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10 Surprising Productivity Hacks That Will Blow Your Mind (And Help You)

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As we move into spring and the weather finally starts to come around it is easy to get distracted from work. But before the slow summer, spring can be very busy for some businesses which is why you need to rev up your productivity level. Luckily, we looked far and wide for some of the most surprising productivity tips to help you keep up at work.

1. Keep making lists, but not in the same way.

When you make a list you probably go from top to bottom, or maybe you start sticking things on the top because you want to get them done first. WRONG. Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Original Miscellany, a compendium of lists, told Real Simple:

Varying the format can make a list far more useful. Start in the center of a page and write items in spatial relation to one another, so that you create clouds of related tasks; draw a Venn diagram for party invitees so you can note how people will interact. During the 18th century, sailors in the British navy would sign petitions of grievance in a circle so that ringleaders could not be identified.

2. Smell flowers when you get up.

Don’t just look at your cereal bowl when you first wake up. You need some beautiful colors in those retinas. Research suggests that exposure to bright colors in the early morning lifts your spirits and energy.

[Learn: Learn to Love Your Job]

3. Take a walk in a park.

In 2009, University of Michigan researchers found that subjects who strolled through a nature setting saw a 20% improvement in attention and focus tests. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds. But people who don’t live in the middle of a nature preserve are not completely screwed, according to the researchers. A slightly quieter street with a few trees can work, or a park, or even looking at potted plants may help your concentration.

[Read: 8 Things That May Be Decreasing Your Productivity]

4. Laugh a lot.

A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. So break out the Louis C.K. YouTube videos and laugh a little.

5. Work at 4 a.m.

Okay, this one sounds a little weird, but some people swear by it. It’s really just the getting up part that’s hard, but once you’re up, you have a lot of peace and quiet while the rest of the world is sleeping. You may be surprised by how productive you can be. Hey if the cast of The Today Show can do it, then you definitely can.

[Read: These Apps Will Make You the Master of Productivity]

6. Buy one color of work socks or shoes.

Try to limit the amount of time you spend on menial decisions like choosing an outfit. Make it a little easier and give yourself fewer choices. You can also do this with meals. Yes, it’s a little boring, but if you find something you like to eat, stick with it.

7. Break up your day into periods of time focused on different tasks.

Daniel J. Levitin of The New York Times suggests breaking up your day into projects if you want to be both productive and creative. He wrote, “If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.”

8. Turn up the heat.

As we all know, the temperature in our office is never quite right. In the summer we’re too cold and in the winter we’re too warm. Well, it turns out being warmer is probably better when it comes to productivity. A study found that when people feel physically cold they feel more alone, and then perceive others to be less caring and generous (i.e. cold). But when we’re warmer, we feel we have more in common with others and act friendlier, which can in turn help our productivity.

9. Don’t Answer All Your Emails

Super productive email don’t check their email every 5 minutes. They may only do it a few times a day. Many of them don’t even turn on notifications. Think how much work you could get done if you weren’t being interrupted by pings and buzzes every other second.

10. Use a notebook

Yes there are about a million apps for making to do lists and writing or recording all your notes but never forget about the simplicity and effectiveness of a simple notebook. Mogul Richard Branson takes one with him wherever he goes.

Photo: Thinsktock


Coworkers #Summer #Office Career Advice Productivity
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I love this article. The concept of rising early use to make me cringe. Now I love waking up while the rest of the world is still asleep, going for a run and being the first person in the office. The less interruptions in the morning, the more you accomplish!

I enjoyed this article, especially Tip #7: Break up your day into periods of time focused on different tasks. This is very important for me!

Great article. I'm excited to try no 1 and no 7

I love the tips about flowers! But I have cats that'll knock them over. :( #levoinspired #levo #amazingcontent

Meg Gerloff
Meg Gerloff

So interesting - #1, #5, and #7 I may try - thank you for this!

Awesome article... No 7 will boost me

As an avid list-maker, I'm definitely going to try #1! Also, I love waking up early, going for a run, and getting one or two tasks out of the way before I even head to work. It's completely changed my life! Thanks for this article, Meredith!

5 and 7 sound like game changers! waking up at 4 may take some practice though...

Thereza Rebouças
Thereza Rebouças

9 - if you say so.. ok!

Great article , for me it's important to debrief every night and match what I did do with what I intended to do. It brings clarity and holds me accountable

Good article. Some employers expect you to be monitoring email though, so you may have to adapt some items.

Hi Meredith,

Great article! I love the way you tackled this productivity hacks list, it changes from the other ones we see everywhere online.

#1 is really surprising though. But when I think about it, it does makes sense to me if you are trying to figure out how your tasks are related to each other. Laying them out does certainly help then.

I think for #7 that using the Pomodoro techniques works quite well for me. Especially when batching tasks together. I wrote an article that focuses on how breaking tasks down increases your productivity, I would love your thoughts about it :) Here it is:

For #10 I only use notebooks when I do brainstorming, as I feel that writing down what's on my mind helps me map my thoughts down. I do use an online task management app with my team though and it makes teamwork so much productive!

Thanks for #2 and #3, now that it is spring I'll make sure to go through the park on my way to the office in the morning!

Theresa Howe
Theresa Howe

Awesome advice. I absolutely agree with the 4 am bit. No one but you needs you at 4 am.

In my opinion n. 3 and 7 would be very useful.

I want to open a YouTube channel that encourages me

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