As a society, we're obsessed with productivity. Any gadget or trick that can help us to get things done more efficiently is something we can't get enough of. Commercials for smartphones, tablets and laptops boast about their ability to let us connect anywhere, turning simple downtime like being on the bus into time spent working. The merits of this obsession can be debated, but these tips and tricks can help you be more productive – without shelling out for a new tech toy. (For related reading, also take a look at Advance Your Career Off The Clock.)
IN PICTURES: Dealing With 9 Coworker Personality Conflicts
- Take a Break
You've probably heard it a lot, but employees who take a break are more productive than those who don't. But if we hear it so often, why do so many ignore the advice? It may be that you're competitive, and want to move up the corporate ladder by being a hard worker. Or it may be that you feel you can't take a lunch if you are going to keep up with those competitive people.
- Bring Your Dog
An article by AOL Jobs discussed the results of a Central Michigan University study that showed people who had their dogs underfoot in the office worked more collaboratively than those who did not. In fact, having the canines around meant an overall improvement in communication between employees. The furry friends led to a more creative and relaxed working environment, and having your pooch around means a built in excuse to take a few minutes to go outside.
According to MSNBC, researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K. found that professionals who spent 30-60 minutes on their lunch break working out experienced an overall performance boost of about 15%. Workers reported better time management skills, an increased ability to meet deadlines, and felt more satisfied with their day.
The study showed little variation based on the length of time spent exercising, or the type of exercise. All that seems to matter is taking that break to get your blood pumping.
- Write a Blog
Writing a blog while at work is generally frowned upon by employers, but writing on your own time can help you be more accountable. Writing in general is a great way to release tension and organize your thoughts; if your blog about your daily professional achievements and goals, it can be a way to keep you focused and on track.
IN PICTURES: 6 Hot Careers With Lots Of Jobs
- Get More Sleep
Anyone who has pulled an all-nighter knows that sleep is important. Getting enough gives us energy, memory and mental clarity. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to weight gain, depression, and even cancer and heart problems.
For those looking for a more extreme way to maximize these benefits, you may consider polyphasic sleep – basically a reprogramming of your sleep cycle to include many shorter "naps", rather than one period of uninterrupted slumber. The result is more time spent awake each day, which in theory could make you more productive. While the exactly number of hours varies, some people are able to move from a sleep pattern of 7.5 hours asleep per day (16.5 hours awake and productive) to four 30-minute naps per day or two hours asleep (22 hours awake and productive). That's quite the increase, but the schedule may not work for everyone.
- Clear Your Screen
When it comes to your computer screen, there's something to be said for the size being just right. PCMech.com reported a study done at the University of Utah, which showed that people using a single 24-inch monitor performed tasks 52% faster than those using an 18-inch monitor. Taking a close second with a 44% speed increase were those using two 20-inch monitors.
In addition, consider the distractions your computer set up is providing you with. Programs like WriteRoom and JDarkRoom will allow you to wipe out any background images or visual distractions on your screen, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
Similarly, instant messaging programs can be a big distraction – however, many companies use these programs for employee communication. To keep yourself on track, set status to busy or away when you are working on a particular task and only message people when you have a specific question or need.
While you may feel like it's your job as a good employee to finish all the tasks assigned to you, it is your responsibility to tell your manager when you're overloaded. If you continue to accept new tasks, management may assume you have the time to complete them. Don't be shy about asking your boss to prioritize your workload and help you offload tasks that can be completed more efficiently by someone else.
The Bottom Line
Keeping up is important, but luckily these productivity tricks all have a general theme: making you healthier. When we feel well, we are better workers, so take a bit of time to take care of yourself – your career will thank you for it. (For additional reading, take a look at Your Employer's Stock: Should You Buy In?)
For the latest financial news, check out Water Cooler Finance: Google Shakes Things Up.