How to “Beat the Clock” and Reach Max Potential at Your Job and Home

Dawn Bevier

We do not have to be time’s slave; we can make it work for us instead.

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Wherever you live, whatever you do, whoever you are, there is no more precious commodity than time. Our very existence is a minute by minute essay on the quandary of time-how to spend it, how to stop it, how to savor it.

No man is more powerful than the mighty clock, but, if we learn to befriend this master dictator, we can make him our ally and use his power to achieve our greatest potential.

Using Time to Achieve Peace: The Beauty of Waking Up With the Sun

Time, that sometimes tyrannical being, is most gentle in the early morning. All its enemies are still asleep, nestled snug in their beds. The children who will steal your minutes of tranquility with moans for breakfast.The bosses who will give you impossible deadlines. The traffic that will eat up your last reserves of patience. Some of life’s most beautiful moments are those spent in silence with just you, your thoughts, and a warm cup of coffee or tea.

In a society that almost never sleeps, from the moment the morning “grind” shifts into gear, humans are turned into time-crunched mental warriors; as a matter of fact, numerous research relays that people make an estimated 35,000 decisions a day, and warns that the results of so much input taxes our brain’s frontal lobe beyond its maximum ability. This results in diminished cognitive ability and monumental stress.

Very few of us can engage in needed “brain breaks” in the midst of our hectic lifestyle, so getting up before the rest of our world can be the only time we can focus on our own needs, passions, and self-care.

Both pre-dating and following the time when Benjamin Franklin wrote that “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” some of the world’s most successful people have touted the benefits of rising with the sun. From Mozart to Napoleon to Hemingway and George W. Bush, the first blush of day provided needed time for them to pursue their passions or give their bodies and minds the emotional or physical tranquility that inevitably seeped away during the rest of the day where, as Wordsworth stated, “the world [was] too much with [them].”

Tips To Embrace Morning Time:

  • Try to get to bed a half-hour earlier so that you can wake up thirty minutes earlier and not miss the sleep.
  • If coffee is a necessary part of your morning, set it to start on its own so that you can simply wake and enjoy.
  • As much as you can, plan ahead the night before so that this morning time can be used for peaceful purposes. If you have young children, lay out their clothes and lunches before you go to bed. Have all bookbags and other things you need to carry to work all in one spot so there is no mad dash trying to find this or that needed for the day.
  • No work or email checking in this period. Do what you enjoy. Read articles that interest you, write if you want to, play music, exercise or meditate, or read the morning paper.

Using Time to Achieve Maximum Productivity

Whole books have been written about using your time to its best potential to increase achievement and productivity. Many people say that they do their best work under pressure, and this pressure usually refers to time crunches due to procrastination, competing demands or responsibilities, and unexpected events that suddenly pop up. However many people may boast that their best work is when “their feet are held to the fire,” most research and evidence proves this theory false.

Everything the world’s most successful people do, including planning ahead to creating routines, has the theory of time management stamped all over it, and leaving yourself little time to complete important projects puts your emotions and environment in a sort of 911 response.

For example, the saying “what can go wrong, usually will,” and when the inevitable happens, the inability to control one’s circumstances due to time constraints can be very problematic indeed.

For example, according to psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, one’s best achievement and productivity occur when one is in what he termed a state of “flow.” Flow is defined by him as a phenomenon where the doer is totally immersed in an activity, so much so that time itself is altered. The person in a state of flow may lose track of time because their focus and feelings of enjoyment are at their peak.

Csikszentmihaly found that those who entered a “flow” state made significant progress in whatever feats they were attempting; their efforts were more creative, more accurate, and more astounding because they had managed to achieve this “in the zone” mental state.

This state is very hard to achieve if one is under emotional duress due to time strictures; for example, it is almost impossible to reach this productive state if one is trying to multi-task at the last minute, handling erupting emergencies and interruptions that negate the creative process.

Famous Actor Will Smith compares success to laying bricks. He says. “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that‘s ever been built. You say, “I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”

You cannot “lay your bricks perfectly” if you are short on time, frantically juggling a load of other responsibilities that compete for attention and facing constant interruptions that steal your focus.

If the mind is less stressed, the creative and cognitive functions are freed from strain and able to function at peak potential.

Tips to Use Your Productive Time Wisely

  • Make a plan and prioritize. If you look at all the things you have to do now and in the near future, it can be overwhelming. Make a list of certain tasks that must be done first and decide how many actually need to be checked off the list for today. Make this your focus. Do this daily.
  • Do the hardest tasks first. The sense of accomplishment you get from completing that one monumental “must-do” gives you a boost of motivation and the smaller goals can be tackled much more easily.
  • Learn to say no to things that do not allow you to maximize your time. Twenty minutes of small talk in the company breakroom could be time utilized in a more productive way. Also, things such as sitting and scrolling social media or checking personal emails cost valuable minutes when you know you have more important tasks lying ahead of you.
  • Close your door at work if you can.
  • When that chatty co-worker comes in to talk, make an excuse of somewhere you have to be or beg a trip to the restroom if needed. Usually, this will be enough coaxing to get them to move along their merry way. If you need to be blunt, just tell the person that you would love to talk, but you’re drowning in work. Sometimes the direct method is the best.
  • Give yourself a “brain break” if needed. A ten-minute walk outside can reinvigorate you and help you refocus after hours at “the grind.”

When you rush haphazardly from one task to another with no real vision of how your time needs to be used, endeavors may get completed but at a sub-par level with diminished achievement. This is obviously not a good formula for upward mobility and heightened success at the job or at home.

Using Time to Renew: Sleep and its Importance

Deadlines are deadlines, and sometimes we have to burn the candle at both ends to accomplish a big project at work or other important endeavors. However, continually sacrificing rest and relaxation, in particular, sleep time, can be mentally and physically destructive.

Healthline cites a study of medical interns who worked more than twenty-four hours straight. When compared to interns who had been able to sleep an adequate amount, the round the clock interns made thirty-six percent more medical errors. This is a particularly scary fact because some of these errors could be the difference between life and death.

Even if your job does not involve life or death circumstances, lack of sleep can still have detrimental effects.

In a Live Science article entitled “Here’s What Happens in the Brain When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep,” they use the words of Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at UCLA, to explain the negative impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive functions. He states his research “discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly…[paving] the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us.” He goes on to say that during sleep deprivation, brain cells “slow down” and “neurons..fired more weakly.”

Numerous other studies also compare sleep deprivation as sharing similar effects to alcohol intoxication.

Obviously, these needed hours of rest cannot be sacrificed if you are to remain at your maximum creative and insightful state. So you must give yourself this time in order to function at your peak potential.

Tips for Making Time For Sleep:

  • Wind down about one hour before sleep time. Turn the lights down. Read a book.
  • No “blue light” from the use of electronics, phones, etc. The National Sleep Foundation reports that “the blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock to a later schedule.”
  • Try making the bedroom a more sleep -receptive room. Studies have found that cooler room temperatures seem to induce sleep. You can also try the therapeutic use of scents such as lavender, rose, or chamomile through candles or aromatherapy diffusers.
  • Finally, as stated before, lay-out needed items for the next morning before you head to bed. The fact that you are well-prepared for morning will lessen the likelihood that you lie in bed thinking about all the things you have to do the next day.

The Bottom Line:

Charles Darwin stated that “a man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

By making small everyday tweaks to your habits and routines, you can use your valuable time more wisely. This means more calm, more achievement, and more time to spend on what really matters: the people and experiences that bring joy and meaning to your life.

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Sanford, NC
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