Fair warning: You may think I’ve lost my mind after reading this, but science backs me up.
Almost every person reading this works too hard. We are connected 24/7. We work during our commutes, at the dinner table, before breakfast and after dinner. And we may be spending more time to get less done.
1. Get more sleep
Seven to eight hours, and don’t skimp. In study after study, sleep deprivation has been found to lower productivity. In Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation, aggregated studies estimated the U.S. cost of lost productivity due to sleep deprivation at $41.1 billion per year. Add in injuries, illness, and on-the-job accidents, and you’re looking at hundreds of billions.
Workers who get a good night’s sleep pay more attention to detail, have better memory, and are better able to make decisions.
Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and Editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, says more sleep is no less than the secret to success.
2. Take breaks
That’s right, to get more done, you should literally work less. DeskTime studied the habits of their users and found that the 10% who are most productive work 52 minutes at a time, and take a 17 minute break. I know, oddly specific.
Set a time and devote yourself to work for those 52 minutes – no distractions. It’s similar to the concept used in The Pomodoro Technique, which advises 25 minute working sprints.
Scientific study backs the concept of beneficial breaks. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that focus starts to drop after 40 minutes of sustained mental effort.
Cornell University found the same results when they studied insurance company workers in 1999. Working on the theory that computer workers tend to be overly focused and ignore breaks. They developed a program to remind workers to take a break and stretch. The fastest typists showed a 40% improvement in accuracy over comparably skilled workers in the control group, who were not reminded to take breaks.
3. Collaborate more
Millenials are on the right track. Unlike older generations, they are the internet generation – crowdsourcing from birth. Working with a team helps you stay on track and increases your productivity. Interestingly, the productivity boost and other benefits of teamwork apply to collaborative, self-directive teams. Team management has actually been found counter-productive. Teams overburdened by management tend to suppress personal initiative and authoritative action.
Don’t have a team? Me either, I’m a freelancer, and I work (mostly) alone. But every day, I have regular work meetings with an accountability partner, my friend and fellow writer, Cindy Watrous. We start the day by discussing what tasks are on the agenda for the day, then check in at intervals to report progress, brainstorm ideas and talk over career goals. I find that if one of us can’t make check-in for some reason, my productivity suffers.
We’ve all been so proud of it for so long, it’s strange to think that multitasking might hurt productivity, but that’s exactly what Devora Zack, author of Singletasking: Get More Done – One Thing at a Time, says. And she documents solid neuroscientific evidence to back it up. One brain scan study even reveals that chronic multitaskers lose brain matter over time.
Singletasking is simple and easy to understand. Shut everything else down and do one thing at a time. James Hamblin, MB the health editor of The Atlantic says to have one tab open at a time. I just counted mine. 35.
5. Eat right
Eat the right foods. The food you choose can enhance your creativity, sharpen your focus, and help you avoid distracting health issues. And you might even lose a few pounds, which, let’s be honest, would make most netizens feel better overall. Sujan Patel wrote a list of the 15 foods you should be eating for better productivity.
(Source: Life Is A Bowl Full Of Cherries)
6. Schedule your day
Many of us are most alert and productive first thing in the morning, but that’s not the case for everyone. To find your optimal work schedule, keep track of what you”re already doing and figure out when you’re at your most alert. Schedule the most mentally taxing tasks of your day when you’re most focused and awake. Seems like a no-brainer.
Many of us who work online face similar problems as shift workers. Our clients might be anywhere in the world, and that can result in some very strange work hours. It’s not unusual to have bursts of creativity in the morning and again in the evening. And most of us are pretty useless in the middle of the afternoon. Good time for a nap.
7. Use the IoT
There’s no scientific evidence for this one, but it makes sense to put everything on auto. My medicines arrive at my door every three months, my car sends me an email when it needs a service, and now, not only can you order your office supplies online, your office supplies can order their own refills when they run low. How meta is that, when your stuff can order stuff?
All kidding aside, we are becoming increasingly automated, and that’s probably a good thing. Once we grow accustomed to interconnected devices, our machines will pick up a lot of slack – by monitoring home safety for better piece of mind, optimizing heating, cooling, and lawn watering to save money and maintain comfort, and by providing us all the info we need to do necessary maintenance on everything… including our own health.
8. Harness the power of Kawaii
Don’t say I didn’t warn you about thinking I’ve lost my mind. Researchers in Japan studied the effect of cuteness (kawaii) on productivity. You read that right, cuteness. Specifically, baby animals. They found that students performed a simple task much better after viewing baby animals than after looking at either adult animals or pictures of food.
9. Have better sex
You’re paying attention now, aren’t you? Sex is great. It’s relaxing, life-affirming, and it makes you happy. There’s even evidence that people who have sex at least four times a week make more money.
“These days we’re busier than ever, and many people tell me that they’re too tired to have sex. Yet, most people agree that sex is one of the most relaxing and pleasurable activities in our life. It connects us to our partner and helps us feel more confident and alive. When we have good sexual experiences, we feel more balanced, whole and happy. Making the time for ourselves and our relationship is important to feeling good at our jobs, which makes us more productive and successful!” – Lori Buckley, Psy.D., CST., Sinclair Institute
And, let’s not forget that exercise makes you more productive and sex is great exercise. Are you still here? Get busy!
Guest Author: Sherry Gray is a freelance content writer from Key West, FL, currently suffering the burbs of Orlando. She’s a science geek, a business and marketing writer, and an unapologetic fan of all things bacon. Connect with Sherry on Twitter@sherisaid or on Linkedin.