by Josh Millar
While it’s often useful to look into strategies that can boost overall productivity, these usually require some time to build into your schedule. Even then, sometimes we still need an extra boost to get through a challenging project or a busy afternoon. For those times when you need to supercharge your productivity, it’s great to have a few ideas in your pocket that can help right away. Here are 5 strategies to help increase productivity on demand:
Set a Timer
Especially on busy days, it can be tough to focus on a single task. Unfortunately, multi-tasking often brings down productivity, even though we intend for it to do the opposite. If you catch yourself losing steam and notice your focus on five different things at once, setting a timer can help. Assign yourself a single task — for those really distracted days, you can even write it on a post-it to keep nearby. Then, assign yourself a window of time to work on that task and that task only. This shouldn’t be a three-hour chunk of your day. Instead, it should be a more focused burst. If you have a handful of tasks you’re going to use this method for, half-hour windows are often perfect. If it’s one major project, you can give yourself a bit more time, but try to keep it at or below 90 minutes. You can always return to it in another window, but you should pause at the end of each window to take a short break or work on something else.
Sometimes a drop in productivity is the result of a drop in energy. Many of us are familiar with that afternoon slump that can start to sink in around 3pm. Those are valuable hours of the workday, though, and we need to keep ourselves on track. To combat that low-energy, something as simple as moving your body can often do the trick. While a longer-term strategy may also include looking at your diet and sleep habits, when you’re in a pinch, getting your heart pumping can revive your productivity. Not everyone can head to the gym whenever they feel a bit tired, but most of us can at least take a brisk walk or climb some stairs. These simple activities, done for even just five or ten minutes, can be the quick recharge you need to productively power through your afternoon.
Organize Your Space
Often, we’re asking our brain to work in a similar way throughout the day. There are probably two or three things that you do most often in any given workday. It might be computer work, talking with clients, and filling out paperwork, for example. Sometimes, our brains just need to work in a different way. Organizing your space is a great way to keep yourself engaged and present while giving your mind a different type of task. This low-pressure physical organization can help your brain recharge and the neat and organized result can leave you feeling inspired to get back to work.
Distractions are one of the biggest threats to productivity. In many lines of work, they’re inevitable. We can’t just turn off our phones and email notifications for the entire day, and may professionals pride themselves for being on-call. If you feel your productivity starting to decline though, it’s time to take a look at where your attention is going and where you need it to go. While you don’t need to shut off your phone for the day, you might give yourself an hour of undisturbed time to take your focus back. Closing an office door, exiting out of unnecessary internet tabs, and getting clutter out of sight can all help you avoid common distractions. While you might not be able to keep these things up all day every day, they’re good strategies when you really need a boost.
Take a Break
I often come back to this suggestion because I find it’s one of the more difficult ones for busy professionals to try — and also one of the most beneficial. When you’re worried about low productivity, the last thing you probably feel like doing is stepping away from your work, but sometimes that’s the best thing you can do. Work is demanding for many of us, and giving your mind and body a chance to relax during the day is key for protecting productivity. Many of us say we’re taking a break but bring our phones along, check social media, or talk about work with a coworker. While these things might not be getting work done, they aren’t a true break. If you want to really feel the benefits, take just ten minutes to disconnect. Put all your devices down, take some deep breaths, and get your mind off work. When you return to work-mode, you’ll likely find you’re feeling more productive.
While making larger life changes to support greater productivity is a powerful strategy, sometimes you need an instant boost. These 5 things help me to quickly stop a decline in productivity and get me back to working at full capacity. Do you have any strategies you use to boost productivity in a pinch? Share them in the comments.