The ultimate productivity hack is a bit like the Holy Grail — everybody’s looking for it, no one can find it. Or, perhaps, they are ignoring it. There are actually a ton of solid, time-tested and research-backed strategies to increase your productivity at work. Here are 21 of them.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
If you sleep well, you will be in a better mood, more mentally agile, and less stressed. All of these things make you more productive.
2. Sit up straight
Bad posture not only causes pain in your shoulders, back, neck, and wrists, but it also drains your energy.
3. Take breaks
Your brain is not a computer — sometimes it needs a break. Plenty of research shows that breaks are good for giving our brains a rest. But it might go beyond that: one study found that prolonged attention to a single task impairs performance. So when you need a break, take a break.
4. Take a walk
Don’t use your break time to check your Facebook. Get up and take a walk! Walking improves your creativity. It also improves your mood and makes you less susceptible to stress.
5. Take vacations
More than 40% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days last year. No vacation days at all. That’s bad for the tourism economy, and also for their productivity. Even if all you do is stay home and watch Netflix, take your vacation days.
6. Track your time
People are terrible at estimating time, like, really bad. Usually they underestimate (sound familiar?) If you know how long things take you to do, you will be better able to plan and manage how you’re spending your time. Here are 10 simple time tracking apps you can use.
7. Stop multitasking
Just be in the moment and do what you’re doing. Plenty of research shows that when you multitask, you really just do multiple things poorly.
8. Eliminate office interruptions
When you get interrupted, it takes a long time to get mentally back into what you were doing. Often people compensate for interruptions by trying to work faster, which of course leads to more stress and worse results. Modern offices use The Receptionist for iPad to eliminate unnecessary distractions.
9. Turn off your email
Email is one of the biggest interruption culprits. You don’t need to check every message as soon as it comes in — in fact, one study suggests that you can get by just fine checking your email only four times per day.
10. Declutter your desk
Not only does all of that stuff get in the way of you getting things done, but if you have a messy desk, people are more likely to perceive you as lazy — surely not the image you are going for.
11. Help your coworkers
This one may sound funny, but research links helping coworkers to improved vitality and less fatigue.
12. Stand up during meetings
Groups work better in “non-sedentary work configurations,” which is just a fancy way of saying standing up.
13. Be happy
Happy people are about 12% more productive, so do what you gotta do to increase your personal happiness.
14. Don’t work more than 50 hours a week
Long hours will only make you look good if you are being evaluated on seat time rather than on performance. After 50 hours a week, performance declines significantly. After 55 hours, it “falls off a cliff.”
15. Work for 52 minutes, then take 17 minutes off
In one study, this schedule was the secret to the success of the top-performing 10% of employees.
16. Take a nap
After lunch, make time for some shut-eye. It will improve your memory, vigilance, and reaction time.
17. Turn off your music
It might be drowning out your coworkers’ conversations, but it isn’t really helping you focus.
18. Sit by a window
Exposure to natural light can as much as double your alertness.
19. Adjust the temperature
When you’re too hot or too cold, it’s hard to focus on anything other than being too hot or too cold. Research shows that we are maximally productive at about 71.5º.
20. Drink more water
You are probably dehydrated (75% of Americans are). Dehydrated people call in sick more often, can’t process information as quickly, and are less productive. Crazy what a difference a simple glass of water can make.