Whether you work from home, in an office, or drive a delivery van, there are simple productivity hacks that apply to just about any job. Sure, some more than others, but the following tips and tricks can be customized to help ensure that you’re getting the most out of every workday.
- Create a Workspace
This may be easier said than done if you find yourself working remotely in a modestly sized apartment or house. Or maybe you commute to a co-working space, or your car or company vehicle is your primary place of work. No matter. There are myriad ways to designate a workspace that is personalized and conducive to productivity.
When space is an issue, and you’re unable to designate a separate room with a door as your at-home office, use simple cues to create a workspace. This could be as simple as setting out a couple of framed photos or other simple décor items to set the mood. If you’re working from a dining room table or couch, set up equipment or tools when you start your day and be sure to remove and store them at the end of the day as a clear sign that it’s time to unplug from work.
- Use Ergonomics to Set Up Your Desk
Setting up your workspace correctly is just as important as designating a space in which to work. Expert Jon Cinkay, a body-mechanics coordinator at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, offers a variety of tips, from positioning your arms and feet to adjusting your computer monitor to eye level. If you use a standing desk, use an anti-fatigue mat to reduce back and foot strain. Cinkay also touches on the right chair to sit in, how to adjust ambient light to protect your eyes, and using other tools to reduce strain.
- Set and Stick to a Routine
Whether in the context of work or life in general, medical experts tout the health benefits, and academics laud the intellectual benefits of establishing and sticking to a routine. From a health perspective, routines can lead to improved stress levels, sleep, and health.
A 2014 Harvard Business Review article highlights the “productivity-enhancing” routines of various geniuses across multiple disciplines, some of which include creating a workspace with minimal distractions, taking a daily walk, setting accountability metrics, and stopping when you’re on a roll.
Whether the habits of geniuses appeal to you, or you already have the makings of a structured day, embrace the routine! Simply waking at the same time every morning, getting ready, enjoying breakfast, and taking breaks throughout the day is a simple way to start.
- Reduce Clutter
Numerous studies show that an uncluttered space leads to better focus. This is especially applicable now that more people find themselves working from home on a daily basis. If you work from a vehicle or shared workspace, decluttering these spaces can be just as beneficial.
A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience reveals that “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation …” In other words, when a space is cluttered or disorganized, it impedes one’s ability to focus. Thus, do your best to keep your workspace tidy and reduce the clutter surrounding it. That way, you’ll be able to focus on job tasks rather than getting distracted by mounds of unfolded laundry in your living room or piles of to-go wrappers in your car.
This one might come as a surprise, but staying hydrated throughout the day could help with focus, promote clearer skin, and maintain energy levels. One statistic purports that a “1% drop in hydration could lead to a 12% drop in productivity.”
To stay hydrated, refill a reusable water bottle or glass at regular intervals. Refilling will also encourage important stretch breaks. To change it up, you can treat yourself to low- or no-sugar beverages, such as tea, carbonated water or juice or snack on fresh fruit or vegetables.
- Listen to Mozart
While the findings of studies are varied, some indicate that music can have a positive impact on the workforce (e.g., calming, mental arousal or activation, and increased motivation); that different types of music might be more appropriate for different tasks or time of day, and that music can be perceived as a perk in the workplace. Still, others contend that music can disrupt attention and concentration, and, of course, every person and group of people (think generational) will have their own music preferences.
However, one apparent area of consensus among scholars and studies is the possible “Mozart effect” — or the idea that listening to works by Mozart while completing certain tasks can have a positive influence on memory, cognition, problem-solving and spatial reasoning. In certain studies, musical compositions by, say, Beethoven did not produce the same results.
- Take Breaks
Fortunately, there’s a good deal of consensus on the benefits of taking breaks throughout the workday. Such benefits run the gamut from helping unclog mental roadblocks to giving your body time to stretch and change positions. According to Psychology Today, “movement breaks” are important for physical and emotional well-being, can prevent “decision fatigue,” help restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and can help consolidate memories and improve learning. Whether your idea of taking a break is a quick walk, stepping out onto the porch if you have one, moving to a different space, or catching a few restorative winks, allowing yourself a brief respite can make the rest of your day that much more productive.
- Enjoy a Healthy Snack or Drink
Speaking of breaks, make sure you set aside time for a meal during your workday, as well as healthy snacks and drinks. Certain foods have special brain-boosting qualities that can help provide an infusion of energy and concentration. For example, try a bowl of oatmeal or an omelet with spinach for breakfast. A smoothie with blueberries and bananas makes an easy and delicious snack. Fresh greens with salmon make for a simple lunch or dinner.
- Work Outdoors
Depending on the time of year and climate in which you live, this might be easier said than done. But take heart, even if frigid temperatures prevent you from working on your small city terrace or expansive suburban porch, just having a view of nature and sitting in a room with natural light can have positive impacts on health and productivity. Biophilia is our biological tendency as humans to “seek connections with nature and other living things.” Studies show that working outside or taking breaks to connect with nature can increase happiness, reduce inflammation, increase energy, improve memory, and relieve stress.
- Practice Mindfulness
When all else fails, or a scheduled break is just not in the cards, take a moment to stretch your body in place and set aside a couple of minutes to practice mindfulness or a quick breathing exercise. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can be done virtually anywhere and has been shown to improve concentration and focus. First, get into a relaxed, comfortable position. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Focus on each breath. When your mind wanders, simply guide your focus back to your breathing. When you’re ready, open your eyes, and you should feel more relaxed and refreshed. If you’d like a little more structure to practicing mindfulness, there are numerous online resources and apps that can guide you.
Kohll, Alan, “5 Data-Backed Ways Working Outdoors Can Improve Employee Well-Being,” Forbes, June 25, 2018.