Some people find self-motivation a breeze, while for others, just sitting down at a desk and beginning work on a project is as dreaded as a trip to the dentist. Some people find the fact of finishing a project to be rewarding in itself, while others need to look forward to something that’s not work-related.
But among the most important things to bear in mind is that sitting in front of a computer does not equal “work.” Neither does time spent in “work mode.” You might spend 9 long hours at an office and have little to show for it, or you might spend 2 solid hours at a coffee shop and knock out some quality work.
We all need to learn to follow that maxim that’s become a bit of a cliché – yet remains true: “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” –Easier said than done, right? Well, we’ve been looking into the science behind efficiency and in this article, we’re going to offer you three hugely helpful, research-backed tips that can help you stay focused and avoid distractions.
Hopefully, by putting these three simple things into practice, you will very quickly see noticeable increases in your productivity – and even happiness – as you find a better work-life balance.
Tune Out The Noise!
Some rare individuals seem to be able to work despite whatever mayhem is going on around them. But if you’re not one of these folks (and most of us aren’t), you’ve got to find a way to tune out the noise. Unfortunately, most of us find there are so few quiet places left. However, technology has made silence a bot easier to find with the arrival of noise-canceling headphones. You could play music (especially work-friendly music) with a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, but you can also use them to create a little cocoon of silence.
And while top brands such as Sony or Sennheiser are awesome, they aren’t exactly cheap. Sony’s recent top-of-the-line offering will set you back roughly US$350, while the price for Sennheiser’s Bluetooth Momentum 4 is priced almost identically.
A visit to a gadget price-comparing site such as Tom’s World, however, demonstrates that there are awesome products from dozens of companies that fall in the US$100-150 range, or even cheaper if you opt for in-ear buds, with prices for very good quality in-ear noise-canceling buds as low as US$60. One study found that people working in a quiet environment reported getting 30% more work done over an hour-long period than those working in places where human voices or traffic intruded into their workspace.
(And here’s a tip we’ll throw in ‘for free’ – try chewing gum! Study after study has shown that for many people, there are serious benefits to concertation from the act of chewing gum. According to Scientific American, “The researchers say that gum increases the flow of oxygen to regions of the brain responsible for attention. More oxygen can keep people alert and improve their reflexes. Research also shows that you won’t get the same effect by just pretending to chew gum.”)
Cut Out Digital Distractions!
Another ‘techy’ tool to help swat away the numerous digital distractions that buzz around like so many flies is a website block extension. Computers and the internet are among the most amazing inventions of all time, but they also come with an almost unlimited number of websites – many of which are actually designed to ‘hook’ you. Even without a PC or a laptop, you’ve still got your smartphone, which is equally – for some even more – distracting. Luckily, tools for fighting digital distractions exist. And one of them is found in the form of blocking apps, that cleverly sync across all your devices. Blocksite is one of the higher-rated blocking apps, plus it’s free and allows huge flexibility in what you choose to block and what times you choose to do so.
Students are generally barred from taking their phones into classrooms. But the second a student gets home distractions can turn a 30-minute assignment into a torturous experience. With a blocking app like Blocksite, the student could turn off the entire internet, select certain websites to block, or turn off all notifications and emails. It’s all up to the user. Blocksite is like a gentle gatekeeper: should you forget and try to hop on a site during a time it’s blocked, a message appears saying, “Sorry! This site is blocked! Get back to work!” –Which is exactly what most of us need to return to what we should be doing.
Other ways to block digital distractions include more drastic steps, such as using a device such as the Atlantis, Freewrite, or Pomera DM30. These are just a few examples of machines that only work as a word processor, and are described as a “writer’s best friend” for their restrictive, 100% distraction-free, “word processor-only” functions. Others are turning to “dumb” phones. Dumb phones – from classic brands such as Nokia to new entries such as Light Phone – are seeing huge upticks in sales as some conclude that too many hours of their day are being fritted away staring at a smartphone screen. These last two might sound drastic, but desperate times call for despite measures!
Prioritize Yourself! A Happy, Healthy You is a Productive You!
Dopamine is a motivational chemical that’s produced by your body, but your body needs quality food and good sleep to create enough dopamine. Sleep is incredibly important. While some can get by with five hours of sleep, most of us need seven or more! Exercise isn’t just about losing weight or getting a six-pack, exercise pumps oxygen to the brain, which means faster brain processing.
“Exercise,” however, is a bit of a loaded term. Many people hear the word and immediately think of jogging or hitting the gym. But exercise can be something as simple –yet effective – as taking a 20-minute walk while catching up on a favorite podcast. If 20 minutes is too much, start with 5! Also, don’t begrudge yourself breaks as they are essential to productivity. Many a smartwatch these days comes with a feature that reminds you to “Come on! Be Active!” every 45 minutes or so. Just standing up and doing a few stretches can be helpful.
And finally, science has shown time and time again that we need to reward ourselves when we make good choices. If you hunkered down and got your work done, treat yourself to something that reinforces good behavior. A reward is anything that makes you happy –big or small. Some ‘me’ time watching a favorite show, some social media time, etc. To create good habits, one must set in motion what’s called a ‘positive feedback loop.’ Try these three research-based tips (as well as some chewing gum) and we’ll bet you’ll start to see a difference in your energy levels, productivity, focus, happiness, and overall: you’ll get more stuff done!
You may be interested in: 4 Simple Ways To Work More Productively From Home