I'm going to date myself but does anyone remember how awesome the 80's movie "Weird Science" was? The soundtrack, the cast of characters, and the ending where they filled the professors house with popcorn. I am an engineer, so there might be some nerdiness come through in this blog. Science is cool and there is a lot of research behind these tips (I just won’t bore you with all of the data).
I do believe most of us want to be more productive with our time, especially at work. I mean, really, who wants to spend more time at work or on work than they have to? And, who wouldn’t want to get more done in less time so they can fit more things in their schedule they actually want to do – like sleep, exercise, make healthier meals, travel, read, play video games, spend time with loved ones, (enter your favorite activities), …………anything other than work!
I’ve spent my whole career learning, doing, and teaching others how to be more productive with their time and energy. I truly believe the results of productivity come from continuously putting in the effort, always committing to excellence, and planning out your most important work. Productivity can be learned. There is a lot of buzz about efficiency, or getting more things done, faster. I don’t believe efficiency is the ultimate goal (unless you are paid by the widget!). One must also be effective in order to achieve the desired results.
Here are a few (just 4) top rated, science-backed tips for increasing your productivity at work. I won’t state the super obvious ones like “be well rested/get enough sleep” or “eat super healthy foods all the time and never, ever get Cheetos from the vending machine.”
Tip #1 – Figure out when you’re most productive (and it’s not 5 a.m. for everyone!)
Some people wake for their day and are primed for their best work. I am not one of those people. But, there is circadian rhythm science behind “cognitive peak”, each of us having times of the day where we are at our best from a productivity standpoint. Figure out when you feel your most focused and motivated, and schedule your most demanding tasks then. And when you are less energized? That’s when you do the more mindless work. NOTE: If you aren’t sure when your at your cognitive best, try keeping a log during the day of tasks and energy level. After a few days or a week, you are bound to see a trend.
Tip #2 – Protect your focused work time ferociously!
I heard someone refer to a block in their calendar as D.E.E.P. time and I had to ask what that meant. It stands for (and since it was 3rd hand, I don’t know who to give credit to) Distractions Eliminated Elevates Productivity. Brilliant! It probably makes the most sense to schedule DEEP time in your calendar when you are at your cognitive peak (tip #1). Buckle down and zone in on your most important tasks for the day – and don’t give in to distractions. Make yourself unavailable except for dire emergencies. NOTE: If you aren’t sure how to signal to others you are serious about not being distracted, try silencing your notifications, closing excess browser tabs, turning on your ‘do not disturb,’ and only answering calls if they are truly critical. Your colleagues and friends will honor this time in your calendar - IF YOU DO!
Tip #3 – Take breaks, drink water, and jump around!
While breaks might seem counterproductive to being productive, your mind, eyes, and body will all benefit from short breaks. Move your body. Hit the restroom. Get a drink or snack. Just one or all of these can provide energy to fuel your next round of tasks. Being well hydrated is often missed and has a much bigger impact on energy and productivity levels than you’d think (i.e. everything functions better when you are drinking enough water). 😊NOTE: If you struggle to remember to take a break, use a timer on your watch, phone, or computer. Taking a short break once an hour is highly recommended.
Tip #4 –Don’t multitask; Batch tasks!
Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY is skilled at multitasking. Research has proven that human brains are not physically capable of multitasking and can decrease productivity levels by 40%. But, you say, “I’m doing two tasks at one time. What am I doing then?” You are actually task switching or hopping back and forth between tasks at a rapid-ish rate. While it might seem productive, it’s not, and this switching takes tolls on your brain and uses a lot of glucose (your brain’s main source of energy) to do so! What does it mean to batch tasks? Categorize your to-do’s and set aside similar tasks to do together, say less mind-intensive tasks like reading and responding to emails, then more creative tasks like brainstorming for a meeting or event. NOTE: Not sure how to categorize your to-do’s? Grab a few different colored highlighters and highlight tasks on your to-do list that belong together. Try doing a few of one color before starting the next color.
Ready to start?
Remember, productivity is very individualized and what works for you might not work for your co-worker. In general, though, moving toward fewer distractions, focusing your energy on strategic tasks, and taking care of your body and mind certainly can only help you become more productive. Science agrees!
Leave me a comment with your favorite productivity tip or with something you wish you were more productive with!
Connect with me (email@example.com), especially if you struggle with overwhelm from paperwork, spend too much time on tasks you don’t really enjoy, or just want to simplify your life to have more time and energy to do the things you love. I can help you simplify your tasks, document your processes, and automate your reminders to save you time and energy.