This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the ways you can boost productivity. Rather, the following is a list of 3 relatively simple things you can start today/tomorrow that have proven productivity-boosting benefits.
1. Get up earlier than everyone else…
I know you’ve all heard this before. However, “the early bird gets the worm” cliche is so over-used at this point that most millennials don’t even pay attention to it anymore. This Harvard Business Review study showed that students who feel most productive in the morning and were early risers tended to be more efficient, proactive and goal-oriented than the morning-hating folks. Our time of day preferences are called “chronotypes.” While 50% of our chronotypes have been proved to be genetic, the other half is completely up to us and governed by mindset, meaning it is possible to change how you perform in the early hours.
The fascinating thing about our findings is that duration of sleep has nothing to do with the increased proactivity and morning alertness that we see among morning people. But while the number of hours of sleep doesn’t matter, the timing of sleep does. So you could try shifting your daily cycle by going to bed earlier. Another thing you could do is go outside into the daylight early in the morning. The daylight resets your circadian clock and helps shift you toward morningness. If you go outside only in the evening, you tend to shift toward eveningness.
Getting up early and getting on the computer or heading to the office is a great way to limit distractions and get the most mentally-intensive tasks out of the way early, before people start interrupting you. No more “I’m not a morning person” excuses. Get up early and get more done!
2. Stop Multitasking…
The urge to multitask seems to be inborn to all of us. However, this is actually a trained behavior that most of us have learned through hard cramming sessions at school and working at hard-driving, demanding jobs we’ve had over the years. Thankfully, research proves what most of us already know deep inside: our brain performs much better when we can dedicate our focus to less tasks (source). French medical research firm Inserm proved this in their landmark 2010 study that showed most humans need to limit their task load to no more than two things at once, dedicating at least twenty minutes to each task before switching to the other. Once the study participants upped their task load to three items, they proved to be “abysmal” at all three (see more about the study here).
3. Let the light shine in…
We are meant to be creatures of the sun, which is why we’re one of a few species that cannot manufacture vitamin D internally, needing UV rays from the sun to maintain proper health. Also, receptors in the retina of the eye govern our circadian rhythm, which in turn (among other things) governs our level of mental energy via over 20,000 known nerve cells located in the hypothalamus of the brain. When we work in a windowless environment and are exposed to unnatural light, our circadian rhythm is thrown way out of whack and our brains just don’t work as well. A 2013 study performed on office workers by researchers from Northwestern’s Neuroscience Department showed massive shifts in mental performance, energy, sleep quality, and overall quality of life in the participants who were exposed to real light from the sun via an office window, over those who worked under normal artificial lighting:
The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable,” said study co-author Ivy Cheung, a Neuroscience doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. “Day-shift office workers’ quality of life and sleep may be improved via emphasis on light exposure and lighting levels in current offices as well as in the design of future offices,” said Cheung (source).
While windows are easy for entrepreneurs and freelancers to come by, I know some of you might find it difficult to shift your workspace to a window location if you work in an office. Thankfully, the knowledge that most artificial office lighting really screws up our brain and body is getting out. Lighting technology exists that fools our eyes into thinking we’re being exposed to the daylight sun.
See more in the video below:
Main image by Sebastien Wiertz