Staying productive throughout the workday can sometimes feel like an impossible feat. Indeed, numerous studies show it's extremely challenging to maintain a consistently high work output throughout the day, regardless of how many cups of coffee we have in hand.
But the science of productivity also demonstrates several effective ways (besides a caffeine addiction) to get more done. We've culled some of our favorite tips for you below.
Tackle Your Day with a To-Do List
One of the most effective ways to boost your productivity is to create a to-do list. According to research, to-do lists reduce anxiety, give structure, and are proof of your achievements. Start every day by listing the items you need to complete in order of importance. As you complete an item, it gets crossed off the list. You’ll be able to see your progress throughout the day (and there’s no better feeling than an accomplishment). To-do lists are important for a variety of reasons — if you’re given an emergency project or need to attend a meeting, your list is waiting for you when you return. You won’t forget which tasks you planned to accomplish if you get pulled away unexpectedly.
Take a Break
Breaks are essential to boosting productivity as they give you time and space away from our tasks and projects. Whether the break is a 15-minute walk or taking a vacation, it’s crucial to give yourself time away from the hustle and bustle of your office.
Taking a 15-minute walk every day helps you become creative, helps you pay attention, gets your blood flowing, and much more. Your body and mind will thank you for taking the few minutes to step away from your desk. You’ll return to your work at hand with a clear mind and a fresh perspective.
Of course, vacations are the best breaks you can take when possible. Many people choose to not take a vacation because they fear the repercussions of taking time off. However, many companies are encouraging employees to take the much needed time off. Whether it’s a couple of days or a whole week, a vacation allows you to physically and mentally step away from your computer, job, and stress. Vacations are meant for you to recharge so you’ll be ready to come back to work with more motivation.
Change Your Location
If we sit in the same spot day in and day out, it becomes stale. If you’re finding you can’t be productive or your creativity isn’t flowing, pack up your computer and move to another location. Maybe a coffee shop? The library? A change of scenery can help you focus.
So why is it important to change scenery every so often? According to research, the brain needs novelty and is constantly searching for it. Novelty is when we are searching for new and exciting things. When we find something new or exciting, our brain releases dopamine, which is the chemical that is released to make you feel good. By changing your work location from your desk a couple times a week, or once per day, you’ll get that extra brain boost to be more efficient during your workday.
Besides the facts that changing location have an impact on our brains and motivation, you should also set intentions before stepping outside your cubicle. What do you want to get done while you’re in your new work area? Create your to-do list before you leave the office to make it easier to crank out your work.
Pinpoint Your Most Productive Hours
Everyone has a set of hours that are the most productive time for them. Within these hours, people can crank out work with no problem, but the challenge is pinpointing these hours. During your productive hours, work on the assignments that need your focus.
One way to find which hours you’ll be the most productive is using the Ultradian Rhythm. This method suggests our brains can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes, according to research. In between these periods, you should take a break for 20 minutes before starting the next round of focus. During the peak periods, focus on the work at the top of your list or projects that you’re most excited about.
Another way to maximize your most productive hours is to use the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique maximizes time by blocking out 25 minutes of uninterrupted focus. Before starting the Pomodoro Technique, pick one item to focus on. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on this task without interruptions. Take a five-minute break before starting another 25 minute round. According to research, you’ll become more efficient, productive, and will get more work done using the Pomodoro Technique.
Journaling is another way to find these hours. According to research, you should keep track of your energy, focus, and motivation by using a numerical system. After a few weeks of collecting data, you’ll be able to see when your most productive hours are.
Minimize the Multitasking
When you multitask, does it feel as though you’re getting more work done? If you answered no, you’d be correct. Multitasking does the opposite of what we’d really like to do, which is to get more work done. People often become distracted while multitasking and slows down the timing of finishing a project.
According to recent studies, you can lose up to 40% of your productivity when you multitask. In reality, we have a hard time multitasking and are only able to switch back and forth between projects. However, doing two things at once can be impossible if it requires the same type of brain energy. While we’re busy trying to “multitask,” we’re spending more time trying to finish projects, making mistakes along the way, and not completely focusing on projects that may be complex.
Instead of burning yourself out over trying to do many tasks at once, focus on one task then continue on to the next task. In doing so, you’ll make fewer mistakes, and give a project your complete attention.
With these tips, you’re ready to tackle your next bout of unproductive streaks in your workday with the focus you need to get your projects done.