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In today’s busy world, it seems like we’re often expected to do it all: perform at our job, keep a clean house and spend quality time with friends and family. Often we can over-commit and create mile-long to do lists. Therefore, we all need time to relax and step back from decision making in order to prevent ourselves from feeling overwhelmed and unproductive.
But how can we feel productive without feeling overwhelmed?
The good news is that there are many different ways to increase your productivity, meaning that there’s likely to be at least one suitable method for everyone, from taking breaks to positively rewarding yourself, these methods can help to increase your motivation to continue striving for your goals without facing distractions. Distractions are a normal part of life but they are a major factor in the process of concentration and should therefore be avoided whenever possible when trying to increase your productivity.1
In order to increase productivity, a balance between long breaks, such as a holiday, and short breaks like quality naps can be beneficial. Naps can give you a boost of energy in return for a short break. Particularly for people who work from home, a short powernap can subsequently contribute to even better results later in the day. Research has shown that naps, which may previously have been perceived as bad, are more beneficial than expected2 and even 15 minutes of quality sleep can support the productivity of the brain and the well-being of the body. The important thing is not to sleep too long so that you wake groggy and can’t continue to work productively or struggle to then fall asleep in the evenings.
Technology can help us to capture and process things faster3 and if you use the right IT, it can support you in planning and processing things step-by-step. Technology may not be suitable for everyone but there are a variety of applications – many of which are free – that can be turned to for help with productivity. You can create simple or detailed to-do lists, categorise tasks and even set reminders to achieve certain things at certain times. Again though, it’s all about balance, and turning to an electronic device will always come with the risk of being a distraction factor.
Walking can help to refocus your mind. Four experiments within a research project demonstrated that walking opened up the free flow of ideas and was a simple and robust solution to increase creativity. Walking outdoors had the biggest impact on the participants of the studies.4 Another way to focus on a target is to simply write it down. Whether you use a to-do list of multiple targets or a single task does not matter as it’s the simple act of writing that helps to focus our attention on personal goals. Some people find it easier to achieve their goals if they see them in front of them visually.
If you want to work productively, working excessive hours is not recommended, and research has shown that shorter working time allows workers to be more focused.5 If you work on a project for too long, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain your focus and attention to detail – therefore you should plan enough time for breaks. This is particularly important if you work in an office so be sure to move regularly and get plenty of fresh air. Research has also shown that working under good conditions and enjoying your job increases productivity in itself.6 Even if you enjoy your job though, breaks away from it are still important. Studies have shown that employee recovery during holidays helps to increase their well-being and performance capacity7 and that not taking holidays for several years can have a detrimental effect on your physical health.
Taking care of a home and family can cause as much stress as your paid job, yet you need to be able to relax at home in order to be fit for work. It’s important to remember to take some time to yourself, even when you are at home. If there are jobs around the house that need to be done, it can help to divide them up or to reward yourself consciously afterwards.
Taking targeted breaks is one of the best ways to increase productivity. Breaks don’t even have to be that long as it’s the quality of them that is more important than the quantity and the main objective is to relax your mind and body.
Most importantly, don’t let yourself feel bad if you don’t manage something you planned to achieve more quickly. You don’t have to do everything in one day, and by not putting yourself under pressure, even if a task takes a little longer, you are likely to perform it better and feel better in yourself too.
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