How to flow your way to a more productive life

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How to flow your way to a more productive life

[success]The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from the old ones.

John Maynard Keynes[/success]

This could be the best time of your life. The best financial time, the best emotional time, the best spiritual time. But you need to take control of your state of mind if you want this to be true for you, because, in the end our life is judged by the things that we complete. And we need focus to help make that happen.

Maybe you want a better life, but find it difficult to do what’s necessary to make changes.

You might want to experience growth, but don’t find change very comfortable.

Perhaps you want to stop getting upset about things, but your mind insist on re-running every drama.

Or you want to be filled with self-confidence yet still find yourself feeling overly concerned with fitting in, worrying about what others might think.

Wherever life finds you today, by managing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours you can set yourself up for all the success you can imagine. Here’s a few steps to keep it simple:

Ask better questions for a more passionate productive life

When I was 5 I was incredibly shy which made me an ideal target for bullies. My aunt offered me money to go and hit someone who’d been hitting me, asking me if I thought it was ok for others to hit me. My mum told me if I asked lousy questions, I’d only get lousy answers. I needed a better question.

If you’ve been asking yourself ‘why does this always happen to me’, ‘how can I get through the day’…you’re asking the wrong question and the answers your mind will come up with won’t support you in making helpful changes. You’re focused on what’s wrong.

If you ask yourself ‘how can I make today great’, ‘what will I celebrate today’, ‘what’s the most important thing I can do for myself today’, ‘how can I be of service today’, you’ll be rewarded with more uplifting answers. The choice is simple, be a passenger or the captain of your life.

Create better rituals and patterns for a more passionate productive life

How to flow your way to a more productive lifeWe’re all controlled by our patterns and rituals. Our first thing in the morning ritual, our heading out to exercise or not ritual, our managing our day ritual, our getting ready for bed ritual. Even the way we ask questions is a ritual we’ve created which becomes a pattern of being.

Everything affects everything else. Your life develops from your patterns and to create a better life you need to make better decisions. Which means creating better patterns.

Doing what it takes isn’t always easy, it requires determination and discipline. But I promise you, the rewards will be phenomenal.

You already have rituals in your relationships, in your finances, with your body, and everything in between. Challenge yourself and take control of the state of mind you live in. If you want something new you have to let go of something old.

Remember, we are what we repeatedly do.

Ask yourself if the rituals and patterns you have in place are truly serving you, if the answer is no, replace them. One at a time.

Don’t talk yourself out of your dreams

If you’re a natural worrier, and I remember when that used to be me, it isn’t helpful to sit and stew in all the things that bother you. There’s no greater way to talk yourself out of your dreams and desires.

No matter how hard it is, letting your “big” worry out into the light and talking about it with someone close to you, allows you to see it more clearly.

You don’t have to suffer, take a deep breath and remind yourself the only thing that’s creating worry right now are the thoughts you’re thinking. You are the cause of your worry or fear.

It’s easier to deal with worries if you track them.

Write them down.

Stay patient, stay positive…don’t let your worries get the best of you. Once you begin to see your common worry themes; the places you’re most vulnerable…you’ll be better able to stop those thoughts dead in their tracks.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Be a selective listener

How to flow your way to a more productive lifeStop taking your thoughts so seriously. Remember that your memory can be faulty which makes your thoughts pretty inaccurate too.

Don’t believe yourself. This is a difficult one to grasp, but think about all the things you’ve been told.

Don’t believe the voice that says you’re not good enough.

Don’t believe you’re not smart enough.

Don’t believe you’ll never make anything of yourself.

Don’t believe you’re not important.

Don’t believe you’re not worthy of love, of success, of happiness.

Don’t believe any of it, because it’s not true. Even if something seemed true yesterday, today is another day.

Don’t be so filled to the brim with beliefs that aren’t true that nothing else can get in.

Be brave enough and bold enough to see yourself being the greatest version of you. Don’t let your thoughts rob you of your joy and greatness.

Begin the journey of today, by letting go of yesterday. You CAN do this.

Recharge your batteries find fun ways to have a more passionate productive life

If you knew, really knew that life was just a short segment in a bigger game what would you do? How would you live? Would you live a quiet life, filled with desperation and fear or would you live a gigantically, huge, gi-normous, bold and bright, dazzling and brilliant life?

Would you have some fun? Or would you use your time criticizing, judging and feeling miserable?

When your spirit hurts, when you need a little healing go somewhere and have fun. Restore your sense of balance. It doesn’t have to cost money, you can find fun everywhere, rolling around in the grass, running and jumping over ocean waves, playing with kids or with your dog.

Go and do something totally off the wall for you, something outrageous. You’ll find nothing seems quite so dire when you’ve laughed and lived in enjoyment, even for a short while. Reward yourself every day.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What’s keeping you from having the best time of your life? Do any of these steps ring a bell?

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article please share on your favourite social networks. Every like, tweet or thumbs up allows us to reach more people who might need a little positive encouragement today. I totally appreciate you. You Rock!

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

This article is written by Katrina Ruth, founder and CEO of “The Katrina Ruth Show,” a multimillion-dollar online coaching business for entrepreneurs, and an Advisor in the The Oracles.

Are you struggling to create your dream life or business? If so, you are probably distracted by the “how.” What you should be focused on instead is identifying your calling.

I know firsthand that nothing else matters if you aren’t following your soul’s purpose. Once you’ve found it, you can align all areas of your life to point in that direction. It is possible to do what you love and live in flow — you just need the right motivation and mindset, and to take the right action.

1. Understand what life should feel like.

“Living on purpose” means doing what truly matters to you in alignment with your values and beliefs. I can’t tell you what that means for you, but you know it when you feel it — and when you don’t.

When you aren’t being you, everything is foggy and colorless. You’re bored and busy at the same time, always tired. Even small things feel like work. You take tests to understand why you feel down and pills to fix it. The list can go on. If you continuously ignore your higher self, it will send you nudges — even a slap in the face — to get your attention.

When you’re in alignment, life is right. Things are easy, and everything just works. You feel alive, passionate, and lit up from within. You aren’t concerned with how to get where you’re going; you’re sure of yourself, even if you’re scared at the same time.

2. Tap into your calling within.

Stop searching outside yourself for answers. There’s only one: be who you were born to be. You can find plenty of exercises online to identify your calling, but you don’t need them. Deep within, you already know what makes you feel alive. You just have to pay attention.

Not sure what your mission is? You’ll be able to put it into words when you stop worrying whether you’re saying it right or others will “get it.” However, sometimes access to your soul is blocked by confusion, especially if you’ve ignored it for a long time. In that case, practice connecting with yourself and tuning in to what’s buried there by asking, “What do I need to know or listen to here?” Then trust the answer. I find journaling to be the most powerful way to do this, but you can also do this as part of a meditation or while walking or driving.

3. Trust yourself and forget what others think.

We’re naturally intuitive before we learn “the rules.” But there’s no right or wrong way to live. If you aren’t following your intuition, you’re operating on others’ terms — and no one can tell you how to be you.

There’s always another approach to everything. I hated building marketing funnels until I started doing them my way. Visionary leaders do things differently; that’s why they stand out. They question the norm to find what’s right for them.

Imagine that you’re successful. No one would question you because you’re on top of the world. Who would you be? How would you act? Confidence and self-belief are key. Consciously decide that you know what’s best for you. Put your hand on your heart and tell yourself, “I trust my ability to make the best decisions for me.” Do this for every area of life that’s important to you.

4. Feel the fear and take the first step anyway.

If you don’t wake up excited to start your day, rip off the bandaid. Make a change or start taking action. While maintaining alignment will take practice, you don’t have to work forever to get there.

The unknown is scary. We feel safe and comfortable with how things have always been. Fear is part of us and will always be there, but it can’t rule you unless you let it; so take action toward your goals anyway. You don’t have to know how or feel ready or worthy.

When I finally realized I wasn’t doing my soul work after struggling for years, I moved across the world to start over with my family. With almost no money, I gave myself no choice but to succeed by following my passion for helping others. It paid off, and I never looked back. While your path might not be as extreme, you do have to take the first step.

5. Rethink your to-do list.

Time is precious and you should value how you spend it. If you don’t decide what matters in advance, you’ll spend it all doing things that aren’t moving you forward. I constantly outline my goals and dreams in a document called “Creating the life I want.” I make sure I set those goals for myself (not others), identify the actions that will get me there, and schedule them each week.

Fast forward to a year from now when you’re living on purpose. Does the stuff on your to-do list today matter? Is that how you got there? Review the items on your list and either delete them, do them, or delegate them. Sometimes it’s worth paying someone else to do things so that you can focus on what really matters: the tasks that will get you where you want to go if you do them every day.

If you don’t care enough about a goal to take regular action toward it, it might not matter as much as you think it does. But if you want it badly enough, you’ll suck it up and do the work.

6. Check in with yourself daily.

Before you get out of bed in the morning, ask yourself what is important today. What would make you sleep well tonight? Most of the things we do all day disconnect us from ourselves, so practice tuning in. Just sit or journal whatever needs to come out for 15 minutes. Let go and ignore the outside world — even if you have to start by just noticing the world you created for yourself.

Before you make decisions or take action, ask yourself: Do I want to do this? Does this feel right? Am I excited about this? Make this a daily practice by setting reminders to check in; otherwise you’ll slip into old patterns.

7. Recognize that you have everything you need.

This may be uncomfortable at first, and it will still feel like work sometimes. But when you’re working toward the right thing, it’s worth it. You can either choose to deny yourself or say yes to your heart and soul, but you choose what you get in life. Do the work today to create the tomorrow of your dreams.

If you trust that it will work out, it will. Don’t worry if you don’t get the outcome you want today. Success takes time, which is why most people give up. You’ll never look back and think “I spent too much time being me”; so keep going. It’s impossible to fail at being you.

You have everything you need. You will become who you are meant to be when you realize who you already are.

Connect with Katrina on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or visit her website.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

It doesn’t matter what you do or where you work – everyone is looking for ways to be more productive on the job. But excessive amounts of caffeine and list-making won’t get you any closer to reaching peak productivity levels today.

So, why are we all so obsessed with productivity? It’s probably because in this digital age, staying on task and avoiding distraction is harder to accomplish than your actual work. Not to mention the feeling of a productive workday is somewhat euphoric.

This search for a more productive workday has led to a certain misconception about what productivity really is — and it’s a lot more than checking tasks off your to-do list. Truly productive people aren’t focused on doing more things; this is actually the opposite of productivity. If you really want to be productive, you’ve got to make a point to do fewer things.

To find out the secret to a more productive workday, I spoke with project management and productivity expert Tony Wong. He provided me with some excellent insight into what he and other like-minded individuals do during their work week.

Make room for increased productivity by putting these habits into play:

1. Cut your to-do list in half. Getting things done during your workday shouldn’t mean fitting in doing as much as possible in the sanctioned eight hours. Do you really need those 30 tasks on your to-do list? Take a less-is-more approach to your to-do list by only focusing on accomplishing things that matter.

2. Take more breaks. The ache in your brain after several long hours of work should be your signal to take a break. Since your brain has used up its glucose, give yourself a moment to refresh by going for a walk, grabbing lunch or a snack, or just meditating. You’ll come back recharged and ready to achieve greater efficiency.

3. Follow the 80/20 rule. Only 20 percent of what you do each day produces 80 percent of your results. Eliminate the things that don’t matter during your workday — they have a minimal effect on your overall productivity. For example, break your next project down into steps and systematically remove tasks until you end up with the 20 percent that gets the 80 percent of results.

4. Use your morning to focus on yourself. It’s a big productivity killer to start your mornings by checking your email and your calendar. This allows others to dictate what you accomplish. Start your day out right by ignoring your emails in the morning and getting in a good breakfast, reading the news, meditating, or working out. This will ensure you’ve got the necessary fuel for a productive day.

5. Tackle your challenging tasks before lunch. Knock out your most challenging work when your brain is fresh. If you have any busy work or meetings, save them for the afternoon. By scheduling your day this way, you’ll be able to create a new and more productive way to manage your time.

6. Improve your email etiquette. Email is a productivity killer and usually a distraction from tasks that actually matter–don’t fall into this productivity trap. For example, people often copy multiple people on emails to get it off their plate, but this is a sign of laziness and actually distracts everyone else by creating noise against the tasks they’re trying to accomplish.

As a rule, if you receive an email where many people are CC’d, do everyone a favor by BCC’ing them on your reply. If your email chain goes beyond two replies, it’s time to pick up the phone.

7. Create a system. You’ve probably developed a few productivity-ruining habits over the years. Manage your distracting ways by creating a system. For those of you who check your emails compulsively, plan a morning, afternoon, and evening time slot to manage your inbox. Otherwise, you’ll get distracted from accomplishing more important goals throughout the day.

8. Stop confusing productivity with laziness. While no one likes admitting it, sheer laziness is the No. 1 contributor to lost productivity. In fact, a number of so-called time-saving methods – take meetings and emails for example – are actually just ways to get out of doing real work. Place your focus on doing the things that matter most as efficiently and effectively as possible.

9. Stop multi-tasking. Stop trying to do 10 things at once! Changing tasks more than 10 times a day drops your IQ an average of 10 points. Get things done more effectively and efficiently by focusing on one task at a time.

Less is more when it comes to being productive during the workday. Stick to the basics for reaching productivity.

What do you do to stay productive at work?

When it comes to machine shop productivity, continuous improvement depends on efficient employees, equipment and processes.


Read Next

  • Before You Buy That New Machine Tool, Consider the Workpiece
  • Conducting A Manufacturing Audit
  • The Three Pillars of Reliable Machine Shop Productivity

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Regardless of the size of your business, continuous improvement in productivity is essential to enhancing gross profits and maintaining competitiveness. Productivity on the machine shop floor depends on a combination of efficient employees, equipment and processes. Continuous improvement in all of these areas involves examining the current practices in place and making adjustments to systems, employee training and even the equipment used to generate parts and components.

Featured Content

Before you can adopt any method for continuous improvement for productivity, you will need to measure your existing output levels, create a baseline and implement solutions for measuring change. Shane Strowski, president of Precision Waterjet & Laser, shares the following eight steps to help you improve productivity and success on the shop floor.

1. Examine Your Production Workflow

The first step is all about identifying pain points in your current workflow. Analyze the people, technology and processes required for production as well as the procedures, communication tools and resources available across the company. Consider using value mapping as a way of identifying and monitoring projects for continuous improvement; this strategy enables managers to pinpoint issues and record how changes impact the overall system.

For more on establishing and continuously improving shop production flows, read about “The Three Pillars of Reliable Machine Shop Productivity.”

2. Update Machine Shop Processes

Share current workflow problems with project managers to develop continuous improvement plans for the manufacturing process. This could mean reassigning resources to different areas of the manufacturing floor, managing budgets or becoming ISO-certified. Be sure to systematically evaluate performance and interpret any appropriate changes.

For more on assessing machine shop processes, read about “Conducting a Manufacturing Audit.”

3. Invest in Training and Employee Education

The manufacturing and metalworking industries are constantly changing. There’s always a new technology promising to make manufacturing floors more efficient than ever. Technological advancements often change the skills required for certain tasks, and workers will require access to regular training to keep up with more advanced specialist skills.

For more on how to maximize your employees, read about how “People Drive Company Growth.”

4. Have Realistic Expectations

Client expectations, pressures regarding production and strict deadlines can contribute to unrealistic goals. When workload benchmarks on the manufacturing floor are unattainable without some compromise to safety or quality, employees become dissatisfied, preventing the company from reaching labor goals. To boost worker efficiency, it’s important to set realistic, clearly defined objectives that ensure a combination of punctuality, high-quality output and safe procedures.

For more on setting expectations in your shop, read about “How to Set Goals and Strategic Plans.”

5. Buy Smarter Machine Tools

Manufacturing is an industry in which an employee can only be as productive as their tools. While innovative machines such as waterjets or CNC machining centers can be costly in terms of initial setup and training, advanced equipment can have a positive long-term effect. Manufacturing companies often find that a machinery upgrade helps them stay competitive in a new and innovative market.

6. Invest in Maintenance

There’s a link between the costs associated with downtime and the time and budget invested in preventive measures. While new equipment can boost productivity, it also requires maintenance to ensure that it continues working at an optimum level. It is important that employees know how to troubleshoot instances of system downtime to quickly find root causes of errors. Don’t be too quick to blame the tool for problems. Remember to think about the process, the blueprint, the material and more.

For more on maintenance, read about the “Total Productive Maintenance” technique.

7. Stay Organized

The number of lost dollars and wasted labor hours that result from a lack of organization can be surprising. One surefire way to enhance productivity in any environment is to ensure that there is a well-organized place for everything: from materials to machine tools and documents. When organizing your work area as part of continuous improvement, think about the layout of your machining equipment and tools and whether they currently maximize efficiency. If not, consider rearranging your manufacturing floor to create a smoother workflow.

Kanban board via Shutterstock

Are you searching for the perfect productivity system?

First the bad news: It doesn’t exist. You’re going to have to do the work no matter what system you use.

Now the good news: Kanban is an easy-to-use and -learn system that can help avoid feeling overwhelmed by those endless To Do lists.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a simple system for creating products based on continuous deliveries. This system originated from the Japanese manufacturing system, but you can use it to achieve more in work or your business or personal life.

Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry offer these two rules using this productivity system in their rather excellent book Personal Kanban.

  1. Visualise your work
  2. Limit your work-in-progress (WIP)

They said about rule one, “When we see work in its various contexts, real trade-offs become explicit. We now have a physical record of all those demands on our time. This larger view of our work and our context allows us to make better decisions.

And they added about rule two,”Limiting WIP allows us the time to focus, work quickly, react calmly to change, and do a thoughtful job.”

Step 1: Prepare Your Kanban Board

Divide a whiteboard into three columns. If you don’t have one, consider buying a Magic Whiteboard and affixing it to your wall or even dividing up a large A4 or letter-size notebook.

via Bryan Collins

Label the first column “To Do”, the second “Doing” and the third “Done.”

The first column is for capturing items on your new To Do list, the second for deciding what you’re going to working on right now and the third for recording what you finished.

Remember to avoid the classic productivity mistake of turning a project into a task. It takes a series of tasks (or cards) to accomplish a project.

Step 2: Work Using Kanban

Add items or cards to the “To Do” column on your Kanban board using a marker or Post-It notes.

Use an action verb and write down the task in question. If you’re moving a house, this could be “Hire a removal company”. Alternatively, if you’re preparing a big presentation, this could be “Source stock images.”

When you’re ready to work, drag an item or task from the “To Do” column to “Doing”.

Typically, I find it sensible to keep no more than three items in the “Doing” column. This limits my work in progress and helps visualize what I’m working on. (Remember the rules!)

When you complete a task, drag it from the “Doing” column to the “Done” column. Then pull another task from “To Do” to “Doing.”

Step 3: Review Your Board

As you work, you will naturally drag tasks from the left to the right of your board.

The simple act of dragging a task from one column to the next forces you to prioritize. It also encourages regular reviews of your To Do list.

This way of working encourages a state of flow. The act of moving cards from one column to the next feels gratifying. You can see quickly the tasks easy to accomplish, those that take up a lot of time and even tasks where you’re stuck. Benson told me,

“The most common mistake would be to not limit work-in-progress. People sometimes skip the second one because there is “too much to do”, which, ironically, is what the WIP limit is for in the first place.”

Once you become more comfortable with Kanban, add additional columns to your board. For example, I created a column called “Waiting For” to capture tasks that I’m blocked on and ones where I need somebody to get back to me.

I also created a “Next” column for tasks I wanted to work on during the working day but not immediately.

Pro tip: If you need inspiration, search Google Images for “Personal Kanban boards.”

Recommended Kanban Tools

When I started using Personal Kanban, I road tested a large whiteboard and a notebook. Both tools work just fine and will help you master the basics of Kanban.

Once you get a feel for how this productivity system works and it’s part of your working week, you’re ready for a digital tool.

Trello is a web-based project management application built around Kanban. You can upload files to your tasks or cards, label them, set due dates and so on.

Trello Kanban Board

via Bryan Collins

Uploading attachments to cards is useful for gathering all of your work in one place. Similarly, I’ve used the collaboration features of Trello to work with third-party contractors.

As much as I like Trello, I recommend getting to grips with Kanban on a whiteboard or an analogue system first. After all, the tool is always less important than doing the work.

Try Personal Kanban Today

There’s no such thing as the perfect productivity system, and if your simple To Do list helps you get the job done, stick with it.

I’ve tried a number of productivity systems. The biggest issue is that a large list can sometimes feel overwhelming.

If this is happening to you, Personal Kanban doesn’t take long to learn, and it will help you manage your day-to-day work without feeling overwhelmed. Benson said,

The system was designed to specifically provide flexibility by having a small set of rules. That’s the main reason why we’ve seen it adopted in every country and every vertical on earth – including the home. Kids have fun completing their chores. Teams intelligently work out complex problems. Project and ambient work are both easily visualised and completed.

I’m an Irish author who covers topics like productivity and leadership. Claim your guide to the latest productivity apps.…

I’m an Irish author who covers topics like productivity and leadership. Claim your guide to the latest productivity apps.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

There has been much debate about working from home and whether or not it’s a productivity boost or major productivity drain. Paranoid managers envision employees lying on their couches at home in Metallica concert T-shirts eating Doritos off their belly and watching Ellen.

But Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom has definitive data that paints a very different picture and indicates it’s time once and for all to embrace and enable the benefits of working from home.

Bloom found a willing lab rat for a ground-breaking experiment in his graduate economics class at Stanford–James Liang, co-founder and CEO of Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency, with 16,000 employees. The CEO was interested in giving employees the work-from-home option because office space in the company’s Shanghai HQ is supremely expensive and because employees had to endure long commutes to work (not being able to afford city living). The result was horrendous attrition.

So Liang wanted to make the work-from-home move but needed proof it wouldn’t tank productivity.

Enter Bloom, who helped design a test whereby 500 employees were divided into two groups–a control group (who continued working at HQ) and volunteer work-from-homers (who had to have a private room at home, at least six-month tenure with Ctrip, and decent broadband access as conditions).

You can watch Bloom describe the study and the findings in his 2017 TEDx talk below.

Bloom expected the positives and negatives to offset each other. But he was wrong.

Instead, the robust, nearly two-year study showed an astounding productivity boost among the telecommuters equivalent to a full day’s work. Turns out work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.

Additionally (and incredibly), employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off. Not to mention the reduced carbon emissions from fewer autos clogging up the morning commute.

Oh, and by the way, the company saved almost $2,000 per employee on rent by reducing the amount of HQ office space.

One surprising finding did put a cautionary veneer over going all in on work-from-home, however. More than half the volunteer group changed their minds about working from home 100 percent of the time–they felt too much isolation.

The research comes with a valuable recommendation.

The sum total of the research led Bloom to recommend going for it with work from home but enabling it just a few days a week versus its being a constant.

I think Bloom is right on with his recommendation. Here’s why.

I switched from a corporate, office-driven environment to the work-from-home life (except when I’m keynoting) of an author, speaker, and coach.

I feel I’m consistently at the most productive I’ve ever been in my entire life. My morning commute is a seven-second walk to my study and I actually start working far earlier than I did in the corporate world.

While I make it a point to not work any later than I did at a corporate office, I’m working more deeply with far fewer breaks in concentration. I quite often “get on a roll” that lasts four-plus hours at a time. I can’t remember the last such streak working in an office.

I’m able to be so intense and productive that on most days I intentionally break my day up with exercise, which refreshes me and recharges me for another “burst” in the back half of the day. I was never able to do this in a corporate office setting.

I’ve written before about the one downside of working from home day in and day out–it can be lonely. I can absolutely see how it could impact team cohesion. So Bloom’s recommendation to dive in but keep an eye toward maintaining face-to-face contact and cohesion makes a lot of sense.

The nature of every job does not necessarily lend itself perfectly to working from home, even a few days a week. The bigger thought here is that it’s time to erase the stigma about telecommuting in general.

It’s time for working from home to formally find a home in your company’s portfolio of engagement tools.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Creativity is like a muscle. It must be stretched, challenged, and occasionally pushed past its comfort zone.

In a previous column, I shared nine ways you can become more creative in just 10 minutes. I’ve also shared four must-watch TED talks on creativity in business.

Now it’s time to stretch your creative muscles again.

Here are nine ways you can dramatically improve your creativity.

1. Learn Through Collaboration

Curiosity will lead you to creativity.

Andrew Ng, formerly of Google and now of Baidu, is one who doesn’t believe innovation is due to unpredictable flashes of genius. Rather, he said you can become more creative and innovative systematically.

“In my own life, I found that whenever I wasn’t sure what to do next, I would go and learn a lot, read a lot, talk to experts. I don’t know how the human brain works but it’s almost magical: when you read enough or talk to enough experts, when you have enough inputs, new ideas start appearing.”

Indeed, collaborating with and learning from others may be just what you need to give your creativity a boost.

2. Do Something You Love

Stuck for ideas? Not sure what to do? Your life needs some balance to ensure your creativity doesn’t suffer.

In a letter to his son, Albert Einstein provided a great bit of fatherly insight when addressing his son’s interest in playing the piano that is applicable to losing yourself in the creative process: do something that pleases you.

“That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes,” Einstein wrote. “I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal.”

Love and creativity are intertwined. A hobby, such as playing an instrument, running, or collecting memorabilia, can help you relax and fight stress while giving your creativity a boost.

3. Find Inspiration From Other Industries

Your next idea won’t come from copying what a competitor has already done. So look for innovation in different industries and niches.

Research what businesses are dominating. Why

What businesses are you most loyal to? Why?

How can you transfer what worked for businesses outside your industry to your own market? Maybe you can improve on these ideas.

Taking inspiration from other industries is a great way to boost your own creativity.

4. Unplug (Or Just Do Nothing)

As Alan Cohen once wrote, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

Sometimes your best ideas will come when you’re not wracking your brain trying to come up with the next great idea.

It could be while you’re sleeping. A good night of rest will help you be more productive and creative.

It could be while your mind wanders in the shower that you get a great idea.

Maybe your next innovative idea will come while you’re driving, exercising, hiking, shopping, sitting on an airplane, or watching the sunset.

If your creativity is lacking, unplug. Relax. And let your brain do its magic.

5. Walk

The average person sits between 7 and 15 hours every day.

That’s terrible for your health and your mood, which means it can be terrible for your creativity.

Stanford research has indicated that walking improves creative thinking. In a follow-up study, HBR found that people who take part in walking meetings are more creative and engaged.

Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Western Union Co. CEO Hikmet Ersek, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and scores of other business leaders and entrepreneurs regularly have walking meetings.

While walking during work won’t solve our national sitting crisis, it’s a step in the right direction.

6. Set the Right Mood

A lack of ideas or being unable to solve a problem can be extremely frustrating.

Unless you value complete silence, music can be the thing to give your mood, and your creativity, a boost.

Steve Jobs used music to change his moods and keep himself creative.

It could work for you, too.

7. Use the Six Thinking Hats Technique

Sometimes you just need to start over. Forget everything and begin anew with a blank slate – break it down using six different colored “thinking hats”.

Using this process could help you look at things in a different way. It gives you the option to look at things in a “just the facts” manner (white hat); where things could go wrong (black hat); and possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas (green hat), for example.

By looking at a problem from several unique perspectives may be just what you need to find a solution.

8. Ask For Advice or Feedback

Sometimes you’re too close to a problem to figure out a creative solution all by yourself.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Ask for help and advice from friends, peers, and people from your personal network that you trust and respect. Every person has a unique skill set, experience, and knowledge.

A fresh outside perspective, or three, or five, may be just what you need.

Even if you don’t use their advice, it may spark some new, creative thinking that will get you where you need to go.

9. Pick a Terrible Idea

Step away from whatever idea you’re stuck on for a few minutes.

What’s the most useless idea you can imagine? Make a list of the worst ideas you can think up.

Now the real challenge to stretch your creativity: what are the best features of these terrible idea

Perhaps looking at these terrible ideas will spark something creative that you can transfer over to your excellent idea.

Bonus Ideas to Stimulate Your Creativity

Check out this infographic for some more ways to get your creative juices flowing.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

What happens when women run the economy? We’re about to find out

How to flow your way to a more productive life

The average person has 70,000 thoughts each day, and if you don’t learn to organize them, they have the potential to wreak havoc on your productivity.

When you succumb to the flurry of thoughts running through your head, your mind becomes disorganized, and the more you ruminate on intrusive thoughts, the more power you give them.

Most of our thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative, distracting, and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s very hard to slow down the momentum of your thoughts.

In a recent study conducted at the National Institute on Aging, it was found that allowing your mind to be disorganized doesn’t just feel bad, it’s also actually bad for you. A disorganized mind leads to high stress, chronic negativity, and impulsivity. These states stifle productivity and contribute to a slew of health problems, including weight gain, heart disease, sleep problems, and migraine headaches.

Edward Hallowell, a therapist who helps people deal with disorganized minds, describes what happens when someone falls victim to his myriad of invasive thoughts: “He makes impulsive judgments, angrily rushing to bring closure. He is robbed of his flexibility, his sense of humor, and his ability to deal with the unknown. He forgets the big picture and the goals and values he stands for. He loses his creativity and his ability to change plans.”

An organized mind, on the other hand, falls into a state of flow. Flow is a blissful state of balance, where you are fully immersed in a task, completely free from distracting thoughts. Flow states enable you to enjoy your work and perform at the peak of your potential. Research shows people working in a state of flow are five times more productive than they’d otherwise be.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

Here are five steps that I use to organize and declutter my mind, find flow, and keep myself on track for a productive day.

Step 1: Find the Right Amount of Challenge in What You Do

When you’re trying to get work done, it’s easy to lose focus and succumb to intrusive thoughts when the task at hand is too challenging or too easy. We thrive on a healthy challenge—something that simulates us without being so difficult that it produces anxiety or so simple that it induces boredom. When you consciously and carefully choose a task, you greatly increase your chance of achieving flow.

How to flow your way to a more productive life
Step 2: Take Control of Your Emotions

While it’s impossible to control how things make you feel, you have complete control over how you react to your emotions. First, you need to be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. From there, it’s much easier to channel the emotion into producing the behavior that you want. The key is to identify and label your emotions as you experience them. Associating words with what you are feeling makes the emotion tangible and less mysterious. This helps you to relax, figure out what’s behind your emotion, and move forward. If you try to stifle your emotions and tackle your work without addressing them, they will slowly eat away at you and impair your focus.

Step 3: Sustain Your Focus

We all know that frustrating feeling of sitting down to tackle something important, only to quickly lose focus when we expected to dive right into the task. It takes time for your mind to become fully immersed in an activity. Studies have shown that it takes five to twenty minutes before people start to focus. If you can force yourself to persist in the activity in spite of any distractions for twenty minutes, the chances are much higher that you will be able to sustain your focus and find a state of flow. The best way to do this is to put away or turn off all of your typical distractions (phones, e-mail, social media), then keep an eye on the clock until you’ve done nothing but your task for a good 20 minutes, even if you aren’t getting much done. Chances are that things will really start cooking for you once you hit the twenty-minute mark.

Step 4: Take Breaks

Our brains and bodies simply aren’t wired for prolonged periods of work. While it might seem as though sitting at your desk for eight hours straight is the best way to get all of your work done, this can work against you. Research has shown that the most productive work cycle tends to be fifty-two minutes of uninterrupted work, followed by seventeen-minute breaks. While it probably isn’t realistic to structure your schedule this rigidly, for most people, the battle is won by just remembering to take breaks. Just be certain to pepper several short breaks throughout your day.

Step 5: Shift Sets

Once you’ve taken a break, you must shift your focus back to your task. No matter how “in the zone” you were before taking a break, you’ll sometimes find that you’re back to square one when it comes to focus. To do a proper set shift, you have to reorganize your thoughts by following steps one through four above, especially if you’re having trouble diving back into the task. You’ll find that getting back into flow quickly after a break is very doable, but it must be done purposefully.

Bringing It All Together

Organizing your mind to experience flow isn’t particularly difficult, but it does require attention and monitoring. Lean on these five steps any time you need to get more done.

Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

Author: Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book,Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, andThe Harvard Business Review.

Image: A cup of tea is seen on an office table. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Microsoft To-Do is one of the latest apps to be included in Office 365. It’s a simple to-do list that makes it easy to plan your day. Whether it’s for work, school or home, To-Do will help you increase your productivity and decrease your stress levels. To-Do has a unique way to organize your tasks into lists, then combining those lists into a My Day view to clear the clutter and keep you organized.

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists — Umberto Eco

To-Do syncs with your phone and computer, so you can access your to-dos from anywhere in the world. You can quickly add, organize and schedule your to-dos while you’re on the go.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Unfortunately, this latest addition to Office 365 is still in its infancy lacking many features we can expect shortly. Microsoft has stated To-Do will replace Wunderlist once To-Do has all the features of Wunderlist. For more information, take a look at my interview with Senior Product Manager of Microsoft To-Do, Simon Chan.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them — David Allen

How to flow your way to a more productive life

David Allen is the master of to-do lists and has dedicated his life to helping people apply order to chaos and get more done. Every to-do app has two goals: improve productivity and relieve stress. Microsoft To-Do has a flexible design. Create lists for longer tasks that need multiple steps and dump the rest into the ‘To-Do’ list.

2. Prioritize Daily

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. — Francis of Assisi

Microsoft To-Do has a unique design based on My Day. The My Day view is used to clear the clutter from your list of today’s actionable items. Start every day by reviewing your lists and moving priority tasks to the My Day list. The My Day list is the heart of Microsoft To-Do and what makes it truly unique. It’s designed around clearing the clutter and prioritizing what’s important for the day.

How to flow your way to a more productive life

Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle. — Leonardo Da Vinci

How to flow your way to a more productive life

In Leonardo Da Vinci’s 500-year-old to-do list there were a ton of to-do items where he planned to ask others how things work. Leonardo’s relentless pursuit of knowledge is a lesson for us all. Unfortunately, Microsoft To-Do doesn’t have the ability to share tasks. Microsoft is pitching To-Do as the latest evolution of Wunderlist, as such, they have promised to add all of the features of Wunderlist. Sharing tasks with others is coming soon!

Security & Compliance is where Microsoft To-Do stands apart. Under Satya’s leadership, Microsoft has been focused on the enterprise and that means security and compliance everywhere. Microsoft To-Do integrates directly into Outlook tasks so the security and compliance features of your Exchange Online mailbox are built right into the new app.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. — Maya Angelou

How to flow your way to a more productive life

We all have life goals. From getting more organized to finding more time to annoy our wives. Put all of these long-term goals in a list and review them daily, weekly, or monthly. When possible, create a to-do item to get yourself closer to your dreams. With the To-do app, you can create reoccurring reminders to help remind you to take small steps to making your life goals a reality.