It can feel great to make a big sweeping change in order to be more productive. It’s dramatic and exciting. You’re diving in head first and everything is going to be different! Right!?
It’s also really hard.
There’s lots of perfectly legit reasons why our routines are the way they are. Often, it’s a small tweak that makes the most meaningful difference, not a huge 360-degree shift. Here are a few examples of how to make small changes and get big results. All of them won’t work for everyone, but that’s sort of the beauty of it. With small changes, you can fiddle with the knobs and levers until you find something that works for you.
What if your biggest problem with productivity and focus was that you weren’t rocking hard enough? Headphones are great for blocking out noise, getting you motivated, and keeping other people from bugging you. (There’s also some pretty interesting science around how different types of music affect our brains.) In this article at the Harvard Business Review, the author does an experiment to see how headphones affect his productivity (using RescueTime no less!).
While you’re turning the volume up on your headphones, try turning down the volume on the distracting sites that will pull you away from longer periods of productive focus. Here’s an article about how several prominent authors use technology to shut out distractions. (Shameless plug: RescueTime Pro users can do this with RescueTime’s “Get Focused!” feature).
It’s all about focus, focus, focus, right? Well, don’t forget about diet and sleep. Here’s a good article on why getting a few more minutes of sleep, and making some optimizations to your diet can help you boost your effectiveness at work. A particularly interesting observation, don’t drink caffeine when you’re stressed, as it will just amplify what you’re already feeling.
Similarly, exercise can make a big difference. Here’s a look at what being active does to our brains and how it relates to your productivity and focus. Science!
While we’re talking about sleep, maybe you can make some changes in how you do it? Instead of a solid 8 hours every night, maybe try breaking it up into chunks to find a sleep schedule that works for you. Siesta!
You have to be comfortable to be effective. Here’s a list of little office tweaks you can try for greater productivity. Adjusting your office lights, your computer monitor, and the furniture can all make a difference. Interesting (although not terribly realistic) suggestion, try working by candlelight!
Finally, the part of your productivity that might need optimizing is your perceptions of productivity itself. Here are some good thoughts on how to think about new systems and productivity tricks. Most importantly, some good ideas on how to relate all of that stuff back to yourself, so you can focus on making really meaningful changes.
What small changes have you made that have had an affect on your productivity? What could you try this week that might help?