NOTE: This is a writing sample that I submitted to the same receiver as my previous post on ‘Checklists’.
Have you ever wanted to improve your productivity? Ever realized that you totally just wasted a half a day doing pretty much nothing? Well, here’s a special article for all of you who want to become more productive.
So this article will consist of 3 easy but effective ways of improving your productivity. All 3 of these methods can be done with absolutely ZERO external help of any kind. So without any further delay, let’s start off with:
1) Exercising More
It’s common knowledge that exercise improves your physical health, but did you also know that exercise can increase your capacity for productivity? Yes, that’s right, strenuous physical activity actually has a beneficial effect on your cognitive skills.
The exact processes that happen are by far too complicated, numerous, and varied to go into detail here, but this guy’s article gives you a pretty good idea of one of the basic concepts behind it all. In layman’s terms, your body actually has more energy when you exercise compared to being sedentary. This is because when you exercise, your body increases the production of a certain sub-cellular structure known as the Mitochondria. These little guys are what is commonly known as the ‘Power Plants’ of your cells, and rightfully so, they produce ATP which is the chemical that your body uses as energy. Here’s a simple way of looking at it. The more exercise you get the more Mitochondria you have, and the more Mitochondria you have the more ATP there is. More ATP means there’s more energy to go around in your body, and a lot of that energy goes to your brain which ultimately means now you can pay attention for longer, stay awake without drowsiness for longer, and process information quicker. And there you have it, how exercise improves productivity.
While we’re at it, here’s another study that shows that it also helps with employee motivation, satisfaction, and output capacity when implemented by management in the workplace.
2) Focus on 1 thing at a time, i.e., Don’t Multi-task
This next one might come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s still true nonetheless. Multi-tasking actually hurts your productivity, so instead, focus on doing one thing at a time. You might be wondering, “how can this be” I mean, after all, doesn’t it logically make sense that if you work on 2 or more tasks simultaneously you’re going to get all of them done faster than if you do it in a linear fashion? Not exactly, and here’s why.
See our brains are not designed to focus on more than 1 thing at a time. In fact, if you try to you’ll either do a poor job on all tasks that you attempted to do, or you’ll simply end up having your attention so divided that it actually takes you longer to finish then if you had just put your mind to 1 task at a time. Here’s the American Psychological Association supporting my claim. Just to emphasize, that was a bunch of psychologists, who study the human mind for a living, basically telling people that they should really only dedicate themselves to one thing at a time if you want to get done with all your tasks on time.
3) Reward yourself…when you reach your goals
And finally, we get to our last tip of the day on how to improve productivity which is…to reward yourself when you reach your goals. This tip is basically a 2-for-1 deal. The first part is that you have to set goals for yourself. Which checklists are perfect for! Now when you set your goals there are 2 rules to follow. The first one is to be as specific as possible, and the second is to set challenging or lofty goals. Read this for an explanation why. For those of you who didn’t read that, it’s because setting vague goals means it’s easy for you to get off track while setting easy goals equates to you not actually putting in a legitimate effort.
Now here’s the second part about rewarding yourself, which is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is basically rewarding someone for doing something. The common view is that of giving a dog a treat for obeying a command like “sit” (technically, in psychology, the official definition is much more different and varied, but we won’t get into it here for the sake of simplicity). Well, it turns out that this also works on us, humans. So once you’ve set your goals and accomplished them, go ahead and treat yourself to whatever your heart desires, within reason of course. In fact, the whole ‘positive reinforcement’ thing has been shown to be quite effective in the workplace as well. This article details just exactly how that can happen. Because the employee will naturally want to work harder when he has high morale, a high sense of self-worth, and feels like they fit-in there. Bottom line is…use checklists to set goals for yourself and then reward yourself once you achieve them.