WORKPLACE / AUG. 11, 2016
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How to Boost Your Productivity at Work in 5 Easy Ways

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Have your motivation levels suddenly dropped? Have you lost the will to work and feel like you can’t go on anymore? Don’t give up – here’s what to do.

It’s true: you’re never going to be 100% productive for the entire 8-hour workday – we’re not going to lie to you. But there comes a time when your productivity levels seemingly flat-line. It could be because you’ve found yourself in a toxic work environment or that your dream job didn’t turn out to be all that – there are a million reasons why it happens (and it happens to everyone, remember that).

But the question remains: what can you do about it? Well, that’s where we come in. Keep reading and find out what you can do to boost your workplace productivity and get to the end of the workday like the superhero you are.

What’s to Blame?

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First things first, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way: statistics, numbers, and figures – all the stuff that, let’s face it, not many people pay attention to. But, the simple truth is that these numbers are crucial to gaining a better understanding of the impact various factors have on our workplace productivity.

  • Noisy Colleagues: According to a 2013 survey by Ask.com, 61% of US employees agreed that loud colleagues were the biggest workplace productivity killer.
  • Working More than 50 Hours a Week: Working More than 50 Hours a Week: While many of us work long hours to put in extra work, in the hope of landing that big promotion, it only ends up doing more harm than good. In fact, a 2014 study by John Pencavel from Stanford University found that employee motivation falls sharply after a 50-hour workweek. They also found that putting in an extra 20 hours produces nothing more than what you would at 55 hours.
  • Multitasking: If you’re simultaneously carrying out two tasks, stop what you’re doing right now. Not only does multitasking kill your motivation by up to 40%, according to a 2001 study published by the American Psychological Association, but it also makes you dumb. In fact, Glenn Wilson from the University of London found that multitasking can knock a whole 10 points from your IQ.
  • Sleep Deprivation: In the US alone, sleep deprivation costs companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity each year. On average, one-third of US workers sleep less than six hours – ideally, people between the ages of 18 and 64 should be sleeping between seven and nine hours each day.

Other productivity killers include gossiping, pointless meetings, wasting time on social media and the internet, texting, colleagues dropping by your desk, and smoke breaks. Even office temperature can significantly decrease your motivation: studies show that cold temperatures can increase feelings of sadness and loneliness and that high temperatures lead to sluggishness. The ideal office temperature for productivity is roughly 21°C.

If you’ve noticed that your motivation has dropped significantly over the past couple of months, summer is to blame. And yes, we’re serious. According to a 2012 study by Captivate Network, productivity levels go down by 20%, attendance drops by 19%, project turnaround times increase by 13%, and workers report being 45% more distracted. The bottom line is that employees would much rather be at the beach – and a work environment doesn’t usually allow that.

5 Ways to Enhance Workplace Productivity

There are many things you can do to boost your motivation in the workplace, but we’ve narrowed it down to five of the best. Keep reading to find out what they are.

#1 Do the Boring Stuff First

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We know, tasks like stuffing envelopes and making photocopies can be excruciatingly boring, but someone’s got to carry them out and, unfortunately, that’s you. No matter how monotonous these tasks are (to the point that you want to start hitting your head against the wall – hard), it’s probably a good idea you don’t delay them too much, or ignore them. And that’s mostly because, if you do, you’ll spend the entire day dreading the hell (yes, we feel you) that lies ahead.

If you leave these tasks until the end of the day, you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Quite the contrary, you’ll only make things worse for yourself, especially considering the fact that our productivity levels generally run dry after 3pm.

The best thing to do is to devote yourself to these monotonous tasks as soon as you get into the office. You’ll feel glad you did as you’ll then be able to focus your attention on the more exciting and bigger tasks at hand without having all those tedious tasks looming over your head – which, as we all know, isn’t a particularly exciting feeling.

#2 Get Rid of Motivation Killers

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Bad leadership is a cold-blooded murderer. Lack of appreciation is a heartless executioner. And loud, annoying, gossiping, and toxic people are serial killers. But it’s up to you to slaughter these motivation killers (Disclaimer: we use the word “slaughter” figuratively, not literally).

One of the biggest tricks to boosting your productivity at work is identifying what exactly is impairing your motivation and then addressing the issue at hand. If it’s loud colleagues who gossip about Kim’s latest antics on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, ask them to tone it down a little. If the culprit is office temperature, adjust the air conditioning to a more suitable temperature. If the toxic company culture is to the blame, on the other hand, and you see no immediate solution, you might want to consider looking for employment elsewhere – who knows? Your dream job might just be around the corner!

#3 Watch Funny Videos

There’s no point denying the fact that you’ve spent a great deal amount of time at work watching funny cat videos on YouTube when you should actually be preparing an overdue business report – lying will get you nowhere; we’ve all been there. And if it wasn’t cats fighting printers, it was probably Charlie biting Harry’s finger or something equally humorous.

It’s quite possible that you quickly (and panickingly) switched programs or internet browsers whenever someone walked past your cubicle during one of your YouTube sessions out of fear you’d get caught. Recent research, however, suggests that there’s nothing to feel bad about. In fact, David Cheng and Lu Weng found that watching funny videos significantly enhanced productivity levels.

Their findings are based on 124 Australian students who were split into two groups and were asked to cross out all the “e”s in two pages of text (and you thought your job was boring) while one group watched a clip of Mr. Bean and the other a clip of dolphins swimming. It’s not hard to figure out which group did better, but we’ll give you a hint, anyway: it involved a man getting a turkey stuck on his head.

#4 Take 17-Minute Breaks

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Everyone has that person in the office. You know, the one who seems to get much more done than anyone else without feeling overwhelmed or having some kind of existential crisis. And everyone has wondered: just how do they do it? Before your mind wanders to “superhero”, “God”, or “Wizard” – and I hate to be the one to break this to you – but they’re not Superman, Thor, or Harry Potter. They’ve just discovered the formula for perfect productivity; that’s all.

Time-tracking app DeskTime collected data from its users in 2014 and found that the most productive employees were the ones who took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.

Whether you’re making yourself a fresh cup of coffee, grabbing something to eat, taking a walk around the block, talking to colleagues, watching funny cat videos, or whatever you wish to spend those 17 minutes doing, you’ll feel rested when you return to your desk and will be able to make the most of the next 52 minutes. The trick here is to dedicate yourself 100% to whatever you’re doing: if you’re relaxing, relax 100%; if you’re working, work 100%. Meaning, there’s no “quickly checking Facebook” if you’re supposed to be working.

Meanwhile, you shouldn’t be too worried about setting your stopwatch to notify you when your need to go on your break or head back to your cubicle – the most important thing to remind yourself is to take breaks (and to step away from your desk), full stop.

#5 Take a Nap

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While taking a nap at work might sound insanely counterproductive, not to mention the fact you risk losing your job if you get caught, more and more companies are recognising the benefits of workplace napping. Google, for example, offers sleeping pods to its employees, while Ben and Jerry’s – one of the earliest adopters of the napping-at-work policy – has had an on-site nap room for more than a decade now.

In 2010, National Geographic wrote that napping boosts creativity, improves memory, and makes us smarter. They also referenced the Sara Mednick-led 2009 study that found that people who napped for 90 minutes and entered REM sleep (typically characterised by rapid eye movements, dreaming, and faster breathing) were more than 40% more productive than their sleepless counterparts. But, if you don’t have 90 minutes to spare, don’t worry: in another study, researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia found that a 10-minute powernap “produced immediate improvements… with some of [the] benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.”

Of course, company policy might not allow for workplace napping, and the work environment might be too noisy to even consider catching some shuteye. If this is the case, you might want to consider booking a conference room, heading towards your car, or investing in an ostrich pillow.

What do you do to boost your workplace productivity? Tell us in the comments section below, along with any tips and tricks you’d like to share, and don’t forget to share this article with family and friends!

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