“Productivity” is a word frequently tossed about at board meetings, during employee reviews, in motivational seminars, and between managers. While it’s no surprise that companies want to improve the efficiency and production from their employees, “productivity” is more than a catchword meant to improve the businesses bottom line. Individuals also benefit from improving personal productivity, regardless of whether it’s at work or at home.
On the individual level, productivity is simply having a plan in place to help drive forward momentum even in the face of off-moments and moments of general laziness. Sharpening your productivity will not only help you achieve more in less amount of time, but it can also help you focus on priorities, rather than getting caught up in unnecessary time-wasters.
However, improving productivity isn’t a simple matter of working harder. Most productivity tips are pretty straight forward: getting up earlier, blocking out distractions, automating certain actions, forcing yourself to “just do it” and so forth—all of which does help with streamlining your day. But there are some actions that unexpectedly can help boost your bottom line. Here are a few factors that you may not have considered before, but can make a significant difference in your productivity.
1. Eat well
Often productivity tips are so focused at resolving tasks-at-hand that contribute to a larger goal, they overlook the bigger picture. If you’re running on empty, you can’t be productive, no matter how many automated programs you have running, or how short you’re cutting the meetings. The brain’s primary source of energy is glucose—which is derived from just about anything we eat.
Make sure you’re eating regular meals, and not skipping the in favor of finishing “one more report.” A mix of complex carbohydrates with protein and fat will help keep your energy levels consistent, and can help prevent the dreaded after-lunch slump.
2. Take a break from your workspace/to-do list/task at hand
Contrary to many productivity tips, powering through a task without any distractions may not be the best route to enhanced production. Take a physical and mental break from your workspace by getting up and walking around for a few minutes.
The few breaks you take will help recharge your brain, and few moments of rest may give you the opportunity to come up with a creative solution to a problem. In the long term, a few short breaks here and there will help you improve your output, not diminish it.
3. Add more items to your to-do list by breaking down a major task into mini-steps
While increasing the length of your task list may seem like a quick way to increase your stress, breaking down a large goal into micro-steps that are easy to do will boost your productivity and morale. Rather than overwhelming you with things to do, having many small goals that can be quickly tackled and crossed off will increase your sense of achievement, and build momentum.
Instead of having a daunting, major goal, like “create financial analysis presentation” as an item, you can break it down to small steps like “get numbers from accounting,” and “open PowerPoint presentation software,” and “copy and paste numbers into slide.” These steps are so small it would almost be foolish not to just do them and cross them off the list. And once you get into the rhythm of your work, it’s easy to keep moving forward to accomplishing a lot more than if you procrastinated on creating the entire presentation.
4. Stop organizing
Most productivity advisors would suggest organizing your space, and hard and digital files to maximize efficiency. And an organized workspace does boost productivity. However, once you’re in the midst of your tasks, stopping everything to file and organize is a waste of time. Set up a simple, clean way of tracking tasks and digital files before you get started, and leave the rest of the sorting, purging, and filing to another day.
This may come as a surprise to many, as productivity is often associated with a constant “win.” However, the occasional failure can drive more success and productivity than a steady state of “wins.”
Tackling a task that you know you will fail shocks your brain. Overwhelming your brain with a task that’s beyond its capacity forces it to expand and grow—it’s basically strength-training for your brain.
However, that’s not to say that you want to consistently fail. Brains learn more from successes than from failure, due to the feel-good transmitters that are released at the moment of success. Occasionally pushing yourself to address something that’s beyond your ability, however, will help improve your skills and capacity, and eventually, productivity.
Improving your productivity can help you snag that promotion, finish that novel, start a freelance career, or simple get through your to-do list in a shorter amount of time so that you can spend more time enjoying a day outdoors. Employ these five ways to sharpen your productivity to see results in your work and personal life.