11 Factors That Affect Your Productivity That You Probably Don't Realize

Some days, we wake up in the morning and just hit the ground running, getting a ton of stuff done. Other days may be less successful. It may seem random when we are motivated and efficient, but there are a number of habits that can affect your productivity, and knowing what habits can help us stay active can make all the difference in how much we do. Anything from our lifestyle to our habits can affect how well we function, so why not maximize our chances of being working well and efficiently by keeping up good health practices and shaping our own environment?

"The habits and things you do every day either put you one step closer to getting more done or two steps back," says productivity expert Paula Rizzo over email. "It’s important to take a look at your environment and your actions and ask yourself 'Is this really setting me up for success?' If you continue to have a messy desk and can’t find important papers or you don’t pack your gym clothes, then you’re not any closer to checking things off your to-do lists."

If you want to start maximizing your potential, consider paying attention to these 11 factors that affect your productivity.

1. Not Taking Breaks

Many people feel like they're wasting their time if they take a break, but not giving your brain a rest can actually make you less productive. "Our bodies were not created to sit for such long periods of time," says productivity expert Penny Zenker over email. "Our brain needs oxygen and movement to be stimulated. "Getting up and getting the blood circulating, getting the energy flowing and even regular snacks are proven scientifically to increase focus and increase self control." One study found that working for 52 minutes and breaking for seven was the optimal work flow for highest performance.

2. Sleep

It's common for people to stay up late and try to push through the day, but no matter how much coffee you drink, it's not going to cut it. "Most people are running on sleep deficit and don’t know how much is ideal for them," says productivity expert Clare Kumar over email. "If you wake up groggy and grumpy, it diminishes your ability to make decisions as well as diminish your will power." Find the right amount of sleep you need — which is usually between seven and eight hours — and actually stick to it!

3. Your Diet

It's tempting to reach for a candy bar when the afternoon slump hits, but eating sugar causes a drastic spike and drop in your blood sugar levels that will leave your energy levels low and your brain groggy. "Instead of sugar, it's better to have good fats and proteins throughout the day as well as carbohydrates," says Kumar. Also, make sure you're drinking water, as even mild dehydration can cause fatigue and problems focusing, according to a study from The Journal of Nutrition.

4. How Active You Are

If you spend most of the day sitting, your energy levels are going to be low. Take breaks and walk around, use a standing desk, or even work out first thing in the morning. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which can increase alertness, according to Livestrong.

5. Lighting

You're probably not thinking much about the lighting in your home or office, but it's important to expose yourself to let throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. "Getting out in the morning can stop melatonin production and give you energy throughout the day," says Kumar. "If you can’t go outside, give yourself a dose of light."

6. Your Open Office

"Open concept offices have an unprecedented level of interaction and distraction which sabotages deep thinking work," says Kumar. "You need to have strategies around focused and productive work time. Schedule it into your calendar and make sure your environment allows you to complete that. That could mean headphones when you're at your desk or relocating to a quiet place."

7. Visual Clutter

"Im not a neatnik by any means, but visual clutter can rise stress levels and prohibit our ability to find things," says Kumar. "Take time to put things away in a meaningful way so they’re not buried in a desktop." A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that physical clutter negatively affects your brain's ability to focus and process information.

8. Work Culture

Pay attention to the culture of your office: Are you being influenced by your coworkers positively or negatively? "It can be challenging if meetings don't start in time or if people are coming to you for last minute requests," says Kumar. "You can only control what you do, so try to become a communication role models. This defines how you want to interact. You get more respected, and this can even help influence culture through conversation and how things are practiced."

9. Your To-Do Lists

Writing your tasks and goals down can be beneficial in actually completing them, but you want to make sure you don't overwhelm yourself by making them too long. "It’s great to do a mind-dump list and get everything out of your head and down on paper, but then from there you must make smaller, more actionable lists," says Rizzo. "Make a daily to-do list and prioritize each item. Determine which tasks need to be dealt with first and put those on a separate list that you’ll use to get through the day." Having a smaller list will set you up for small wins that will boost your confidence and keep you moving from task to task.

10. Answering Calls & Emails

It's easy to get distract with the inundation of constant phone calls and emails, but instead of answering them as they come in, designate certain times of the day to check your inbox and schedule phone meetings. "Take back control and set up appointments to chat," says Rizzo. "That way you will both be focused and more efficient to tackle the task at hand."

11. Multitasking

"Multitasking does not work," says productivity and health expert Marcey Rader over email. "Studies show that trying to do too many things at ones can increase your work time by up to 40 percent. Focus on single tasks to get the job done smarter and faster, not harder and longer."

Everyone has different strategies that help them function best, but knowing what commonly affects most people can help you figure out your own personal habits that optimize your productivity.

Images: Pixabay (12); Bustle