It's the start of a new year and you know what that means- time to get back on the grind. A common issue many have is being productive and reaching their full potential day-to-day. How do you make the most out of your day and use your time efficiently? Here we're revealing what experts have to say about productivity, and how to maximize the time you have to accomplish everything you want.
Multitasking- we all do it and think we can accomplish everything at once, but at what cost? According to psychology experts, even brief "mental blocks" that arise from switching between tasks can sacrifice as much as 40% of someone's productive time.1
The processes in our brains that are responsible for decision-making involve two phases: Goal shifting and rule activation.1 In terms of multitasking, goal shifting involves deciding that you want to do a different task instead of the one you were already doing. Rule activation involves turning off the rules for the task you were working on, and turning on the rules for the new task. These mental processes allow our brains to multitask, but when tasks increase in complexity, it becomes harder and harder.1
Humans tend to exaggerate our ability to multitask, which is actually not as great as we think it is.2 The research shows that when multitasking, there will always be a reduction in how fast you perform the actions and how well you perform them.2 Performing multiple tasks at once requires more brain power and can cause interference between different attention and control networks in the brain. Basically, the human brain was just not designed to multitask.2
So if you want to be productive, try devoting your full attention to whatever you're doing, you may be surprised by how much faster you can accomplish things and how much better the results will be.
Get Off of Social Media
Every day, the average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media.3 Social platforms are everywhere and when it comes to getting things done, they can be a major inhibitor.
In a recent study published in Springer Link, social media usage among professionals in India from different industries was analyzed to determine the impact of social media on workplace productivity. The researchers found that productivity decreased by 9% daily due to the use of social media during work hours.4 The study also revealed that most employees use social networks to update themselves on news and current events and to escape from the work environment.4
Basically, social media is a big distraction and can even affect how your brain focuses on tasks, with many researchers comparing it to multitasking.5 If you want this year to be your most productive one yet, try putting your phone down while working and only interacting with social media during breaks, which brings us to our next point.
There is a misconception out there that in order to achieve maximum productivity, you must work as many hours as possible. But taking breaks from work is actually more helpful for productivity than working uninterrupted for many hours. Whether you're doing mentally challenging work, or physically demanding work like leg day at the gym, taking breaks will help you perform better.
Working for too long without a break can affect decision-making and cause "decision fatigue". 6 This is when making too many frequent decisions can wear down your willpower and reasoning ability, leading to procrastination and simplistic decision- making. In other words, if you work for too long without a break, your reasoning and decision-making skills will suffer. Breaks can also help you stay more focused by renewing your motivation to complete a task, especially a complex one that requires sustained attention.6
Taking breaks has been shown to refresh the mind and promote creativity. Stepping away from a task for a bit helps you feel more engaged when you return to it, which has a significant impact on productivity. So if you want to be more productive, ensure you take breaks when performing a complex task for an extended period. Taking a walk outside and changing your environment will help your brain shift its focus and rest, so you can devote your full attention to the task at hand when you return.6
In the digital age, it has become fairly easy to get distracted while trying to work or performing a task. But distractions have a larger effect on productivity than most realize. A 2016 study done at George Mason University demonstrated that distractions actually affect the quality of the final product of whatever task you're working on.7
Researchers carrying out the study assigned essays to college students under interrupted and uninterrupted conditions. The students were interrupted with unrelated problem-solving tasks in 60-second intervals when writing two of the essays and were uninterrupted for a third. The results showed that 96% of the students performed better on the essay when they were not interrupted. The students also wrote fewer words when interrupted. 7
Distractions can come in many forms, so if you want to enhance your productivity, a great start would be to control your working conditions to limit distractions. For example, leave your phone in a different room and out of reach while working. This will prevent you from getting distracted by calls or texts. You can also close all web tabs that are not related to the assignment you are working on. To prevent distraction from noise, consider noise-cancellation headphones.
Take Home Message
All in all, there are lots of ways to increase productivity and get more accomplished. Productivity isn't just about doing the right things, it's also about avoiding all of the wrong things. So put down your phone, focus on one task at a time, take breaks, and place yourself in working conditions that are conducive to success. Follow these tips and you'll be sure to be your most productive self this year.
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