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Become a Lean, Mean, Productivity Machine

The times for high productivity appear to be 10 am to noon and 3 pm to 4 pm

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For many people, Sunday is for rest and reflection. Monday through Friday is a different story.

Daily tasks can either drain or energize you. Completing them can make you feel accomplished; postponing them can leave you frustrated. Surprisingly, the order in which you approach tasks can have a notable impact on your effectiveness, energy, and enthusiasm.

Some tasks are better handled at a specific time of the day, and should be completely avoided at other times. To maintain balance, get your work done, and still have life at the end of the day, ensure that the sequence and the timing of your projects supports, rather than impedes, the likelihood that you’ll accomplish most of what you sought to do during your day.

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When to Tackle the Day’s Toughest Task

Tackle the day’s toughest task first thing. Why, pray tell? Recall if this has ever happened to you: You approach the end of your workday and realize that you didn’t get to the most difficult tasks. Whether they are time-consuming or mind-boggling, the hardest tasks are the ones most likely met with procrastination.

Researchers agree that you are most able to handle your hardest tasks if you do so in the morning. Dr. Norbert Myslinski, a neuroscience professor at the University of Maryland, found that cortisol – a stress hormone that affects your “flight-or-flight” ability – peaks around the time that you wake up.

Cortisol increases your blood-sugar level, better enabling you to handle tasks energetically and with enough momentum to carry you through their completion.

Most vital, tackling tough tasks in the morning often enhances your confidence level. By striving for increased productivity at the start of your day, you are motivated to perform better and accomplish more throughout the rest of your afternoon and evening.

All told, you’re inclined to accomplish more on your daily task list when you start with the hardest tasks. Moving to the easy tasks then seems like a downhill bike ride. By contrast, moving from easy to hard tasks can be an uphill battle.

When to Ease off on Tackling Tough Tasks

When your workday begins to wind down, tie up any loose ends. What can you file so that it is out of the way? What can you make complete? Can you make that one key phone call?

Can you discard any unnecessary items, including junk mail? Can you assemble tomorrow’s project materials or notes to once again be able to tackle the toughest tasks? In this case, the early bird does indeed catch and complete the worm (work).

Tackle that Task You’ve Been Avoiding

As I discuss more broadly in my book The 60 Second Self-Starter, when is an opportune time to tackle a task you’ve been putting off continuously? Answer: When something else comes along that’s even more onerous.

Suppose you seek to start on task A, and find yourself making little headway. Along comes task B, which bigger and more difficult, and something you have to do, you have no choice. Task B now becomes the nexus of your procrastination.

Suddenly, task A doesn’t seem so big and so bad. In comparison to what else is on your plate, you find yourself starting on task A with greater ease than you recently experienced. How so? You have mentally traded off one task for another.

Eventually you’ll have to tackle task B, but for now, work the trade-off to your advantage. Buzz through task A.

A caveat: Often, you don’t have much control over when another huge task is forthcoming. When one such task arrives, that’s when to launch into the earlier task.

About High Productivity

Your body’s temperature goes up and down in the course of a day, a pattern dictated by your brain. According to John Poppy, a former senior editor for Look magazine and long established health columnist, your body’s performance ability for memory, alertness, and physical coordination is optimal when you have a sufficiently high body temperature.

Conversely, memory alertness, physical coordination, and performance ability tend to decrease with a less than optimal body temperature.

For work related tasks, in accordance with your body temperature fluctuations throughout the day, in review, here are noted times for high productivity, and other times worth knowing: From 8 am to 10 am, your mental capabilities steadily rise.

From 10 am to noon, you have the wonderful opportunity to take on a challenging project and succeed, or to hit your boss for that raise you’ve been wanting.

By noon your brain capacity begins to diminish. At 3 pm, the brain power dip you might have experienced in the early in the PM begins to diminish and your productivity rises.

By 4 pm, ‘til at least 5 pm, your muscle tone reaches its peak and so, this is the favored time to exercise for many people.

So, the times for high productivity appear to be 10 am to noon and 3 pm to 4 pm, and the best times for a productive physical workout are between 4 pm and 5 pm.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

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As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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Business

Common ‘Wisdom’ that Just Ain’t So

Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not accurate, at all…

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Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not exactly so. For example have you encountered the phrase, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither”? Often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the phrase is nonsensical. With no national security, soon enough you’ll have no liberty.

With complete security, you’ll have no liberty as well. A trade-off is always needed. For the record, Benjamin Franklin actually said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to pursue a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That makes more sense.

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’? Once again, Ben Franklin is in the mix. A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny earned is a penny earned and even then it might not be a full penny depending on taxes, inflation, and other hidden costs and expenses. If you save your money in a long-term CD, you can’t have access to it months. If funds are tied up when you need them that is not a pretty penny.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Not Actually

Consider the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” Perhaps, this is so, but not as a given. Generally, an excellent teacher is the best teacher. Experience might teach us the wrong lessons or send us down another blind alley. If we don’t fully comprehend the meaning of our experiences,we’re as likely to make bad decisions in the future and have unfortunate experiences as a result.

Closely related is, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Practice does not make perfect. If your practices are off the mark, then you will continue to be imperfect and you might be reinforcing a bad habit. As they say in Tae Kwon Do, “Practice makes permanent.”

On my daughter’s softball team, a young girl named Whitney was regarded as the star pitcher. Yet during the pregame warm-ups, time after time, she could barely throw a strike. With luck, she averaged 20% strikes out of all her pitches thrown. Sure enough, when the game started, she was no better. Why would anybody expect the outcome to be different?

The best chance for you to excel is to have perfect practices. An array of imperfect practices leads failure.

Lemons and Life

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ This sounds like good advice, but to actually make and sell lemonade, you’d also need to have clean water, a good lemon press, some type of sweetener, a paring knife, a pitcher, an implement for stirring, and cups. Such bromides leave out 90% of what else you’d need.

Periodically, I encounter authors and speakers who write or say ‘to live life more fully’ by pretending that “you have six months to live.” If you had six months to live you’d engage in behaviors different than now.

You might sell your house. You might go on world travel, or at least travel more than you’ve been doing. You might dissipate your assets. You might spend your money down to nothing, or give it all away. Then, when you undoubtedly live beyond six months, you’re likely to be penniless!

Thank You For Sharing (!)

‘Think outside the box.’ What does the “box” even mean? The phrase has been so overused that it is now rendered meaningless. Would it be better simply to say “expand your thinking,” or “brainstorm,” or “reach beyond the norm”?

‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ Michael Jordan once remarked that while there is no “I” in team, there certainly is a “me.” Acronyms and creative word use might have their place in a corporate pep rally, otherwise let them be.

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