Advertising
Advertising

Small Things You Do Can Make You Way More Productive, Here’s How

Small Things You Do Can Make You Way More Productive, Here’s How

Blink.

It’s 9:50 AM. Work starts in 10 minutes; I am punctual, awake, and ready for the day. Awesome.

Blink.

1:00 PM.

Wait, what?!

Advertising

I shut my eyes tightly and opened them again. There is nothing wrong with the watch. But I realized that in the three hours that just passed, I barely finished one article – which was supposed to be done in an hour. Sounds familiar?

As you rush to finish what was supposed to be completed in the morning after lunch, you realize you can either:

  1. Lower the quality of work to increase your speed; or
  2. Stay in the office longer to finish all your work.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place – talk about making a difficult decision! Having been in the same spot before (and I never want to be back), here is my take on procrastination and how you can boost your productivity!

1. Focus on consistency instead of quantity of actions.

In 7 strategies that will help you eliminate procrastination, a fundamental point was raised –

Put more importance on your consistency, rather than on the quantity of your actions.[1]

Instead of trying to juggle 30 tasks at the same time, going from tab to tab, app to app every minute, take one task, concentrate and get that part done. Even one finished task is better than 30 unfinished tasks. Take small but certain steps towards your goal and you will be surprised at how much quicker you get there.

2. Identify your peak hours and finish your important tasks during that period.

As Professor Christopher M. Barnes points out, humans generally follow a rather regular internal clock called the circadian process[2], or the circadian rhythm. When the workday begins, it would take us a few hours to reach our peak level of attentiveness, which would then decline to a low at around 3 PM. Even though it would hit a second peak at around 6 PM, it would quickly fall as time goes, reaching the lowest point at around 3:30 AM.

Therefore, we must identify our own peak hours (it should be quite similar to the ones mentioned above) and allocate our important tasks during that period. Try to finish the more mundane tasks like replying emails at non-peak hours and reserve your heightened attentiveness for making important decisions, drafting the defense for your client in a case, writing up that interview you have to finish before the day ends, etc.

3. Eliminate unnecessary options to prevent diffused efforts.

We would come across numerous opportunities and options as we progress in life. And like businesses, when we are rapidly growing, we tend to embrace expansion and take on as much of these opportunities as possible. Yet, if we started off succeeding because we have a clear sense of purpose, taking on all these opportunities would cloud our purpose, diffuse our efforts and lower our productivity on all fronts, eventually leading us to fail.

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. – Greg McKeown

Therefore, to maintain clarity and focus, take a deep breath and cast away all those unnecessary options and opportunities.

4. Play some angry music at work!

Plugging in our earphones to ignore the chatter and ruckus in the office has become an ordinary practice for us in this age. However, it might have never come to you that the music you listen to can directly affect your work performance. In fact, anger focuses our attention on rewards, increases persistence, makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals[3].

In an experiment done by Tamir and her colleagues, participants are exposed to angry music before an aggressive shooting game. Inducing their anger has actually improved their performance in the game.[4] Although your work might be slightly different from a computer game which involves a lot of action, we believe the music can still give you a boost in productivity.

5. Associate something you love with your work.

According to Dan Ariely, he would connect a ritual he loves – morning coffee with writing[5], so even though writing might be a tough task in times, he would be enjoying the whole process of sipping coffee and writing.

It could be anything from listening to a certain soundtrack to munching on that bagel you get from the store below – when you combine the task you need to be productive on with something you love, your productivity would spike for sure.

Advertising

6. Take a break and recharge at the office.

“Resilience is how you recharge, not how you endure,” – Shawn Achor

As much as we like to be the Spartan that could bear a hundred wounds and still fight, research has proven that the traditional method of biting our teeth and enduring costs companies $62 billion per annum in lost productivity.[6]

Surprising, isn’t it?

Therefore, it is crucial to take a break and recharge at the office so we can work more effectively and efficiently afterwards. It could be as simple as taking a stroll around the park around after lunch instead of staring at the computer screen to check the newest updates on the election!

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via Picjumbo.com

Advertising

Reference

More by this author

Eamon Suen

Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

Trending in Productivity

1 Your Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better & Waking Up Productive 2 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect of Your Life 3 How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough 4 9 Daily Habits That Will Change Your Life 5 How to Influence People and Make Them Feel Good

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next