Imagine sighing contentedly at the end of each workday, recognizing that you had been so effective that you had completed everything on your to-do list. And feeling that you were at the top of your artistic game, completing your assignments quickly and effectively. Do you find yourself whistling as you leave the office?
Instead of the alternative version where you end the day exhausted and slumped behind a desk stacked with unfinished tasks, you can be the star of this productivity movie. There is a way to adjust the way your typical workday goes if you don’t like it.
Most of us aren’t as efficient as we’d like to be for two reasons: we have bad habits that hinder our success at work, and we’re reactive rather than constructive, putting out fires rather than making progress toward our objectives.
The solution is straightforward, though not always easy. We can replace our bad habits and reactive behaviors with constructive habits that enable us to control our own workdays. Follow these suggestions for increasing success at work and being your best, most efficient self.
There’s a lot of advice out there telling people not to do mental sludge tasks like answering email or doing repetitive chores first thing in the morning, but to start with the most creatively challenging tasks—which is perfect if you’re a morning person. If you’re a night owl like me, this is clearly not going to work for you.
Tony Wong, a productivity specialist, suggests, “Use your morning to reflect on yourself… Ignore your emails first thing in the morning and focus on eating a healthy breakfast, reading the news, meditating, or working out. This will ensure that you have enough energy to get through the day.” The point is to complete your most challenging tasks during your peak productivity period, whenever that may be.
Stop juggling several tasks.
It’s a huge time-waster. According to studies, the mental blocks that occur when people move tasks can reduce productivity by up to 40%. Even more surprising, some multitasking men’s IQ fell 15 points in a University of London report.
Do you need additional proof? According to a report from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, multitasking can be physically harmful to your brain. The researchers discovered that people who were addicted to using multiple devices at the same time had lower gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is related to emotional regulation and decision-making, empathy, and the brain’s reward response.
So, instead of trying to do all at once, focus on one thing at a time. Instead, greatly boost your productivity by focusing entirely on one job at a time. Consider how necessary it is to hold all of your little gray cells when your eyes and hands start to wander toward something else.
Every night, make a to-do list.
To-do lists are extremely useful management tools. They help you stay focused, give you concentration, and give you a sense of accomplishment when you can cross stuff off your to-do list.
You won’t waste time searching for your task at the start of the workday if you make (or update) a to-do list each night. You might also have a conversation with someone about your list. In his article “What Multitasking Does To Our Brains,” Leo Wildrich, co-founder of Buffer, discusses the importance of this technique:
The to-do list I made didn’t change, but it felt like I had already completed half of it in my head. All I had to do the next day was look at the job and complete it.
Reduce the size of your to-do list
What is the average number of things on your to-do list? How about eight? Is it twenty-eight? You’ll feel good when you finish each one and cross it off your list, no matter how many there are. But, since higher productivity necessitates concentration, you’ll never enter the ranks of the productivity superstars unless you cross off some of them before even bothering to do them.
Being concentrated entails whittling down the choices. When you go through your to-do list each night, ask yourself two questions: What are the most important things on this list?
How many of these critical tasks can I reasonably expect to complete or improve on tomorrow?
Make sure you’re working in a clean environment.
Airborne emissions can be two to five times higher indoors than outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Employers have seen an improvement in workplace efficiency by up to 11% since cleaning the indoor air.People working in well-ventilated offices with low levels of contaminants have double the cognitive function of those working in offices with average levels of exactly the same pollutants, according to a 2015 Harvard School of Public Health double-blind report. Using an indoor air quality monitor system to monitor the air quality may be beneficial.
In a 2015 study in Porter Ranch, California, an example of improved cognitive capacity through air filtration was well known. Any school within five miles was forced to install air filters in all classrooms, offices, and community areas after a gas leak was discovered. The schools had completed academic research prior to the gas leak, which served as a baseline for the investigation. Student test scores improved significantly after the air filter was installed and subsequent academic testing. Student test scores in areas outside the five-mile range remained unchanged, although students in air-filtered schools maintained their higher scores.