No one wakes up hoping to have a terrible day at work. A day where nothing seems to get done, but plenty of work piles up.
Yet for most of us, before we know it, lunchtime hits and we wonder where half the day went. A quick lunch and bam! The day is over. That means either staying late, or taking work home... again.
Luckily science has some things to say about how to have a great day at work (or any day, actually).
Tidy Up (or Not)
Your physical environment impacts your performance. Science tells us to pay close attention here: Your environment needs to match your job requirements. But it doesn't say every work environment needs to be the same.
If you have a job that requires following the rules and attention to detail, your environment should be neat and tidy. If you need creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, your environment should have a bit of clutter and messiness to it (really, science says!).
So before you start your day - tidy or mess things up a bit - and make sure your environment is ready to support you.
Take Some Time to Meditate
You knew this one was coming, but hear me out.
Regardless if you need to be tidy or messy - you no doubt will have more tasks to complete than the day is long. Because of that, many of us have to multitask just to get through the day.
(Yes, I said multitask, and I know that flies in the face of every productivity expert out there.)
Practicing mindfulness meditation will increase your ability to stay on task longer. It will help you pay greater attention to detail. And when you do need to multitask, it turns out you'll be less sporadic and stressed in doing so. At least that's what professors at University of Washington and University of Arizona say.
Just Say No
Sometimes, in our quest for career progress and that next raise, we bite off more than we can chew. We take on too much work. We say yes to too many projects. We try and impress with the sheer volume we think we can get through the door.
But when we do that, we become physically and mentally exhausted. And that means performance suffers in a big way because we're carrying such a big workload.
The reason for the exhaustion? Science says when a workday spills into the evening or weekend hours, people are unable to detach from work. Not being able to detach from work leads to stress, fatigue, irritability and burnout. That's according to professors from University of Konstanz and Technical University of Braunschweig.
Better to perform well at a few things, than poorly at many. Learn to say no.
Put Down the Smart Phone
Speaking of disconnecting, in the same study, science found that employee well-being when off the job impacts employee well-being while on the job.
You may think that you'll get ahead by burning the midnight oil and working through the weekend, but it is physically unsustainable for long periods of time. You'll burnout long before you ever achieve that next raise or promotion.
(And even if you do get that promotion, you'll be too exhausted to excel at your new role.)
Instead, make conscious effort to completely disconnect from work on nights and weekends. Shut the smart phone off. No emails. No texts. No phone calls. No thinking about work tasks before you drift off to sleep.
Turn your mind to airplane mode and get away from work.
Set a BHAG
Just when you think science tells you a great day is all about meditation and disconnecting - it surprises you.
If you've been around Corporate America for any amount of time, no doubt you've heard of a BHAG - a big, hairy, audacious goal. It's that goal that everyone laughs at and says, "yeah, right." Setting one - even daily - will result in increased performance.
As it turns out, professors from University of Maryland and University of Toronto have proven that difficult goals result in higher performance. But be careful: A difficult goal is not the same as biting off more than you can chew or taking on too much work.
Remember this the next time you're tempted to let someone else set a mediocre goal for you. Set your own difficult goal which should make hitting the mediocre goal a breeze.