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5 Counterintuitive Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Time

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Do you think you’ll accomplish everything you want to before you die? Do you sometimes worry you won’t reach your goals? Do you have a plan to get what you want? If you’re like most people, you often have trouble squeezing in everything you want to do during the day, week or month, let alone everything you might want to accomplish in a lifetime. Updates from friends on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat come in to your phone at all hours of the day and night. Invites to activities, events, festivals, etc. blow up your phone on a regular basis.

At the office, things aren’t much better. Your Outlook inbox explodes with messages from clients, colleagues, or your boss, and everyone wants something different. You use multiple tools for managing your tasks, and every month something new seems to come out which promises to save you time and reduce the number of distractions in your life. Let me break the bad news, it won’t.

The truth is, you have more time than you think to accomplish what you want out of life. As of 2016, men tend to live on average 69 years, versus 72 years for women. If most people start work at 18 and continue on until retirement around 65, this means you spend 47 years of your life working. You have, most likely, more time than you think to accomplish all that you want to do in this life. I urge you to slow down and take a few of these suggestions to heart as you think about how to get the most out of your days in the future.

Here are 5 ways to make the most out of your time here on earth:

1. Take personal days

The idea of taking a personal day has been around for a long time, but few people really consider the value of taking one on a regular basis. Whether this means leaving work early on the third Friday of every month to do some “life-admin” or taking an entire day off in the middle of the week once a month to rigorously outline your plans and objectives for the future, the value of a personal day dedicated to reflection and personal development is completely underrated in today’s go-go society. I would urge you to set aside an entire day (half-days won’t work, as they are likely to be encroached upon) and make a concerted effort to spend that time reflecting about what you want to accomplish and the steps you will take to get there.

 “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that other throw at him.” – David Brinkley

2. Structure in blank space for distraction free work

While taking time off to plan out your life and checking your personal progress is great, it is also important to structure small blocks of personal “switch off” time to let your mind wander during the typical work week. This may mean structuring in “strategic blocks” of one to two hours as suggested by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington in their book The 12 Week Year, or it may mean making a regular habit of doing “30 before 7:30” (30 minutes of concentrated work before 7:30am each morning) as suggested by Mel Robbins in her book The 5 Second Rule. Whatever you do, make sure you allow yourself some distraction free work time so that you can get into the flow.

3. Leave technology behind

We are tethered to our devices like never before, and we are rarely out of arm’s reach of something that can connect us to anyone (or any piece of information) in the world. I say this with some trepidation, because I am not entirely pleased about it. Sure, it is fantastic to have access to a device that can allow us to order food, call a car, create a professional looking video clip or photo, and post updates online all in the space of a few seconds, but it comes at a price.

Despite having the freedom to connect with anyone and do nearly anything from behind a touch screen device, we have effectively become servants for the same network of interconnected apps and platforms. So, at the risk of having you stop reading this article, I urge you to put down your device for at least 1 day a week and connect with people in more humanistic (face to face) ways.

4. Spend time with others not like you

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Think hard about that, because it will help define how you spend the rest of your life. If you believe that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, you will need to be careful that you spend time with people that add to your life, rather than detract from it.

The more time you spend with people that come from similar backgrounds and share similar views as you, the more you will become closed off to the world around you. This is an easy habit to fall into, but it is one that can have dire consequences if you are serious about stretching yourself and reaching lofty goals. Go out and explore, and spend time with people that push you in new and exciting ways.

“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” – Estee Lauder

5. Have more fun

I have noticed more and more that people tend to take pride in how stressed out they are and how much they work when they’re in the office. They then swing to the opposite extreme during the weekends, getting belligerently drunk and partying or staying in and watching Netflix for 48 hours straight. This is no way to live. It’s easy for me to call out because, truth be told, I used to be this way.

Too often, people find themselves caught up in a world that promotes stress, anxiety and long-hours as a badge of honor. Rather than promote and support this type of behavior by falling into the trap of stress and anxiety caused by overwork, look for ways to have fun in the moment. Talk to colleagues, give compliments, make connections, learn new things, and just try to connect with others.

Remember, you’ve likely got around 65-80 years on this planet, you don’t want to spend the majority of that time stressed out, waiting for the weekend. Instead, take to heart a few of these counterintuitive tricks and embrace every day with newfound appreciation. You won’t regret it, I promise.

How do you maximize your time? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. rajuram

    Jun 11, 2018 at 3:45 am

    This is exactly why it’s so powerful to engage children in positive, creative and meaningful media! Great selection of quotes!

  2. Gian-Carlo Remini

    Jun 10, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Great stuff. the Steps are really simple and easy to achieve. I found making goals and sticking to them very helpful. As many I lacked time and motivation. I started balancing my work, play and personal life and starting to feel much less stressed out.

  3. Gianna LaMaina

    May 31, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    I am so glad you called this out, why are people more inclined to “brag” about how stressed they are rather than what they did over the weekend with their families. It is so important to put mental health first above anything, and to not glorify the workaholic lifestyle. Great read, thank you.

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Life

9 Personal Growth Lessons I Learned From Being Bullied

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Wherever I went, bullying seemed to follow me. Whether it was school, work or even family, I could never seem to find any kind of escape. For years, I was stuck in the victim mindset, constantly asking myself what I did to deserve this kind of behaviour towards me. I decided to turn my struggle into a personal growth strategy to help others who might be silently struggling with what I did.

Here are some of the key personal growth lessons I learnt from my harrowing experiences:

1. Be the victim

Be the victim but put an early as possible expiration date on this. Realise that it is okay to feel sorry for yourself; it is okay to validate yourself by reinforcing the fact that you didn’t deserve what happened to you. This will help you give yourself the compassion that you need in that moment. Recognition of the hurt and validation are the first steps towards starting the healing process, but the key is not to hang around there for too long otherwise you will be stuck with a victim mentality.

2. Why?

This is a question that is often asked – why did this happen to me? Were the stars misaligned or is this karma for sneaking the last doughnut from the party? Rather than getting bogged down analysing why you went through the harrowing experience, focus on what you learnt from the experience. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as finding your voice and setting boundaries. Every difficult situation offers an opportunity to learn.

3. Focus on the lesson, not on the pain

Whenever faced with a tough situation, ask yourself, “What am I learning from this?” Often, when drowning in dire circumstances, we cannot see light and we fear that any light might be an oncoming train. The best way to deal with this fear and overwhelm is to refocus your thoughts. Oftentimes, the lesson falls under one of the following categories: perseverance, patience, consistency and my personal favourite – staying true to who you are.

4. Control the controllable

Within every difficult situation, there are always factors you can control: your responses, your disposition and your actions. Using what you can control, redirect your energy on what you CAN do instead of what you can’t do. Sometimes, what you can do is simply getting through your day and giving everything you can. This helps in building self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it.” – Steve Maraboli

5. You do you

It is a normal human desire to be liked by those around us. Avoid trying to change who you are based on what others say about you. It is very tempting to do this because we all want to feel accepted and want to feel that we belong. The more you do you, the more you will attract people who love you for the “real” you.

6. It is not about you

When people criticize you incessantly, recognise that they are battling their own demons and they are easily triggered. You are not the real reason for their hurtful behaviour, they are filled with fear, anger and hurt which they vent out to others. You can only give what you have and if fear, anger and hurt is all you have, it is the only place from which you will function.

7. You have the power to choose

It is easy to forget that we always have the power of our choices and decisions, while our circumstances may be overwhelming, we can still make wise choices so as not to become victims of our circumstances. We should never forget this power as this is what keeps us afloat and breathing when caught in a flood of difficulties.

8. Revenge is not the answer

While it is perfectly normal and human to wish revenge on those who have hurt us, it is crucial to note that what we wish upon others, mirrors back to us. Wishing your culprits to battle incessant sneezing while stuck in traffic controlling explosive diarrhea might give a moment of satisfaction, but is this something you are willing to risk mirroring back to you? I certainly am not. Put quite simply – negativity breeds negativity while positivity breeds positivity. Remember, you have the power to choose.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

9. Forgive

Don’t gasp so loudly. Yes, forgive those who have hurt you. Why? It definitely doesn’t absolve them of the hurt they caused you, but it releases you from the chains of negativity that are binding and rooting you in place preventing you from moving on. How do you forgive? Ask whatever higher power you believe in to filter those who have hurt you out of your life, sending them blessings and healing wherever they may need it in their lives while also blessing over positive outcomes for all of you.

I have used this technique personally and I swear by it. Sending blessings and healing while asking for positive outcomes, results in all these wonderful things happening to you as well. Giving what you have mirrors back to you. You have the power to forgive, let go and move on. This is a choice that you also happen to have the power to choose.

The next time you feel stuck and overwhelmed by your circumstances, revisit these personal growth lessons and apply them to your unique situation. You will be glad that you did.


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Life

6 Reasons Why You Should Never Glorify Failure After You’ve Failed

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Many people are ashamed of failure. If they so much as smell a whiff of failure, they quit instantly because the public notices it quickly. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of failure. A lot of people have failed. I’ve failed over and over again in my career, business, relationships and more. Yet, I keep trying because failure isn’t the final verdict. (more…)

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Life

How to Move Forward When All Seems Lost

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A few weeks ago, the relationship of my venture with a long-term client turned rocky. Losing them would mean a huge loss for my business, but it appeared like that’s where we were headed. My mind raced with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe the client had figured out that I couldn’t lead my team well. Maybe I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur. Maybe I was not good enough to do anything.

Why was the world so unfair?! Within moments, my anxiety had shot through the roof and my heart was racing faster than an F1 car engine. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

Why Problems Overwhelm Us

As human beings, we’re good at solving problems, so they shouldn’t stress us out. Yet, they do just that. Why?

Consider some of these situations in life. When a relationship is headed for troubled waters, we wonder whether our partner loves us anymore. Our mind unearths memories of when we got dumped or rejected. We blame ourselves for falling for the wrong people and tell ourselves that we’re not worth receiving love.

How do you think the relationship will steer after that? If we cannot stick to a diet, we think of other times when we gave up. We remember what people said about things that we couldn’t do and ask ourselves, “were they right?” We tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed at anything.

Do you think we’ll find the grit to stick to the diet after this? So here we are… thinking we’re not good enough to be entrepreneurs, to be loved, to get promoted, or to achieve our personal goals. Notice a pattern yet? We move in the wrong direction. The destination is to achieve the goal. And unless we stop giving into emotions and start addressing situations, we’ll keep failing to get there.

Negative emotions (and even extremely positive ones) blur our vision. The more we focus on them, the deeper we go into how we feel. We either get angry because things aren’t the way we want them to be, or get paralyzed by the fear of the worst possible outcome. This means we pull away from the one thing we must do to set things right — take action.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie

How to Take Action in the Face of Problems

Most human beings are good at solving problems. Where we get blindsided is at diagnosing the right problem. To diagnose the right problem, we must address the situation instead of emotions. We must see things for what they are, collect facts on what we’re worrying about, and then ask ourselves, “What should I do next?”

In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”

To address the tricky situation with my client, I took the following three steps:

1. First, I acknowledged the feeling

Solving a problem doesn’t mean ignoring emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it reveals the path, but domesticating your emotions is more important. I acknowledged how I felt by saying, “I feel anxious because the client might not want to work with us anymore and this will be a financial loss for us.”

Note how I said “I feel anxious” and not “I’m a loser.” If I had given into negative chatter, I wouldn’t have uncovered the direction to move in (the part after “because”). This is why domesticating emotions is crucial.

2. Next, I prepared for the worst

We often run from our worst fears rather than facing them despite knowing that the worst outcome rarely comes true. The result is that we stay stuck in fear instead of pushing beyond it. And we never discover what we’re really capable of, which sucks.

In my case, the worst meant losing the client. It would hurt but it was the truth. However, we could get more clients. Plus we already had other clients who helped us pay the bills. In other words, I wouldn’t have to live on the street.

The moment I accepted this, a huge weight got lifted off my chest. This prepared me for the third and final step.

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar

3. Lastly, I examined the situation

Examining a situation means setting aside your emotional baggage and focusing on facts. When you trust that you’ll be okay, you become better at diagnosing the real problem. Once I felt lighter, I could see things clearly.

I used the 5 Whys Technique (asking “why” five times) to figure out the real reason for the client’s dissatisfaction. Then I collected data on the issue and on what we had previously delivered.

Finally, I reached out to the CEO of the client and held a detailed and constructive discussion based on my findings. Within four days, the CEO and I were back to the way things were before.

The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to give today your best. I’m not sure whether the issue with the client got resolved for good or whether the client won’t pack up and leave one day. However, I am sure that I’m prepared to handle such cases better today than I was yesterday.

Control your emotions instead of letting them run amok. Accept things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. Be realistic instead of delusional. Address the situation instead of succumbing to emotions.

Don’t preempt what lies ten miles ahead and get paralyzed by fear. Address what lies clearly in front of you and keep moving. One day you’ll be surprised about how close to your destination you are.

How do you move forward when all hope seems to be lost? Share your advice below!

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8 Effective Tips to Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing

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You know what they say, “Health Is Wealth”. But, more often than not, we only mean it in the context of physical health. There’s no question that being fit is the world’s greatest treasure. Unfortunately, not a lot of us take time out to look after our emotional health and wellbeing.

Let’s not forget – it’s ‘Mind Over Matter’. So, if you are able to take control of your emotions, thoughts, how you feel through the day and how you respond to myriad situations; there’s nothing quite like it. When you become the master of your emotions; health, prosperity, and basically all good things are bound to follow you.

With that said, here are 8 surefire ways that will improve your emotional wellbeing:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Half the time, we don’t even know what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling. That’s because we let our minds operate on autopilot. It’s time to take control of your mind. Be aware of what and how you feel throughout the day. The upside to this practice is that you can detect negative emotions right on the onset and quickly change them and their corresponding feeling.

Feelings of anger, jealousy, hatred; they are not good for the mind, soul, or the body. Paying close attention to the spectrum of emotions you experience throughout the day, will help you detect the negative ones and kick them away before they fester deep enough to take away your happiness and emotional health.

2. Stay Physically Active

As you engage in physical activities, your brain produces a whole bunch of feel-good hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These hormones are what causes the ‘elated’ or ‘euphoric’ feeling. Being physically active uplifts your mood and your outlook towards life. It readies you to take the challenges more head-on instead of becoming overwhelmed by the littlest of inconvenience.

You are better able to analyze tough situations and take a more proactive rather than a reactive approach. It’s no question physical health is in direct proportion with emotional health. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body and vice versa.

“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – Sid Garza-Hillman

3. Get Sufficient Sleep

Ever noticed how you feel depressed and cranky, and just out of focus the day you fail to get a good night’s sleep? Well, if you fail to get sufficient sleep for a couple of days, you are bound to feel more depressed, cranky and eventually more prone to a host of negative emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation sends amygdala – our brain’s emotional response center into overdrive.

Amygdala controls our immediate emotional responses. When it becomes overactive, we become more reactive rather than active. We become more irritable, angry and anxious. A good night’s sleep is vital to improving your emotional wellbeing.

4. Develop a New Hobby

Learn to swim. Try arts and crafts. How about painting? Swimming is a ‘happy’ activity. You get to make new friends and stay fit. Arts and crafts, as we all know, tends to have a relaxing effect on the mind and the nerves.

Just the process of creating something from scratch makes you confident and gets those creative juices flowing. Similarly, painting helps you express yourself. All these factors together create a ‘happy you’. The one who likes to engage in new things instead of resisting change or difficult situations.

5. Eat Healthy

Ever heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, it’s true to the last syllable. When you eat foods rich in salt, sodium, fat – you are bound to feel lethargic. It takes longer for the body to digest such foods. That means the body is forced to deprive organs of blood and use it for the digestion purpose.

Result? You become lazy, moody, not ready to take any responsibility which leads to feeling cranky and irritable. On the other hand, eating fibrous vegetables, fruits, salads, and complex sugars keeps you upbeat and healthy.

6. Laugh Your Heart Out

Laughter is the best medicine. That is why they have a dedicated ‘laughter session’ in yoga studios. You don’t even have to mean it. The simple act of spreading your cheeks and pretending to laugh sends a signal to your body that you are happy.

And what happens when you are happy? Your brain releases happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin and what not. In fact, many studies have gone so far as to stipulate that laughter alone is capable of treating all kinds of physical ailments. Why should emotional ailments be any different?

7. Try Relaxation Techniques

‘’Visualization technique’’ where you imagine yourself in a happy place is a surefire way to calm your nerves if you find yourself distressed. You may also try praying to elate yourself. Praying is good for the mind and the soul.

Controlled breathing or ‘biofeedback technique’ are some other relaxation techniques that can tame how you feel and even your bodily functions. Try surrounding yourself with aromatherapy or scented candles because the smell is a big factor in governing how we feel.

“Positive emotional energy is the key to health, happiness and wellbeing. The more positive you are, the better your life will be in every area.” – Brian Tracy

8. Count Your Blessings

We all have so much to be thankful for. It could be a friend who stands by you or a happy family. Good health. Financial freedom. Make a list of all the things that you feel grateful for in your life. If it’s a person, be sure to communicate your feelings and express your gratitude.

You will feel so much happier. Happiness is the diet of a healthy mind and an intelligent emotional response mechanism. You could also try writing a poem or simply expressing your gratitude through the power of prayers.

There are so many ways to become emotionally intelligent and not one of them requires any investment or special skills. Practically anyone and everyone can do it. All you need is the will and the desire.

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