Feeling unproductive and over distracted? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Living on Planet Distraction is making it increasingly difficult for many of us to remain productive and on task.
Does this matter?
Well yes if you’re interested in maintaining your sanity, your health, your relationships and that elusive being – your performance.
And while it’s true our attention span is shrinking faster than your favourite cashmere sweater that ended up in the hot wash, there are a number of things you can do to restore or improve your level of productivity.
1. Get physical
Yes being more active, staying on your feet and moving more will elevate your level of alertness and attention. It’s no secret regular aerobic exercise primes the brain for better performance by increasing cerebral blood flow delivering more oxygen, nutrients, and stimulating the release of neurotrophic factors that elevate brain health, function and mood. While the experts advise us to do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, adding in additional exercise at work also helps. So look for opportunities to stand up for your brain by using a variable height desk, getting up to move for 10 minutes every hour, holding a standing or walking meeting, and choosing where ever possible to stand rather than sit.
2. Spend time in some green space
This ties in very neatly with number one. If you’re going for a (insert preferred activity) walk/run/cycle why not do so outside with some greenery around you? One studyshowed how a four- day immersion on a nature hike can boost creativity and problem solving by up to 50%. Going green helps reduce stress and cortisol levels, freeing up your conscious mind to stay focused and think well. So why not book that overdue long weekend break now and head for the hills.
3. Take your vacation
Sad but true, it’s reported that Australians have amassed 111 million days of unused annual leave. (Goodness, I think I need to volunteer immediately to help us get out of this dire predicament by taking a holiday.) Fifty two percent of Australian workers failed to take all their entitled leave over the last 12 months and 45% admitted to not having taken any leave (yet) in 2017. What’s the reason for this madness? Some say it’s because they’re too busy, don’t have the cover or don’t have someone they can trust to take over. The trouble is working too hard for too long exhausts mental reserves, putting you at increased risk of high stress, exhaustion and burnout. Stepping back and taking time out gives your brain the much-needed time needed to reset and refresh, and boost your productivity levels.
4. Give your brain a break
If not taking holidays wasn’t bad enough, it seems we’re getting too busy to stop and take a break during the workday as well. Taking sufficient breaks across the day in addition to a quick pit stop for lunch is important, (you DO take a lunch break don’t you?) but up to 25% of us don’t because we feel guilty of slacking off if everyone else is nose down, tail up.
Your brain isn’t designed for long-term focus so choose to uncouple from all that heavy-duty thinking and take some time out. Chunking your thinking time into shorter blocks of 90 minutes and then giving your noggin a well deserved brain break of 20 minutes provides your brain the breathing space required to develop new insight, ideas and be ready for the next chunk of focus.
5. Chill and be still
Rather than stuffing every nook and cranny of your mind with yet more stuff, taking time out to be still and chill will clarify thinking and hone attention. A comprehensive review of mindfulness research reports how mindfulness training could be a useful way of enhancing those workplace processes that require effective leadership and teamwork. Whether you take the time out to simply press pause and think, do a breathing practice or some other form of meditation, slowing down your mind is a great way to boost your overall productivity.
6. Play more
Get better at playing and having some fun. It not only alleviates stress, it can distract you from those things that may have been worrying you, lifts your mood and boosts your overall level of happiness. Research has shown when we are happy we are up to 12% more productive.
What do you find useful to boost your productivity at work?
Do you use just one thing you’ve found to serve you well, or do you enjoy a smorgasbord of productivity delights?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.