We’re halfway through spring, and if you’re anything like me, you’re just killing your New Year’s resolution goals. Just kidding. Me and 80% of other resolution makers gave up sometime around February. But that doesn’t mean we have to wait until January 1st to start over again. With spring comes new beginnings and these nine habits can be adapted any time of year to pump up your productivity at work.
1. GET MOVING. Only 20% of adults in the U.S. are meeting the weekly aerobic and strength training exercises recommended by the federal government. However, regular exercise has been found to significantly boost productivity by helping to keep you focused, kicking up your energy levels and improving brain function. I know finding time to exercise is hard (mom of two toddlers here!) but if you can work consistent movement into your day, your boss, and your health, will thank you for it. There are lots of great fitness trackers out there for every budget. If you’re serious about getting moving but feel like you need something to keep you in line, I highly recommend investing in one to keep you motivated.
2. LEARN A NEW SKILL. Lack of knowledge preventing you from that promotion or from making your next big move? Invest in the time to learn. I know that’s easier said than done, but if you can set aside just one hour a day you’d accumulate 365 hours of dedication to that skill by the end of the year – that’s roughly the equivalent of 8 college classes! There is no time like the present, so grab your calendar, carve out your hour and become proficient in ancient hieroglyphic symbolism or something a little more relevant, like Swift Code. There are tons of great learning resources out there – like Khan Academy, lynda.com, or courseara – just find the right one for you and get learning.
3. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Oftentimes we’re our own worst critics, however, dwelling on mistakes and focusing on the negative does way more harm than good. We’ve all been there – a presentation gone wrong, noticing a glaring typo just as you hit send on an email blast to 20,000 customers – it happens to the best of us. Go easy on yourself, you’re not the first one to make a mistake and you certainly won’t be the last. There are lots of things you can do to be your own best advocate, check out this list of 17 ways to be kind to yourself to get some tips on how.
4. GET ORGANIZED. Time management is the bane of every adult in the United States existence. Between work, home and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, it’s easy for things to start to slip through the cracks. Keep organized with by putting a system in place to prioritize your activities. If you need some inspiration, check out this great list of 10 ways to get on track.
5. UNPLUG. Yes, I realize the irony of recommending unplugging as a way to become more productive at work, but bear with me. When we’re constantly connected we give ourselves no room to take a break or regroup. As a result we become reactionary instead of proactive and lose the opportunity to step back and think critically about our plans, actions or interactions. Give yourself some space. Put down your work phone for an hour each night. Don’t check your work email – or any emails for that matter. Log out of social media, especially if you manage it for your company. Disconnecting will give you some breathing room and let your brain wander. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!
6. DRINK MORE WATER. Yes, water can impact your productivity, who knew? A 2014 study found that mild dehydration can lead to reduced cognitive performance in short-term memory, attention and reaction time. So how much water should you be drinking? A 2003 World Health Organization report recommends 10.5 cups per day for men and 9.3 cups for women. If you’re worried about all the additional trips to the bathroom, don’t be. The extra steps will help you keep you on target for step #1.
7. MAKE TIME FOR “ME” TIME. In the hustle and bustle of doing it all it’s easy to forget about taking some “me” time, but there are a host of proven benefits for your career. Being “on” all the time doesn’t give your brain a chance to replenish itself, says Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. in Psychology Today. “Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.” Furthermore, it’s proven to get the creative juice flowing. Research shows that engaging in group brainstorm activities results in fewer good ideas than when people work on their own. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, summarizes the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”
8. READ. Aside from the many personal gains achieved through reading (like broadening your cultural horizons and increasing your ability to empathize with others), people who read are more likely to get ahead in their careers. “Research has found that people who read get ahead in life but there is no rule book about what you should read. Reading is important in all its forms – it opens doors and makes life easier, so at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you read. What’s more, it really can make you feel good,” said Honor Wilson-Fletcher, Director for the National Year of Reading. Feeling good plus getting ahead? Sounds like a no-brainer to us!
9. REFLECT. With the minutes, hours, days and weeks going by so quickly it’s easy to let time take you (as opposed to taking your time). In the wise words of former 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie, “If you don’t create structure, your time will get eaten up pretty quickly. And the alternative is harsher than you think, because the world will suck it up.” So what does Sam do to claim time back? From 6am-6pm his Fitbit buzzes every hour. Not to remind him to exercise, but as an indicator to take 60 seconds to reflect on the past hour. Was it productive? Why? Why not? Then he takes another 60 seconds to plan out the next hour for maximum productivity. Breaking the day up into shorter increments this way provides space to evaluate how time is spent and set small, achievable goals to make the most out of each day. In a similar fashion, Melinda Gates builds in 15 minute breaks between meetings to “…take some quiet time and close on one meeting before I go to the next. I’m a big believer in taking time to pause and reflect.”
The hardest part about making a change is following through with it. If you need some gentle reminders to help keep you on the straight and narrow try one of the many productivity apps out there. We’re big fans of Be Focused which allows you to customize the timings of your reminders throughout the day. This app is for iOS, but there are a bunch out there for all operating systems.
So, there you have it. Nine things you can do today, or any day, to increase your productivity at work. Is there something else you’ve tried that’s helped you increase your productivity? Let us know in the comments.