5 Practical, Easy to Implement, and Science-Based Productivity Tips You Can Start Using Today
Nils Salzgeber, lifestyle coach and co-founder of njlifehacks.com
13 June 2017
There are thousands of productivity tips promising to help you increase your performance and get more done in less time. Just google the term “productivity tips” and you’ll get over 40,000,000 results in less than a second.
Unfortunately, many of these tips aren’t worth very much. They are either too complicated, too
impractical, or simply not based on any real-word evidence or experience.
But that doesn’t need to be the case. Today, I want to show you five productivity tips that are practical, easy to implement, and based on actual science.
1. Take 2-3 Mini Breaks Per Hour
Your brain isn’t built to focus on one thing for long periods of time without any interruptions. A study recently showed that people can maintain their productivity and focus much longer when they give their brains brief diversions every 15-20 minutes.
Apparently, the brain circuits you’re using on any particular task need those mini breaks to refresh and recover themselves. Mark Waldman, a famous neuroscientist and productivity expert, confirms these insights:
“Our research has found that taking 2-3 breaks during each hour to consciously relax, stretch, meditate, or do something pleasurable –even for 10 seconds –will reduce stress, enhance your awareness, and significantly boost your concentration and productivity.”
Now, don’t get the wrong idea here. This isn’t a free pass to check Facebook, email, your smartphone or whatever. We are talking about one tiny little distraction every 20 minutes and we are talking about a healthy distraction.
What would be a healthy distraction, you ask? Here are a few ideas:
- Take a few deep breaths
- Yawn a couple of times and stretch your body
- Look at an object far away (to combat eye strain)
- Look at a nature scenery (whether it’s a short video, picture, plant in your office, or the sky through a window)
What these activities have in common is that they are all highly relaxing and refreshing for the brain.
Oh, and if you’re sitting most of your day, it’s also a good idea to stand up and move around a bit. Joan Vernikos, the author of ‘Sitting Kills, Moving Heals’, explains in her book that interrupting the sitting a few times per hour is a great way to counteract some of the negative health effects of prolonged sitting.
2. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking is a myth. We can do two things at the same time (e.g. walk and talk), but we can’t concentrate on two things at the same time. Rather, we are forcing our brain to switch back and forth between tasks.
This constant back and forth switching, it turns out, comes with a heavy price. For starters, we lose a little bit of time whenever our brain has to switch. Specifically, we lose up to 40 percent of time according to researchers estimates.
Instead of multitasking, start focusing on completing one task at a time. You’ll be healthier, smarter, and more productive.
3. Spend Some Time In Nature
Spending some time in natural environments is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Period. According to research, spending time in nature boosts our immune function, reduces stress, improves our mental health, lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, improves sleep, restores our attention, and lifts our mood.
As far as productivity is concerned, it’s especially the benefits on sleep, attention, mood, and stress that will make a substantial difference.
Let’s just look at one study together. Researchers asked children with ADHD to go on walks in three different settings – one especially “green” and two less “green”. Everything else about the walks was kept as similar as possible. The children took one walk after another (some started with the green first, some with the others) and completed a test on attention after every walk. The test was created in a way so that practice didn’t improve the score.
The researchers summed up the results as follows:
“We compared each child’s performance to their own performance on different walks. And when we compared the scores for the walks in different environments, we found that after the walk in the park children generally concentrated better than they did after a walk in the downtown area or the neighborhood area. The greenest space was best at improving attention after exposure.”
Again, this is just one of hundreds of studies proving the beneficial effects of nature on concentration, focus, attention, and so much more.
If you want to be more productive, simply take some time out of your day and spend it in nature. Get outside for long phone calls. Go on a walk in a nearby park. Spend your breaks outside. Surround yourself with imagery of natural settings by using posters, screensavers, and background images (this study says it works!). Or simply green up your office a little bit…
4. Get Some Greenery For Your Office
Considering the vast benefits of spending time in nature we’ve just discussed, it’s no surprise that having some greenery in your office helps to improve productivity as well. One study from 2014 found that offices decorated with plant life help increase employee productivity by up to 15 percent.
According to the authors of the study, greenery in the office turns the workplace into a more comfortable and enjoyable place, which creates a perfect atmosphere for high performance. We also know that plants filter the air of unhealthy pollutants and make people feel more relaxed, two other reasons that might explain the productivity boost.
Whatever the reasons, make sure you get some greenery for your office if you haven’t already. A simple pot plant will do the trick.
5. Track Your Productivity
Famous productivity guru Peter Drucker once said: “What gets measured gets improved.”
And modern science agrees. When researchers study the effects of a certain intervention, simply telling participants to track an outcome makes them likely to improve. For example, ask people to wear a pedometer and they will walk at least one extra mile per day on average, while improving their overall activity levels by 27 percent according to this study.
You can take advantage of this what-gets-measured-gets-improved effect by tracking your productivity. Exactly how you’re going to do that is up to you. You could measure the amount of words you write on a given day, or the number of sales calls you’ve made, or the amount of time you’ve spent on meaningful tasks.
Whatever you decide to measure, you will quickly realize that the simple act of measuring automatically improves your performance. Sounds too simple to work, but I find it highly effective in multiple areas of my own life. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!
And there you have it. Five practical, easy to implement, and science-based productivity tips you can start using today.
These tips may not look groundbreaking, but they all add up to make your day just a little bit more productive. Best of all, they shouldn’t take much effort on your part, so that you have enough willpower left in the tank for whatever else you’re currently working on.
I hope these tips will serve you well. Thanks for reading. And now, get back to work.
— Nils Salzgeber
This is a guest post from Nils Salzgeber. Nils is a lifestyle coach and co-founder of njlifehacks.com, a blog dedicated to helping people live a better life through relentless self-improvement. He’s on his journey to actualizing his full potential and loves sharing what he learns along the way.
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