Productivity is a big asset when it comes to work. While keeping a consistent and healthy routine can help us fit in all the things we need and want to do, there are many stumbling blocks that can throw us off schedule, shattering our productivity. We might try to get back on track with various regiments, which only make us more stressed and less able to produce.
If productivity seems like an elusive dream, these four simple tips can help you focus and make the most of your time.
Listening to music
Whether it’s working from home or at the office, there are countless external stimuli to make you lose focus. Some consider music a distraction, as it can stir up emotions and cause the mind to wander; but many times music can help you concentrate and improve productivity.
The reason background music is always used in movies, is that it helps to channel your attention to the scene as you absorb the story.
This concept works in real life, as well. A 2013 study revealed that the human mind has two attention systems: the conscious attention, which we have full control of, and the unconscious attention, which instinctively signals to us what our senses detect.
The conscious attention network allows us to direct our focus into what we do. However, the unconscious attention network can be triggered by any number of distracting noises.
Listening to music gives the unconscious mind something to focus on, so it is less likely to wander away, taking your conscious mind with it. Classical music, especially, has been proven to boost productivity in everything from microbes to dairy cows, not to mention hard-working humans.
Tunes with lyrics are best reserved for physical labor, where singing along won’t compete with the task at hand. Especially stressful work may be approached with calming sounds of nature or meditation tracks to prevent over-stimulation.
Getting sufficient sleep
Early risers tend to be more productive, but they generally go to bed early as well. Getting the right amount of sleep can help the mind retain memories, channel our focus, and improve our health and mood — giving us more time and space to be productive.
Moreover, sleeping is also the time where our brains process everything that has been experienced or remembered, archiving them into our nervous system. If you’re feeling irritated or stuck with a problem, sleeping on it actually helps you process the information better than staying up all night racking your brain for a solution.
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Experience the outdoors, indoors
There are plenty of good reasons to keep plants as company, in both the office and the home. In the first place, they offer a welcome visual and mental refuge from the barrage of messages, signs, advertisements, billboards, and other modern “scenery” we face every day — both physical and digital.
Studies show that plants in workplaces promote productivity by a process called “fascination.” When we look at green plants, our brains become fixated without being overwhelmed.
One 2014 study done in the Netherlands and the UK shows that plants boost productivity by 15 percent, while another study in the U.S. found that almost 10 percent of sick days are connected to a “lack of nature and natural light.”
The color green is associated with physical and psychological growth, and it also promotes relaxation for the eyes. Plus, green plants produce oxygen, so they give you fresh air as you work!
Best of all, anyone can enjoy the company of a living plant. They are quiet, yet receptive; unassuming, and easy to please. Try your hand at nurturing a simple houseplant, and you may find that you have both a green thumb and a new friend.
Nutrition and exercise
It goes without saying — a healthy diet and physical exercise can work wonders for the body and mind. Nourish your body with a balanced, nutritious diet, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and whole grains. Avoid junk food, which not only degrades the body, but disturbs mental health as well.
Choose an activity that you find enjoyable and invigorating, and make a habit of it. Long walks, outdoor sports, cycling for transportation, and gardening are all good ways to tone your body and refresh your brain.
The state of cognitive flow
Apply some of these tips and see what works to help you concentrate your energy. Of course, everyone is different. Whether it’s mental stimulation to keep your mind from wandering, a dose of serenity to calm an overstimulated mind, or habits to promote physical and mental well-being, there is a path for everyone.
Bringing our complex brains to the point where we reach a state of cognitive flow is a process, but once you achieve it, you can easily focus on your work and finish it more quickly, giving you time and energy to make the most of life.