If you read most articles on productivity, you will find that each article repeats the same dozen or so bits of advice. You’ve probably been advised to prepare for your morning before you go to bed, to tackle the difficult stuff first in the morning, and to schedule specific times to check your email. This is good advice, and it works for many people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everybody, and for others it simply isn’t enough. Fortunately, the methods that you have already learned, aren’t the only methods you can use to increase productivity. If you want to become even more productive than you are right now, or if typical productivity advice hasn’t worked for you, give some of these ‘out of the box’ techniques a try.
If you keep a couple of plants in your work space, you might find that your stress levels are lower. Of course, if you have plants, you’ll also need sunlight. Letting the sun in will boost the amount of serotonin your brain produces. That boost means your mood will improve, your focus will improve, and you won’t feel nearly as sleepy. There have even been a study or two that show that plants in the office are associated with a reduction in minor illnesses such as coughs and colds. This could be related to a slight increase in air quality that plants provide.
Let a Tomato Lead You
Try using the pomodoro technique to keep yourself on task (pomodoro means tomato). This technique is based on a theory that you will be productive in the first and last parts of a work session, but less productive in the middle. The longer your work sessions last, the less productive you will be. When you use the pomodoro technique, you break your work sessions into 30 minute segments 25 minutes of those segments are for work, 5 are for taking a quick break. Each 30 minute segment is called a pomodoro. When you make it through your 4th pomodoro, you can take an extended break.
Don’t do Anything Unless You Have a Reason to do It
In the movie, ‘Office Space’, one of the running gags is centered ‘TPS Reports’. The main character is constantly asked if is working on the TPS reports, if he is finished with the TPS reports, or if he has seen the TPS reports. Nobody uses the TPS reports. They serve no purpose, but producing the TPS reports is something that has always been done and nobody questions it. The joke takes things to an extreme, but the truth is most of us spend time each week doing something for no better reason than ‘it’s just something that is done.’ Increase productivity and clear your schedule of any task that doesn’t have a meaningful purpose.
If your workspace isn’t comfortable and arranged in a way that isn’t conducive to getting work done, you won’t be as productive as you would like. Try making a few of the following changes to improve your workspace:
Arrange your work area so that it is ergonomically correct
Increase the amount of natural light in your workspace and replace glaring lightbulbs with bulbs that produce light that is less harsh
Add some color to provide stimulation
Plug in a white noise machine to block out office noises
Replace Your Technology
It is extremely difficult to be productive if you are working with technology that is frustratingly outdated or in disrepair. If you are using a computer that is constantly disconnecting from the internet, or that you have to constantly reboot, you are losing valuable work time. The same goes for outdated smart phones and printers that jam more than they print. Replace old technology with updated versions that are under warranty.
Put That Important Task Off Until Later
Traditional productivity logic dictates that you should tackle the biggest most important task first. Then, you can cruise through the rest of your day zipping through the easier tasks. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take varying energy levels into consideration. It also ignores the possibility that the big, important task might be seem so insurmountable in the morning that causes you to get ‘stuck’ and accomplish nothing. Instead of working on your hardest tasks in the morning, think about your energy levels. Then schedule your most difficult jobs when your energy is at a peak.
If you’ve been working on tasks that are boring or that require a lot of focus, you may begin to feel sluggish and have difficulty concentrating. When this happens, try taking a 15 minute break and doing something that you enjoy. Just be sure that the activity you choose keeps your mind working. You could work your way through a quick word puzzle, play a round of ‘Trivia Crack’, or work on a jig saw puzzle for a few minutes. You’ll enjoy a fun and needed distraction, but you’ll keep your brain engaged too.
No, you shouldn’t let yourself go hungry the entire day without taking a break. However, rather than walking away from your work for thirty minutes to an hour to eat a full meal, you might be better off scheduling a few extra breaks throughout your day. Just be sure to keep yourself hydrated and full by drinking lots of water and eating healthy snacks.