Do you struggle to get more done in less time? You are not alone. A Microsoft study revealed most people are unproductive at work -- a massive 17 hours per week out of an average 45 hour work week. 

Over the course of the year, that's over one month (36.8 days) of time being unproductive at the office. Yikes. 

So, what's the way out? How can you achieve peak levels of productivity?

Here are five things science says you should do: 

1. Work according to your internal clock.

Our bodies have their natural rhythms which we can harness to boost productivity. Some people are more energized to work in the mornings (lark) while others work better at night (owl).

Recognizing where you stand helps you get more stuff crossed off your list. You can pack more into each day if you did everything at the right time, when your energy is at its peak.

The Scientific American says:

"Numerous studies have demonstrated that our best performance on challenging, attention-demanding tasks--like studying in the midst of distraction--occurs at our peak time of day. When we operate at our optimal time of day, we filter out the distractions in our world and get down to business."

2. Sleep well and enough

It's probably not a big shocker that science would recommend sleep when you want to get more activities packed into your day? 

However, this is counter-cultural as we all hold the picture of the big-shot executive or the young startup founder who pulls 'all-nighters' and never seems to stop working.

But, Professor Ian Oswald, best-known as "the founding father" of sleep research in the UK, and his colleagues noted that sleep allows the body to rest and repair itself before the grind of another day.

It also improves brain function by replenishing neurotransmitters in the nervous system.

In other words, sleep restores the energy that is used up at the end of each working day, so rest up. 

3. Take work breaks

Do you feel guilty like me about taking breaks when you've got so much to do?

Well, feel guilty no more my friend as it's been scientifically-proven to help you get more done in less time. Yay! 

It turns out that working longer hours is not a sign of efficiency, but working smarter is!

Productivity is about excelling at the tasks that generate the most value, not doing the most tasks.

Like any other muscle, the brain tires from repeated stress. It can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. This was discovered by Nathan Kleitman, a trailblazer in sleep research. He called it the "basic rest-activity cycle." It basically involves working for 90 minutes and resting for 15-20 minutes throughout the day.

Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. He is a huge fan of the 90-minute work cycle. He says it helped him write his fourth book in less than half the time he had spent in any of his earlier books.

4. Listen to music

I'm sure you're wondering how music can help get more stuff done. I mean, isn't it just distracting?

Well, it's been proven that listening to music boosts output, so crank it up. 

Teresa Lesiuk is an associate professor and program director for the Music Therapy program at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. She studies how music impacts workplace performance. 

In one of the studies which involved information technology specialists, she discovered that music enhanced their mood. They accomplished their tasks faster and came up with better ideas than those who didn't listen to music.

While the study didn't specify, I'm venturing to guess they weren't listening to Nickelback.  

5. Get an office plant

I know what you're thinking ... this is starting to get out of hand. But, as they say, it's science. 

In a ground-breaking research, Dr. Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow researchers discovered that the use of houseplants enriches the quality of life of workers and made them 15 percent more productive.

Who would have guessed? 

So, there you have it -- five proven techniques for getting more done in less time. 

What do you do to stay productive? Share your best tips in the comments below. 

Published on: Oct 18, 2017