In a world full of distractions, everyone is looking for a few good productivity hacks to make their working lives more focused.
You’ll find a lot of articles, books, videos, and conferences on how to be productive. Tips such as getting up earlier in the morning or organizing your things for the next day before going to bed are good ideas, but they don’t necessarily improve your focus during the work day.
You get inundated with emails and meetings requests. Your social media is alerting you all day to things you’re missing out on, and you can’t wait to go out with friends after work. It’s no wonder it’s difficult to pay attention to the task at hand. You’ve got a busy life that is just going to keep getting busier. So instead of telling you to make a schedule and stick to it, we’re going to suggest some simple, yet unique things to try to keep your mind in the game at work. We think you’ll like these.
Revel in cuteness
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we told you that scientists say that looking at cute things can help improve your attention and concentration? Well, guess what; they do! A study published in PLoS ONE showed that looking at images of puppies and kittens improves later performance on detail-oriented tasks. The science behind all this is that your body reacts positively to the large head and eyes of baby animals. You smile and feel more relaxed. Your brain also begins to focus more closely on specific details. This mimics the way caregivers pay attention to their offspring.
So, here’s what we suggest. Do an Internet search for baby animals. Pick seven or eight photos that you think are adorable and save them in a folder on your computer at work. When you feel particularly agitated or unfocused, stop what you’re doing and take a look at the photos. Don’t speed through them. Take time to smile at the cuteness and notice details about the tiny creatures. When you’re done, take a few deep breaths and get back to work. You might find that it’s easier to focus and get detailed-oriented tasks done.
Another way to capitalize on the power of cute is to bring animals to work. Pets-at-the-office policies are beginning to become big perks around the world. There are a few reasons why. First, pet owners may need to leave during the day to let their pets out. This means they’re thinking about their pet instead of working. When pets are in the office, employees only have to take quick breaks, which are known to boost productivity. People who are allowed to bring pets to the office have lower rates of absenteeism. They also report being happier because of the mood-boosting effects of being around animals. If bringing pets to work is something that might work in your office, run it by your manager or HR.
Ditch the productivity apps
You might think that all those productivity apps are helping you out. You’ve got your multiple calendars, your alarm systems, your to-do lists, your client spreadsheets, and your social media schedulers. The problem is none of them sync with the others, they don’t actually work exactly the way you’d like, and the interfaces are sometimes glitchy. Not to mention, you have to stare at your phone screen and swipe between apps to make heads or tails of your day, week, and month.
The solution is analog. Have you heard of bullet journals? They became semi-popular in spring of 2016 and then really took off as the new school year started the following fall. Bullet journals, created by Ryder Carroll, are systems of “rapid logging.” To get the full gist of the system, check out Ryder’s three-minute explanation video:
Basically, you use a journal to keep track of all the information your apps were holding for you—task lists, reminders, notes, data, calendar events. You can also keep daily, weekly, and monthly pages for upcoming information.
The name “bullet journal” comes from the idea that you write down tasks for each day and use icons to label them. There are “to-do” icons, “event” icons, etc. You also keep track of which items you plan to move to another day because you can’t accomplish them as planned. This is especially helpful in the workplace. You can keep track of how often a task gets brushed aside in favor of something else and where your time really goes all day.
There are numerous benefits to the bullet journal in terms of productivity. It’s totally handwritten, so you customize it for your needs—no extra features to flip through or new techniques to learn. It’s a notebook, which means you can use it for things other than tasks. If you’re in a meeting and brainstorm a great idea or want to draw a visual, you have the tool. The one must-have feature to include in your bullet journal is an index that lines up with numbered pages. Anytime you add a page, number it and add it to your index. You won’t waste time looking for that client data or list of potential partners because you’ll be able to find it quickly in the index.
Hack your space
Let’s face it, if you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to be productive. If your chair squeaks, you’ll think about the noise every time you reach for something—breaking your focus and sending you into a tailspin of frustration about the chair. Your workspace has to be conducive for your personal productivity.
Many offices provide the same desks, chairs, and supplies to everyone. But same doesn’t breed creativity or improve production. Sometimes, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands, but it’ll be worth it. This study done in 2010 explains that office workers given the opportunity to arrange their workspace with as many or few plants and photos as they liked were 32% more productive than their coworkers not given the option.
Here are the following things to consider about your workspace:
- Lighting. Can you handle the fluorescent bulbs or do they make you nauseous? What about bright versus dim lighting? Proper lighting can reduce errors and increase productivity. See about bringing some standing lamps into your space to help improve the ambiance. And speaking of lighting…
- Computer monitor. As your eyes get tired, your productivity starts to wane. You really just want to take a nap. There are apps, like f.lux, that will adapt your computer’s display to mimic the time of day and lighting in the room you’re in. This helps improve eye fatigue.
- Temperature. Do you like it cold? Warm? Working productively is difficult if you’re jumping around trying to warm up your fingers. If you have your own office space, set the temperature to your liking. If not, try to come to some common ground with coworkers.
- Music. Some people can work with music, some like it silent. Know your preferences. Sometimes instrumental music helps focus the mind on the task at hand improving productivity.
- Cleanliness. You want your brain to focus on the work in front of you. But, if there are files and garbage and paperwork and sporting equipment and sticky notes everywhere, your brain will focus on that. Trying cleaning your workspace every day before you leave so that you start each day with focus.
Productivity and focus at work don’t have to be something you struggle with. Changes can be as simple as being mindful about what you look at, how you keep track of your day, and how your physical space supports you can be made to boost your attention and keep you in the zone.