Want to be more productive at work? Who doesn’t? Whether you’re an entrepreneur or work at a Fortune 500 company, getting more done in less time is often the ticket to excelling on the job.
Being more productive doesn’t have to be difficult. Keep reading to learn nine simple ways to boost your productivity in five minutes or less. These easy-to-implement strategies will especially come in handy during seasons when it’s tougher than usual to concentrate. (We’re looking at you, summer slump.)
Constant interruptions by colleagues, emails, and text messages can sabotage your ability to focus and leave you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Workers who do the majority of their work on computers switch tasks every three minutes, according to one study. When it’s a minor interruption, it’s no big deal. But when it’s a larger interruption, it can take more than 23 minutes to get back on task.
Here are a few polite ways to let your colleagues know you don’t want to be interrupted.
Wear headphones or a headset, which will make coworkers think you’re on the phone or busy.
Turn on an out-of-office response to let others know you’re working on a project; just make sure to specify when you’ll reply.
When people approach, don’t wait for them to start a conversation. Instead, say, “I’m swamped. Can we talk tomorrow?”
Block time-wasting websites
You probably can’t blame your colleagues for all the times you’re interrupted during the day. Half the interruptions in the study cited above were self-interruptions. Computer workers tend to switch tasks frequently on their own, often without even thinking about it. For instance, you may be composing an email and suddenly find yourself scrolling through Facebook. Sound familiar?
It’s no wonder we’re prone to distraction when we’re a click away from social media platforms designed to be addictive. Want to stop interrupting yourself? Make it harder to go to the websites you habitually visit. Turn off notifications on your devices and place your phone out of sight. If you use Firefox or Chrome, download Leechblock, a free extension that blocks up to six sites at times you specify. SelfControl, Freedom, Anti-Social, RescueTime, Cold Turkey, and StayFocusd are similar tools that block distractions.
Make a to-do list Even with thousands of time-management apps on the market, it’s hard to beat the humble checklist to clarify what needs to get done. Yes, it’s an ancient technology, but it works. Grab a pen and paper and use these tips to ensure you get the best results from your to-do list.
Set a timer
Are you procrastinating on an important work project? Your amygdala may be to blame. The amygdala is the ancient part of the brain that scans the environment for danger. Your project may not present the same threat as a charging mountain lion. But that doesn’t mean it’s not scary. Perhaps you’re afraid to fail, waste your time, disappoint your boss, or let down your colleagues.
It seems paradoxical, but breaks may be the secret sauce of productivity. The Draugiem Group, a collection of companies in Latvia, tracked their employees and discovered the most productive employees took the most breaks. On average, high performers took a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes they worked. The brain is designed to go through periods of focus and unfocus. When you begin to feel agitated, frustrated, or bored, take that as a cue to step away from your desk for a few minutes. You’ll come back more refreshed.
The human brain loves novelty. New environments stimulate the release of dopamine, which doesn’t just make you feel good. It motivates you to search harder for a reward. Novelty has been shown to increase the brain’s ability to learn new concepts and facts and improve memory. Stuck at the office? Change the lighting or find an empty conference room.
People aren’t machines, and everyone has times when they’re not as productive as they’d like. But an energy slump doesn’t need to derail your day. Try these easy-to-implement tips to get back on track in five minutes or less.
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