Have you ever found yourself in a rut? Working might be piling up around you but you are looking for every excuse to procrastinate or avoid it? You might be approaching work all wrong. Here are four strategies to get out of your rut and get more done.
Work in sprints
A stereotype exists of the classic overachiever who spends 16 hour days at their desk doing nothing but focused work. I remember being a university student and trying to write a very long thesis for my PhD. I used to aspire to work in 16 hour marathons. In reality, I couldn’t last more than 30 minutes without manufacturing some kind of break to get away from the horror that is writing a PhD thesis. However, it is best to ignore this 16 hour day stereotype when thinking about your own routine as the human brain is designed to be a sprinter, not a marathon runner.
Our energy levels work in 60-90 minute cycles. While a great daily goal is dedicating three or four hours to doing focused, deep work, go with your natural biology which is designed to split that time up into two to four 60 to 90-minute sprints.
Take frequent breaks instead of one long one
If you are in a busy job and already working long hours, you may be someone who can easily get consumed with your busy-ness and “forget” to take a break. Or perhaps you believe you simply don’t have time to take a break. You are attached to your computer, lunch is eaten at your desk while checking emails (#efficiency), and you rush from one meeting to the next.
Research has shown that this style of working has a big impact on productivity. We believe that we are working more (through not taking a break), however, we are actually in a constant state of poorer cognitive performance.
One study showed that the most productive performers worked solidly for 52 minutes and then had a break for 17 minutes. Other research has shown that in contrast to one 30 minute break, hourly five-minute walking breaks boost energy, sharpen focus, improve mood and reduce feelings of fatigue in the afternoon more effectively. And another study found that taking a 40-second “Green Micro-break”, that is, looking at a view of greenery, increased concentration levels by eight per cent.
Get a bit angry at work and can’t contain it? Here’s how best to deal with it. Post continues.
Park on a downhill slope
If you are human, there is a good chance that when you have sat down to start or even continue work on a project, you have felt overwhelmed, not knowing what to do first. Sometimes, it’s just hard to get started.
Even writers such as Ernest Hemingway are not immune to this issue. To help himself find motivation and flow in the morning, Hemingway used to end his writing sessions mid-sentence. It allowed for an easy start the next day, because he could simply complete the sentence and keep on going. Essentially, it’s the writing equivalent of parking on a downhill slope. It tricks our sometimes lazy brain into starting because it’s starting from an easy base.
Switch off ALL notifications
Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” Notifications tempt us. They flash up on our screens and scream “Read me now!!!” One of the simplest ways to break your distraction addition is to turn off all your notifications. This means across all your devices – not just one. Removing temptations helps make it easier to keep focused on the task at hand.
While turning off notifications will probably make you sweat with anxiety for the first few days – who knows that important status update you may miss (!) – in the long run, this is the first step in changing your distraction habits.
Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.