I’ve been in the storytelling business and by proxy the marketing field for nearly twenty years, and one observation that has always stuck with me, is the idea that people are intrinsically wired to perceive their lives, pursuits, and desires around the binary framework of problem and solution, good and evil, hero and villain. Similarly, minds and thought processes often mimic that of our computers and devices.
These tools are designed to provide us with shortcuts and efficiencies in our daily lives, giving us instant access to information, life hacks, and communication with a mere click or finger-stroke. The same goes for our minds, constantly wired and re-wired to make our everyday actions, thoughts, and behaviors more autonomous and coherent. Much like a keyboard or app shortcut, there are simple behavioral techniques that we can use to help us think more clearly and efficiently. Not only will we become better at what we do, but we’ll also create more bandwidth in our busy lives.
Here are Seven Behavioral Shortcuts to Help You Think and Act Smarter, Not Harder:
1. Clear your mind
One of the biggest time wasters in a day is the amount of time we spend thinking about things that don’t matter. We’re constantly thinking about things we don’t want to think about, and we’re always worrying about stuff that may never happen. This is a habit that we’ve created over the years, and it’s one that’s rather difficult to break. However, it’s possible. To clear your mind and clear your schedule, try the following:
Prepare for a task.
Don’t think about the task.
Complete the task.
The more you can implement this strategy in your life, the more confident you’ll be in your work, and the more time you’ll have to accomplish your goals.
2. Calculate Your Time
One of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced in the time management world is figuring out how to manage my time better. It’s easy to say, “Manage your time better,” but it’s difficult to know how to do that. One of the best ways to manage time better is to set a timer for a specific amount of time. It’s helped me create higher levels of focus in my work. If you’re feeling frustrated with how you’re managing your time, try the following:
Set an alarm for 20 minutes.
Focus on the task for 20 minutes.
Take a break for 20 minutes.
The more you practice this strategy, the more effective it will be, and you’ll also find that your focus will increase.
3. Practice the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)
This is one of the oldest time management strategies around, but it’s one of the most effective. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, is simple to understand. It states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. This can be a difficult principle to implement, but it’s one that can have a huge impact on your life. To start applying the 80/20 Rule, try the following:
Set a timer for five minutes.
Write down all of the things you want to accomplish today.
Prioritize your tasks.
Work on the most important task for five minutes.
Work on the next most important task for five minutes.
The more you practice this strategy, the better you’ll get at identifying the most important tasks, and the more you’ll see the impact of prioritizing your work.
4. Organize Your Environment
I’ve written about this tactic in the past, and I continue to recommend it to everyone that I know. The key to organizing your environment is to create consistency in your life. You can use your environment to help you achieve your goals, but it’s also a source of distraction. The key to organizing your environment is to create a space that you’re comfortable in. It’s also important to create reminders and cues that will help you stay focused on your work.
5. Don’t Multitask
This may be one of the most counterintuitive shortcuts, but I highly recommend not multitasking. Multitasking has been drilled into our heads for years, and it’s even become somewhat of a status symbol. I’m not saying that multitasking is a bad thing, but it’s often done incorrectly. When we multitask, we’re only working on one thing at a time. We’re thinking about the screen we’re working on and the task at hand. We’re not fully engaged in our work.
6. Set Smart Goals
If you want to achieve great things, you need to set smart goals. I’ve been a big fan of goal-setting and believe that it’s one of the best ways to move forward. However, not all goals are created equal. If you’re struggling to achieve your goals, then you need to start thinking about them in a different way. The best way to create a goal is to know what you want to get out of it. If you know what you want to get out of achieving a goal, then you’ll know how to set it up.
7. Focus on the Important Things
One of the biggest challenges that we face in our daily lives is taking action on the important things. We think about the things that matter, but we don’t do anything about them. This is a habit that’s been created over the years, and it’s one that’s difficult to overcome. If you want to start focusing on the important things, try the following:
Write down the things that you want to accomplish.
Prioritize the tasks.
Work on the most important task for five minutes.
It may be tempting to work on the things that are more comfortable, but doing that will just continue your pattern of procrastination.
If you want to achieve great things, you need to take action on the important things. If you want to become great at what you do, you need to learn how to get more done in less time. One of the best ways to do that is to use keyboard shortcuts. Not only will you get more done, but you’ll also be able to think faster, work smarter, and live better.