Everyone knows how precious time is, and no one likes to waste away their day, especially when you've got a lot to do. The key is to be efficient when completing tasks, and if you're feeling stuck, you might need some new tricks to improve your productivity, without having to change around your whole schedule. Sure, you would try to wake up earlier, spend less time binge watching Netflix, or skip out on happy hour every once in awhile, but why mess up other aspects of your life when you can make the most out of the time you already have?
"Productivity is more about how you show up for the time you have," says strategic business coach Penny Zenker over email. "We get the best results not when we are in a "get it done" mindset, but a multiplier mindset, which is more strategic. If you were to change the parameters and have to do the job in half the time — how would you approach the task then?"
It can be hard to shift out of your old habits into new, more efficient habits, but luckily, we're here to help. Here are 11 surprising tricks to help improve your productivity without having to change your schedule.
1Use A Timer
"Timers create urgency, focus. and attention," says Zenker. "It's ok to use this as a source of positive pressure to keep your attention directed until the timer goes off. This helps to use competitive energy to get your tasks done faster and gives you greater focus in your efforts."
Distractions are a huge reason we aren't productive, but the first step to getting rid of them is knowing what they are. "Recognize and track distractions so you can avoid and eliminate them," says Zenker. "Most distractions happen because we allow them. Getting clear on what those distractions are can be the first step in a more productive use of your time."
3Take A Power Nap
They're called "power naps" for a reason. Multiple studies have shown that taking a quick nap (usually less than an hour) can increase productivity, alertness, and mood. If you're feeling drowsy and unable to concentrate, you might want to consider a quick slumber.
It might sound counterintuitive, but you can dramatically increase your productivity by initiating mental pauses every 90 minutes throughout the work day. Multiple studies show that taking breaks can increase your productivity, so set aside time throughout the day to check out for a second. "I call these 'productivity pauses' as they amp up your thought processes and your physical wellbeing so you can do more with less effort," says personal development coach Peggy Sealfon over email. "So tune out regularly, and you'll more effectively tune in."
Multitasking seems like the way to go, but it actually can worsen your productivity. "Time and energy are wasted when you switch between multiple tasks or give in to interruptions," says Sealfon. "In fact, studies have shown that when digital interruptions become chronic they take a toll on brain health and can affect memory. The impact can directly affect productivity. You are better served by being totally engaged in one assignment at a time."
6Use A Standing Desk
"Shake things up a bit and change your physical environment," says Zenker. "Work standing to change your physiology. Doing things differently challenges our brain to think differently." According to a study from Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health, standing desks are not only healthier, but they boost employee's productivity as well.
7Hold Yourself Accountable With A Deadline
"If there is not a sense of urgency, create one with a false deadline," says productivity expert Clare Kumar over email. Deadlines are good for productivity, but if you set them for yourself and choose to ignore them, that won't do much. "Tell someone else so you're accountable to them," she says.
A messy desk or office might seem harmless, but it could be taking a toll on your productivity. Research published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that when your environment is cluttered, it reduces your ability to focus. Plus, you waste time when you have to search far and wide for the things you need.
9Sit Near A Window
Sitting near a window can work wonders. Studies show that sitting by a window can dramatically increase workers performance, according to Psychology Today, as the natural daylight can help with alertness. If you're constantly working a in a dark room, you might want to relocate yourself.
10Get Some Physical Activity
Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but it's good for your mental health as well. Research from Leeds Metropolitan University found that when employees from different companies went to the gym during the day, they managed their time more effectively, were more productive, and had smoother interactions with their colleagues — not to mention they felt more satisfied at the end of their day.
11Drink More Water
We all know that water is essential to living, but it can do more than just quench our thirst. Even just mild dehydration can cause fatigue, moodiness, and problems focusing, according to a study from the Journal of Nutrition, so keep a glass of water by your desk and make sure you're adequately drinking throughout the day.