15 Ways to Ensure Work Efficiency and Increase Productivity at Work

15 Ways to Ensure Work Efficiency and Increase Productivity at Work

Every second of your life is a priceless treasure. Do you treat it that way? 

While everyone is unique, each of us has the same number of hours in our days, days in our week, and weeks in our year. The difference boils down to how we use our time.

Making the most of our time is critical. But many of us don’t operate as productively as we would like for a couple of reasons, most of which are due to bad habits that interfere with our work efficiency.

When it comes to increasing your output at work, there are two ways you can do it: put in more hours or work smarter. I don’t know about you but I prefer the latter. This article will walk you through 15 no-nonsense strategies for increasing your productivity at work.


1. Get enough sleep 


Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Getting at least seven hours of sleep each night is vital for your physical and mental well-being. 

A Harvard report shows that sleep deprivation reduces efficiency and makes you more prone to making errors. It decreases your concentration, working memory, logical reasoning, and mathematical capacity. 

Being well-rested, on the other hand, elevates mood, boosts creativity, reduces stress, and improves memory. It likewise sharpens your focus and enhances your ability to accurately make split-second decisions. 

So prepare for a day’s work by getting the shut-eye you need the night before.



2. Let go of perfection


It’s common for entrepreneurs or professionals to get hung up on attempting to perfect a task. But the reality is — nothing is ever perfect.

Perfection is an illusion. It can lead you to limiting beliefs that will impede your level of success. Rather than wasting time chasing after this illusion, grind out your task to the best of your ability and move on. 

Accepting the fact that nothing will ever be done perfectly helps you get tasks done without crippling expectations. It also helps you view setbacks as learning experiences. 

When you stop fearing failure, you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate, as we often hold back on things due to a fear of failure. 

Focus on your progress. Cut yourself some slack if you don’t perform up to the impossibly high standards you’ve set for yourself. 

Remember: If you always aim for perfection, then everything you do will always feel subpar to you.



3. Create a pre- or post-work ritual


People who unfailingly accomplish their goals by enhancing work efficiency do so by creating sustainable habits. 

To be constantly productive at work, develop a routine that puts you in your best state before and after work. These “rituals” look different for everyone, so find the one that best suits you. 

It can be spending an hour at the gym every morning or taking a long walk after work to relieve some stress. 

When you create a ritual that leaves you feeling happy, healthy, and more focused, your work efficiency will skyrocket.



4. Get organized


Studies have shown that people with a messy workspace are less efficient and more prone to frustration than those who have an organized work desk. 

Clutter limits your brain’s ability to concentrate and process information, which in turn, contributes to stress and fatigue. 

Improve your mental health and work efficiency by simply decluttering. Get rid of all the non-essential items on your desk and assign a proper place to everything. Clean up your workspace every day before you go home.

Also, give yourself something nice to look at.

Outfitting your office with aesthetically pleasing elements — like plants — can help you focus and thereby increase your productivity. It’s likewise helpful to jazz up your office space with pictures, an art piece, a bunch of flowers, or anything else that can instantly put a smile on your face. 



5. Learn to say no to meetings


Meetings are one of the biggest time-wasting activities around, yet we somehow continue to unquestioningly schedule them, attend them, and in most cases, complain about them. 

An Atlassian report shows that the average office worker spends more than 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings. 

So before booking your next meeting, ask yourself first whether you can accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone, or even simply a Slack message.



6. Track your time


You may think you’re pretty good at estimating how much time you’re spending on different tasks. However, research suggests only around 18 percent of people can accurately gauge the amount of time spent on any task.

Time tracking is a fundamental aspect of how we help our clients identify and solve problems with their time. By tracking the three major elements of your life (health, wealth, and self) across all hours of your day, you can discover the hidden time traps that soak up your time and prevent you from engaging in the tasks you actually need or want to do.

With such information, you can have valuable insight that can be used to create strategies to help you be more productive at work.



7. Break up goals into smaller tasks

Sometimes, looking at our big projects and goals as a whole can be both overwhelming and stressful. 

But once you have broken them up into smaller tasks, you’ll feel more in control and will be much more productive. 

Instead of writing down “finish project” as your goal, try breaking that into all the tasks it involves. This helps you keep on track in your day-to-day operation and make your big projects seem less daunting.



8. Take care of the biggest tasks when you’re most alert


We oftentimes push aside bigger tasks because we’re not confident we’ll accomplish them. But by the time we get to them, we’re either too tired from our day or too stressed from the smaller tasks we accomplished first. Hence, we can no longer give them the attention they need. 

This is a perfect recipe for productivity’s downfall. 

Instead, identify when and how you work best. And do the “heavy lifting” whenever that best time is. If you’re a morning person, start your day off by doing tasks that are most creatively demanding. But if you’re more of a night owl, like me, you can do the opposite.



9. Follow the “two-minute rule”


The gist of this rule is:  If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Completing such a task right away takes less time than having to get back to it later.

Think about your daily chores like sending that email, throwing out the garbage, cleaning up the clutter, and so on.

This strategy can significantly improve your productivity by eliminating procrastination and helping you accomplish more tasks in a day.



10. Quit multitasking


Multitasking is a productivity killer. 

The human brain isn’t wired to multitask. Psychologists have found that attempting to do several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity, even when the person feels like they are being more productive. 

Make a habit of committing to a single task before moving on to your next project. 

We’re fooling ourselves when we say we can easily juggle phone calls, eat lunch, and drive. Would you allow your surgeon to be on his phone while doing an operation?

Therefore, improve your productivity by concentrating on only one task at a time and keep distractions to a minimum.

If you are having trouble keeping focused, you can try the Pomodoro technique to give yourself sprints of time with planned breaks for a more systematized approach. Here is a great tool to get you started with Pomodoro if you are interested.



11. Take regular breaks


Don’t work your brain to the point of exhaustion. Even machines malfunction when overworked.

You might think working longer hours means getting more done, but you can’t work as well when you’re burned out, right?

This sounds counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help improve your concentration. Experts suggest that taking short breaks in-between long tasks helps you maintain a constant level of performance. 

Take a five-minute walk around the office, or grab some snacks. Just don’t pull out your phone and scroll through social media for an hour — that’s the wrong kind of break.



12. Take advantage of your commute


Instead of Candy-Crushing or Facebooking, use your commute time or any “bonus” time to pound out some emails, do some brainstorming, or indulge in some mindful (read: relaxing) activities such as listening to podcasts or your favorite Spotify playlist.

Use these precious hours to gain even more knowledge and peace in your routine.



13. Minimize interruptions


Having a coworker pop their head into your office for a quick chat may seem harmless, but even brief interruptions can result in a “slight” change in your work pattern and a corresponding decline in your productivity. 

Minimize interruptions by setting office hours, keeping your door closed, or working from home for critical projects (given you have a conducive workspace at home).

One good piece of advice is: Turn off notifications. 

It’s hard to resist the allure of an email, voicemail, or text notification, so turning off your notifications during your “in the zone” hours can be helpful. Unless you are waiting for an important message, block a specific time in your day to check email and messages.



14. Understand that being “busy” isn’t always being “efficient”


Efficiency isn’t tied with staying busy. Working smart is better than working hard. The goal is to achieve your desired results in the day with less effort and time.

It’s helpful to divide your tasks between urgent things (like meeting an important client) versus things that can wait until the next day (such as returning an email). 

While our society has trained us to view people who are constantly busy as efficient, this isn’t always the case. If you’re buried beneath a heap of tasks that show no sign of letting up, are you really improving your work efficiency? 

Check in with yourself, at least once a day, and make sure the task you’re working on is truly important.



15. Take care of yourself


This is our last tip but it is certainly not the least. You only have one self to depend on and bank your productivity on — take good care of it.

While getting enough sleep and doing exercise are two of your vital needs to stay productive, there are still several basic things you can do to help optimize your work efficiency.

Eat a healthy diet. Drink lots of water. Cut off your bad habits — smoking, drinking, or hanging around toxic people.

If you need someone to complement your strengths and help you bring out your best, find an accountability partner

Treat yourself (and others) with kindness. Take time to do things that recharge and refresh you.



Capping it off…

Becoming more productive at work is all up to you — it depends solely on the decisions you make every minute of your day. 

With planning and discipline, anyone can be productive. 

Hold yourself accountable for every action you make. Associate with people who radiate positivity and with similar priorities. Stay organized. 

Productivity is a product of good choices, so start making them.

Now excuse me while I go take a 30-minute break. You should take one too.

Talking about Racial Diversity in Neurosurgery with Jalen Alexander

Talking about Racial Diversity in Neurosurgery with Jalen Alexander

Hey everyone,

Welcome to another episode of the Well Aware Podcast. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about awareness from a focus on racial diversity in the workforce in the field of neurosurgery with one of the first-ever authors on the subject, Jalen Alexander.

Jalen is a good friend of mine from my short time in New York City. When we last reconnected, he shared with me this work of his and others, and it became clear to me that this was something I wanted to help share and make you aware of.

One thing I want to invite you to keep in mind while listening to this episode:

Think about the broader implications of going from unaware to aware of something that speaks to your values and missions in life. In this episode, even Jalen admits surprise to his own assumptions about where he thought the data was going to be with respect to this research, and where the reality stood. To me, this is the first step in so many great calls to action. This is what takes us from aware to well aware, and subsequently well on our way.

With that, I hope you enjoy the episode.

For your awareness and access, here’s the article this conversation is referring to: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S187887502100320X

As well, here is Jalen’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jalenalexander2014/

His instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jalen2kool/ 

His Twitter: https://twitter.com/jalen2kool 

And finally, here’s the transcript of our conversation in case you want to follow along or would rather read than listen:

Jalen Alexander: [00:01:38] Hey there, how are you?

[00:01:39] Conrad Ruiz: [00:01:39] I’m good! How’s it going? 

[00:01:41] Jalen Alexander: [00:01:41] Good, good to see you. 

[00:01:43] Conrad Ruiz: [00:01:43] Good to see you! 

[00:01:45]Happy Thursday! 

[00:01:47] Jalen, let me formally get us into the scope of today’s podcast episode. I’m so excited for that!

[00:01:51]I wanted to get this discussion based on what you’d recently shared with me and kind of bring up a topic of awareness that I think I’m pretty sure so few people probably know about.

[00:02:00]Without further ado, let me introduce Jalen Alexander, everybody. Jalen is a report production analyst at MDRC. His main function, his role is pretty cross-functional. He provides training to staff members across policy areas on standards and report and proposal production.

[00:02:18] And he also happens to work in the K through 12 and post-secondary education policy areas. Jalen feel free to share a little bit more on that. I know I’m not an expert in your field, so would love to hear a little bit more about you and what you do from your perspective. But with that, Jalen Alexander.

[00:02:35] Jalen Alexander: [00:02:35] Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. I can share a little bit about myself for context. So I grew up in Missouri. In a really small town. I went to university in Connecticut. So I went to Wesleyan, both for undergrad and my master’s program. I studied psychology and I really leaned into data analysis while I was there at Wesleyan.

[00:02:55] So I published in the fields of public health and education. And now the reason why we’re talking today most recently, neurosurgery. But like I said, I was a psychology major and that’s what I focus on in my master’s program as well. So I’m not a neurosurgeon, I’m not working on people’s brains.

[00:03:11]But I am passionate about the topic of diversity across many fields of work. And we know there’s many benefits from diversifying our workplaces as America, as a country diversifies. So you know, a topic I’m very passionate about and excited to talk about with you. 

[00:03:26] And very timely to today. Because clearly, we’re in a world where, especially for diversity, amongst minorities, there is such a hotness around the different results that we seem to be getting, the different results that seem to be portrayed versus what’s real, what’s relative. I think what you brought up in this article that we’re going to talk about today and to everyone who’s listening in. The article that we’re specifically looking at is it’s published in world neurosurgery.

[00:03:53] We can give a link in the description of this podcast episode, but it’s Diversity in Neurosurgery: Trends in gender and racial/ethnic representation among applicants and residents from US neurological surgery residency programs. Jalen what should we really understand about this article? What is it about recognizing diversity in neurosurgery that you think people should really be taking away? 

[00:04:16] I want to hear from you. You’re the author here (among others). 

[00:04:19] So here’s the big picture: Our country is diversifying. The people who are seeking medical support from day to day is of course also diversifying. Don’t you think that the folks who are providing that care should also be diversifying, right? So we understand that the field of neurosurgery as a medical surgical specialty struggles with diversity.

[00:04:41]We know this from articles that have been written but we don’t really understand what’s happening on the opening end. And so when we think about, as folks come in and apply, the folks who get in and the folks who stick around long enough to become full-fledged doctors, as we might think about them, what’s happening in this pipeline?

[00:04:59] And so we really wanted to understand looking at: Are people applying? Are people getting in? What is it our residency consistency look like? And so that’s why we decided to focus in on this aspect. 

[00:05:11]There’ve been many studies highlighting the fact that a diverse workforce, especially within the medical field impacts the type of people that will come into an office, the type of folks who are seeking care and getting care and also how people feel when they come into an office. And so it’s really important for us to think about how to do diversity better and inclusion work in our medical fields and especially in neurosurgery. 

[00:05:39] Conrad Ruiz: [00:05:39] Okay. So there’s a lot to unpack here. I think one of the things that we’re trying to understand is:

[00:05:45] what are the results trying to tell us? What don’t we understand about this workflow that is ultimately revealing to us this sort of disconnect from the goals of meeting diversity and the reality? 

[00:05:58] So we clearly have an expectation. Diversity is making its way across the workforce, but what exactly is preventing us from meeting diversity goals inside of neurosurgery? 

[00:06:10] Jalen Alexander: [00:06:10] So that’s a really big question. And it’s one that we wanted to really open the conversation up to. And so one it’s about: let’s identify a problem and understand really the scope of it. And so what we were able to do is look at 10 years of data to understand over time, as we know the country’s diversifying, are the applications in our residency spots, really changing and shifting?

[00:06:34] And so we know that from what we looked up we are expanding the number of residency programs within neurosurgery and also, therefore, expanding the number of positions available. But as we looked across the decade, we found that not a lot is changing in terms of diversity for women, for black and Hispanic people, all of whom are historically underrepresented within the medical field and especially within neurosurgery.

[00:07:01] Conrad Ruiz: [00:07:01] Okay. And so without really getting a true understanding of the cause, we are at the very least able to say, “Hey, this is a problem.” and it was really interesting to notice that there was, so I’m highlighting this here from the abstract itself.

[00:07:15] So the percentage of black and Hispanic applicants decreased across the observed period, as you said, a decade, specifically 4% and 1% respectively. And so while black people represented 5.2% of the resident pool in 2009, this decreased at 4.95% by 2018. Whereas with Hispanic residents, they saw a less than 2% net increase in resident representation, but still fell behind when compared with census statistics.

[00:07:46] Jalen Alexander: [00:07:46] Yeah, so I can speak to that a little more. What we’re talking about here as a decade we’re obviously, as you think about the country at large the dynamics racially and also gender-wise in terms of diversifying of the workplaces is really changing. Why are we not seeing that reflected?

[00:08:02] And so to see a decrease of people… we have more spots available within neurosurgery programs. And we’re seeing a decrease in applicant representation for black and Hispanic folks who have been historically underrepresented. That’s a big question. How are we reaching out to these folks? How are we making sure that they feel welcomed into these programs? Who do they see when they look at our brochure as they think about their surgical specialties? 

[00:08:29]In my head, when I went into this work, I expected to see at least light increases in diversity across all of these areas and it was really disappointing to see that in some areas there was a decrease.

[00:08:40]And so people are being for whatever reason. discouraged* to pursue neurosurgery. And that’s really a shame because we need, as I mentioned before, more people who look like the people being served.

[00:08:53]Conrad Ruiz: [00:08:53] Is it a useful assumption to say that although the pool has increased, the respective statistic Minority and ethnic representation, it’s diminished –  does that somehow say more about the, in whatever context the pool increased, those increases seem to not proportionally affect those populations? Is that sort of a correct assumption? 

[00:09:20] That’s number one, number two: are we recognizing that existing efforts that were established for those statistics to exist as they were back in 2009 – are those somehow, have they somehow lost ground in the last decade? Is that another correctness of it is the combined efforts of these two assumptions. What we’re seeing in some context? 

[00:09:42] Jalen Alexander: [00:09:42] I think so. And as I talked with my writing partner Dr. Phabinly James Gabriel who is pursuing the world of neurosurgery as a resident at Rutgers sees this within his program.

[00:09:55]And saw this as he was going through med school that he didn’t see as a black man, many people who looked like him. He couldn’t name your top three programs that are there to support men of color or to support black men or black people in general within neurosurgery. So if you have someone who is doing well within that space and is unable to identify resources to support his existence with his intersections of identity, what does that say for other people who were younger in the journey? What does that say for people who are considering pursuing it and you can’t look around and see the supports that would be available? 

[00:10:31] Conrad Ruiz: [00:10:31] I think from that Jalen I want to segue into something: it sounds like we are from this article alone, we went from an unaware stage of what is the problem to we’re now aware of the problem. What’s the Well Aware takeaway?

[00:10:44]In that recognition alone, it sounds like we know that the vast majority of statistically underrepresented youth. Are unaware of these opportunities, and even those at the very top of this particular career path  – they are also unaware of the avenues that can take these youth into the same career path. 

[00:11:07] How do we become aware? How do we apply incentive or opportunity, or just more awareness to get to that next stage of actually moving the statistics back in the direction that we’re looking for? 

[00:11:21] Jalen Alexander: [00:11:21] That’s a really great question. I think it’s multifaceted. One is I think we have to start younger. We have to start talking to people about these opportunities earlier on. It comes from the images that we see on television, what we read in a book or a newspaper. We have to really show people that there are opportunities and there are black neurosurgeons out there.

[00:11:40] There are women out there who are really excelling as CEOs, as business leaders, those folks are out there. But they’re often not highlighted. They’re often not given the right credit until much later in life. And so how do we highlight those examples? And not just the exceptions, but people who are doing sort of the everyday things that keep our country running our world running.

[00:12:01] How do we highlight that for people much younger than when they’re trying to make this decision of what college to go to or what medical subspecialty to focus on? We really need to get people believing in the reality that you can get here one day and that these opportunities are open to you.

[00:12:19]Conrad Ruiz: [00:12:19] It feels like a very important game of marketing. 

[00:12:24] Oh, for sure. 

[00:12:26] Okay. Okay. Forgive me I’m just trying to take my time to think like what’s the route, what’s the path. So Jalen, if you had to make a pitch or say, “Hey folks, you should be more aware about this.” 

[00:12:38] What would it be in the context of this information?

[00:12:41]What should help push this agenda forward? 

[00:12:46] Jalen Alexander: [00:12:46] That’s a good question as well. All of your questions have been great. I think that one big thing that we’re pushing for is that we need more data collection around this stuff, and we need that to be more visible. We did some scouring to just find the information that we did.

[00:13:00]It should be easy to understand what at a country-wide scale – what does diversity looks like for our doctors, for our medical practitioners at all levels, right? 

[00:13:09] So how are we fairing? What my mind thought I would be seeing when I entered this study versus the reality of what we found.

[00:13:16] And so I think we really have to do that work of pushing people who are in charge to share the data. If we’re not doing the job that we should be doing around creating more inclusive workspaces, then that needs to be displaying and shown, and discussed. So we can think about how to move forward. So I think that’s a big push for me. 

[00:13:34] It shouldn’t be hard. And this shouldn’t be one of the first works on diversity in neurosurgery. This should have been maybe the 50th or something. Like we should not be in 2021, starting to lead this conversation around diversity within this field, we need to have these conversations much more often.

[00:13:51] And of course, connected to that is we need to see action. So what are people now that we become aware? What are we going to do about it? 

[00:14:01] Conrad Ruiz: [00:14:01] Let’s put that to the test. How should we support more data collection around this particular initiative? And in general, how are we supposed to – it’s a time-intensive task, right?

[00:14:10] You experienced it yourself – you scoured through data just to get to the awareness level that you are at now. How are we going to ease ourselves the time and task burden of data collection? So that more opportunities like this can be researched with less scouring. 

[00:14:27] Jalen Alexander: [00:14:27] So my data brain goes to thinking about what databases exist.

[00:14:31]And so rather than us having to put together a data set, what databases exists that easily display this information? We have this around census data, right? So you can look nationally and across states for information on race and other demographics. How do we make it easier and more accessible for people, so how can we push the American medical association?

[00:14:53] How can we make the data available? They have it. Make it available to the people so we can go in and draw our own conclusions about the trends that exist within these spaces. 

[00:15:05] So I think that we’ve seen a lot of great things happen in terms of data in the past year or so, especially in the past couple years.

[00:15:12] And so I definitely don’t want to harp on the fact that I, I think that within the world of medicine we’ve been doing, I think the CDC, for example, has been doing a really great job of trying to help us learn over time from data. And I think, you know, one thing you –

[00:15:25] Conrad Ruiz: [00:15:25] have quite the incentive this year! 

[00:15:29] Jalen Alexander: [00:15:29] For sure. But I think one thing that we can learn from the CDC is that the story may shift over time. And so as we do more studies as the years progress, the story is going to change. 

[00:15:42] And so how do we keep people updated and informed? I think that you know, this model of producing sort of peer review is a bit archaic. Not a lot of people have access to the information. 

[00:15:52] I’m happy to have this sort of form where I can talk to you about it and we can share it with the world. But I think it’s uncommon – most people who are publishing in journals like this are not then going on a press tour and talking about it in smaller groups of people.

[00:16:07] And so how do even doctors who were individually involved, how do you push people to get into the community to share these results, like actually connect with people rather than these folks who are at the top, just talking to each other. 

[00:16:20]My sort of hope as I do this research and other research is that it’s always connecting back to people and making it make sense for the reader. And so that’s really important to me. 

[00:16:31] And I think that’s a charge that the American Medical Association can do the work of connecting with the people and make that a part of their duty. 

[00:16:40]Conrad Ruiz: [00:16:40] I love that.

[00:16:40] I feel like you’re sort of getting the first part of the bridge built and you’re saying, “Hey, recognize that so that you can start to build the second half.” And that way we can form this, this connection of going from being unaware to aware, and then from aware to taking action and performing on what needs to be done because when we look at the data, yeah, the truth is inconvenient. 

[00:17:04] So let’s make it better. 

[00:17:07]Jalen Alexander: [00:17:07] To be transparent, the benefit for me being someone who comes in to analyze data and help tell a story is that I’m not in the neurosurgical field. So I don’t have to then be the person to recommend the shakeup of “Oh wow, we haven’t made much progress over the past decade.”, but I think it’s important for me again, to help people tell that story so that people who are coming into the field are able to understand what the landscape is. 

[00:17:32] And they’re able to say, “look, there’s data backing this up.”

[00:17:35] “There are stories being told that it’s not just me feeling unsupported. We’re largely unsupported. So I hope that for folks who are entering the field of neurosurgery or whatever medical specialty, that they can have another support story in their head of “It’s not just me, this is tough for us to go through cause we don’t have these built-in supports.” 

[00:17:58]Conrad Ruiz: [00:17:58] I think to your point, if it’s not, so isolatory, if you can kind of rally the underrepresented groups and show them from a statistics standpoint there’s a lot to be done…

[00:18:08]Maybe that’s a cool battle flag to rally everyone around? Almost like when you get to whatever stage you’re in, here’s the percentages of where you stand amongst peers from your background, from your perspectives, from your history. And, here’s where you’re standing ground and treading and creating a new path. Here’s where we need your help to blaze the trail further. As that would allow more folks to recognize where your footsteps can lead to more promising ones for theirs… 

[00:18:33] Jalen what are you working on right now? What’s sort of the next thing on your plate? What are we going to hear from you a couple months from this time? What’s going on in your world today?

[00:18:43] Jalen Alexander: [00:18:43] Yeah. What did Drake say? What’s next, right?

[00:18:46] You know, I’m thinking about what’s next. Dr. Phabinly James Gabriel wants to do more papers on this topic. He’s going to be in the neurosurgical field for quite a while. And so I think we want to keep digging into this and keep having conversations about it.

[00:18:59]We’re trying to unionize my workplace in my professional world. And I think about what’s the next story that needs to be told? And so, as I think about sort of my data path, which is sort of just on the side of my full-time job, I think about what stories are waiting to be told.

[00:19:15] And is there a way in which data can help us do that? And so wherever life takes me on, on telling that next story, I’m definitely open to that and thinking about it.

[00:19:26] Conrad Ruiz: [00:19:26] All right. Everyone, Jalen Alexander. Thank you so much for the time. 

[00:19:31] Jalen Alexander: [00:19:31] And may I say that you can find the full article on Science Direct. Diversity in Neurosurgery. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Jalen. Jalen Alexander. And you can find the links to my links directly to the full article on my IG and Twitter.

[00:19:49] Both places there I’m Jalen2kool. That’s Jalen2kool. 

[00:19:56] Do you mind if I, I take all those resources and put them someplace wherever I can find them? 

[00:20:00] Oh, of course, absolutely. 

[00:20:02] Conrad Ruiz: [00:20:02] Okay.


Finding your work-life balance with 6 simple steps

Finding your work-life balance with 6 simple steps

Balancing one’s professional and personal life is a difficult challenge even in the best of times, but it’s all the more daunting and necessary during times of uncertainty. We often let work precede everything else in our lives. We want to succeed professionally, and that often comes at the expense of setting aside our own well-being.

Experts agree that the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging to our relationships (to ourselves and others), health, and our overall happiness. Which is why it makes sense that work-life balance ranks as one of the primary workplace attributes employees are looking for – second only to compensation.

And as far as productivity is concerned, research has shown that workers who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than employees who feel overworked. Therefore, creating a harmonious work-life balance or work-life integration is critical to your success, both personally and professionally.

But the reality is: When working from home or when running your own business, creating work-life balance can seem like an impossible task.

While the concept of work-life balance may mean something different to each individual, in this article, we’ll break down 6 proven steps to help you find the balance that’s right for you.


1. Accept that there is no perfect work-life balance


When you hear “work-life balance,” you might think of someone who has an extremely productive day at work and gets to leave early to spend the other half of the day with friends and family.

While this sounds ideal, it’s not always the right fit for everyone.

A lot of overachievers develop perfectionist mindsets at a young age when their time is only allocated for school, hobbies, and perhaps an after-school job. Now as an adult, your life is no longer a school-and-other-stuff cycle. It gets more complicated.

As you climb the ladder at work and as your family grows, your responsibilities snowball. Perfectionism slips beyond your reach, and if this mindset is left unchecked, it can become destructive.

So let go of that notion of a perfect schedule, and strive for a realistic one instead.

Some days you will spend more time at work, while other days you might have more time and energy to pursue your passions or spend time with your loved ones.

Balance won’t be achieved overnight, so it’s important to remain fluid and assess where you are and where you ought to be (your goals).

Aim for excellence, or put another way, aim for your personal best today…not perfection.


2. Prioritize your health


While it may sound cringingly cliché, health is still your greatest wealth.

When we speak of balance, not everything has to be about the completion and achievement of a task. It also has to include self-care so that your body, mind, and soul are being renewed.

And it doesn’t have to consist of radical or extreme activities either. It can be as simple as a five-minute meditation or a yoga exercise.

Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do

It’s easy to cancel the gym or your evening run because you have a task that’s due soon.

But if you are as committed to your exercise routines as you are to generating money or making clients happy, you’ll find all of these activities are interconnected.

A healthy body means a fresh mind. And a focused mind helps you function better and complete tasks in less time.

Manage your thoughts

Dedicate a few chunks of your time each week to self-care, especially for yoga or meditation.

If you’re really pressed for time, start small with deep breathing exercises during your commute or a quick five-minute meditation in the morning and in the night.

This helps you ground your senses in your present surroundings and have a clutter-free (read:focused) mind.

Don’t be afraid to unplugCutting ties with the outside world from time to time allows you to recover from work stress and gives space for other thoughts and ideas to emerge.

Taking the time to unwind is critical to success, as it helps you feel more energized when you’re back on the clock.


3. Make time for yourself…and your loved ones


While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life.

You were an individual before taking this position, and you still are now. Allocate time for the activities that made you happy before you started on this work journey, and maybe even spend some time finding new passions.

Achieving work-life balance requires deliberate action.

Set aside a weekly day of rest. Indulge in some small pleasures daily. Take a couple of minutes for uninterrupted “you time” – just you and your thoughts.

Moreover, spend time on something you love – other than work – and with those you love.Remember: no one at your company is going to love you or appreciate you the way your loved ones do.

And the poignant truth?

When things go south, everyone (including you) is replaceable at work – no matter how important you think you are to your job or business. So if you’re looking for a sign to make you take that vacation – this is it.

Sometimes, truly unplugging means shutting work completely off for a while. Whether your vacation consists of a one-day staycation or a two-week trip to Maldives, take time off as a necessity.

It will energize and refresh your body and soul, which then enables you to nurture your creativity – an essential ingredient to your work.


4. Change the structure of your work (and life)


Crash diets that fizzle out. New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten by February.

We’ve all been there.

You might be wondering: What’s missing in my routine that prevents me from doing these things?

The drive? I don’t think so. The more likely culprit is probably that you tried to make a massive life change too quickly.

If you’re trying to change a certain aspect of your life, plan it through: start small, then build from there.


Determine your priorities

Spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on what you value the most, and make a list of your top priorities at work and at home.

Then audit how much time you actually have each day by asking yourself these fundamental questions: What do I need to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently?


Set specific goals

Analyze your to-do list and cut out tasks that have little to no value.

Then turn this list of priorities into concrete and measurable goals.


Schedule scrupulously

Plan your work and work your plan.

If you want to turn your priorities and goals into reality, then you’ve got to be a strict scheduler.

Set aside 10 to 15 minutes the night before (or at the beginning of your day) to schedule your entire activities for the day.

You should also know your peaks and troughs. If you are a morning person, assign your toughest (or those that require high concentration) tasks in the morning. Otherwise, do the opposite.


Track your time

Log everything you do for a week, including your personal activities.

This will help you understand how you are using (and where you are losing) your time.

Create a separate calendar and log your actual time spent there, and cross-reference it with your expected scheduled time. This way, you can effectively estimate how long your tasks actually take and plan accordingly.

Or (shameless plug here) bring us in to help you map out your time.


5. Work smarter, not harder


Whether you’re a business owner or a busy executive, learning how to use time more efficiently is an important skill to learn.

Find the best time-management techniques that work for you, and stick with them. This can include the use of technology to become more organized, avoiding procrastination, finding an accountability partner, and learning to say “no” to projects that eat away at your time.

When you begin to adopt the right combination of time-management practices, you can cut stress and get back hours of your day.

Also, as uncomfortable as it can be, setting boundaries on your working time is a key factor in implementing a good time-management practice.

When you leave the office or clock out from work, it’s important to let go of the day and focus on yourself. Thinking about your upcoming projects or answering “a few quick emails” keeps your brain constantly engaged with work. It prevents you from taking a real rest, and makes it hard to be present and engaged at home when you need to be.

Consider using a separate computer or phone for work, so you can shut it off when you’re done for the day. If you can, notify your team members or other leaders about the boundaries you have set and when you won’t be accessible.

This will help them understand and respect your workplace limits and expectations.


6. Know when to ask for help


If you are overwhelmed and stressed at work, don’t suffer in silence.

Forget about that Superwoman/Superman image and talk to your team about your situation. Engage with a mentor and see if they can provide some needed clarity on what you are struggling with. Remember that the people around you are there to support you, all you have to do is let go enough to ask for the help you need.

Similarly, if a balanced life continues to elude you, or you are experiencing chronic stress, consult a professional – a counselor or mental health provider can work wonders to help you identify and cope with the myriad of stressors you may experience on any given day.


Wrapping things up…


Achieving a well-balanced work life is like training for a marathon: It takes a whole lot of effort to get in shape and a continued drive to stay that way.

Only those who commit themselves to this endeavor will get the chance to reap its enormous benefits.

Just as there are many ways to get in shape, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to achieve a good work-life balance. What is right for you now will ultimately change as new circumstances come into play. So it is only appropriate that you periodically review your situation and adjust accordingly.

But you don’t have to make big changes all at once to get there. Even if you implement only a few of the above strategies, they will already create a clear and measurable impact in your work and life.

Have a good (balanced) life!

How To Review Your 2020 Experience Effectively

How To Review Your 2020 Experience Effectively

Well it’s finally here. December 31st, 2020. Needless to say, it’s been a year.

By this time, there’s probably a lot of expectations for you to be considering how this year has gone by, and what you’ve accomplished. Now, reviewing is always a fantastic use of time, but how can you effectively go about reviewing an entire year?

While its one thing to reflect on the major accomplishments (and major lessons), I want to share a far more comprehensive review that also doesn’t break the only bank that really matters: time. Especially now, with the focus on holidays, family, and the upcoming 2021 year.

So here’s my approach for reviewing all of your time throughout this past year in a very succinct, concrete amount of time. Feel free to follow along with this article – should you do that, prepare to invest around 30 minutes from this point on.

#1 How’s Your Nutrition?

For the next 3 minutes, I want to try to honestly, and effectively, answer the following 3 questions:

Q1. How have you been eating – has it been healthy, nutritious, enjoyable, or was it unhealthy, poor quality, mindless?

The main idea behind question 1 is to think back on your choice and availability of food, the time to eat, and how good that was. If things were great, think about the conditions that allowed for it. If not, think about the conditions that made eating well particularly difficult. Take 1 minute.

Q2. What can you improve about your nutrition that would make it better – could you make eating healthier somehow faster, easier, cheaper?

Here we’re now taking the first minute of reflection on nutrition and are now reviewing ideas that we could implement – this is where you can point out flaws in the design of your approach toward eating healthier that can be fixed! Again, take only 1 minute, and think low-hanging fruit opportunities (no pun intended). Now:

Q3. How big of a priority is eating healthier for me? 

You may initially glare at your current weight and use that as a major priority factor – so be it, that’s motivating! I could also recommend considering how much your eating lifestyle impacts your brain health, your mood, and your performance in all walks of life. Healthy eating is a foundation – I shouldn’t have to say that. What I should have to say is that eating healthier is only in your control when you make it a job to do so.

As we dive into other major life items to review, you’ll be seeing question 3 come up again and again around the conversation of priority. I’ll say this once here and now, but it applies for every other life item when you get to this question: Rank your priorities. By the end of this review, you should have a list from 1-10. My advice is that you focus all you available time tackling the top 1 when you start the year. Then, go down the list.

#2 How’s Your Exercise?

Again, for the next 3 minutes or so, I want to try to honestly, and effectively, answer the following 3 questions:

Q1. How have you been exercising – has it been consistent, impactful, enjoyable, or was it disregarded, poorly performed, misguided?

When it comes to reviewing exercise and how well it’s being performed, I tend to see so many people set their expectations too high and with little regard to the real value of good exercise, which is to have it be easy, constantly rewarding, and compounding over time. If you look back on your fitness expectations and see that you’ve been wanting more and more, but struggled to make your gains because your ambition overtook your realistic growth over time, then the next question will really help guide you to a better year of physical health.

Q2. What can you improve about your exercise that would make it better – could you make working out smarter somehow?

Here we’re now taking the first minute of reflection on exercise and are now reviewing ideas that we could implement – I personally strive for exercise regimens that require the least amount of time to get ready for, have some kind of accountability connection to (i.e. a YouTube workout video follow-along, or just working out with a friend/partner/colleague – which doesn’t have to be in person nowadays!). To the end of smarter, I love any kind of training that adopts less-is-more as a strategy. Do less reps correctly with best form, and so spend less time doing more reps in an a poor straining manner which then leads to less desire to return to future workouts. Working out at its best feels like a win with every movement.

Q3. How big of a priority is exercising better for me? 

Much like with nutrition, you may initially glare at your current weight and use that as a major priority factor – I would change that script and think more about energy than weight! Weight gain and loss is about eating healthy. Fitness on the other hand, is about training your body to be more effective with its energy consumption. So as strange as this sounds, given both healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand, if you want to prioritize smarter exercise over healthier eating, do so because you feel you are already eating well, and now you need to really make the most of that energy which you consume through food.

The next review life item can be bracketed under the more general bracket of physical health – sleep.

#3 How’s Your Sleep?

Again, for the next 3 minutes… answer the following 3 questions:

Q1. How have you been sleeping – has it been consistent (in terms of time to bed and time to rise), restful, reinvigorating, or…?

Ok look, I get that sleep is one of those troubling life items that whenever we try to work on, it seems to only get worse if anything. If you don’t already know, sleep is this amazingly weird thing we do where our own brain tells our conscious and alert self to move out of the way so that it can try and Marie Kondo itself from the unavoidable mess of what is just another day… When it comes to reviewing your sleep, I strongly invite thinking less about what’s keeping you up at night and more what’s keeping you up during the day itself, because that is where the root cause of a lot of our worries and woes around sleep time come from. Taking that concept in mind toward the next question:

Q2. What can you improve about your life that would make sleep better – could you make your life better for sleep somehow?

Please pay careful attention to the shift I’m creating here. I’m not trying to make the focus about better sleep (which of course has its room for opportunity with light, sound, temperature, etc.). I’m focusing on the daily things in your life that could make good sleep happen more easily. Of course, eating right and exercising are great for this. As a subgenre of exercise, there is of course meditation, breathing, and the like. Within the subgenre of sleep itself – naps! But more than that, think generally about how to create more order, less chaos, just simplicity in general…

Q3. How big of a priority is sleeping better for me? 

In my professional opinion, if sleep is not going well, its a #1 priority, but as I’ve pointed out above, once you make arrangements for the perfect sleep environment, sleep is generally better addressed by tackling life’s daily concerns more peacefully – that way sleep can really flourish, because by the end of the night, all of life’s myriad problems appear, for the most part, accounted for.

To that end, if sleep is already good, be it because healthy eating and exercising are supporting it as they do, then perhaps the next major life items will be more important for you right this moment. The following 3 are all about wealth creation.

#4 How’s Your Network?

If I may, I’d like to stretch your review of networking to encompass meeting new people, reconnecting with existing contacts, but also any and all time invested in communicating with others. I like this encompassment because it provides a lot of room for thinking about improvement, so:

Q1. How have you been networking – how effective are you in staying engaged in your circles, expanding, but also enriching everyone you know?

If you can look back on your networking as a whole, there may be a lot you could dive into surrounding effectiveness, consistency, impact… while thinking broadly, you can also think about particular relationships, or a particular circle, and how you went about communicating on a practical level, inasmuch as you could look at what your communication with the people you know (and ideally care about) has resulted in this time so far.

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to networking that would make your network better – what could be done better and how?

Again, just like with the shift in sleep, ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. But also, what can your network do for you that it may not be doing right now, and why might that be? Networking is a choice of connections – its okay to prune trees (please use the right tools for that – a blowtorch is for burning bridges and is really a bit overly aggressive as a strategy). Hey, think efficiency as well – are you keeping up a good system for managing your relationships with friends, family, colleagues, clients, prospects, strangers, and so on? Outside of using a CRM and tagging your friends into various buckets from which to send valuable industry emails, or quality memes…

Q3. How big of a priority is networking better for me?

With the next two life items to cover being prospecting and creating value, I will start off by suggesting that better networking is THE foundation for the other two. That said, if your networking sucks, prioritize that over anything. But sincerely, because networking is such a fundamental part of our exchanging value amongst one another in society, I couldn’t stress enough that it be valuable as studying, because what is networking but the study of how to be more helpful, and more easy to be helped, amongst those you know?

#5 How’s Your Prospecting?

Much like with networking, I’d like to stretch your review of prospecting-as-an-action to encompass more than just how well you sell yourself towards wealth opportunities. In my professional definition, prospecting is really a general design of time and attention towards identifying what an opportunity is worth, relative to any alternative. As a result, I could prospect which groceries to buy as much as I prospect a potential client, job, or network contact. So whereas networking makes you aware of what’s out there, prospecting defines what you will go for, and so:

Q1. How have you been prospecting – how effective are you in recognizing what are the best opportunities for your time and resources?

Hindsight is absolutely critical for better prospecting. It takes a trained eye to see value, because experience dictates what you can expect will or will not follow. So with that being said, how have you fared this year? When you made a choice, on a purchase, for/against a relationship, towards/away from a certain behavior of yours – how did that go? Later on we will cover the major life item of self-review, but for this particular life item, prospecting, I want to invite you to think about the choices you made in terms of the value you saw and the value you ultimately realized. Now…

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to prospecting that would make it better?

The number 1 thing you will hear in the world of entrepreneurship is to fail fast. What that really translates is this: Take calculated risks, and learn from it when it doesn’t work out as planned, quickly. So, prospect! Try, experiment, test, see how it goes for a little, then decide if you want to continue. Of course, some decisions in life are irreversible, but most aren’t, and those are the ones we get to play with the most. So in my recommendation towards better prospecting, make small bets, but do them often, and highlight time in the near future to assess those choices. Most importantly, look into what you thought you were going to expect in terms of return on value, and what actually happened instead.

Q3. How big of a priority is prospecting better for me?

Assuming you have a good enough handle on your network (and have people to prospect to), focus on prospecting if you need to build more wealth. Prospecting directly equals sales, so if you need to make more, then you need to sell better, which means you need to prospect better. At the same time, if you feel you aren’t keen on making the best decisions in hindsight, then prospecting should also be on top or near the top of your priorities.

Of course, a good salesperson is nothing without something of genuine value to give to their network. Next up is creating value.

#6 How’s Your Creating?

So let’s assume you’re a decent networker with capable prospecting skills – that means you know people and/or can get to know people, but also you can identify opportunities for those in your network in which you can profit from, and so, win-win. Great, now what exactly are we winning here? What kind of value do you create, and for whom? The following questions at heart will ask you that, and much more.

Q1. How have you been creating value – how effective are you with your time and resources in producing more time and resources?

Whether its for yourself and/or others, which really the two are but different sides of the same coin. How well have you been creating value? To that end, how well do you share about it? Marketing? How well do you transfer it? Customer service. How much value have you been producing over time? Productivity. Are you producing the same or more value in less time? Efficiency. When it comes to reviewing your creative actions, it can be really valuable to assess just how good you are at doing so in all respects possible, and that’s because the next question then asks:

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to creating that would make it better?

I love this question. It basically states, “I produce a certain amount of value X right now, to Y people, who then pay me Z… How might I go about increasing X and/or Y in order to improve my return of Z?” Whereas prospecting focuses on the selling of the right value to someone, creating focuses on the value itself being sold, how it gets there in the smartest way, and so on. When you really love your work (love being a verb that begets choice – you choose to love or not), you  really get into the heart of how you work most effectively. Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific examples to by, as there’s so many ways to create value, and so many ways to increase how value is created, but I hope you get the idea.

Q3. How big of a priority is creating better for me?

Hands down, if you don’t create more than you consume, then make creating a top priority. Next to anything in the health category, which is foundational, assuming you know your network and how to prospect with them on their needs and your means to make the opportunity for you to address those needs, then the next thing hands down becomes your time and task towards creating. Create more, however you can, but when you decide to prioritize creating, focus really hard on what you can create the best, and really drive that value up in the most effective ways possible.

As I may be pointing out with focusing on your health, working on yourself is definitely a way to improve the results of anything related to building. Notably, this brings us down to our final three categories: Study, rest, and review.

#7 How’s Your Study?

Being a lifelong student is without a doubt the most valuable time investment over the long term. If you want create more, you’ll likely need to study your efforts as much as what you don’t already know in order to improve your craft. Same goes with prospecting and networking – wealth compounds on study. Health gains come from good study too – though these days its hard to sift fact from fiction, so back we go towards prospecting what we should study and what we should earmark as crap… but I digress.

Q1. How have you been studying – how much have you learned and by what processes?

Because is such a valuable time investment, it helps to know how you fare in terms of effectiveness. Where you can, I strongly encourage looking at all the bits and chunks of knowledge you’ve collected over time, and just how well that information was absorbed and applied well into the rest of your life. How you study, or the process by which you learn, is also up for review here. Ultimately, you want to ask if your efforts to study met the results you desired to obtain in new and old knowledge applied effectively, and so:

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to studying about the world that would make it better?

Here, I like to think fundamentally as much as strategically. For instance, on a fundamental level, the faster I can read without losing sight of what I’m reading about is a fundamental to study more, faster. Meanwhile on a strategic level, I could design my time so that I read, review, then apply. This way, I get three forms of study which together solidify what I’m learning more effectively. And if that all makes sense, I would like to invite then the less-is-more strategy atop the learn-then-teach method of study. See, its not about reading more books, but about reading more effectively about the knowledge that matters most to you right now, and absorbing it/applying it as quickly and effectively as you can. So now think:

Q3. How big of a priority is studying better for me?

If you’re stuck trying to think what your next level is in any category of life, study it. The most successful people on the planet dedicate a tremendous of time to reading, but its not about just what they read. It’s about how they read it, and use it. Study is not just theory – its practice. So incorporate the practice of what you study in your life if you don’t already – that’s one way to prioritize study if the idea of just reading more doesn’t suit you.

At this point, we’ve covered nearly every “productive” use of time. Time for a break?

#8 How’s Your Rest?

To be fair, rest is actually the most productive use of our time when you think about it. Rest is what allows productive work to even exist, so without it, productivity approaches zero quickly. Rest is multifaceted in its design, but you can try to think of it as any activity which leaves you feeling renewed and able to perform everything else in life. And while healthy activity atop even wealthy activity can fit under the concept of rest, true rest can be as productive as doing absolutely nothing, and that’s okay, so:

Q1. How have you been resting – how much have you rested and how effective was it in what you resting from, or for?

Rest is the fluid in between time and task that, if otherwise removed, would make said time and task really hard to commit to over the course of a longer period. So how well have you given yourself opportunity to rest? How did you ultimately take that rest time, and was it effective in getting you going? You can break down different types of rest activities according to how much energy they demand, and how that compares with the energy demands of the tasks you perform for work, health, or anything other than your creature comfort. To that end:

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to resting that would make it better?

I don’t think the goal with rest is to be efficient. Rather, I think smarter rest comes from recognizing how to play with the ebb and flow of energy needed to perform work. When you’re tired, stop, rest. When you’re not tired, go, but take breaks as needed to prolong the inevitable time when you become tired again. Alongside that, think of rest in terms of different timeframes. Rest time placed throughout the day, week, and month can balance out depending on the demands incoming along each timeframe. That’s something to consider when trying to rest better. Also paying mind to the time and resource cost of certain rest activities – it helps to save on rest activities (I never understood why vacations had to be so expensive…)

Q3. How big of a priority is resting better for me?

If you’re always begging for it, then you need to focus on it. Making time to rest is the ultimate way to make time to work smarter and harder. Again, rest is what grants the ability to be productive. There’s more. Rest is something that requires strategy and experimentation. If you don’t have your time for rest figured out for the work-life demands you’re living in currently, then that’s all the more reason to sit down and review how you rest as productive measure towards your current expectations for productivity. One final note on rest: You’d be amazed what working less hours will do.

And so, really all of this brings us to the most important life item: Review itself.

#9 How’s Your Review?

Allow me to keep this brief by saying that review is not a brief process. Compared to the long term view of actual time spent doing everything that you do, review is a small part of that, but in the short-term, its not something to gawk at.

Q1. How have you been reviewing – how much have you reviewed and how well do you go about reviewing?

Well-done review follows a few simple principles. For one, review comes after any distinct event of focus. We tend to think of reviewing days, weeks, months, but we can also review individual activities, experiments, and even actions. Our goal with review is to understand ourselves, especially over the long run, so another important principle is documentation. How accurate have you been with yourself about your review? How objective? How subjective? Has that been good/bad depending on the time and task and behavior being reviewed? Lot’s to dig into here – just look at how you may have answered all these questions.

Q2. What can you improve about your approach to reviewing that would make it better?

It’s important not to step into a rabbit hole with this one. You’re looking at yourself looking at yourself. Don’t overthink it. That’s one improvement already. On a more fundamental level, you can always focus your review on specific items of importance. Examples include each heading in this article being a particular breakdown which you will choose to prioritize one of above and beyond the others, least for the time being. On a more strategic level, its about the questions you learn to ask yourself, the objectives you come to better understand, and the time you dedicate to coming up with the next experiment to try, and then review later. Review is part of a cycle. It’s not the whole cycle, but also by far a very slim part.

Q3. How big of a priority is reviewing better for me?

How often do you repeat the same mistakes? How often do you forget what you’ve done, and where you’re going? Questions like these point towards an emphasis on reviewing better. Its okay to make mistakes, and its okay to get lost in the present of things, but its in your power and responsibility to remind yourself – that’s what review is for. So if you need that more, prioritize this life item. I always prioritize review above all else because it helps me see the picture of everything else that’s covered on this article – all of my life basically – but not everyone is as deeply introspective, and not everyone has the time at this given moment to focus on the big picture.

When one of the other life items above holds more value than review to be addressed first, then the bigger picture of prioritizing review can come later. In the meantime, mini-versions of review can suffice until enough progress is made to warrant looking at the next level.

This article may not be a simple read. Likely, the questions I provide can invoke a lot of time to sit and think. I like to invite 1 minute per question on the first pass, and really that should be enough to get one of these categories as your priority for the coming week or month or even quarter – it doesn’t have to be the whole year. And to that end, treat any decided upon focus as a theme rather than particular set of objectives to be met. Life is complex, and you can’t control everything. It’s like navigating a ship – the winds will blow in many different directions as you sail – you only have so much time and energy to adjust your sails, so do so as needed, and focus on remaining steered in the right direction.

Happy New Year – may your time reflecting upon what’s coming forward bode well.

How To Review Your 2020 Experience Effectively

Why Notion Is The Best Tool For Keeping A Digital Journal

Journaling is immensely valuable, but I believe we can all recognize how challenging it might be to stare at a blank canvas and decide what should be defined as our entry of time each time around. Still, that said, the “just write!” philosophy as well as a little bit of structure in the form of writing prompts can quickly clear that problem up.

So all we’re left with now in our awareness of journaling as a positive behavior is, well, making the time to do it.

Today I want to cover a very convenient way to access and complete your journal entries through a digital tool called Notion.

Now when I say convenient, I mean for a whole host of reasons – be it because you can use digital-only functions like search, sort, filter, and more… A digital journal is generally more accessible – We carry our phones with us all the time. One can include pictures, or links.

There’s also the freedom to pick any template one wants to apply for the time and focus of your journaling, whereas on a physical journal, you’re stuck with the template that’s already designed for each page (not always a bad thing if just deciding your prompts is enough to wade you from writing).

If you’re someone who’d rather write into something physical, given you love the feeling and experience of actually writing (which has many perks), then allow me to save you some time by recommending a few journal designs you can buy that are quite popular for their effectiveness.

First there’s John Lee Dumas’ Mastery Journal. Then we have Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal. Lastly, we have The 5-Minute Journal created by UJ Ramdas and Alex Ikonn. Another reason why I share these journals in spite of my focus right now on organizing and customizing your own digital journal is inspiration.

We’re free to take from these designs the best prompting structures we want, and incorporate them to our desires through Notion. Of course, these aren’t the only structures to look at – I’ll also be sharing another tool, Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel – that can easily enhance how we enter in our state of mind.

So without further ado, I’d really like to dive into my favorite way of journaling digitally:

How To Journal With Notion

Allow me to first introduce Notion, for those who may not know: Notion is an information management system (fancy talk for store all your notes and documents here).

Google Drive is also an information management system, as well as Evernote, One Note… what makes Notion stand apart is how it is designed around these smart databases, or excel-like tables where the columns can be defined by different properties which ultimately create a diverse yet cohesive information-connecting experience throughout.

Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about.

Screenshot of a Table View in Notion Designed for Digital Journaling

Here Is a screenshot of a Table in Notion Designed for Digital Journaling

So as you can see in the above image, I have this row-column table, where each row is actually a journal entry. From left to right I have columns that represent the following:

  • My entry’s title (for me that always ends up being some quip about what’s going on in mind the second I ask myself “what’s going on in my mind?”)
  • My current state of happiness, measured between 1 and 3 stars. (The property being used here is single select – I can only pick from 1 of my created options of stars)
  • A 1-sentence summary of journal entry (I either leave this for the end of my journaling entry writing, or if I know the premise of my entry, then I’ll do this right after the title.
  • The date my entry was created (automatically filled out – a useful, already embedded property!)

The final three columns, or properties, are all multi-select options. Multi-select allows me to pick many options (much like a check all that apply). The options in these columns are words related to how I’m feeling emotionally at the given moment, and each column depicts a different level of emotion. For example:

In the emotion level 1 column, I can choose to select being happy, sad, disgusted, surprised, and so on.

In column 2, the word choices become more clear, as I can pick peaceful or trusting (which fall in line with feeling happy) as well as vulnerable (which can* fall in line with sad) and disapproving (falling in line with disgusted).

Column 3 similarly goes into deeper word choices courageous, thankful, fragile, hostile, worried…

The idea behind this setup is that I get to very effectively read through a list of words which can help dive more deeply into the particular emotions I’m experiencing, all to the convenience of a multi-select.

This is the genius of Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel, now designed into this smart database where I keep all my journal entries. And this is just looking at the database from an overview standpoint. Watch me open one of my entries.

Here’s what it looks like when I open an existing page (journal entry) that I’ve created from time past.

The Entry Itself (Notion Pages)

Pop up of a journal entry page in Notion

Here I clicked to open one of my page entries and you can see all “column” properties listed underneath the title, with space below for an actual entry. In this morning entry, I’m even using a template.

Here I went ahead and opened one of my entries. This pops up the associated “page” – it’s a lot like opening up a word or google document, but see how there’s more still.

Above, you can see my title, followed by all the properties I just listed out – the 1 sentence summary, my happiness single-select, my emotion level multi-selects… all of these properties I can change and manipulate inside here. Then, outside of being able to explore more property options, there is the actual meat of my entry here below. This is where I’m free to write.

Now, I want to highlight that in this entry, I actually used a template I based off the 5-Minute Journal design. When I first created the entry, I was prompted to choose if I wanted to write on an empty page, or pick from one of the templates I made. In this case, I chose the template which then pre-filled my page with headings that act as my prompts writing about certain things.

This is again, carbon copying what you would experience in any pre-designed journal structure. Of course, you can’t physically write into Notion, but you can indeed type, and if speed is your concern, and time is of the essence, well, typing is faster than writing. Now that we’ve essentially re-created any possible journaling design – save for ones that inspire drawing that would require some more effort…

I now want to showcase the experience I love most with journaling in Notion. Changing the view.

Calendar view of notion database used as a journal

Here I’ve now clicked to change the view of my Journal database from a table view to a calendar view.

Journaling About Time

Within a few clicks, all my journal entries have now been organized onto a calendar view, showing me when those entries were made.

If you’ve ever wanted to review all of your entries from a given month, a given day of the week, or even a given time of the day, this is one way of actually seeing it! Just like that.

Again, this is the power that Notion provides. To summarize, Notion allows you to:

  1. Create entries with properties that you can customize to your heart’s content. These properties can then be sorted, searched, filtered…
  2. Create templates for your entries (based on any known design prompts) from which you can pick at any time. Want the 5-minute journal experience for the morning and the weekly review experience for the weekend? Long as you make the template, it can be done.
  3. My favorite: You can always change views which may give different perspectives when looking at all your entries. You’re not stuck to seeing everything in table. You can have a calendar view, a Trello-like Kanban board view, a gallery view…

This to me is what makes Notion the perfect tool for digital journaling. Of course, a journal doesn’t have to be the only thing you keep in Notion, and that brings with it so many opportunities to really get fancy with how you interconnect journaling passages with the information about any contacts you keep in another database within Notion. The same could be said for how you add To-Do items onto a To-Do list that’s actually another database in your Notion, which you are adding to right from your journal entries!

The possibilities of this tool are huge, but I digress, this article is about the power of keeping a journal, and so I’d like to close on that subject.

A Final Analysis of Journaling

If I may, I’d like to invite we look at just what journaling is from a very practical standpoint, and also what it can be when used to its fullest extent in your time in life.

Journaling at its heart is the capturing of information – information you possess about yourself. Usually its your own thoughts, experiences, emotions… all documented to the effect of helping you better understand yourself. We journal to improve the way in which you go about our future choices. Journaling is an operation of time that’s focused on review, planning, and also just thinking things through.

When we keep a journal, it would create the greatest amount of value for our time that we do at least 3 things with it:

  1. It would make a lot of sense that we get value out of journaling in the present moment. Especially with the right structure or prompts, we can guide ourselves very effectively towards an analysis of what’s going on in our world and what we want to do about it. Again, this is typically for the moment of now, although entries about reviews of the past in aggregate can also make a lot of sense. That brings us to 2;
  2. As we go about creating a list of journal entries, our viewpoint expands further: Now we begin to have perspective over time across our more recent entries as well as our later ones. It may go without saying that we do have to invest the time to review the expanse of our journal entries – especially as they grow in number. Toward this end, it really helps to keep your journaling organized, and later on you can already imagine that I will promote digital journaling to be the better way of organizing and searching back in time. Again, in a sort of review of our reviews type fashion (no pun intended), we can create special entries that aim to summarize our sense of self from journaling. Because there can be so many things to try and connect and correlate;
  3. Again, given the right structure(s), we can very distinctly capture our emotions from our thoughts from our plans and so on. It’s sort of like making a dish with all the individual foods separated at first (think a simple chicken with rice with green peas) – we can mix it all up and get a combination taste, but we can also taste each piece separately. So over time, as we recognize this same meal or at least certain parts of it, we can separately compare the peas from way before with the peas from this afternoon, if you catch what I’m getting at.

So first, create entries for the power it provides immediately, using structure and prompts to guide our jotting toward what we want to work through.

Second, keep organized and review entries as they begin to stack in number – investing the time to re-read them – with the intent to summarize those entries into super entries.

Third and finally, In line with how you organize your journaling, where possible, separate the various components of what you can capture so you can analyze them distinctly.

This is precisely what a well-designed physical journal is capable of helping you do. However, its going to cost you, and you can’t change the fundamental design without having to go and buy a different type of journal.

And this is where a good digital journal comes in with being adaptable, data-rich and so more quickly analyzable, but also lean! Physical journals take up space and need storage – digital journals exist in the ether – no physical space required.

two large stacks of handwritten journals

Stack of Journals Image taken by Laura (@paperedstars on instagram) saved by Lynn Evans on Pinterest

It’s for this reason that I so strongly recommend keeping a digital journal, and with that, keeping said journal with Notion.

Here: This is a link to a template I created for you to get started with. I wish I had this when I first started in Notion (to be frank, the community has many templates for you to play with).

This template comes with a version of Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel already designed in the column-properties. Within each page, I took Khe Hy’s (another prominent Notion productivity expert) 3-heading morning and evening entry builds. Feel free to try all these out, and see for yourself what kind of experience you can imagine over the next day, week, and month of journaling.

Before You Go…

I’ve one final trick to share with you about journaling digitally – this comes from the reality I see a lot with our digital working world.

Most of us live throughout our personal and professional lives on our web browsers.

Notion has a fantastic web app experience, meaning it would make sense that you keep it open as one of your many tabs that you have open, but of course that begets the problem:

How would you encourage yourself to journal (on Notion specifically) when you have to constantly open up the tab (which isn’t even that big a hurdle, but still) amongst the sea of tabs you may already have open.

I’ll be writing another article on browser tab management soon, but for now I’ll leave you with this: You should close most of your tabs that you have open, as they take up a lot of juice on your computer and for the most part are probably never to see the light of day – and even so, they probably won’t do you much good if you aren’t absorbing their respective information properly.

What I would kindly invite however, is that you take advantage of a special feature that most browsers have about tabs. It’s called Pinning Tabs.

Right-click on a tab (for example your notion tab) -> and click Pin Tab. Now watch as your notion tab shrinks to just an icon AND jumps all the way to the left of all your open browser tabs.

Here’s what happened:

If you have but a few tabs open, you may have noticed that those tabs will show both the tab icon and the title of the page you are on. When you pin a tab, only the icon shows. Here’s what I’m talking about:

A close-up view of the top left-hand side of a browser, where a number of tabs have been pinned, while one of them is not pinned.

See how I have 6 tabs open, yet the one on the right is the only one showing title and icon? Those other 5 tabs are currently pinned. The one on the very left is my Notion tab.

This simple feature can make a big impact on your overall web browsing experience, should you be inclined to organize your browser tab behavior a little more mindfully.

Allow me to invite you do this: Pin your notion tab. If you decide to pin other useful/repeatedly visiting tabs like your calendar, gmail, drive, spotify, take note of the order they’re in.

Now use Ctrl + number key (1,2,3,…) to hop between those pinned tabs.

Whereas Ctrl + Tab allows you to cycle through every open tab you have, Ctrl + number key takes you to the tab that’s located in the number key position from left to right of your open tabs. Because pinned tabs always take priority, you can effectively order your most used tabs and then jump to them quickly.

This little trick can then turn your browsing experience into a more controlled hub, where Notion is but one hub where you document what you’ve explored and sought to store from your thoughts to whatever you find on the internet. Again, one of the beauties of digital journaling – links, images… you get the idea.

That’s all I have for today. Let me know if you end up using Notion. Are you journaling right now? What’s your take on digital vs. physical journaling? I await your thoughts in the comments section below.

All the best,


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