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8 Principles to Keep in Mind to Reach an Unprecedented Level of Productivity

8 Principles to Keep in Mind to Reach an Unprecedented Level of Productivity

We all have those days: we show up to work after not getting enough sleep, or getting too much, and find ourselves with our chin in our palm staring blankly at the screen. While it’s hard to get out of this mood, as we try to keep our eyes from falling shut, we have to keep these principles and quotes in mind for when we wake up and get back at it.

1. We should hold periodic meetings

Meetings are a great way to touch base with our team and make sure that everybody is on the right track. Keep in mind, however, that most actual work gets done outside of these meetings.

As Thomas Sowell said: “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”

Let’s keep meetings brief, with a clear focus, and make sure to summarize key takeaways at the end to ensure everyone is on the same page.

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2. We need to test new ideas

We should be careful not to get comfortable simply doing what’s “good enough”. Let’s make sure to continuously test new ideas in search of a more productive or efficient method to complete our workflow.

Mark Zuckerberg was right when he said, “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

3. We mustn’t multitask

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand,” said Alexander Graham Bell, “the sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

When approaching our work, we should give our full attention to one task at a time. Time spent transitioning between tasks can add up to hours out of your day. Not to mention, when we dedicate our focus to a single task, we’ll surely produce higher-quality results.

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4. We need to give ourselves a break

If we find that our productivity has hit the wall, let’s try getting away from our desk and giving our mind a chance to refresh. We need to take a a nap or spend the day at home.

“Being lazy does not mean that you do not create. In fact, lying around doing nothing is an important, nay crucial, part of the creative process. It is meaningless bustle that actually gets in the way of productivity. All we are really saying is, give peace a chance.” -Tom Hodgkinson

5. We have to “Automate”

With so much new technology, many human processes can now be replaced with apps and programs. Where automation isn’t possible, we can try to create a simple process that can be recreated.

“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more,” said Henry Ford.

The easier our process becomes to repeat, the more time we’ll make for what’s most important.

6. We should delegate when possible

A wise man, J. Paul Getty, once said, “I’d rather have 1 percent of the efforts of 100 people than 100 percent of my own efforts.”

He had a good point. Our energy should be put to use to accomplish tasks that require our brainpower and expertise. Keep in mind, once we delegate a task, we have to let our team take care of it. Hovering over the tasks once we past them down wastes as much time as keeping them on our desk to do ourselves.

7. “Never mistake motion for action”

Just because we’re writing a to-do list and organizing our email doesn’t mean we’re actually getting things done. Let’s put aside small distracts that get us off track, and make sure we recognize the difference between busywork and actually getting work done. Do we really need to color code those sticky notes?

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8. We should get to work early

Our hours probably look like something from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Rather than walking in the door at 8:59 AM so we can clock in right as the clock strikes 9, let’s try showing up 10-15 minutes early. This will give us time to focus in on the work in front of us, so we can hit the ground running as soon as we punch in for the day.

Now perk up! It’s time to get started.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

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Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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