10 Ways To Sort Your Work Life Out

CEO or harassed permalancer, we all face the same barriers on our path to global domination. Here’s how to beat them.

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PROBLEM: Your Meltdown Mid-Morning
SOLUTION: Start Earlier. Really
If you feel your mind caving in within half an hour of getting to work, you might want to try going in even earlier. Half an hour of solitude before everybody else appears gives you a chance to race through things without distraction. You’ll get a priceless head start on the whole day. “Having a good start to the day, where you have greater control, is critical in achieving better results, and ultimately greater career success,” says workplace expert/author Lynn Taylor.

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PROBLEM: Email Overload
SOLUTION: Obliterate Them Early
Eat into that inbox after breakfast, in bed or during the commute. Not only will that ensure you’ll be read before your competitors — thereby setting the agenda — you’ll feel productive and will immediately subtract from a to-do list that didn’t exist yesterday. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong rises at 5am to get through his, and Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45am to get through the hundreds of emails he reads each day. That, clearly, is totally insane. Then again, he’s not the one writing about us.

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PROBLEM: Everything's Too Intense!
SOLUTION: Take a Break
A recent experiment by social networking company Draugiem Group, found that the most productive employees had taken regular breaks every 52 minutes. So get away from work for just a few minutes — it’ll set you up again for the next hour. What that means, wrote Julia Gifford on Themuse.com, is that those people’s “working times are treated as sprints. They make the most of those 52 minutes by working with intense purpose, but then rest up to be ready for the next burst. In other words, they work with purpose.”

PROBLEM: You're Totally Disorganised
SOLUTION: Get a Routine
Most of the world’s most successful people swear by their structures; having some form of rigid routine works wonders. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places,” said author Stephen King about his workday. “The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, ‘you’re going to be dreaming soon’.” By dreaming he means writing. Not going to bed.

PROBLEM: People Demand Too Much From You
One of the reasons you’re not getting through your to-do list each day is that you’re just not actually doing it. If your priorities are being forever sabotaged by less important tasks and meetings, then within reason, stick to your guns. “Too many people get distracted first thing in the morning with unimportant activities such as diving right into their morass of e-mail,” says workplace author/speaker Michael Kerr, “when there may be a whole host of more important issues that need dealing with.”

PROBLEM: Mind Frazzle
SOLUTION: Go Back To Nature
A walk in a park, or at least somewhere green and not utterly polluted, can be considerably more productive than a visit to the gym. The combination of exercise, clean air and peace will have you back at your desk reborn. A recent study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal suggested that those who spend time near green spaces are less stressed and less anxious, leading to more productive communication and stronger decision making. So get out of the office for an hour and zen out in a nearby churchyard or something.

PROBLEM: You Really Can't Face Work In The Morning
SOLUTION: Read Twitter. Really
That steady stream of useless information can be useful. Science magazine says it has productive effects on the rest of your day. According to the magazine’s study of 509m tweets over two years, early morning is “when users are most likely to tweet upbeat, enthusiastic messages, and least likely to send downbeat tweets steeped in fear, distress, anger or guilt.” Soaking up other people’s positivity will rub off on you, so give yourself a good Twitter dose before work.

PROBLEM: Deskopalypse Now
SOLUTION: Leave It As It Is
Hang on a minute. What happened to ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’? Well, while there is truth in that, a study by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota found that “you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.” Participants working in a clean area did what was expected of them and behaved conventionally, but when set tasks, those with messy surroundings came up with more interesting and creative ideas. You always knew it, right?

PROBLEM: You Hit The Wall Late In The Day
SOLUTION: Embrace The Grogginess
A 2011 study in the Thinking & Reasoning journal suggested we do our most creative thinking when tired. Although analytical work produced consistent results across the day, subjects did their most lateral work during non-peak stretches. Focus was good when our brains were ‘on’, concluded Researcher Mareike Wieth , but… “That’s great if you’re doing a task where you have to concentrate.
But for creativity that’s probably not the best thing. We get stuck on one way and don’t think of other ways to resolve it.”

PROBLEM: The Bastards Are Grinding You Down
SOLUTION: Don’t Let Them
Easier said than done. But Theodore Roosevelt said it best. “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better,” he tells us. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” There’s more from that quote, but you get the gist.

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