Ask anyone and you’ll find they often wish they had more time. We all feel this on an instinctive level: We’re not doing enough. Productivity is a constant struggle, especially in what’s called “knowledge work,” where focus is essential and distractions lurk at every corner. Here are four simple habits and tactics that can help your employees improve their productivity in a major way.
1. Discourage multitasking. It’s hurting productivity.
For some reason, despite decades of research to the contrary, large numbers of people remain under the impression that mulit-tasking is effective (it isn’t) and that they are masters of it (they aren’t). Multi-tasking, or “task-switching” as psychologists call it, is actually a productivity killer and a symptom of more general information overload in the workplace.
When someone switches between any two tasks, their productivity takes a hit. The more complex the tasks, the longer it takes to get back up to speed once they make the switch. We all want to get more out of our day, but when we multitask we’re actually wasting time that could be better spent giving all our attention to one thing at a time.
2. Take short breaks every 30 minutes
Peak productivity is not achieved by sitting in front of a screen and working non-stop. Research shows that people can successfully maintain performance on visual tasks for about 30 minutes. Once we pass that mark, our productivity starts to decline.
However, they also found that even short breaks can “recharge” our brains enough to get back to our previous levels of performance. So, taking short breaks to walk around outside or doing a guided meditation is something employees’ should consider to perform at their best.
3. Exercise regularly
It’s hard to get things done when you’re tired all the time. Your first impulse might be to reach for the nearest source of caffeine. But a growing body of research demonstrates that even low- to moderate-intensity exercise can significantly reduce fatigue. Feeling better isn’t the only benefit, research also shows that exercise is associated with higher quality of work and overall job performance.
There’s a lot of cognitive benefits to regular exercise too, such as improved concentration, sharper memory, and faster learning. Scientists believe about 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day is the right amount for most people to do their best work, but even just 10 minutes a day can have a significant impact on employee productivity.
At a time when so many people are burned out and overworked, even taking just one of these steps could give any employee a much-needed boost in energy, productivity, and quality of life.