© Stefan Dahl | Dreamstime.com
© Stefan Dahl | Dreamstime.com
© Stefan Dahl | Dreamstime.com
Being more productive for work isn’t a one size fits all type of thing — different processes work for different people. But if there’s one thing that any type of worker can get behind, it’s managing their time more effectively. And in order to do that, there are some simple things you can do to help boost your productivity. There are only so many hours in the workday and it helps to have attainable strategies to make the most out of the time you spend behind a desk, especially when you’re working at home.
If you’re finding yourself dozing off during work, you may want to reevaluate how much sleep you’re getting. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, though sleep ranges can vary depending on your exact age group. And if you’re not loving the quality of your slumber, try revamping your bedroom by painting the walls or plugging in a humidifier. The better you sleep, the easier it will be for you to learn and process new information and retain it throughout the day.
For many nine-to-five employees, that first sip of coffee is bliss and the subsequent cups after are needed to power through. Caffeine increases energy metabolism throughout the brain and makes us more alert, so it’s great to wake our minds up, but too much caffeine can cause adverse effects like anxiety or dependency.
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If your phone is easily accessible, it’s going to be that much more tempting to start scrolling through Instagram instead of working. Though phone breaks can be needed in short bursts throughout the day just to get your mind off a stressful project or assignment, having your device within reach can be distracting. Try putting it away in your desk drawer or in your bag. And being distracted isn’t the only adverse effect your phone can have.
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Making a list is as therapeutic as it is effective for many areas in life, including work. To-do lists create order in your day, help you visualize each task so you can delegate time accordingly and most importantly, they make you feel productive when you’re crossing lines through the stuff you completed. Make a list first thing in the morning and carry over any items that weren’t marked off to the next day’s list.
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Even if you don’t need to go grab something to eat and have a great meal all prepped for lunch, you should take a break. According to a recent survey by Tork, some bosses view employees as less hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks. The notion itself is pretty counterintuitive because regular breaks create better employees. In fact, according to the Tork survey, workers who take a lunch break feel more engaged and productive and scored higher on a wide range of engagement metrics.
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Taking regular breaks aside from lunch might sound counterproductive, but taking short breaks between tasks can actually boost productivity. According to a study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, taking self-initiated short breaks from work in the afternoon boosted daily work engagement and restored people’s energy. It’s easy to feel exhausted within just an hour or two of non-stop working, and stepping away from your desk for just five or 10 minutes when you need a breather can go a long way.
The co-founder and former CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, may have revolutionized social media, but that doesn’t mean he’s never been a victim of procrastination. He came up with a simple trick to tackle the tasks he tends to put off even though they’re probably easy to accomplish. In a 2017 interview with Axios, he revealed his favorite life hack. “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
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There are quite a few perks to starting your day with a session at the gym, including reaching those weight-loss goals. And if you have trouble focusing during the day, a morning workout just might be the boost you need. A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning and decision-making.
Even though there is debate over how much water you actually need to drink, it’s vital to keep our systems running. Research has shown that not drinking enough water can cause dehydration, which has a negative impact on your focus, alertness and short-term memory. Water will help you feel energized and fresh throughout the workday — and you can use the bathroom breaks as an excuse to stretch those legs.
If you’re sitting in the same position all day at your desk, chances are your muscles get stiff and tired. Stretching can help to relieve back pain, which can trickle up to your shoulders and ears, causing discomfort and an unwelcome distraction to your day. Taking a few minutes to either slip away to an empty room in the office for some easy yoga poses or sit down in your living room for some stretching can improve your workflow and productivity while also clearing your mind.
Whether you work remotely or at the office, you spend the majority of the day at your desk. And if it’s piled high with papers, leftover wrappers and old sticky notes it can get tiring to look at. And the less you enjoy your workspace, the more reasons you’ll find to be away from it both physically and mentally. Similar to decluttering the messy parts of your home, toss out the things you don’t need and add some pleasing touches like a houseplant or a pretty picture.
There are actual deadlines and there are deadlines you give yourself. For example, telling yourself you need to accomplish a certain task by 3 p.m. not only makes you accountable for that goal, but it also gives you a sense of control. Seeking control and being devoted to your own deadlines are both personality traits of an entrepreneur.
Having a place for everything on your desk will help you think more clearly and waste less time searching for a pen. You can easily repurpose a glass jar to keep your pens, highlighters and other writing tools. And if you don’t have a desk drawer to keep sticky notes and notepads, buy a stationary tray to keep everything in one place.
Emails are essential in keeping an open line of communication between your coworkers and management, but responding to every email as it pops up can be disruptive. When you’re in the zone knocking out a project and a new email comes in, unless it’s super urgent, just make a note to respond later and continue with the task at hand. And when you have a little more time, take a moment to clean out your digital life by organizing your inbox.
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If you work in an open-concept office, you likely deal with all sorts of noises and talkative co-workers (who are great when you don’t have things to do). In fact, according to a survey done by the management consulting group Robert Half, 32% of employees reported their chatty coworkers as the single biggest distraction impacting their productivity. If your office has smaller, more private rooms for individual work, take advantage of them and slip away when you need some peace and quiet to get stuff done. If you work from home with others also in the house, make sure to designate spaces so that you can both concentrate.
Think quality over quantity when it comes to the concept of multitasking. In theory, you’d think doing more tasks at once will help you finish more work in less time. But actually, by doing more tasks at one time, you may be splitting the effort between multiple items. In fact, neuroscience experts at Cleveland Clinic compared multitasking individuals to a hummingbird darting from flower to flower and then back to the original flower. “Repeatedly switching back and forth from project to project can impair our ability to function at our finest,” wrote Cynthia Kubu, PhD, and Andre Machado, MD. Knowing how to conduct yourself in an office setting is one of the life skills you need to have by age 30, and by honing the right strategies, you’ll benefit yourself and your team.
While you work, keep a piece of paper or a Google doc handy. And whenever a distracting thought pops up, write it down on the list and get back to work. It can be anything from that random idea you came up with to a reminder to call your parents or to return that Amazon package — it’s just a place for all those extra fleeting thoughts that can clog up your mind and distract you while you work.
As Tony Schwartz, author of “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live” has reported on, the 90-minute workflow was first discovered by Nathan Kleitman. It’s a "basic rest-activity cycle," which are 90-minute periods at night where we move through five stages of sleep. Kleitman found that the human bodies run on the same 90-minute rhythm during the day. Schwartz wrote at length about how when we need a break, our bodies send us signals like hunger, drowsiness and loss of focus, and we may find ourselves fidgeting or reaching for yet another cup of coffee. Continuously working for long stretches of time leads to exhaustion and decision fatigue as well as stress, which can have physical side effects. Try out the 90-minute process in which you take a quick break between each interval and see if it maximizes your efficiency.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to workplace productivity is to take care of the biggest, most time-consuming task first. You might put off a bigger project for later because you think it’ll take up most of the day if started first, but when it’s time to finally cross this big task off, your energy has likely dwindled. Try to tackle the big tasks first thing in your day, particularly if you’re a morning person.
If you prefer to plug in your headphones at work, you might already be on to something. According to a Robert Half survey, out of 1,000 participants who said they listen to music while working, 39% of them said they are much more productive when they do so. And for people who enjoy tunes at work, they preferred pop, rock and country music genres. Just be mindful of office etiquette and keep the volume low.
You know those fancy chocolates that you’ve been eyeing at that amazing candy shop? Make it your work reward. Reward systems can make any day go by a little easier. An attainable one is to create weekly goals and work toward accomplishing those with an incentive in mind. Maybe you’ve been eyeing a pair of boots or a new case for your phone? Sure, you can buy these items anyway, but implementing a personal reward system can make a busy work week just a touch more fun.
The workday may consist of many small failures and feelings of burnout — from not getting the assignment in on time despite working hours on end to blowing that sales call — but the wrong attitude can make every miss feel like a huge loss. Things happen and it’s important not to let one trying day define you.
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From promoting weight-loss to kick-starting metabolism, the benefits of having a healthy breakfast are seemingly endless. Research also shows that breakfast can provide a mental boost. In a study conducted by medical experts at the National Institute for Nutrition and Health in China, participants who ate a nutrition-adequate breakfast had better cognitive performance than those who did not eat breakfast, or ate a nutrition-deficient one. Looking for a new go-to breakfast? Check out this list of the most iconic breakfast foods in America.
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