine working in a neat and tidy environment. It frees up your mind giving space to think. When there is nothing to distract you, your work can be done easily.

It also helps in finding things easily. If everything in its place you can save time and energy. Or else, you may stress out looking for things when there is work to be done.

2. While working keep the distractions away

Technology can be a boon or bane depending upon how you use it.

If you keep your smartphone near you while working it can cause you to check emails, or social media feed frequently.

Smartphones have made our attention span short and we always crave for stimulation of something new. This keeps us making check it frequently. Sometimes this is an automatic behavior. We do it unconsciously.

It’s because all activities that give pleasure make our brain release dopamine. It controls the reward and pleasure centers of our brain.

Once we get the hang of it, we crave for the pattern again which leads to habit formation. Thus we repeat the behavior again and again.

Solution: Keep your smartphones away unless you don’t absolutely need it for work.

Or turn off all the push notifications.

Or even better, turn your mobile data off.  I switch on my mobile data only when I want to check notifications. This helps me from getting distracted by the notifications.

Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work says:

Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction. Much in the same way that athletes must take care of their bodies outside of their training sessions, you’ll struggle to achieve the deepest levels of concentration if you spend the rest of your fleeing the slightest hint of boredom. Constant attention switching online has a lasting negative effect on your brain.

3. Get enough sleep

how to increase focus and concentration sleep better

Lack of sleep can make you tired due to reduced availability of oxygen. It is hard for you to focus and make decisions when you are tired. It can also affect your creativity.

An average person needs to sleep 7-8 hours daily.

Avoid screen usage at least an hour before bed as the blue light from it can interfere with the quality of sleep.

4. Get moving more often

Dr. John Ratey, the author of the book “Spark-The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise” and the Brain speaks about the relationship between exercise and optimal brain functioning here.

Exercise turns on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, also known as the CEO of the brain. A quick burst of an aerobic exercise turns on that part of the brain increasing the level of neurotransmitters like dopamine in our body and flooding the brain with oxygen. This helps in increasing concentration and focus.

Related: How to start an exercise habit that sticks

5. Meditation

It s okay even if you can’t spend hours sitting still on a mountain. You can spare at least a few minutes a day to do meditation.

It works in increasing focus, time and time again research proves it.

If you are just starting out, you can meditate for 5 minutes. Or even 2-3  minutes will do.

It depends on you. It’s not the time that matters in the beginning, but consistency. And what matters is you get started. Start with small time duration so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or unmotivated to continue.

Related:

6. Have brain foods

Food has surprising benefits apart from helping to survive and provide energy. Food can affect our mood, increase energy, mental clarity and remove brain fog.

Most of the time we overlook the wonderful benefits that food provide, and even don’t recognize our lack of focus could be due to not eating proper food items.

Stay away from sugar and trans fats as they can make you feel depressed and mentally foggy.

These are some of the foods that help in increasing your focus and concentration. Or rather, they can be called brain foods and they are berries, eggs, fatty fish rich in omega-3s, avocados, celery, dark chocolate etc.

For more information on brain foods I suggest this article.

If you want to increase your productivity, you also should be able to stay focused. Learn 7 proven ways to increase focus and concentration.

7. Pomodoro technique

Pomodoro is a great technique to stay focused on a particular task. I recommend this technique if you are working on a task that requires focused attention like writing, solving a problem at work or studying.

I use Pomodoro technique to write and has helped me in improving my focus on the task at hand.

How to use Pomodoro technique?

Set your timer to 25 min and start doing focused work till the timer goes off.

It is important to avoid reacting to any other thought asking you to do this or that. Like, checking a mail that just came, or searching about something you have been thinking yesterday etc.

After 25 min, take a 5 minute break.

Continue this again for 3 more sessions with a 5 minute break in between.

This works for some while there are people who can concentrate for more than 25 min.

According to Wikipedia,

Common estimates for sustained attention to a freely chosen task range from about five minutes for a two-year-old child, to a maximum of around 20 minutes in older children and adults.

If you are like me and can’t focus for a long period at a stretch, you can use this method.

Conclusion

These are some ways you can increase focus to get more productive work done.

Sure I have left out some points. What other methods work for you in increasing your concentration?

Please comment below. I’d love to know!

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how to set and achieve your goals
Image credit: Stocksnap.io

What will you tell me, if I ask you what’s the major goal in your life right now?

What? You don’t have one?

Hmm…okay.

But I am sure you have dreams. Who doesn’t dream about their ideal life?

The job you must have, the kind of partner you want, the places you want to see.

It can go on and on.

Well, goals are nothing but these dreams given a direction, plan and a deadline.

If that’s the case, it is easy to set goals, don’t you think?

But the truth is, only a small minority of people have well defined goals in life.

It’s in their mind, but not on paper; or on screens (for the Millennials).

Here I want to tell you why you should set goals and how to avoid these mistakes.

Have goals that will make a difference in your life

You can stick to your goals if you realize it’s something that’s going to make a remarkable difference in your future.

If you want to stick to your goals until its completion, your goal must mean something to you. You should know in your mind that it is something that really will change your life or at least make visible changes over time.

Those are the goals you should be aiming for.

I am stressing this because once you set out on working on your goals, there could be many roadblocks.

There can be challenges in the form of your health, or relationships at home/work. You have to overcome all those to achieve your goals.

How to have goals that you feel like working for everyday?

Brian Tracy, in his book Goals, talk about a method called Wave a Magic Wand.

Quoting him:

In determining your true goals, use the “Magic Wand” technique.

Imagine that you have a magic wand that you can wave over a

particular area of your life. When you wave this magic wand, your

wishes come true!

Wave a magic wand over each area of your life (health, relationships, work etc). If you could have any three wishes in that area, what would that be?

This exercise will help to find out your high priority wishes in each area.

You can set goals in those area.

But don’t make these mistakes when setting goals.

It is by setting goals you determine the direction your life takes. Here is an article on how to avoid these mistakes and achieve your goals. #goalgetters #goalsforlife

1. Setting vague or unrealistic goals

As I said, the reason we set goals and want to achieve them is to have a sense of direction. We should know what to focus on and what not to.

If you say you will start a diet from next week, it is too vague.

Specify which day of the week, specify what kind of food you are going to include in your diet, what to exclude and how much portion.

Now you have a clear idea of what you should do.

It is easier to take action on such well defined goals.

And if you are a beginner in something, don’t set unrealistic goals.

Like, I am going to do 60 minutes of yoga starting from tomorrow, when you haven’t flexed a muscle in your life.

It will cause more harm than good and can be detrimental to your health.

Also, it will not help in establishing a habit.

Always start small.

Aim for simple poses in the beginning and gradually work your way upwards.

You can say like this, my goal is to do 60 minutes of yoga thrice a week before breakfast.

But to reach there for the first month you could start with simple poses for 20 minutes and work upwards as your body gets used to it.

This will instill confidence in you and you will keep doing it. But if your goal is too unrealistic, chances are it will scare you off after the initial excitement wears down.

That’s why many New Year resolutions fail by the first quarter of the year.

According to Statistic Brain, only 9% Americans who set resolution in  2017 felt they were successful in achieving their resolution.

It is because people set too big goals and they expect to have a transformation from day one. They get discouraged if they don’t see the results and think they are a failure.

So always set an achievable goal and once you accomplish it, you can plan for the next step.

2. Not having a system

Once you have determined what your goal is, you should have a system in place.

For example, if you want to finish reading a 600 page book in a month, you should read at least 20 pages a day. That is having a system in place to achieve your goal.

Similarly, if you want to do 150 minutes of exercise in a week (which is the prescribed minimum amount of activity in a week for an average adult), you should do 50 minutes of exercise thrice a week or you can plan accordingly. You can decide on which days you are going to do it and the time.

You have more chances of success this way.

Even if you miss a day, get back on track as soon as possible.

This will keep you going till you reach your goal.

If you find that you couldn’t achieve your goal as within the planned period, you can reschedule it.

This will give you an idea about how much time you need for each activity and can plan better in future.

Planning is a skill that you can master by practice.

3. Not writing them down

Are you a person who has goals but don’t think it’s not important to write them down? You might be thinking, I know what I want. I’ll achieve my life goals anyway.

You might be wrong.

A Research by Dominican University of California psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews proves that written goals have more chances to be achieved.

According to her study, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

I can personally vouch for this because I complete almost all tasks in a day that I have written down the previous night.

It really works.

But on those days where I have only thought I should do a task, I mostly forget it, or I simply procrastinate it. For scheduling my days, I started using a bullet journal, and my productivity has gone up.

Related:

What happens when we write down goals?

It is said that an average human being has an average of 12k-60k thoughts a day.

And most of the time we are thinking the same thoughts again and again.

With so many thoughts floating around in our brain, it is difficult to focus and take action.

When we write down our goals, these thoughts become concrete. They take a form. Our brain knows this is something serious.

So our conscious mind tend to remember them more and we notice more opportunities and ideas coming our way to accomplish them. That doesn’t come when just thinking.

The idea in our mind gets clearer and we get an actionable plan to act upon. Thus we have more chances of doing anything we write down.

Think about what you want in life the most. Choosing that desire as the destination, make step by step plan to reach there. Write down each step. Take consistent action.

You can make any dream a reality this way, if you work long and hard enough.

You might also like:

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It is by setting goals you determine the direction your life takes. Here is an article on how to avoid these mistakes and achieve your goals. #goalgetters #goalsforlife

ways to increase productivity

How many times have you wished if you could have a few more hours in a day?

I always wish to have those extra precious hours to catch some more sleep or do some more of my favorite activities.

But, let’s face it. We all have the same number of hours in a day.

When learning about time management, what you should know is we are never going to get enough time for all the things we want to do.

Hard truth, isn’t it?

But we can plan our days in a way that the most important things get done, and of course have enough time for leisure too.

The fact that all the great achievers of all time have done remarkable work with the same time window as us shows we can do it too.

Let me share some tips to increase your productivity. As a result of these techniques, you can have more work done in a day than you have ever done.

1. The Pareto principle

The Pareto principle or the 80/20 principle is named after an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

The significance of this finding is that it occurs commonly in other areas too.

For example, 20% of your customers will give you 80% of your sales.

Similarly, 20% of your tasks will be responsible for the 80% of the value of what you do. It means in a day, you would be doing many things, of which some produce very good results.

Instead of spending whole day on many small tasks which don’t produce much value, identify which of the tasks give you the best results. The ones that help you get a step closer to your goals.

Write down your goals. Decide which of your goals are high priority ones and you want to see the most results in. It is your 20%. Spend more time on it. Cut back on all the other unimportant activities (80%) that consume your time.

For example, if you have a goal to learn a new subject, plan your day in such a way that you block some time for it daily. You can do it by cutting back on the time you spend using social media. Using social media doesn’t give you much value, but you know that learning gives more value to you.

Most great achievers spend maximum time on what matters most. They don’t spend their valuable time on things that don’t give much value; they outsource such tasks to people who are good at it.

Hold it, I know that everyone doesn’t have the luxury to do that.

Especially if you have only started working on your goals you might not have the means to have a personal assistant or staff to do such work.

In such cases, what you should do is identify your most productive hours in a day.

For some it might be in the morning, for some in the evening/night. Aim to find one or two hours. And do focused work avoiding all the distractions. You will produce your best work in those hours.

Remember the 80/20 principle is just an observation and not a law. And it’s not always the same ratio. It can be higher or lower. But it gives you an idea about what you should be concentrating on more.

2. Eat that frog first

The title of this section is derived from Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog!.

In it he talks about the importance of doing difficult and important tasks first thing in the morning. Trust me; it works wonders in increasing your productivity.

Using the Pareto principle, you should identify which tasks are the most rewarding ones in your day. Schedule them at the earliest hours in the morning when you feel the freshest.

Once you have done the most complex and important task of the day first thing in the morning, you will feel much relieved and have a sense of accomplishment. This increases your confidence and energy level.

But, we have a tendency to postpone the difficult tasks as much as possible. It’s because either we are afraid of the task itself or we don’t have a definite plan. This takes me to the next point.

3. Plan your days, weeks and months

use journal to increase productivity  The secret to getting things done is planning, planning, and planning.

I can’t emphasize it enough because no matter how beautiful and realistic dreams you have, nothing much happens unless you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.

Even if you are the CEO of a company or a stay-at-home-mom, you need to plan your days to have your work done in time.

Imagine not having time for anything you want to do for yourself. You want to take care of your health, start a fitness regime or simply finish reading that book.

But you are always bogged down by the work at office or home and you are simply tired to do it once you get free time.

Familiar with this scenario?

Plan your days the previous night or early in the morning.

Write down how many hours you want to spend on each activity, and make sure you block some time for your leisure activities.

Either you can plan your days daily or weekly.

I like planning for a week as it gives me an idea about how each week is going to be. And I review it daily. I do all the planning in my bullet journal.

Related:

4. Set deadlines for your goals

For each of your goals, set deadlines because it provides a feeling of urgency. If you don’t know when are you going to complete the task or achieve a particular goal, you are surely going to postpone it.

Setting deadlines is very important to improve productivity and overcome procrastination.

For example,

I am going to start working out from next month.

I am going on a holiday next year.

State when; the date. You always have a next month or year. If you know the date, you can start saving for that trip.

If you don’t, your mind starts giving you reasons to not do it because starting a new habit is not comfortable. Your mind likes the easiest route.

It’s easier to sit on that couch and watching TV rather than start a working out and have aching limbs, right?

But if you have a deadline in your mind, your brain tells you it’s something urgent. You automatically tend to take action.

So take out a small notebook and pen, and start planning.

I have done more tasks when I have written them down than the tasks that I just wish to do.

5. Clean your desk/home

Nothing puts us off than a messy atmosphere. Think about your bedroom/desk where everything is in its place, neat and organized.

Such a happy place to be.

Research shows that clutter creates stress. In order to stay productive, consider cleaning your place on a daily basis. It gives us a clear mind and it’s important for us to be able to think properly.

How do you stay productive? If you have more tips to increase productivity, please comment below.

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Would you like to increase your productivity? Here are 5 tips to be more productive. #productivity