Achieving a work-life balance makes for a difficult challenge for the modern professional. It feels like there's never enough time in the day to get everything done, especially on a Monday afternoon on your fourth trip to the break room for coffee.
You're told to use your time wisely, but it seems to slip mercurially away. Reclaim time and improve productivity with these 10 small things you can start doing at work today:
1. Finish Dreaded Tasks First
Complete complicated or dreaded tasks first. Whatever you consider putting off likely necessitates early completion, and the sooner you finish the task, the longer it is before it crosses your desk again.
2. Track Your Time Mindfully
Don't obsess over how you're using your time. Use apps or a spreadsheet to track tasks throughout the day.
Where are you spending too much of your time? When does your energy feel lost? How can you restructure your day or to-do list to get more done and conserve your energy?
Sometimes, all your productivity needs is the power of mindfulness. Time won't feel so mercurial with objective observation and strategic restructuring.
3. Carry a Small Notebook
Smartphones and tablets make life easier, but they tend to lose battery life quickly. Carry a small notebook to capture information quickly: Jot down appointments, reminders and inspiration. The moment it takes your fingers to turn a page and uncap a pin is roughly the same as it takes to access a note-taking app.
4. Create a Meal Plan for Lunch
The time spent deciding what to have delivered or where to travel for lunch is valuable. Plan meals in advance to save time, including creating meals to take to work and deciding where to treat yourself out.
You'll stop losing time every day when making the decision of what to eat earlier. Take an hour out of the day on Sunday to plan out five meals for the workweek, such as making curry chicken salad wraps and chipotle ranch egg salad. Use easy-to-assemble ingredients that stretch across the week. If you bring your own lunch, you'll have more time if you need to work during your lunch hour.
5. Power Nap in 90-Minute Periods
While a 20-minute nap makes you more alert, get a creativity and memory boost with up to a 90-minute power nap. REM sleep happens during 60 to 90 minutes and plays a role in forming new connections in your brain. A nap of 30 to 60 minutes encourages better decision-making skills.
Any amount of sleep between 20 to 90 minutes will improve your productivity, but 90 minutes is the optimal power nap. Stretch out for a nap rather than reaching for your cup of coffee.
6. Work in BRAC Power Cycles
Just as a 90-minute power nap improves your performance, 90-minute periods of work improves your productivity, since your waking life reflects your sleeping life to some degree. BRAC stands for basic-rest-activity-cycle, and if you apply the 90 minutes of sleep to 90 minutes of work activity, you'll see major results. Florida State University found that elite performers who practiced for 90-minute periods and took breaks limited fatigue and optimized their productivity.
7. Like What You Do
You don't have to necessarily love what you do every day to do it well, but the effects of positive psychology reveal liking what you do increases the odds you'll create a beneficial feedback loop to success. A positive mindset allows you to more fully absorb yourself in the work at hand.
What trick will get you into the most tedious of tasks? With mundane work, focus on the meditative act of knowing exactly what you're doing — there's a comfort and mindfulness to it. With more tedious work, take it step by step and zone in on the details, making you aware of the here and now. See yourself in the bigger picture. Sure, writing a boring email feels tedious and redundant, but the process enables your company to keep up and succeed in its mission.
8. Regulate Meetings to Particular Days
Depending on your role at the company, some meetings are obligatory. However, some meetings can be replaced with phone calls, emails or shorter meetings. If an issue can't be resolved within five minutes, schedule 30-minute meetings only on particular days, such as Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Do what works for your schedule and work routine. Scheduling shorter meetings on particular days allows you to optimize your time and productivity to get work done with colleagues and on your own time.
9. Reduce Eye Strain
Follow the 20-20-20 rule to decrease the risk of eye strain while working on a computer all day. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. Prolonged focus on the computer without proper breaks can lead to serious eye strain.
Eyestrain has been proven to lead to headaches and chronic back pain, which can ultimately affect your work life expectancy and ability to be productive at a job long-term. So look away from time to time, and give yourself the break you deserve. A quick fix now will lead to much-needed health and professional benefits over time.
10. Elevating the Two-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule suggests productivity and success rates increase when you tackle small tasks that are doable within two minutes. Many tasks take longer than you think.
Elevate the two-minute rule by using it to get started on projects and forming new habits. Take work in two-minute bite-sized pieces to stay motivated, such as staying on top of emails. If you need to step away after two minutes, that's OK — just know you put in the effort. Keep it up, and soon you'll form a new, productive habit.
These 10 small hacks will boost your productivity levels at the office. Don't live your life ruled by the clock. Reclaim your time and increase your work performance in the process.