How to Be More Productive in the Afternoon [Video]

We read and hear a lot about morning ninjas. You know, those stories and recommendation lists that make us feel kind of inadequate and guilty: “…then I wake up at 4am, run 5 miles, meditate, do some core workouts, write my blog, write a new marketing plan, review my goals for the day, eat a handful of organic berries…at office by 8:00…”

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We read and hear a lot about morning ninjas. You know, those stories and recommendation lists that make us feel kind of inadequate and guilty: “…then I wake up at 4am, run 5 miles, meditate, do some core workouts, write my blog, write a new marketing plan, review my goals for the day, eat a handful of organic berries...at office by 8:00…”  

Most of us try to do our best and yeah, could probably optimize our mornings. But what about the long stretch of the day from 1pm to 5pm or so?

We’ve heard from many Freedom users that afternoons are when they struggle the most to stay focused and create their best work.  

Here’s a video we put together about how Freedom can help you make your afternoons more productive.  [Running time 1:39]

using freedom to be more productive in the afternoon:

Afternoons are often filled with coffee and distraction, so why not make things easier on yourself and take care of the latter.

With Freedom there are two ways for you to schedule recurring sessions and maximize your productivity and focus during your afternoons.

  1. Start Later – This is a feature that allows you to block distractions for a set period of time later that day. ‘Start Later’ helps you pre-commit to a time where you can work undistracted. So you won’t even have to make a choice about when it’s time to get to work.  Block the entire internet if you want, or block specific websites by creating a custom blocklist.

 

 

2. Recurring Session Schedule – This feature allows you to schedule recurring blocks during certain times of the day throughout your week.. Set a range of time where you want to be focused, like afternoons or early morning, and let Freedom help you make productivity a habit. Set as many recurring schedules as you’d like to customize with different times for various days of the week.

 

 

Using Freedom’s schedule time is simple and helps you establish habits that make you more productive and focused. It lets you decide when you’ll respond to notifications, inboxes, buzzes, and updates and makes your afternoon slump a thing of the past.

We’ve been saying it all along – multitasking doesn’t work

By now you have probably heard that multitasking isn’t good for you. You might even have heard that it can drastically reduce your productivity or even lower your effective IQ by 10 points. Whether you heard it from us first, or from one of the many sources like Today’s new series “Digital Divide,” the topic of multitasking has become a mainstream issue of interest to all of us.

Multitasking+is+a+failure

THE TODAY SHOW’S NEW SERIES “DIGITAL DIVIDE” TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE DOWNSIDES OF MULTITASKING AND DISTRACTION

Click to watch video

By now you have probably heard that multitasking isn’t good for you. You might even have heard that it can drastically reduce your productivity or even lower your effective IQ by 10 points. Whether you heard it from us first, or from one of the many sources like Today’s new series “Digital Divide,” the topic of multitasking has become a mainstream issue of interest to all of us.

However, unfortunately simply knowing the results of these studies doesn’t change the fact that our lifestyles often place us directly in a position to multitask. From the minute we wake up in the morning we are connected and tuned into our digital world – constantly checking and responding to weather updates, email, notifications, calls, texts, and buzzes, often right up until our eyes shut while streaming our favorite show on Netflix before bed.

And it’s not entirely our fault. As Dr. Earl Miller of MIT neurosciences explains in the video above, our brains are wired to seek out novelty.

“Your brain evolved to find information rewarding – to find new information rewarding. Because that information might have been very important to your survival,” explains Dr. Miller.

Our environments have changed drastically, but our brains have not. This is why we find it almost impossible to resist those rings, beeps, and buzzes that let us know there is new information waiting for us. Although our brains find the dopamine blast and instant gratification rewarding, it slows us down, reduces our efficiency at performing the task at hand, and may even have a lasting negative effect on our brains.

In our digital world where our devices are constantly crying for our attention, the task of regaining control over your attention can seem almost unattainable. That’s why we created Freedom – not to ban or eliminate technological advancements, but to simply give you control over a process that’s hardwired into your brain.  Sure, we’re focused on building the best website, app and overall internet blocker in the world, but our big goal is to give you the freedomto focus on whatever you chose.

Don’t quit – replace: The key to changing your habits for good

‘Tis the season of habits. January is almost over, and with the first month almost done it’s time to check in on those New Year’s resolutions – that is, if they haven’t already been forgotten. Whether breaking old habits or adding new ones, it’s the time of year where everyone wants to turn over a new leaf, begin a new chapter, and rewrite routine. But we are all too familiar with how this ends: we start out strong, and then life gets in the way. We run out of time, motivation, or both and slip back into our old ways.

Good+Habits

‘Tis the season of habits. January is almost over, and with the first month almost done it’s time to check in on those New Year’s resolutions – that is if they haven’t already been forgotten. Whether breaking old habits or adding new ones, it’s the time of year where everyone wants to turn over a new leaf, begin a new chapter, and rewrite routine. But we are all too familiar with how this ends: we start out strong, and then life gets in the way. We run out of time, motivation, or both and slip back into our old ways.

So what makes habits so hard to change?

To understand this question we must first understand what habits are and why they are formed.

A habit is any action or behavior that is repeated regularly and often unconsciously. Habits are composed of a three-part process, also known as a habit loop.

The first part of this equation includes a cue or trigger that tells your brain to do a particular action or routine. This can be as simple as the tiredness that makes you crave junk food or the opening of your laptop that prompts you to sign into Facebook.
The second stage of the habit loop is the routine or behavior itself. This is the action that we usually think of when we think of habits, such as stopping your internet addiction or going for a run after work.
And finally, the third part of the habit loop is the reward or incentive that we receive in return for doing the action that incentivizes our brain to remember the habit and keep doing it. This can be the gratification received from people liking your pictures on Facebook, or the socialization from a smoke break.

Why do we need to form habits?

Why can’t we just decide to do what we want, when we want, for as long as we want? Well, part of the problem with this logic is that decision-making is mentally taxing for most of us. Much of the decision-making process takes place in the front of our brains in a part known as the prefrontal cortex. While actively deciding to do something, much of our mental energy will become focused on the task of deciding, when it could be used elsewhere.

Habits are extremely useful in this way, because when something is a habit, it’s automatic – it no longer requires the mental energy of decision-making – it becomes like a “background process” on a computer or phone. This helps to explain why when we learned to drive, our shoulders may have been sore after from the tension and concentration needed during the taxing activity, but why after a few years of practice we have no trouble following a story on the radio, or talking to another person while driving. The action of driving that once required a lot of decision-making is now an automatic habit.

So how do you make changes to your habits that last longer than three weeks?

Too often we forget that there are two parts to creating new habits. We try to remove a bad habit without replacing it with another or we add a new habit without removing anything from our old routine. This leaves us overwhelmed and unhappy, with either more to do in a day or craving the reward we once received from our bad habits.

In order to successfully change your habits, you have to find a healthier routine that yields the same rewards as the unhealthy habit. For example, if you want to give up your bad habit of procrastination via Facebook or messenger, don’t just try to stop logging in or deactivating your account. This will likely leave you unhappy and unmotivated as your brain is being deprived of the reward it loved – socialization, or the thrill of those BuzzFeed quizzes. Instead, try to find a healthier habit that can replace the old one, that still yields the same rewards.

For example, create a routine where you work for 30 minutes and then give yourself a 5-minute break to exclusively catch up on notifications, emails, and messages. Whether you use an anti-procrastination app or a new work routine, the key is the act of replacing the habit you want to lose with something else. Or if you want to start exercising before work, reward yourself with your favorite healthy breakfast.

Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In order to live a life that we can be proud of, we have to form healthy and productive habits. The process of change can be trying and tedious, but by replacing bad habits with better ones that yield similar rewards, one can ease the process and create change that can be maintained for a lifetime.

 

 

Best-selling author Farrah Rochon on writing lessons learned, conquering distraction, and staying motivated

We sat down with Farrah Rochon, best-selling author based in a small town just west of New Orleans, to learn about her experiences with biggest writing lessons learned, conquering distraction, and how she manages to stay inspired, motivated, and meet deadlines. She has written titles such as Deliver MeYours Forever, and I’ll Catch You that have received rave reviews and many honors such as several SORMAG Readers’ Choice Awards, RITA award nominations, and the Emma Award for Author of the Year.

Farrah+Rochon

NaNoWriMo 2015 is long since over, but is it ever a bad time to get a little advice from a published author? We don’t think so! We sat down with Farrah Rochon, best-selling author based in a small town just west of New Orleans, to learn about her experiences with biggest writing lessons learned, conquering distraction, and how she manages to stay inspired, motivated, and meet deadlines. She has written titles such as Deliver MeYours Forever, and I’ll Catch You that have received rave reviews and many honors such as several SORMAG Readers’ Choice Awards, RITA award nominations, and the Emma Award for Author of the Year.

What advice would you offer less experienced writers – especially in regard to staying productive, motivated, and focused while writing? 

One of the keys to staying productive, motivated, and focused is to be as prepared as possible. If you’re an obsessive plotter as I am, make sure you have that plot worked out so that you’re less likely to spend an hour staring at a blank computer screen. For the seat-of-the-pants writers, I encourage you to make a list of things that can keep you in the story when your mind starts to wander. Maybe it’s a picture of whatever inspired the storyline, or a mockup of the cover with your name on it. Seeing your name on a book cover is a great way to stay motivated.

Another important aspect of being successful while writing is to learn to say no to outside distractions—aka, your family. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. No one will take your writing as seriously as you do, and when a person is still aspiring to be published, it’s hard to convince family and friends that it’s more than just a hobby. Make sure those around you understand that this is a serious endeavor, and learn to tell them no when they try to distract you from your goal.

As a best-selling author with lots of experience, what mistakes helped you learn the most?

My biggest mistake is not trusting my gut. When I look back at the times that I’ve veered off course with a story, I realize it’s the times that I’ve questioned my instincts.

What are your biggest distractors while writing and how do you conquer them?

Let’s all say it together: The Internet! The seductive pull of my Twitter feed poses the most danger to my productivity. Thank goodness for the Freedom and Antisocial software. When I discovered them, my productivity skyrocketed. I use Freedom when I am writing the first draft, because it discourages me from hopping online every other minute in order to “research”. Often, I’ll make notes within the manuscript of things that I need to research later, during rewrites. Once I’m done with the first draft and have moved on to revising, that’s when I switch to Antisocial. I love that I can specify which websites to block (Twitter, Facebook and Amazon are big ones for me), yet I can still conduct the research I need to perform.

How do you balance the quality of your writing, while also writing to meet deadlines? Essentially, what is your process for productivity?

It’s very simple, I sacrifice much of my leisure time in order to keep up with the deadlines. It was a hard decision to make, but when my deadlines started to pile up, I knew something had to give. There are a ton of unwatched TV shows sitting on my DVR, and a stack of unread books on my virtual eReader shelves. I’ll eventually get back to them, but for me it’s more important to give my readers a satisfying story than it is to watch the third season of Orange is the New Black.

However, sacrificing my leisure time is just one part of it. I also had to come up with a method of being more productive during the actual writing process. I’ve recently started using the Pomodoro Productivity Technique, and discovered that I can comfortably write about 40% more on any given day. The key is writing in small chunks of time (I write for 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks), and staying completely focused during that time. Combining this focusing technique with the Freedom software has been a godsend.

How did you get into writing and when did you start?

I’ve been writing all my life. I was the nerd who did a mental fist pump whenever the teacher sprang a surprise essay test on us in high school, because I knew I could write my way to an A. However, I didn’t start my first novel until my sophomore year of undergraduate studies. I wrote that book longhand over nearly four years. It was horribly written, but I’m still proud of it. Much to my father’s chagrin, a week after I earned my Masters degree I declared that I wanted to be a full-time novelist.

What would you say to those that are intimidated by the journey of writing a novel?

You can write 1667 words in 90 minutes. All it takes is an hour and a half every day. It doesn’t have to be a solid 90-minute chuck. Twenty focused minutes here, a half-hour there, and at the end of the month you’ll have yourself a book.

What projects are you currently working on that you are most excited about?

I’m currently working on another book in my ongoing Moments in Maplesville novella series. Being from a small town on the Louisiana bayou, this series is especially special to me. It’s also the series my readers are most enthusiastic about, so I’m excited to give them yet another taste of Maplesville. I’m currently offering the first two stories in the series for free in a new bundled edition, so I hope others will give it a try.

What have you given yourself the Freedom to do? We love learning about what you’re working on and publishing your accomplishments. Tweet us @Freedom or email us at alex.dempsey@freedom.to

 

3 Psychological Factors Negatively Impacting Your Productivity

You just sat down at your desk and are ready to tackle that report. You log into your computer, check Slack and your email, get distracted by a New York Times update on your phone, scroll through some tweets, and read an article about “7 Superfoods That Help with Focus.”  You respond to a text, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to start the report before a coworker calls or another email warrants a response.

On average it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for someone to get back on task once interrupted.

Productivity

You just sat down at your desk and are ready to tackle that report. You log into your computer, check Slack and your email, get distracted by a New York Times update on your phone, scroll through some tweets, and read an article about “7 Superfoods That Help with Focus.”  You respond to a text, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to start the report before a coworker calls or another email warrants a response.

On average it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for someone to get back on task once interrupted.

Digital distraction is everywhere, stealing away your time, focus, and productivity. Push-notifications and timelines help us feel connected and informed, but not always at the right times with the right information.

So why is it so hard to stay on task?

  1. Part of the problem is that we are biased toward action. We want to feel busy even if we are achieving less. We answer texts while writing an email, and even in our leisure time we search the web while watching TV. Studies have shown that multitasking can reduce productivity by 40% and can even lower one’s IQ by 10 points. Our brains can’t do two things at once, so instead of multitasking you’re just switching between two tasks rapidly, but each time with a cognitive cost.
  2. So why can’t we just use self-control and ignore the push-notifications, buzzes, and pings? We can – but only for a limited amount of time. Self-control, much like any other resource is finite. Ignoring your phone requires effortful self-control that results in a temporary depletion of one’s willpower to control other emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. You may be able to ignore the first few pings, but the task becomes ever more difficult as the day goes on.
  3. To add to the problem of self-control, our brains crave the rewards often associated with social media. These distractions stimulate the production of two main chemical rewards – dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine causes us to search, seek, and desire novelty – which naturally makes us curious to explore the constant flow of information from social media outlets. Oxytocin, known for it’s ability to affect feelings of intimacy and bonding, is the stimulant for good feelings of love, empathy, trust, and compassion. When we post, comment, like, or share, and receive the same in return, our oxytocin levels rise and we feel more connected to those around us. The stimulation of social media not only makes us feel good, but leaves us wanting more.

The good news – there is a solution!

With digital distraction draining us of our time and energy, it is easy to forget that at its core, technology is meant to make our lives easier and more productive.  We’ve got a solution – fight fire with fire. Instead of becoming a luddite, use new productivity technologies to take back control of your life, time, and focus. There are thousands of apps to help you streamline your workflow, automate tedious processes, and help you focus on what matters most.  We’ll highlight three – FreedomTodoist, and IFTTT – that you can use to increase your self-control, automate and prioritize your life, and make productivity a sustainable habit.

  1. Our first choice, and we’re certainly biased, is Freedom.  Need two hours of quiet digital silence while you finish that report? Freedom is a productivity platform that enables users to block distracting sites, apps, and push-notifications across all their devices for a set amount of time. Whether you need to focus on work, family, or yourself, Freedom provides a simple solution for uninterrupted focus when you need it.
  2. With your digital distractions blocked, apps like Todoist can help you organize and prioritize your tasks, so that you can avoid the trap of multitasking. Use Todoist’s features to break down big projects into smaller tasks, collaborate with others, and even track your productivity trends over time with Todoist Karma.
  3. Finally, you can save time on tedious tasks by using IFTTT. This app allows you to automate processes between your favorite apps using the simple formula – if this, then that. For example, if I’m at work, then mute my phone. You can browse IFTTT’s huge library of recipes to automate saving photos to specific albums, sending headlines to your inbox, or saving tracks to your dropbox for later listening.

Now, dedicate yourself to starting to use technology to increase your productivity – rather than allow it to distract you from achieving your goals.

How to Make Morning Routines a Habit for All-Day Productivity

Ah, mornings. If your 8 a.m. ritual involves hitting the snooze button, scrolling through emails and catching snippets of the day’s headlines, you’re doing it wrong.

While the early hours are frequently maligned, they can actually be the most valuable part of your day. It’s a time to chart your course, conquer projects and set yourself up for all-day success.

Here are four tips for creating a morning routine that maximizes productivity:

Morning+Routines

Ah, mornings. If your 8 a.m. ritual involves hitting the snooze button, scrolling through emails and catching snippets of the day’s headlines, you’re doing it wrong.

While the early hours are frequently maligned, they can actually be the most valuable part of your day. It’s a time to chart your course, conquer projects and set yourself up for all-day success.

Here are four tips for creating a morning routine that maximizes productivity:

1. Fend off procrastination

The morning might seem like an ideal time to check email and deal with other less-than-critical tasks, but it’s easy to use minutiae as an excuse for procrastinating on work that needs to get done.

Don’t let your mornings become a black hole of procrastination. By the time 3 p.m. rolls around, you’ll wonder where your entire day went.

Follow Mark Twain’s advice: Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. In other words, do the unpleasant tasks first, whether that’s a report you’ve been dreading or a phone call you never seem to have time to make.

2. Take advantage of uninterrupted time blocks

A paper co-authored by researchers from Bellevue University and University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Organization Management Journal examined best practices for academics juggling research productivity, doctoral advising and teaching.

Many of the scholars interviewed cited the importance of blocking out set periods of time for specific tasks, from paper revisions to course planning.

Mornings are often the least hectic time of day, before the tedium of successive afternoon meetings and the social obligations of the evening. Make good use of the early hours and dedicate them to projects that require uninterrupted concentration.

3. Worst things first

Humans have a finite level of self-control, so your ability to make critical decisions declines over the course of the day, according to a meta-analysis of 83 studies by researchers at the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Education in Singapore.

This phenomenon, known as ego depletion, means that big projects shouldn’t be saved for the end of the day, when your judgment may be at its worst, blood glucose levels are on the decline and fatigue has started to set in. Instead, address important work concerns early in the morning, when your judgment and self-control have peaked.

4. Set the tone for the rest of your day

Workplace wellness programs are on the rise, thanks to plentiful research on the effect of wellness on productivity.

Exercise can actually prevent a slowdown in brain cell generation during the aging process, in addition to stimulating the production of mitochondria, which produce ATP, a chemical used for energy.

Also, a 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal reported that 10-40 minute bursts of exercise  increased mental functioning and focus in children and young adults (18-35 years of age) immediately afterwards.

People who work from home shouldn’t forget the importance of healthful living—even if they don’t have an employer offering wellness incentives or lunchtime yoga classes.

Make time for yourself first thing in the morning by fitting in 10 minutes of meditation or a sweat session. Even a quick neighborhood walk can provide health benefits while giving you the focus you need for a productive day ahead.

How to Form a Habit (That Actually Lasts)

Good habits, bad habits—the topic often arises around New Years, when resolutions are made and broken, then forgotten altogether. But 40 percent of our daily actions are automated, or performed in near-identical situations. With so much of our daily routine influenced by habit, shouldn’t we give our repetitive behaviors more thought?

Habits

Good habits, bad habits—the topic often arises around New Years, when resolutions are made and broken, then forgotten altogether. But 40 percent of our daily actions are automated, or performed in near-identical situations. With so much of our daily routine influenced by habit, shouldn’t we give our repetitive behaviors more thought?

First off, a habit is an action triggered by a contextual cue that’s associated with the behavior, such as washing your hands after using the restroom. Repetition of the behavior in an associative context leads to a person performing the action automatically. For anyone hoping to develop better work, wellness or lifestyle habits, we’ve got you covered.

1. It takes longer than you think

Remember the old theory that says it takes 21 days to develop a habit? According to a 2010 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it took study participants anywhere from 18 to 254 days to carry out an eating, drinking or activity behavior habitually, with an average time period of 66 days.

The study demonstrates that there’s considerable variation in the amount of time it takes people to develop habits, but on average, it takes longer than traditionally estimated.

2. Focus on one behavior at a time

According to Christine Whelan, a public sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, attempting to change several behaviors at once is a mistake. Give one action your complete focus—whether that’s hitting the gym for an hour after work, choosing salads over sandwiches during lunch or meditating for 10 minutes before bed.

Each behavior you choose represents time you can’t spend on other activities, so it’s easier to start with one action at a time. Not only is it less intimidating, but you’re also less likely to fail.

3. Find your habit’s ecosystem

Habits exist in the context of behavioral cues—they cannot be separated from their environment. A study published in the journal of Psychology, Health & Medicine found that participants enrolled in a weight loss program based solely on habit-formation principles found it much more challenging to stick to behaviors outside of the workweek. Weekends and vacations disrupted the normal contextual cues associated with the participants’ habits, but once the workweek resumed, participants returned to their positive behaviors.

Consider the specific timing of your desired habit. Is it something you can do right after your first cup of coffee? As soon as you turn on your computer? Picking a place and time you can stick to is key.

4. Don’t worry if you miss a day

In the previous study, participants skipped weekends and holidays yet stayed on track. While repetition is key, missing a day or two isn’t ruinous. Remember, your habit’s more dependent on associated cues than willpower alone.