Sometimes though, all that's just overkill.
What's holding many of us back at work aren't massive psychological or logistical issues, it's simple problems like lack of energy, endless distractions, or physical discomfort. Fixing these day-to-day complaints is often easier than you think. Just tweaking your desk to be more in line with basic human needs can result in a big uptick in productivity.
So before you start on a major productivity project, make sure you've mastered the essentials first. Blog Dumb Little Man helpfully rounded up twelve of them recently. Here are five to get you started, along with links to further information on the science behind many of the suggestions.
1. Invest in a plant.
Humans are hardwired to find nature soothing. You probably can't work in a forest to put that fact to use, but you can at least add a potted plant to your desk. Science shows that even the briefest glimpses of something growing and green help us focus and be productive, which is why plants make such excellent desk companions.
"The plant will also help to keep the atmosphere in your office fresh and full of oxygen," adds Dumb Little Man.
2. Improve your lighting.
People thrive near plants. And plants thrive in light. No wonder, productivity is as tightly linked to bright, well lit spaces as it is to natural environments. "In one study, workers with windows in their workplace were shown to receive 173 percent more natural light during their work hours. This gave them an average of 46 minutes of extra sleep per night. As you can imagine, this makes for better health, more alertness and increased productivity," points out the post.
Natural light is best, but if you can't manage to work near a window, at least ensure you have adequate illumination (and try to get outside at least a little during your workday).
3. Add a single Post-it note.
How can a single Post-It boost your productivity? "Write it down on a Post-It and stick it to your computer monitor: 20-20-20! Then, use that new timer of yours to remind yourself that every twenty minutes, you should gaze twenty feet away from yourself for twenty seconds. This technique can help prevent getting eye-strain, which can cause fatigue and other long-term eye issues," explains Dumb Little Man.
4. Bring a fidget toy.
Fidgeting isn't an annoying habit; it can actually save your life. Tapping, twisting and fiddling all keep you moving in small ways. That doesn't sound dramatic, but even these little movements help combat the nasty health effects of sitting, science shows . So fidget away. You might even want to add a few toys like a fidget widget to your workspace to promote this sort of activity, suggests Dumb Little Man.
5. Tinker with the smell.
Caffeine will keep you alert, but it also might keep you up at night, which ends up as a productivity lose overall. Try stashing a little peppermint oil in your desk instead. "Peppermint aroma... has been shown to have a positive impact on memory and alertness," claims the post. "Try rubbing peppermint oil on your neck and temples to ensure you get the hit you need."