How often do you finish your workday feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything? What’s more frustrating, you started the day with a clear to-list! You had a plan! You sincerely intended to get things done… but after finishing the day you look back and find a series of unfinished tasks and a discouraging lack of progress. This is extremely common, so take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Being productive at work is difficult, even for those who are good at time management. Learning personalized strategies for productivity is the key to improving your work situation but many people don’t know where to start. It feels like swimming upstream. But a close analysis of the problem shows there’s one area that can be tackled immediately and result in a significant increase in productivity.
Improve Productivity at Work
Digital distractions – in all their forms – from excessive email to social media, are the cause of so much wasted time. And it doesn’t seem like wasted time at the time. The problem is all the bifurcation; the splitting of something into two branches – or in many cases, dozens of branches. Focus is a one-way track. Concentration requires single-mindedness. –Hard to do when juggling tasks. To tackle this problem, many around the world are turning to a simple tech solution such as the block site chrome extension. This blocking app is easily installable and syncs across every device you own. The app then prods you to select which times of the day you would like to block which websites. This means – for example – you don’t have to deal with email during a time when you’re supposed to be writing a report, or that you can block social media during the afternoon hours you need to be focusing on updating your website. All the choices of what to block and when to block them are up to you. The whole idea might sound simplistic as, of course, you could always disable the app… but the act of downloading an app and choosing to block things at certain times is a form of mental reinforcement. It’s a power play that isn’t entirely symbolic – but does serve to symbolize your commitment to focus, concentration, and productivity.
We know ourselves and we know our weaknesses. For some people, it’s sports or news. For others, it’s social media or email. Whatever it is, blocking it for a few hours when you need to concentrate can feel liberating. The blocking app is free and easy to download, so make that your first move as you begin the mission of improving productivity at work. Using a blocking app may also help you refrain from multitasking which, as neuroscience professor Earl K. Miller notes, is “not humanly possible.” We all like to think that we can juggle a phone call, think about an upcoming presentation, and glance over at email while perhaps having lunch. But it’s self-delusion. The brain switches from task to task and this task-switching is energy depleting. You are much better off focusing on the presentation or the email, finishing it and then moving on to the next task.
Other interesting scientific discoveries related to productivity include color. You might consider adding a plant to your workspace as just seeing vegetation is refreshing. Psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers says that offices without a splash of color – especially those in neutral white, gray, and beige – tend to induce sad and depressive feelings. If you are a creative person, consider adding some sort of yellow background to your workspace. Research indicates that yellow backgrounds help creative people increase information retention… which is obviously important for creative jobs. You don’t want to necessarily paint all your walls and ceiling yellow as that can induce eye fatigue and would probably make most people go a little bit bonkers. Splashes of color in your work area, however, can be a good idea – especially for people working from home – as they are proven ways to refresh the brain. Blue is associated with openness, peace, and tranquility, while as noted, green is also good as it’s the color of growth due to its association with nature.
Finally, the jury is somewhat out on whether listening to music while working is a good idea or not. But for most people, the answer is probably no. Quiet workspaces are generally a better bet unless what you’re doing is something repetitive and doesn’t require much creativity or mental strain. Listening to music while you are cleaning your room would be a great idea but while you’re trying to write an article… a less good idea. Office workers, however, are discovering the benefits of noise-canceling headphones which serve two purposes: they cancel noise so just wearing them can bring you a degree of silence, and having them on also sends a signal to the outside world that you are currently engaged; a “do not disturb” sign of sorts. You’ll notice that all of these suggestions (aside from the ones related to color) involve reducing distractions and creating an environment conducive to focus. The process isn’t going to happen overnight, but the good news is that it’s definitely obtainable and you can start with something as simple as a blocking app.
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