Whether it be finishing a final paper, studying for an exam, or turning in an assignment for work, on average most people work between five and nine hours per day. If you’re like most, a “work day” is a mix of work tasks and distractions (e.g. checking emails, watching a quick video, or scrolling social media accounts). Most of us tend to work in a relaxed way, with the majority not working at what researchers would consider “peak performance” levels.
The problem with this is that often this strategy leaves us not getting as many tasks accomplished and often struggling to focus when deadlines may be quickly approaching. As an alternative, taking a “results-oriented” approach, you’re giving 100% when you are working, rather than simply “being busy” with a combination of work and distractions. Wouldn’t we rather give 100% if we are working and ensure all of our tasks get done?
Here are a few quick tips to increase your productivity and decrease the amount of time work-based tasks may take you:
1. Establish an A, B, C list and stick to it.
Each day or week (depending on your preference), creative a to-do list of tasks. These could be steps of an assignment, a phone call you need to make, or any other task you need to accomplish. Once you have done this, identify your A’s, these are the critical tasks you must accomplish each day (you should only have 1-2/day). Your B’s are shorter tasks and C’s are enjoyable tasks you want to complete each day. Not every task is equally important. By identifying these critical tasks, you can focus on achieving these first.
2. Work in short bursts
Many have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, but what is it? It’s about working in short, productive, focused bursts and then taking breaks. All you need to do is get a timer and by doing so, you break tasks that may feel overwhelming to start, into more manageable periods. Once you’ve selected a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, work until the timer goes off, and then give yourself a 5-10 minute break. After 4 sessions or so, give yourself a longer break (treat yourself!). The Pomodoro method allows you to accomplish a lot in a short period while taking breaks and not becoming fatigued.
3. Identify your most productive work hours
Thinking about circadian rhythms, our bodies have natural cycles of intense energies with periods of lower energies (e.g. ultradian rhythms). Using the intense energy periods and setting up 90-minute cycles to focus on work, you take advantage of your natural energy peaks during the day. Working for 90 minutes with 20-30 minute breaks in between have been shown to allow for peak performance in various research studies. Rather than loading up on coffee or energy drinks to push through low energy periods, pay attention to your body’s natural rhythms, rather than having a midday crash, you can maximize your energy levels with your tasks. This will increase your productivity and have you feeling good about both your workload and the fact that you are listening to what your body needs!