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Whether you’re a scatty prioritiser or a consummate daydreamer, here’s how to hack your way to being more productive, today
1. Understand your body’s timetable
Only you know when lifting a biro feels like running a marathon or when you’ve got so much energy you could cartwheel around the office (five minutes before home time, yeah?). Well research shows that, for an effective work day, you should organise your tasks around your natural energy levels.
Try monitoring yourself; noting down when your energy levels are at their peak and when they are at rock bottom (the average adult feels most sluggish between the hours of 1pm and 3pm), then plan your days around this pattern. Complex tasks should be saved for when your energy is at its highest level (maybe first thing in the morning or after your 11am pick-me-up) and reserve the low-intensity boring stuff for times when it normally dips, like in the afternoon.
2. Sit up (seriously)
It turns out our mums were actually on to something! Not only has an upright sitting position been found to increase energy levels and boost our overall mood, but research carried out by Harvard Business Professor Amy Cuddy has found that it increases our confidence levels too (praise be to Cuddy). During her research, she even discovered that those who had spent the day sitting in an upright position were much more likely to ask moderators if they could leave once their task had been completed. What better way to ensure you escape the office in time!
In fact, why not make this your goal and commit to National 4pm Finish Day on Friday, 15th September. Red Bull is challenging the nation to amp up their productivity in a bid to get out of the office earlier and do more of the things they love. Sign up at RedBull.co.uk/4pmFinish to get involved.
3. Track how you’re actually spending your time
It’s all too easy to assume we’re being productive (we’re intelligent, successful people, right?), but it’s only when we write it down and take a long hard look at ourselves that we realise we’re actually, if we’re honest, a bit lazy. We track our steps, our mood and our gym sessions, so why not track our time at work, too.
Use an app like Rescue Time (a personal analytics service that shows you precisely how you like to faff) or a simple Excel spreadsheet blocked out in 30-minute sections, to work out exactly what you’re doing with your working day. You might be surprised…
4. Quit trying to multitask
It just doesn’t work. Sorry. In fact, multitasking has been described by some neuroscientists as ‘Not humanly possible’ (and they’re pretty smart; they should know). This is because we all have a limited amount of cognitive bandwidth.
We might think we can get more done by juggling eight million things at once (taking part in a conference call while checking our Twitter feeds and bashing out an email to a colleague) but the truth is we are probably not getting any of these tasks done efficiently. Our ability to get things done depends on how well we can focus on ONE task at a time, so keep it simple.
5. Make your downtime productive, too
We’re all guilty of shoving aside ‘real’ work in order to take ten minutes browsing through Twitter, Instagram and our favourite blogs (it ‘gives our brains a rest’, OK!?) But if you have to do it, why not make the most of these mini browsing breaks with websites that are actually going to be beneficial for your brain.
Take 10 minutes to watch a short TED talk about something that motivates you. Try Lumosity.com to give your brain a workout. Or visit RedBull.co.uk/Productivity for game-changing tips, hacks and technologies for the perfect work/life balance and inspirational advice from people who really know how to get things done to help light the fire of productivity within you (feel that burn?).
6. Get email savvy
Did you know that answering emails actually accounts for 20% of our working week. SIGH. Try streamlining your inbox to make those 3,000 unopened emails (the horror) seem a little less daunting. Firstly, unsubscribe from everything. Services like Unroll.Me will give you a complete list of emails you’re subscribed to for easy culling.
Secondly, turn off your notifications (research shows that when you’re interrupted from a task it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume it). Finally, create a filing system that works for you. Start by separating emails into those that require action and those that require a response. All other emails that you don’t want to delete should be filed away in clearly marked folders for future reference. And breathe…