Against the Grain: 50 Unconventional Ways to Increase Productivity

Friday, January 4, 2008 at 1:36am by Site Administrator

With the huge number of programs, books and websites claiming to help you boost your productivity, there really isn’t any dearth of information out there when it comes to finding ways to get more done in a day. Yet for some, these tips simply don’t fit the way they work. While these tips may not work for everyone, for those who have tried just about everything else, there’s no harm in trying a few more things. Here are a few less conventional ways you can help boost your productivity.

  1. Work in sync with your body. Many people think that in order to be productive that they need to work set hours, from 9-5 usually, or that they need to get up at the crack of dawn to get started. Unless you’re a serious lover of mornings, this may not be the best route for you. Work at times you’ll know you’ll be able to get the most things done, when you’re the most alert, happiest, and at your energy peak.
  2. Eat better. Studies have shown that certain foods can actually help you be more productive. So for a boost of energy and just to keep yourself in good health in general fill up on whole grains and fruits like blueberries.
  3. Have layered to-do lists. Most productivity sites advocate making to-do lists, but you can take it to another level by layering them. Have a master project list and within that list several smaller to-do lists so you keep track of the smaller things without losing sight of the big picture.
  4. Take a break. It seems odd that you can aid your productivity by not actually doing anything but so long as your day doesn’t turn into one long break you can actually give yourself a boost by taking a few minutes for yourself every few hours so you don’t get bogged down.
  5. Decorate your office. There is nothing less motivational than working in a plain white room or a dingy gray cubicle. Spice up your work area with organizational products, photos of family, and if you can, even a new coat of paint in a color that makes you happy.
  6. Crank up the tunes. Many people find music distracting when they are working, but for some it provides the mood lift and energy that they need to get more done. Choose your tunes carefully as some will work better than others at getting you in gear.
  7. Listen to motivational tapes. When you’re not working, use a little of your free time when you’re preparing dinner, driving around, or running errands to listen to books or speeches by people who inspire you. They can give you the motivation you need to find your own success and see a little more of where your work fits in with your life.
  8. Go on an information diet. The Internet is full of information and resources, much more than you could ever possibly use. For this reason, it can also be a huge source of distraction. Pare down your daily reading so you have more time to concentrate on what you should be getting done instead of distracting your mind with thoughts of other things.
  9. Take a nap. Feeling sluggish and like you just can’t concentrate on your work? A nap may be just what you need. Most people experience a mid-day slump, so if you’re feeling pooped, don’t try to force yourself to work. Take a cue from the Spanish and give yourself a little siesta.
  10. Have fun. Chances are pretty good that if your find your work to be a horrible drudgery that makes your life a living hell, you aren’t going to be too motivated to do much of anything on the job. Try to make your job as fun as it is possible to make it. Listen to music, make finishing tasks a game, and tell yourself little jokes throughout the day to keep your mood on the light side.
  11. Go slow. Slowing down to get more done may sound completely silly, but it can work. You may be going more slowly, but the slackened pace will help you to concentrate on what you’re doing more fully and keep you from making mistakes. Plus, you’ll feel less stressed out as you’re completing your tasks.
  12. Challenge yourself. If you find your work boring and lack motivation, try making your work a little harder than it needs to be. It will keep it interesting and allow you to improve your skills and learn new things you wouldn’t otherwise.
  13. Decaffeinate. Drinking a cup of coffee (or ten) may be a quick fix to your productivity issues, but in the long run it can actually make you get less done as you get jittery or experience the post-caffeine drop. Avoid using coffee or other caffeinated beverages as a crutch. Instead, try waking up by eating a hearty breakfast.
  14. Procrastinate. Procrastination isn’t always your enemy. It just depends on how you do it. Some kinds of procrastination can actually be helpful. For instance, if you put off one kind of work for another you’re still getting things done, even if they’re not the ones you planned on. Plus, sometimes your mind just needs a break. So long as it’s not a habit, it won’t be your undoing, and can help improve your concentration when you do get back to the job.
  15. Get lovey dovey. Bringing a little romance into your life can be a great way to nudge yourself into productivity mode. Chances are that if you have a sweetie you’ll want to knock out those pesky assignments and projects quicker than ever so you’ll have more time to spend cuddling.
  16. Use minimal programs. Sometimes the most feature laden programs aren’t always the best for those looking to get more done. Fancy animations and add-ons looks neat, but can be very visually distracting. Try using programs like jdarkroom, a basic text editor, that are pared down to the bare essentials to eliminate all those pesky features.
  17. Pick up the phone. Emails sometimes give the illusion of taking less time but depending on what you need to say it can actually be easier, and more time efficient to simply pick up the phone and give your clients or boss a ring. This will prevent numerous emails going back and forth for a simple conversation on the phone.
  18. Randomize. Spice up your task list by doing tasks randomly off the list. This way, you won’t know if you’re getting something big or little or something that you like doing or don’t so you won’t be able to avoid any particular task.
  19. Start out by being terrible. If you’re having some trouble getting started on a big report or even writing an article for your blog, start out by just putting down everything that comes to mind no matter how terrible. Once you get that out, you’ll have nowhere to go but up, and at least you’ll have something to work with.
  20. Cut corners. There are some parts of projects that may just not really be necessary. It may sound more lazy than productive, but if you don’t really need to be doing something you shouldn’t be wasting your time on it. Eliminate things that aren’t as important to concentrate on things that are.
  21. Have a snack. Having a snack can help give you a bit of a boost and keep your blood sugar from getting low and you from getting sluggish. Healthy foods are the best snacks, of course, but if you’re feeling like you need it, let yourself have a bit of chocolate or another treat you really enjoy.
  22. Pet your pet. For those working at home, spending time with a pet can be a big productivity booster, and it will give you and your pet some much needed time together. Stroking the fur of your puppy, kitty, rabbit or other furry friend can lighten your mood and make you feel better when you sit back down to work.
  23. Take a vacation. If you feel you could be headed for total burnout don’t hesitate to take a vacation. If it’s not possible to get much time off, just spend a couple of days at home where you do no work and just let yourself relax and do things you enjoy. When you return you’ll be better able to focus and won’t resent your job for stealing so much of your personal time.
  24. Upgrade. Using old equipment may be saving you money, but it isn’t likely saving you any time. Old computers, printers, and programs that don’t work well can be a serious drain on your time not to mention your patience while you wait for them to load and complete tasks. If it’s at all financially possible, upgrade your systems. It’ll save you some headaches and even some time on the phone with IT professionals.
  25. Lower your standards. Realizing that not everything you do has to be completely and totally perfect can help you stop focusing on the small details and get more of the big tasks done. This doesn’t mean you should churn out shoddy work, just that you should accept that sometimes good enough really is good enough.
  26. Imitate someone else. Know someone that’s a productivity master? If you don’t have the skills yourself, just try imitating someone else. At first it might feel a bit awkward, but eventually you’ll learn to adapt it to your own needs and hopefully it will work for you. If not, pick a new mentor and try again
  27. Hang out at the water cooler. Maybe not literally, but drinking more water can help give your motivation a lift. Being dehydrated can cause you to experience a slump in energy not to mention give you headaches and make you prone to distraction. Best of all, you’ll not only increase your productivity but also make your body happier and healthier at the same time.
  28. Learn to speed read. If you have trouble getting through long reports or information you need to condense, perhaps you could benefit from some classes on speed reading. Sign up for classes or get some quick tips from the Web on how to get through more material more quickly.
  29. Eat some meat (or peanut butter). Studies have shown that proteins like those found in meats and peanuts can help aid in concentration and energy levels. Make sure to include some sort of protein in each of your meals throughout the day to help you out. If nothing else, it will help you have a more balanced diet.
  30. Get comfortable. Sitting in an old lumpy office chair or slouching over a desk that is too low isn’t going to do much to help you concentrate on your work. Invest in comfortable and ergonomic set up, or if you are really in the mood to get comfy, try working from your bed. Just don’t fall asleep!
  31. Do some pushups. A little bit of exercise can go a long way. If you’re feeling the strain of work, take a break to do a few push-ups or jog around the blog. It’ll give you a much-needed boost of energy, wake you up, and help you focus once you get back on task.
  32. Find something funny. Laughter really is the best medicine, even when the sickness is low productivity. Try to find a few things each day that make you laugh. They will improve your mood and in turn improve your job performance.
  33. Go to the beach. If you don’t live by a beach, don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out. All you need to do is to get out in the sun. The sun’s rays help you to produce vitamin D and raise levels of serotonin making you feel happier and ready to get to work.
  34. Interact with others. Sometimes all you need to get motivated is to spend some time talking with coworkers, clients, friends and neighbors. Interacting positively with others plays a big role in overall happiness, and the happier you are, the more willing you will be to face your workload with a good outlook.
  35. Get an ionizer. Most of us feel invigorated when we breathe in cool, ocean air full of negatively charged ions. You can get a similar effect at home by purchasing an ionizer. More negative ions in the air can help with problems like stress, depression, and even irritability– all productivity killers. Even if you aren’t sold on the productivity angle, there can be no argument that improving the air quality of your workspace will have a positive effect.
  36. Adjust your thermostat. Research has shown that room temperature has a big impact on worker productivity. When rooms are too hot, workers become sluggish and underperform. When they are too cold workers slow down, as hands and fingers are often the first parts to feel the chill. Make sure your workspace stays a comfortable temperature year round for optimal productivity.
  37. Light a candle. Studies have shown that aromas can have a big impact on how we’re feeling. Whether you need to reduce stress, increase energy or raise your productivity levels try putting accompanying scents in or around your work environment. If nothing else, your desk will smell good.
  38. Splash your face with water. If you’re feeling a bit sleepy and not quite on your game but don’t have time for a nap, try giving yourself a brisk splash of water on your face. It should wake you up enough to improve your alertness.
  39. Embrace tea time. Think tea and biscuits are only for the Queen? Think again. Having a break as well as some antioxidant-rich green tea can help improve your mood, benefit your health, and make you happier at work.
  40. Don’t multitask. Getting more things done at once is the key to being super productive, right? Well, not really. While some people are good at it, most of us find it incredibly distracting and overwhelming. It’s much better to take your to-do list one thing at a time and get it right the first time around.
  41. Suck it up. Everyone has things to do for their job that aren’t fun or that they just don’t want to get to. One way to get productive is just to quit whining about how you don’t get anything done and just do it already. Give yourself a little tough love the next time you start feeling sorry for yourself and see if it doesn’t help you turn your attitude around.
  42. Get off the computer. Computers are great tools for productivity but they are also great tools for procrastinating in a very bad way. If you need to get things done, try taking a computer break for awhile and do everything you need to do without the help of the Internet.
  43. Outsource. If you’re working at home or if you own your own business, realize that you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can save yourself some stress by outsourcing some of your smaller projects or more menial work to someone else. Try online sites like GetFriday, eLance, Guru and ScriptLance to find some help. You’ll have less stress and more time to concentrate on important tasks.
  44. Take shorter showers. It might sound silly, but if you shave 10 minutes off your shower each day that adds up to over an hour of extra time each week that you could be spending doing something else, even something else that’s fun.
  45. Make work more exciting. Even if you have the dullest job in the world, try giving it a little spice. It will make it more interesting for you, and as a result you’ll be more willing to focus on it and the things to you need to accomplish.
  46. Shop online. While this can easily become more of a productivity leech than a help, used correctly it can save you time. You won’t have to drive to the store, wait in line, or hunt around for what you’re looking for, and you can even have gifts sent to you pre-wrapped, allowing you to use this time to attend to more pressing issues.
  47. Learn to type faster. Make everything from typing emails to writing reports go faster by improving your typing skills. There are many free programs online that you can try to help you speed up your fingers and not have to look at the keys when you type.
  48. Spend less time cooking. There is a way that you can eat better without having to cook every night or every afternoon. Try spending one day a week cooking your meals for the week ahead and freezing them so all you have to do is heat them up when you’re ready to eat. You’ll save time and be less tempted to eat fast food and frozen pizzas.
  49. Try a polyphasic sleep schedule. Just got too much to do that you can’t waste time sleeping a solid eight hours at night? You might want to try out a polyphasic sleep schedule instead. Polyphasic sleep involves sleeping for several short periods throughout the day instead of getting all your sleep in one big chunk. It can take some getting used to, but some productivity gurus have used it effectively to give them more hours to work, relax and get things done in a day.
  50. Do a crossword puzzle. Keep your mind engaged even when you’re not doing work. Do crossword puzzles, sudoku or any other games that are fun but require use of your brain. You’ll gain valuable memory and recall skills that can be a great productivity boost when you’re on the job.

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1 Comment »

  1. Well, I disagree with point no.48. I fail to understand how making batches of feed for the whole week could increase the productivity! I feel, it’s the other way round coz when you are not eating freshly cooked food, you are decreasing the productivity by eating nutrient-free food.

    Comment by sharon — January 4, 2008 @ 9:39 am

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