The New Year has officially begun. Like every other year, the moment we flip the calendar over to 2020 we vow to be an even better version of ourselves, and that includes our productivity at work and at home. With the amount of work most of us have, finding the best ways to accomplish our never-ending to-do list can be daunting, but we still look for new ways to up our game – just browse the 220 million google results trying to tackle this topic.
Based on the scientific research from my book Micro-Resilience, we can move a few concepts to the top of the heap. Here are five ways you can sharpen your saw in 2020 and be the most productive.
1. Don’t skip your morning workout
Getting more active in January is not a new idea, but this reason may be. I encourage you to make an effort to get active not only for physical benefits, but for the mental benefits, too. Many studies–including this 2014 Stanford study or as far back as this 1987 study–show that exercise has the power to boost same-day mental skills like creative thinking, enhanced memory, and making inferences. Best of all, you don’t need to run 5 miles before work; these studies show that simply getting your blood pumping for 5-20 minutes is enough to reap the benefits. That’s the equivalent of a one-mile walk or dancing to your favorite playlist while your coffee brews. Easy!
2. “Zone” in and batch your work
Make 2020 the year that you ditch the debunked myth of multitasking and put more “monotasking”…into your life! Your current office environment may not be conducive to concentration if you have constant distractions from chatty coworkers, twitter push notifications, and limitless email requests. Disruptions like these can explain why your to-do list never gets shorter, you regularly stay late, or you’re not doing your best work. In some estimates, multitasking and interruptions can easily make things take up 40% longer to complete. In 2020, introduce the “Zone” to your schedule and share with coworkers, too. That means blocking off time on your calendar where you eliminate distractions – such as Instagram, email or even your fantasy football league. Create these boundaries so you can be hyper focused on the task at hand. Make it work better by scheduling time in a conference room or simply letting coworkers know why you’re doing it. You’ll push through critical objectives faster — and actually have even more time to network with them online or off.
3. Remove–or transform–draining commitments on your schedule
If your calendar is anything like mine, trying to find time for your top projects is like playing the old video game “Tetris.” Meetings, busywork and redundant tasks can drain the time from your schedule that would be better used for your top priorities. Review your calendar each week for activities that zap your energy or contribute little to your overall goals; Then you can boost productivity by eliminating, delegating, or modifying those calendar items. For example, brainstorm with your team on how to transform a mandatory but deadly boring meeting into something everyone looks forward to. Can it be streamlined? Made more fun? Done via email instead of a meeting? Sometimes we forget that we have the power to reinvent old systems at work.
4. Take breaks
So many of us feel virtuous when we push hard and work long hours, non-stop. Research shows, however, that our brains work much better when stimulated by movement and brief rest breaks. I challenge you to get up from your desk every other hour and move! One person on my team walks outside during a conference call if he doesn’t have to take notes. (Review the references in #1 for info on movement and brain research.) Decision fatigue, which affects even the best and the brightest, can be offset by looking at nature or eating a snack. Using regular breaks to stay hydrated is another great brain power tip. We tend to forget to hydrate when we have a stressful day, which can result in mood changes like fatigue, confusion, and even anger. So, stop staring at your screen for endless hours and utilize strategic breaks to refresh yourself… you’ll return with more focus, energy and drive.
5. Eat for your best brain power
Finally, our last tip for optimal productivity is to pay attention to what you are eating…and when. While I’m not advising the removal of sweets and heavy foods altogether, you can avoid putting your blood sugar on a roller coaster just when you need to be focused and collaborative with others. Keeping your blood sugar at an even keel throughout the day with low glycemic meals and snacks, makes us less likely to fly off the handle–we have better self control. And more self-control leads to healthy interpersonal relationships, good mental health, effective coping skills, low levels of aggression, and high academic performance. Start your workday with an omelette and sugar-free coffee instead of a bagel and sweet tea… you’ll see the difference for yourself.
Trying to make drastic life changes at the start of a new year often ends in failure. But there is a silver lining: micro-changes in our approach to work and life can have a GIANT payoff not only in productivity at work, but also in living a happier, more fulfilled personal life. Implementing the simple tips above can help you to do better at work and go home with more energy for your family, your community, and even yourself.
Which productivity technique are you going to try first? Let us know how it goes!