At a time when businesses are reporting a higher output from employees than ever due to remote working, it is worth considering that these increasing workloads and demanding deadlines can actually impact employees’ productivity in the long term.
Working in a fast-paced environment shouldn’t come with sacrifices. We are naturally creatures of habit, and just as we can get hooked on the practice of working around the clock, we can just as easily transform our working routine into a healthier, more productive one by adding healthy habits to our daily ritual. These small but significant changes can help to maximise your output without sacrificing your health.
- Stay Hydrated
A sure-fire way to boost cognitive function is to make sure you’re fully hydrated throughout the day. The average adult body is made up of around 60% water which is necessary to perform basic functions. The brain itself is made up of 73% water so it stands to reason that dehydration can have an impact on productivity levels. Studies have shown that if hydration levels drop by as little as 2%, it can impair cognitive function, focus, and motor coordination. Yes – even those clumsy mornings can be put down to dehydration!
Adults should aim to drink at least 2 litres of water over the course of the day to stay hydrated. If this is a challenge, you can ease into upping your H2O intake with caffeine-free herbal teas and fruit-infused water. Though it might be easy to reach for a coffee when you feel like you need an energy boost, that extra cup of java might be doing your productivity more harm than good. Next time you’re tempted to top up your caffeine intake, try having a large glass of water to see if you notice a difference first. You could be surprised at the difference it makes!
- Recreate Your Workspace
If you’ve noticed your productivity has waned recently, your working environment could be to blame. Much like plants in nature, we require certain environmental conditions to thrive and perform at our best. Small changes such as decluttering your space, adjusting your desk position and even adding indoor plants can make a big difference in boosting mental clarity and focus.
Make it a habit to set up your optimal workstation every morning and you’ll already be starting your workday on a productive note.
- Take Breaks
There is a reason why this advice is featured in most articles relating to productivity. Just like our physical bodies need to rest after a workout, our brains also need a break to recharge and recuperate after working for long periods of time. Too often, breaks are viewed as a threat to productivity, when in fact they are quite the opposite. It’s human nature to strive for perfection, and when we push ourselves to the limit, we are left to deal with the dissatisfaction of feeling unproductive when tasks are not completed to our own satisfaction.
If you find it difficult to take or schedule breaks, a great system to adopt is The Pomodoro Technique. Using a timer, this involves working attentively on one task for 25 minutes and taking a 5-minute break when the 25 minutes are up. While 25 minutes is the base number for this technique, this process can be applied to meetings or calls that exceed the time limit. There are useful apps that can help with the implementation of this technique into your routine, helping you to build long-lasting habits that will maximise your output.
- Keep a Distraction List
We all know how keeping a to-do list can help with our productivity. However, keeping a “distraction list” is equally important. How many times have you been working on a project and you suddenly remember something important like a text you forgot to reply to, an important birthday coming up, or something you need to add to your shopping list? While valid, these thoughts can often derail our productivity and cause us to waste time on issues that aren’t related to the matter at hand.
All you need to do is keep a small notepad or sheet of paper at arm’s reach and write down these distracting thoughts as they arise so you can return to them later. It helps to schedule a time later in the day to focus on your distraction list; whether it’s after you complete your current task or when you’ve finished your last meeting of the day. The idea behind keeping this list is that it prevents your wandering mind from spiralling into a thought cycle and keeps your focus on the work you’re doing.
- Practice Meditation
Arguably, one of the greatest threats to our productivity is stress. Our minds are constantly processing and juggling so many thoughts that we rarely get a chance to process them until our head hits the pillow after a busy day. This process is damaging to our mental wellbeing and can lead to anxiety, insomnia, or burnout if the cycle continues.
A great way to process thoughts, emotions and stress is to practice meditation. In fact, research states that practicing meditation for just a few minutes daily can improve stress levels, mental clarity, and focus. Don’t be disheartened if you find it difficult to begin with - Remember that meditation is a skill so it’s best to start small and build up the time as you improve. Start by practicing one of these lunchtime meditation exercises and feel the difference it can make on your mood and motivation.