Sujan Patel has championed internet marketing and entrepreneurship for over a decade. His experience, ideas, and strategies have helped hundreds of companies build and strengthen their businesses online. Sujan is VP of marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work--an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.
You can find tons of articles, videos, podcasts, and slideshows that all offer tips and hacks to help you boost productivity at work. The question is, how do you decide which to try out for yourself?
You might want to start with the ones that actually have some scientific weight behind them.
Here are 10 productivity strategies that are backed by science:
1. Sleep More
According to a Harvard health study, getting reduced or inefficient sleep leads to a greater risk of lowered productivity, increased errors, and lower levels of efficiency. While the study has to do with workplace safety, not getting enough sleep inhibits the brain and thought processes from firing at their peak performance.
2. Always Give Yourself Deadlines
In a study by Dan Ariely and his associates (mentioned in this post by Sparring Mind), participants accomplished much more when they gave themselves strict deadlines. Setting milestones for yourself via a calendar or to-do list can help you get more done each day.
3. Exercise Regularly
A study from the University of Essex found that exercise has various health benefits beyond potential weight loss and increased vitality. The study, which covered the influence of exercise and being outdoors on mental health, found that "acute changes in mood are generally maintained for 2-4 hours post exercise, though this relatively short duration of enhanced mood has a positive influence on quality of life, including more social interaction, improved productivity, and better behavioral choices." Aim to exercise in the morning to increase energy levels and to feel the effects during your workday.
Too much work can create "cerebral congestion," according to Scientific American. Taking regular breaks from work during the workday and in the evenings and weekends through walks, reading for pleasure, taking naps, or other leisurely activities can help clear out all the information that we are required to process each day to do our jobs.
5. Listen to Music
According to a study on the effects of music on work performance from the University of Ottawa, study participants who listened to music were found have a better overall mood, leading them to not only be on-task for longer periods of time, but to also complete more creative work. Many people have found that listening to classical music is more effective than music with words.
6. Take a Break
Derek Thompson of The Atlantic found that workers who were utilizing a program that reminded them about their posture and to take breaks did 13 percent better work than workers who didn't. Longer breaks (like a vacation) can also help workers become more focused when they return to the office.
7. Learn How to Touch Type
A Year of Productivity found that touch typing has a significant improvement on your typing output, which is directly related to your productivity if you spend a majority of your work day on the computer, typing up emails or documents. Touch typing (learning to type without looking at the keyboard) can increase your words per minute typed by 50 to 100 percent.
8. Work With Some Background Noise
Just like with music, working with some light background noise can actually be extremely helpful to your productivity. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research (and mentioned by Fast Company Labs) found that when study participants worked with ambient noise in the background, their creativity and productivity increased. Ambient noise apps like Coffitivity and Simply Noise can help give you that productivity boost if you don't want to listen to music.
9. Create the Ideal Office Environment for You
In several studies compiled by DeskTime, positive changes to office environments, such as a second monitor, better ventilation, windows, and a more focused learning culture lead to enhanced productivity. While these changes benefit almost anyone, figure out what other ones benefit you specifically. For instance, creative people may enjoy colorful artwork on their walls, which increases their workplace satisfaction, and leads to better performance.
10. Work in Segments of Less Than 1 Hour
According to a study done by DeskTime (which tracks how much you work on your computer) and published on Fast Company, users who got the most done worked in 52 minute sprints on average, with 17 minute breaks in between. Some tips mentioned in the article include creating a realistic to-do list, prioritizing your tasks for each day, and setting a time to take a 15 minute break every 45-55 minutes or so. Experiment with the time length depending on how much you get done to see what set of work/break intervals work for you.
What other "backed by science" productivity tips have you tried successfully? Tell me in the comments section below.