Fast Stress reduction.

By David Joel Miller.

Ways to quickly defuse stress.

Stressed out

Stressed.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Life is full of stress, some good and some bad.  Even the good kind of stress can wear you down. The longer you hold on to stress the more harm it will cause you.  Work on releasing your stress as rapidly as possible. Avoid stress when you can. Eliminate unnecessary stress when possible. For the unavoidable stresses in life try practicing some of these rapid stress reduction methods.

For less stress focus on your breathing.

Breathe slowly, breathe deeply.  Rapid shallow breathing increases anxiety.  Slow, deep breathing relaxes and destresses you.  Anytime you feel overwhelmed shift your focus to the way you are breathing. In goes the oxygen, out goes the stress.

Change the music.

Music strongly influences our moods. The music you listen to can reflect your mood; it can also change your mood.  When you are feeling stressed, put on some soft, relaxing music. Instrumental music can be especially relaxing. Music connects with our inner feelings in a deeper way than words alone.

Cool down for less stress.

Chill out to reduce your stress.  Your body temperature can affect the feeling of stress.  When you are feeling under stress, pay extra attention to the way, your body experiences the temperature.  When possible turn on a fan, move to a cooler spot or drink something cold. A small desktop fan can blow away the stress along with the heat.

Give yourself a timeout to allow your stress to subside.

Allow time for you to think things over instead of reacting too quickly.  Look for ways to disengage from the stress if only for a few minutes. Counting to ten is a start. Longer timeouts are even better. Glancing away when safe, even for a moment, can help to interrupt the cycle of escalating stress. Taking short breaks will not detract from your productivity. Those rest breaks will keep you at top efficiency.

Disengage from artificial environments.

One quick way to reduce stress is to re-engage with the natural world.  Get outside for a few minutes.  Pay attention to the trees, the flowers and the world around.  Artificial environments can add to your stress. Spending some time in nature can reduce that stress. In times of stress, reconnect with nature. If you can’t get outside, try looking out a window. Having a house plant on your desk can be relaxing.

To destress move your body.

Do a little exercise, take a walk. A little bit of physical exercise can be a great help in reducing and managing stress.  It does not need to be strenuous exercise.  Get up and walk around, take a trip to the copy machine or the water cooler.  Something as simple as shifting your body position can take the strain off your muscles and allow you to refocus on the task at hand.

Life becomes less stressful when you can picture the outcome you want.

Visualize having overcome your obstacles.  Sitting ruminating about your problems only magnifies the stress.  Think about what it will look like, what others will see, when you have overcome this obstacle.  If you can picture a positive result, you are on your way to overcoming your stress. When you shift from a problems orientation to a results outlook, the process of getting to your goal is less stressful.

Fuel and rest your body.

Drink some water. Your body and brain do not work well when you are dehydrated. Eat a snack, a good lunch to cope with stress. Low blood sugar will interfere with your body’s ability to run efficiently.  Don’t neglect nutrition, hydration or to get an adequate amount of sleep.  A worn-out body is less able to cope with stress.  Avoid high sugar snacks and heavy meals, both of which can result in a temporary boost of energy followed by a deep crash.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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How to restart a bad day.

By David Joel Miller.

If your day is off to a bad start, you can restart it.

starting your day over.

Restart Your Day.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Have you ever gotten up and had something go very wrong first thing in the morning? Remember the day you went out to find your car had a flat tire? Maybe you spilled something on that brand-new outfit you just put on.

Those of you in relationships, or with school-age children, probably know exactly what I am talking about. They are just so many ways a day can get off to a bad start.

Was your first thought “this is going to be a bad day?” Thinking that, expecting the worst, is a sure way to create a terrible day. The secret you need to know is that no matter what has happened so far today there are ways to restart that day. You do not need to let small things first thing in the morning cascade into a simply dreadful rest of the day.

Some of you are probably thinking that some days in your life, something awful did happen. I grant you that the major things in life may take more than one day to get past. However, for the bulk of things that set people’s days off in the wrong direction, there are some ways to reset that day and make a difficulty into a small set back.

Here are some techniques for resetting a day that is off to a bad start.

Take a deep breath.

When something happens to knock you off your game, the first thing most people do is hold their breath. Some people begin to breathe rapidly and shallowly. The result of failing to breathe normally is to increase your anxiety. When your brain feels a shortage of oxygen, it goes into a panic mode, anything to get some more air.

Pause long enough to take some deep breaths, linger over those breaths and give yourself enough time for that oxygen to reach your brain. Deep and slow breathing is a sure antidote for the anxiety that takes over when you have had a setback first thing in the morning.

Center yourself.

When you begin to feel scattered, look for a way to center yourself. Some people find a simple prayer helpful. You might have a favorite poem, quotation, or personal affirmation, that you find useful in bringing yourself back to the present.

Many people use a small object as a way of grounding themselves. Whether it is a religious object, a rock or something else from nature, or a small object that brings back happy memories, objects can be very useful in centering yourself.

Move around, take a walk.

Fear likes to shut things down. Once one problem happens, you are likely to freeze. Don’t stay stuck there ruminating about how bad this day will go. Unstick yourself, move around a little bit, go for a short walk, or do a few simple exercises. Some stretching exercises or yoga postures can go a long way toward shifting your focus away from the issue.

Straighten up your environment.

When your life is feeling out of control, getting back control of even a little bit of space can be helpful. Did something spill or break? Cleaning it up is a first step in regaining control. Got a mass of bills, mail that needs an answer? Go through the mail, throw away or delete the junk and the duplicate items. Getting organized can cut that mountain of paperwork down to a manageable size.

Use your support system.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try reconnecting with your support system. A phone call to a family member or friend can turn your day around. Even a brief email or short text can help you shift your attitude and get you going again.

Plan something fun.

Today doesn’t look so gloomy when you have something to look forward to. It is easier to get through today when you have something positive to look forward to. As adults, we often forget how to play. Avoid the kind of fun that can result in a physical or emotional hangover. Get together with positive friends. Spend time with pets. Take yourself to a movie or the park.

Listen to your music.

Find a way to play your tunes. Look for music and songs that put you in a good mood. People in a negative mood often play sad or angry music. Make it a point to search out and collect up positive and relaxing tunes.

Say a prayer.

Many people will tell you about their religious faith, but when things are going wrong, they often forget to have a conversation with that higher power they report they believe in. Prayers don’t need to be reserved the life-and-death moments, the end of the world, try asking for the strength to get through the daily difficulties.

Meditate.

Meditating does not need to be complicated. Clear your mind of distractions and focus on something positive. Think about a happy place you have been, maybe a time you went to the mountain or the beach. The more time you spend focused on the positive, the more your happiness expands. Focus on the negative, and it obliterates those happy memories.

Read something inspirational.

Seek out inspiration. Keep a helpful book at hand. When you find things that are helpful, copy them down and save them for the next time you need to restart your day. Collect helpful saying that will help you to reset the next day that starts out the wrong direction.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Time for a change?

By David Joel Miller.

Feeling like you need a change but don’t know what to do?

Time to change.

Time for a change.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

You have been plotting along, but things don’t seem to be getting any better. You may be feeling restless, irritable, confused and indecisive. There are times in most people’s lives they don’t like where they are, but they are not sure what to do about it.

Whether it is an unhappy romantic relationship or an unfulfilling dead-end job, the decision to stay or go can be a difficult one. If you’ve reached a point in your life where you feel you can’t stay stuck where you are, but you don’t see a way forward, here are some suggestions.

Enrich the relationship.

People start new relationships, romantic or occupation ones, full of enthusiasm. As time passes that relationship loses its luster and the job becomes boring. Couples who do not maintain their relationship can find it falling apart. Put some spark back in your relationship by doing more things together.

Add some new roles to your romantic relationship. Become activity partners. Do more things together. Set some couple goals. Some couples exercise together, cook meals together, read together, or they may even learn a new skill together.

On the job, learning a new skill, taking on additional responsibilities or transferring to another assignment can help you regain your interest and enthusiasm. Challenging yourself to grow in your work life prevents burnout and those trapped feelings.

Become open to new experiences.

One way to get unstuck is to open yourself up to novel experiences. Take up a hobby, begin an exercise routine, or learn to cook a new recipe. Do you have a special interest? Maybe like to read or garden? Consider joining a club focused on your interest. Joining clubs and organizations is a great way to make new friends and to vary the routine.

By being open to new experience, be very careful about making changes you will not be able to take back. It is common for people who are stuck to think the problem is their partner or their job. Using a new relationship as a parachute to get out of your current relationship, can result in emotional injury when you hit the ground hard.

Don’t overreact to an unsatisfying job situation by quitting your current job with no new job to go to. As you try new activities and learn new skills, keep your eyes open for jobs that might interest you or places you might want to work.

One reason you may feel stuck in your current situation could be you don’t feel confident in your skills. Take trainings when they are offered, take a night class or an online class to improve your skill. With more training and skills, you may find opportunities for advancement in the organization where you already work. The reason you are feeling trapped maybe you don’t yet have the skills needed to move forward.

Work on yourself.

When you are going through a rough patch, anxiety or depression, it is easy to blame the situation or the people around you. Sometimes the reason you are feeling stuck and confused is that there is work you need to do on yourself. New opportunities can’t present themselves until you develop the skills and attitudes you will need.

In couples counseling we often find the couple blaming each other for their unhappiness. Very shortly the couple separates, and one or both begin new relationships. Within a year or two, both new couples have turned unhappy. Happiness is an inside job. You need to be able to be happy by yourself before you can be happy in a relationship.

Develop distress tolerance.

Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes there are difficult patches. Don’t be too quick to make an impulsive change in your life. Sometimes the reason choices aren’t clear is because you are not yet ready to make that change. Sometimes discomfort lasts only briefly. Focus on the distress, and it becomes unbearable. Focus on living the best life possible, and the discomfort may fade away.

Use the calendar, not a watch.

Have you been feeling pressure, as if time was running out on you? Don’t be one of those people who has unrealistic high expectations for themselves. Life is not a destination but a process. In your rush to become successful, however, you define success, don’t lose the joys of the things you do accomplish.

A successful life is rarely the result of achieving great things at a young age. Don’t expect to be all you can be by a particular age. Ever hear of a musician called a one hit wonder? Longevity in any field is the result of continual practice and improvement.

Clarify your choices by seeking professional help.

One legitimate goal of counseling is to help you see your choices clearly and resolve your confusion. The counseling room is a good place to talk things out with an objective person. Whether you are currently confused, facing difficult choices or is a time for a change professional counselor can help you through the process.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Ways to Increase Emotional Intelligence.

By David Joel Miller.

Characteristics of emotional intelligence.

What is she feeling?

Emotional Intelligence.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The whole concept of what intelligence is has changed over the decades.  The idea of having an intelligence quotient or IQ was meant to be helpful in deciding how much someone was capable of learning.  We thought if we knew exactly how smart they were, we might be able to help them learn better and faster.  Knowing someone’s absolute IQ might also keep people from having an unrealistic expectation of people with an intellectual disability.

In practice, this concept has proved to have some problems.  There is some question about written IQ tests and exactly what it is the are measuring or not measuring.  It would appear that the thing we measure as an intelligence quotient may not be a single quality.  Someone’s intelligence may, in fact, be made up of the number of separate intelligence’s, skills, that involve different abilities. Their abilities in each of the skill areas May be quite different.

Which brings us to the idea of emotional intelligence.  I think we all have seen examples of people with a presumably high IQ and high educational levels, who lacked very much in the way of social skills.  This has given rise to the idea that there may, in fact, be a thing called emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and read emotions which are quite separate from what we measure when we test for IQ.

Part of this belief that there is an emotional intelligence includes the concept that emotional intelligence requires development.  Whether emotional intelligence is, in fact, an intelligence or more like a skill, there do appear to be some things you can do to increase your ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others.

If you’ve always felt at a disadvantage when it comes to recognizing and dealing with emotions, take a look at the list below of ways you might go about expanding your emotional skills.

Practice generosity to develop empathy.

Try giving without expecting anything in return. Generous people seem to be able to recognize what other people are feeling.  If you give with the expectation of getting something back, this is all about you.  Practicing acts of kindness can help you to understand what it would be like to be in that other person’s position.

Let it go. No anger or grudges.

Being able to let things go, reducing your anger, will improve your ability to recognize and identified emotions.  Anger is such a powerful emotion that it blocks out everything else.  When you hold onto your anger, you stay focused on yourself which prevents you developing an understanding of how others feel.  When we look closely at anger, we often find pain and sadness hiding underneath it.

Be thankful and practice gratitude.

Practice being thankful for the things you have.  Create a list of things you are grateful for.  Your feelings vocabulary should include a lot of positive emotions.  Learn to recognize when you are thankful or have things you could appreciate.

Acceptance of self and others.

Learning to accept yourself and see your positive qualities will increase your ability to see the good in others.  People who see only the bad in others reduce their ability to recognize when others have positive emotions.

Keep life in balance.

People who maintain a proper life balance can feel what they feel when they feel it.  Increasing your knowledge about your own feelings will help you to understand what others are feeling.

Be present where you are.

Learn to shift gears.  Holding onto thoughts and feelings from another situation prevents you from fully participating in the situation you are in.  The more you experience where you are, the more easily you will recognize appropriate emotions, both yours and others.

Be curious about everything.

Nurturing curiosity will result in you learning new things.  Hold on to the childlike quality to want to know about everything.  Maintaining a curious point of view opens you up to learning more.  Be especially curious about feelings and how others experienced them.

Are you OK with change?

Can you adapt?  People who resist change become fearful with the unfamiliar.  Work on your acceptance of new experiences and people.  Novel situations present the opportunity to learn about yourself about others and about the emotions these situations create.

You don’t need negative people.

Surrounding yourself with negative people drives away positive feelings.  Emotionally intelligent people learn to recognize when others around them are needlessly and excessively negative.  To become more emotionally intelligent, you need to get out of that negative space and experience some appropriate emotions.

You attract positive people.

People with high emotional intelligence can experience positive emotions and be happy.  Happy people tend to attract other positive, happy people.  Work on enlarging the number of positive feelings you can feel, and you will become a positive feelings expert.

You know and accept yourself.

Emotionally intelligent people can accept themselves and others.  Feelings are not automatically good or bad in and of themselves.  Feelings should be guides to experience.  The more you know about yourself, the more you can correctly identify what you’re feeling when you were feeling it.

You don’t do things half-hearted.

To learn more about emotions, you need to live life.  Don’t skim through your experiences, do what you do fully.

You can wait for what you want.

Develop the skill of patience.  Don’t let yourself get carried away by your wants and desires.  Cravings can come and go.  Just because something seems important or desirable in the moment does not mean that is the best thing for you.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Ways you are preventing success.

By David Joel Miller.

Roadblock to goal

Roadblock to Success.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How many ways are you standing in the path of becoming successful?

Some people rack up a lot of successes in life, other people find that mostly they fail.  Successful people always have a few failures.  But if you find that mostly your life has been a string of failures with few successes you may want to look at what is causing that.  There are some habits, which some people have, that we sometimes call self-sabotaging.  Some people are able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  If you find that the dominant theme in your life is failure, you may be engaging in some of these success preventing behaviors.

You blame others for your failures.

The road to success involves taking a lot of personal responsibility.  If you find that when you fail you are always blaming someone else, your lack of looking at your own part in these failures may be creating a repeating pattern.

You spend a lot of time doing things you don’t care about.

To be successful you have to put in the work.  Doing the practice that is required to develop skills takes time.  If you find that you are spending a lot of time to doing things that aren’t important and you don’t really care about, you are wasting valuable practice time on things that don’t add to your success.

You let your fears keep you from trying.

It’s possible to try and fail.  But you will fail at 100% of the things that you don’t try to do.  You will never have any big successes if you let your fears keep you from trying things in the first place.

You make a big deal out of your failures.

The more time you spend focusing on the things you fail at, the less time it leaves you for planning and executing possible successes.  Don’t stay focused on the things that didn’t succeed.  Devote your energy, your time and your thinking on planning for the projects of the future.

You spend a lot of time regretting the past.

People whose life theme is failure spend a lot of time rehashing the past.  To increase your success percentages, focus your time on planning for the future and work on your projects in the present.

You constantly worry about future.

It’s important to consider the future, to plan for it and to plan for all eventualities.  But there’s nothing you can do today but today’s work.  Worry doesn’t keep you safe.  Working, planning and preparing for the future increases your chances of success.

You can see the negative in everything.

The pessimist sees the negative everywhere they look.  Pessimists don’t create grand successes.  If you spend all your time focused on the negative, you have no time to create a positive.

You try to please everyone all the time.

Trying to please everyone all the time is playing to the lowest common denominator.  You can’t please everyone.  Innovative ideas require taking chances.  If you are creative few people will have thought of your idea before you.  Successful people get off the beaten track and do new novel things.

You believe goals are waste of time.

If you believe that goals are a waste of time you are not going anywhere.  Successful people have goals to direct their path.  The goals keep you from spending most of your time wandering aimlessly.  If you don’t know where you’re going you won’t recognize it when you get there.  Is your failure to plan a planning for failure?

You have forgotten how to have fun.

If the life you live is a life of drudgery, nothing will make you feel successful.  Life has its ups and its downs.  Make sure that you enjoy the journey or you will arrive at the destination worn out from the road.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Eight steps to clearer thinking.

By David Joel Miller.

Become a more efficient thinker.

PNG of brain.

Clear thinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

There are those people who are really clear, efficient thinkers.  Have you ever wished you were one of those efficient thinkers? There are ways that you can become a clearer more efficient thinker.  The skills needed to be an efficient thinker are not something people are born with.  Good thinking is a skill that you can develop. Start by getting your brain running at top efficiency.

Eat a healthy diet.

Your brain consumes a significant portion of the calories you use each day.  By some estimates, your brain uses 20 plus percent of the calories you burn each day.  To think well you need to fuel that brain.  Give your brain a healthy diet if you want to get good work out of it.  Not only do you need enough calories, but you need enough of all the basic nutrients.  Work on including healthy ingredients in your diet.

Get enough sleep.

Lack of sleep will make you a groggy, fuzzy headed thinker.  Begin your day the night before by getting to bed at a reasonable hour.  Efficient thinkers have well-rested brains.  You can’t think at peak efficiency with a tired out brain.  During sleep, your brain is cleansed of all the waste products from the thinking work you do each day.

Do healthy exercise.

To be a clear thinker you need a healthy body.  Keeping your body healthy requires a good balance between exercise and rest.  Improve your thinking clarity by getting up from your desk and moving around.  Include some standing, walking and other exercises in your daily routine.

Store information in multiple ways.

The brain stores information that comes in through different channels in different locations.  If you want to be a clear thinker you need to be able to find information stored in your brain.  One way to do that is to store it in multiple locations.  Listen carefully to what you hear.  Take the time to really look at things.  Writing things down helps you to store the memory in another part of your brain.  Some people find it useful to sing or convert things they want to remember into rhymes.

Become more mindful.

Mindfulness is a useful way to train your brain.  Mindfulness practice can help you learn to be less distracted and more focused on the thing that you are trying to concentrate on.  Mindfulness teaches you the skill of ignoring extraneous thoughts and staying on task with a really important thought.

Read to improve your thinking ability.

Reading expands your ability to think clearly.  We think in words and the more you read the more words you become familiar with.  Read widely and increase the number of ideas you are familiar with.

Excite your brain.

Do mentally stimulating things.  Seek out novelty.  An enthusiastic brain produces better results.  The majority of all learning is emotional, not intellectual.  If you are interested in a topic, if it excites your mind, this thought becomes easier to remember and make use of.

Match your speed to the project.

Some projects require slow methodical thinking.  Other tasks benefit from a more rapid, creative approach.  If you’re working on a very detailed problem in mathematics or engineering, you need to slow down your speed to avoid errors.  If you need more creative thoughts, keep the flow moving.  Some of the most creative ideas come from brainstorming where you come up with as many ideas as rapidly as possible without censoring them.

Hope these ideas will help you improve that clarity of your thinking.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Get more done.

By David Joel Miller.

Ways to be more productive.

Garden in a boat.

Get More Done.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Would you like to get more done?

Do you feel like you are having difficulty being productive?

Here are some simple tips to improve your productivity and help you get more done each and every day. Try introducing some of these ideas, one by one and see if your productivity doesn’t increase.

Maintain a healthy blood sugar – energy level.

Your brain burns a lot of calories.  By some estimates up to 25% of all the calories, you will use every day are burned in your brain. Not having enough fuel on board reduces your ability to do work. Lack of blood sugar results in fuzzy headed thinking.

Kids who skip breakfast do more poorly in school.  Adults who don’t eat something early will find that their will suffer.  Start your day off with a healthy breakfast.  Being productive requires energy for both your brain and your body.

Get enough sleep.

Most people become chronically sleep deprived.  You may be able to get by on reduce sleep for a single night, or even a couple of nights.  But if you continue to work with less than enough sleep, your productivity will decline.  Chronically cutting your sleep short is not a way to improve your productivity.

Eat healthy.

Getting things done requires maintaining your body.  It is not enough to simply take in calories.  Those calories need to include nutrients necessary to maintain health.  Many people’s diets are high in sugar, fat and low nutrient ingredients.

Get exercise. Move around.

Make sure you get plenty of exercise.  Take frequent breaks.  Get up and move around.  Staying in one position too long can wear you out.  Today more and more people work at desks jobs, working with papers, computers, and ideas.  The result of this inactivity is a body that can’t support the brain that is doing so much of your work.

Eliminate what distracts you.

Distractions are the chief enemy of productivity.  Try to eliminate the distractions in your environment.  Close unneeded Internet windows.  If possible, use music or white noise to eliminate the distraction of conversations or other noises in your environment.  Cut down on the need to attend to things other than your main task at hand.

Practice focusing.

Focusing, paying attention, is a skill that needs to be practiced.  Young children rarely have good attention skills.  The way those attention paying skills develop is by practice.  Work on improving your ability to pay attention.  Notice when your mind is wondering and quickly bring it back to the thing you need to attend to.

Pursue your passions. What interests you?

The majority of all learning is emotional, not intellectual.  You learn things that interest you.  Pursue your passions.  Think about the things that interest you and incorporate those into your work. Think about learning a new skill, something that might excite you.

Take breaks. Chunk work.

Productivity declines the longer you stay on a given task.  Break time-consuming projects up into smaller chunks.  Take short breaks between each chunk. Early in the day, you’re likely to be able to do longer periods of work on a particular project.  As the day progresses you may need to take more frequent breaks or switch to other tasks.

Recharge your batteries. What fills you up mentally?

Productive people invest some time in recharging their batteries. Use your time off, your breaks and lunch to do good self-care. Read something for fun, listen to your favorite music, make time to talk to friends and coworkers.

For the big projects, plan, prioritize and break up.

Some projects can be overwhelming.  Starting off not knowing where you’re going can result in poor productivity.  For large projects start by developing a plan.  What will need to be done first, second and so on?  Break large elements down into smaller pieces.  It helps to estimate how much time each part will take.  Pay attention to things you need to complete before you can start the next phase.

Have a clear picture of the desired outcome.

A lot of effort can be wasted when you are not sure what you are trying to accomplish.  Write out some goals for the project you are working on.  It helps to run these goals by your boss or your customer.  You have not accomplished much if you created something that doesn’t meet another’s needs.  You will work a lot more efficiently if you have a clear definition of what you are trying to accomplish.

Get the help you need.

Rather than trying to do everything yourself, identify those things where you could use others expert help.  Few people are skilled at everything.  It is a lot more efficient to get help from people who have expertise in areas where you are less skilled.

Try these tips for improved productivity.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books