Unfortunately we only have 168 hours in a week and unless you have a magic wand, that’s not changing. So how do we keep up with the increasing demand in our lives and actually get every thing done without burning ourselves out or forgetting half of what we want to accomplish?
Here are my Top 3 Productivity Tips that keep me on the ball with all that I’m juggling in my personal and professional life.
Tip #1: 90 minute sprints of ‘absorbed focus’
Are you willing to admit that you believe you get more done when multitasking? Shocking news!!! Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain. That every temporary shift in attention from one task to another – stopping to answer an email or take a phone call, for instance – increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25%, a phenomenon called “switching time”. Imagine all of the time that’s wasted… just to get that high that you are being super productive! Sadly, not true.
We actually get a lot more done when we crack down and focus hard on one task at a time. Although very challenging, because of all of the distractions that exist (dings, tweets, rings and your internal dialogue), our brain is designed to focus only on one thing at a time! Now most humans have enough energy to have ‘absorbed focus’ for a good 90 minutes, respecting the ultradian rhythm we go through. From high levels of alertness to low levels of energy.
So they key is this: 1. Remove all distractions 2. Focus hard on one task 3. Take a break (a real break, not one on social media) 4. Repeat.
Tip #2: Plan tomorrow, today.
When you get to the office first thing in the morning, do you find yourself pulled into email and then next thing you notice two hours flew by? Now you are feeling ‘off game’ and the fire you had when you first came in is now too dim to attack that daunting project that needs your full attention. Then, you finish your workday being overwhelmed and busy but feeling like you accomplished almost nothing? What the ____?
There are a couple mini tricks that can change this vicious cycle once and for all, so here goes! At the end of every workday, take the last 20 minutes of your day and plan what you will focus on tomorrow. Speaking of ultradian rhythm in Tip #1, we have the most energy first thing in the morning. Therefore, plan to work on your biggest project for the first 90 min’s of your day and no matter what, no matter how tempting it is to just quickly glance your inbox… don’t do it! If someone really needs you, they can call (BTW, executives and leaders are simply alerting their admin staff that they can be reached by phone for an emergency and I’m sure you can do something similar too). Now when you plan your next day, you can also include time to check emails. Personally I like to put emails right after my first short break from my absorbed focus period (around 10:30 am). It feels like a reward! I’m such a nerd. :/
Tip #3: Breathe to renew
I think you are getting the hint through this article that you need to take breaks to be at at peak energy (aka being most productive)! It is now nonsense to push yourself for hours at a time without taking a break. There is no need to be proud of staying at your desk all day and pushing yourself close to burn out, because the consequences are HUGE! Pushing yourself beyond human functioning will affect your level of concentration, patience with colleagues and loved ones, your mood, your decision making, reduce your creativity, create too much cortisol in your body (alert: TOXIN), your sex drive (yep, needed to add this one), affect your food choices and more!
I say work hard and take some time to renew! It’s not the quantity of break that you take, but more the quality of your break. So if you are a workaholic and glued to your desk, at a minimum… every 90 min’s stop and do this short breathing exercise.
- Sit comfortably, feet flat on the ground (eyes opened or closed)
- Breathe in deeply and slowly for 3 seconds, exhale slowly for 6 seconds
- For bonus effect: Imagine as you inhale energy coming into your every cell and as you exhale all the tensions in your body coming out through your feet into the ground
- Do this exercise for 1-2 minutes
For the most part, we all want to bring our best at work and I’m pretty sure we all want to do a good job. Do everybody a favour (including yourself) and learn to manage your energy to that you can be your best self in your personal and professional life.
Julie Richer – Workplace Wellness Consultant/Coach
P.S. I Would love to hear from you. Tell me how helpful this article was. Oh… and let’s not be selfish, share these simple tips. 😉