Getting a Productivity Boost

Most of us are looking at ways for getting a productivity boost, a way to get more done, to lift to our performance in both quality and throughput. Jandra Sutton writing for Entrepreneur makes five suggestions that can apply immediately and start achieving results.

  1. SLEEP – Well it may seem obvious but getting enough sleep is a fundamental step to our wellbeing and poor sleep can significantly impact our decision making processes. Studies of sleep deprivation have shown that when you are tired, even increasing the time to make a decision will not improve the quality of the decision. 
  2. SET A TIMELIMIT – Based on the ‘Five Second Rule‘ promoted by Mel Robbins who makes the argument that if you don’t act on an impulse in five seconds you wont do it. If you set yourself arbitrary limits to tasks you will get more done – timebox how long to spend on email, capturing requirements, making a decision, If you can’t make the decision in the timeframe you are not ready – so break it into a smaller decision that you can make in that timeframe.
  3. FLIP A COIN – This is really about trusting your gut on difficult decisions. When something can not be decided on facts, you can force yourself to consider the best way forward by simply flipping a coin. If your gut instinct lurches to the opposite decision then you know that you do actually have an answer, so do that. This simple trick will force you to connect to your instincts and consider a way forward.
  4. BE STRATEGIC – Some decisions will benefit from you talking to your trusted advisors, but beware the risks of bringing too many people into any decision. Too many cooks spoiled the broth…
  5. PRACTICE – There are big decisions that require little thought and if you get them wrong they really don’t matter, so practice on them. Don’t mull over what streaming tv to watch for an hour – make a quick decision, chances are the quick decision is the right decision!
Image Credit: Pexels

There is so much written on how to boost productivity – there are literally hundreds of articles just like the one by Sutton. So here is a more academic one from The American Psychological Association who suggests four ideas to boost your productivity to new levels.

  1. GROW YOUR ATTENTION (SPAN) – we are all so easily distracted by phones, email, social media etc.. A recent study identified that the average university student was distracted and switched tasks every 6 minutes. According to Larry Rosen PhD “We may think we are multitasking, but we are really task-switching,” he says. “These interruptions take us away from the task at hand.” You need to aim to build focus aim to work for 15 minutes before changing task or taking a tech break. “We know that after about 30 minutes, concentration starts to decrease, so it’s important to take small breaks to stay focused on your main task” according to Rosen.
  2. WRITE OUT YOUR GOALS – Cheryl Travers PhD is a professor at the University of Leicestershire, she ran a study on how students that practiced reflective goal writing had a significantly higher academic performance. “The act of writing something down seems to make us accountable to a goal,” Travers says. “It also helps people to write their way through a problem when they encounter barriers.”
  3. GET TOGETHER (its harder with CoVID) – The power of brainstorming fires up cognition and the team can reflect on its combined performance and generate innovative solutions to emerging problems and opportunities.
  4. GET OUT (of the chair) – The power of a standing desk or taking a regular walk has been proven in a recent study by Professor Mark Benden (Texas School of Public Health). His study found that individuals using standing workstations and standing for an additional 1.5 hours longer per day, were 42% more productive than those who stayed seated. “By being up more of the time, we improve blood flow to the brain and circulation to the body, and these things combine to make the brain more active and engaged,” Benden says.

Further reading

The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World 
Gazzaley, A., & Rosen, L., 2016

Managing Motivation: A Manager’s Guide to Diagnosing and Improving Motivation 
Pritchard R.D., & Ashwood, E.L., 2008

Evidence-Based Productivity Improvement: A Practical Guide to the Productivity Measurement and Enhancement System 
Pritchard, R.D., Weaver, S.J., & Ashwood, E.L., 2012

Future Time Perspective and Promotion Focus as Determinants of Intraindividual Change in Work Motivation 
Kooij, D.T., Bal, P.M., & Kanfer, R., Psychology and Aging, 2014

Synopsis of an article from Entrepreneur Asia Pacific
The Best Way to Boost Your Productivity Without Even Trying
By Jandra Sutton
Published: 29th October 2020

and synopsis from American Psychological Association
Boosting productivity  - Research identifies small changes that lead to big improvements in performance
By Heather Stringer
Published: September 2017, Vol 48, No 8

Leave a Reply