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You Might Have Missed This Simple Way To Increase Your Work Performance

You Might Have Missed This Simple Way To Increase Your Work Performance

When it comes to productivity and time management, you’ve no doubt seen (and maybe) used some of the countless apps and tech tricks that are designed specifically to help with these life skills. Many people put all their faith in these external tools and techniques because the apps and tips are easily found on the internet. Some people seem addicted to trying out the latest ones.

If you’re a regular reader of Lifehack, you’ll know that we have plenty of articles that feature these apps and tech tricks. All these techniques are useful, but if you’re not careful, you may forget one of the basics of productivity – your personal energy levels.

On this point, I want to introduce to you the 3 Tiers of Productivity.[1] These can be explained as a pyramid, with the base (and biggest part) made up of fundamentals, the middle part of psychology, and the apex (and also the smallest part) consisting of details.

    The fundamentals part is the least sexy, and therefore, typically attracts the least interest. However, it’s actually the most important part. Fundamentals refers to adequate sleep, a healthy diet, a clean environment, and knowing exactly what you’re going to do. In other words – how you manage your personal energy. If you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, then you may be lacking personal energy.

    Why Your Energy Levels Are Low, and Why This Matters

    If you’re like most people, you probably respond to rising demands in the workplace by putting in longer hours. However, this takes a toll on your physical, emotional and mental health. This inevitably leads to declining levels of engagement, increasing levels of distraction – and a significant dip in your productivity.

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    As I mentioned in the introduction, once our productivity takes a hit, we gravitate towards “magical” tools and tricks to help us keep on track. But there’s a problem with this. Namely, that most of these tools and tricks focus almost exclusively on psychology and details. They fail to address the fundamentals, thus leaving us with an artificial, and oftentimes unsustainable boost in productivity.

    If you want to be a productivity superstar, then you need to get the fundamentals right. Luckily, there is a little-known method that can help you out with this.

    How Natural Cycles Help You Perform Better

    Most people aren’t aware that their personal energy is determined by natural cycles known as ultradian rhythms. These are recurrent periods or cycles that are repeated throughout a 24-hour day.

    When you work with instead of against the ultradian rhythms, you will perform better. When your energy levels are high, you can concentrate on the tasks at hand; when your energy levels hit rock bottom, this is the best time to rest.

    Psychophysiologist Peretz Lavie conducted a series of experiments that revealed the following:

    1. In the morning time, we get sleepy every 90 minutes.
    2. In the afternoon and evenings, we get sleepy at two specific times: 4:30pm and 11:30pm.

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      These daily cycles reveal when we’re most likely to feel at our best – and when we’re most likely to feel too groggy to continue.

      Align with Your Natural Cycles and Boost Your Performance

      You must get the fundamentals of personal energy right if you’re to reach the heights of the super-productive.

      It all starts with getting adequate and regular sleep (at least eight hours per night). Good sleep allows you to rest and rejuvenate. It gives you the energy to get on with doing what you want to do. In turn, this leads to a significant boost in your performance. You’ll also find yourself easily surpassing the energy and productivity levels of people who don’t sleep well.

      A Federal Aviation Administration study of pilots on long haul flights shows the vital importance of resting when your energy levels are low:[2]

      “One group of pilots was given an opportunity to take 40-minute naps mid-flight, and ended up getting an average of 26 minutes of actual sleep. Their median reaction time improved by 16% following their naps. Non-napping pilots, tested at a similar halfway point in the flight, had a 34% deterioration in reaction time. They also experienced 22 micro sleeps of 2-10 seconds during the last 30 minutes of the flight. The pilots who took naps had none.”

      You may not be aware of this, but sleep can also help you solve problems. For instance, it’s not uncommon to wake up with the answer to a problem that you’d earlier been unable to resolve. Find out more about this in another article Why Sleeping on a Difficult Problem Helps You Get the Answer

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      Clearly, if you can learn to follow your natural daily cycles, you’ll be able to do your best work when you have the most energy, and you’ll also know the most suitable time to take naps, rest and sleep.

      How to Take Care of Your Energy

      Want to get started with boosting your energy and productivity levels? Here’s my recommendations.

      Identify your energy cycle

      The first key thing to do, is to calculate your biological prime times. You can do this by:

      1. Cutting out stimulants or mood enhancers such as caffeine, alcohol or antidepressants.
      2. Turn off your alarm, and allow yourself to sleep and wake up naturally.
      3. Record your energy levels every waking hour, on the hour.
      4. Collect a minimum of three weeks of data.

      By doing the above, you’ll be able to determine your peak activity times – and your best times to rest and sleep.[3]

      Schedule activities according to your energy levels

      It’s critical that you know the effort and energy needed to complete upcoming tasks. Having this information will allow you to set the priority and importance of the tasks.

      You can then easily schedule the important tasks (or tasks that require a high level of concentration) at times when your personal energy is at or near its peak. Examples of these tasks include creative work like writing, or problem solving work such as learning to file your tax returns.

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      And of course the opposite is true. Tasks that need less thought-power or energy should be scheduled to take place during your low-energy periods.

      Break your work sessions into 90-minute blocks and take 15-minute breaks every 90 minutes

      When you break your work into 90-minute blocks, you’ll immediately experience a boost in your productivity. This is because 90 minutes is the ideal working duration before your mind and body needs to take a break. And how long should your break be? Well, it appears that 15-minute breaks are the ideal complement to the 90-minute sessions.

      By following the above routine, you’ll notice that you’ll have enhanced motivation to work because 90 minutes seems a manageable amount of time to work, especially when a 15-minute break is on the horizon.

      While the 15-minute break can be used to simply go for a walk, or make yourself a drink, you may want to consider taking a nap. Napping for just 15-20 minutes enables you to recharge your personal energy. (Be careful with longer naps, as these can disrupt your sleep cycle.) Read more about napping at work in another article A 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

      As you can see from the tips in this article, to manage your productivity levels, you need to get the foundations right first. This means getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, ensuring your environment is clean and orderly, and most importantly, learning how to align your work with your natural cycles.

      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can? How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide) Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone? How Journaling Can Improve Your Life The Lifehack Show Episode 7: Following Your Calling

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

      15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

      You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

      Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

      A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

      Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

      So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

      1. Purge Your Office

      De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

      Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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      Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

      2. Gather and Redistribute

      Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

      3. Establish Work “Zones”

      Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

      Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

      4. Close Proximity

      Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

      5. Get a Good Labeler

      Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

      6. Revise Your Filing System

      As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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      What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

      Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

      • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
      • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
      • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
      • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
      • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
      • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
      • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

      Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

      7. Clear off Your Desk

      Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

      If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

      8. Organize your Desktop

      Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

      Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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      Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

      9. Organize Your Drawers

      Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

      Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

      10. Separate Inboxes

      If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

      11. Clear Your Piles

      Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

      Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

      12. Sort Mails

      Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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      13. Assign Discard Dates

      You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

      Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

      14. Filter Your Emails

      Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

      When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

      Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

      15. Straighten Your Desk

      At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

      Bottom Line

      Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

      Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

      More Organizing Hacks

      Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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