6 Simple and Powerful Ways to
Improve Your Productivity
We are living in a chaotic time. In an age when everything is expected to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and anything less than instant results is deemed unacceptable, even small setbacks can feel devastating. On top of that, the pandemic has thrown us into a hurricane of uncertainty and “winging it.” It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, flustered, or distracted with day to day life. In fact, it is probably a feeling we all have been experiencing lately. I am here to say: take a breath. Slowing down, clearing your mind, and rejuvenating your mental energy are the key to retaining your focus and boosting productivity. Surely, you’re thinking, “easier said than done.” Perhaps, but there are a few essential techniques to help you achieve this and make the most of your time:
These days, we are constantly bombarding ourselves with information. Checking our e-mails the second we wake up, receiving notifications every hour (or more), the list goes on. On top of that, our culture glamorizes multitasking, but it is actually a very unhealthy way to use our mental capacity. Overcrowding the mind reduces productivity and spreads our minds thin, making us less focused and less productive.
To eliminate these distractions, start by not checking any electronics for at least 15 minutes after you wake up and before you go to sleep. Ideally, aim to make it 30 minutes to an hour. This allows your mind to get prepared for the day without being cluttered with thoughts and improves your quality of sleep. While working, minimize information on your computer screen other than your current task. No extra tabs, no clicking back and forth between windows, no e-mail inbox. Additionally, turn off notifications while you are working. Even if you don’t check them immediately, hearing the sound will pull mental energy away from the task at hand. Now you have reduced your mental load only to one task at a time.
Prioritize Tasks Efficiently
Order your tasks in a way that helps you finish projects as efficiently as possible. Having less on your to-do list makes you feel less overwhelmed and improves your focus. Follow the two-minute rule: if something can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Then prioritize creative or other small tasks first. Try to complete one project at a time instead of switching between projects. However, if you are losing focus or getting too frustrated working on a task, just step away and work on something else. It’s not worth wasting your energy to get it done now when you may be more productive if you come back to it later.
Braincat is brainstorming and outlining software designed to help you think better. It guides you though a more effective process of thinking, to help you clear your mind, organize your thoughts, and see a project clearly. Simply input all of your thoughts and ideas about a project, optionally answer the thought-provoking question prompts, and follow the instructions. You will go from small, detailed bits of information and gradually pull the essentials out until you are left with the underlying structure of the task, assignment, or project. This process of thinking boosts your creativity, helps you recognize connections within the content, and allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the issue. Braincat also provides an interactive mind map for you to see the information in a new way. Easily export this mind map or other output formats to share it with colleagues. Use this tool for anything – decision making, a writing assignment, product development, creating an action plan, managing responsibilities, or even emotional processing.
Make Your Workspace Comfortable
If you work from home, always sit (or stand) in a designated working area. Never work in the same place that you relax or sleep; your brain appreciates psychological consistency. Additionally, change up where you work to avoid a monotonous routine; this can boost creativity.
If you work in an office, make sure you feel safe and comfortable in your workspace. Biologically, you will not be able to reach your productivity potential if your basic needs are not met in the workplace.
Scientifically, we are not designed to work for multiple hours at a time. Just as our body goes through cycles while we sleep, our minds are designed to do the same during the day. The best way to maintain your mental energy and stay focused throughout the day is to work in 90-minute intervals with 15-minute breaks in between. I know you’re thinking, “but then I’m working for less time!”. Working this way increases your productivity and speed while you are working, so you should be able to get more done even with frequent breaks.
Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Self-care is the first step to maximizing your brain’s potential. In order to boost focus levels, you must promote your own mental and physical health. Of course, you’ve heard these before: Exercise regularly, nourish your body and mind with a balanced diet, and practice a regular sleep schedule. You should also try practicing mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you feel more in control of your mind and body, and short, frequent meditation sessions can help you master the art of mindfulness. Learning to control your breathing and clear your mind is like exercise for the brain. It will make it easier for you to focus when you need to work and relax when you don’t. Before you know it, you will be feeling less overwhelmed, less anxious, and ready for the next challenge.