Better productivity at work isn’t about following the newest fads or getting advice from some guru.
It’s about following the science and structuring your day based on data-driven studies.
Keep it objective and progress will come.
Here are 13 science backed tactics to have better productivity at work, while keeping stress at a bare minimum.
Better Productivity at Work By Single-Tasking
Conventional wisdom often considers multitasking to be beneficial and something that can lead to massive productivity gains.
If you can create a Google Doc, while planning a product launch, while responding to email, while juggling, that’s a good thing, right?
“When you multitask, you tend to make more mistakes,” says Dr. Earl K. Miller, neuroscience professor at MIT.
“When you toggle back and forth between tasks, the neural networks of your brain must backtrack to figure out where they left off and then reconfigure.”
That’s why you’re way better off single-tasking.
This allows for a deeper level of focus, which can have major productivity benefits.
Better Productivity at Work by Eliminating Context Switching
Context switching is a term that’s similar to multitasking, but deals more with the smaller distractions that we encounter throughout the workday.
Here’s an example.
Say you’re working on a specific task, like developing your social media marketing strategy, which should have your undivided attention.
But five minutes into your session, you get pinged on Slack and check on that.
Then, you jump back in, but two minutes later you get a text and respond to that.
Again, you go back to your main task, but shortly after receive an email notification.
In other words, you keep getting interrupted, which kills your focus and leaves you feeling mentally exhausted.
This graph shows how context switching kills your productivity, with a 20% loss occurring when shuffling between two tasks, a 40% loss when bouncing between three tasks, a 60% loss when jumping between four tasks, and so on.
Stick to one task at a time, and be ruthless about avoiding distractions.
Easier said than done, I know.
But here’s an easy way to go about that.
Better Productivity at Work By Using a Distraction Blocker
Studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and VoucherCloud found that during the course of an eight hour day, the average person is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.
That’s less than 37%!
According to their findings, the top two sources of distraction were checking social media (47%) and reading news websites (45%).
But using a distraction blocking tool like KosmoTime can help you kick distractions to the curb.
Simply go to the URL of the task you need to work on and click “Start.”
Kosmo then lets you choose between “Timer” and “Timer + Block Distractions.”
If you just want to monitor how long you spend on a task, select “Timer.”
Or, if you want to temporarily shut down all of your tabs, choose “Timer + Block Distractions.”
Then, once you’re finished with your task, click “Done.”
At that point, you can reopen your tabs with KosmoTime, and you’re good to go.
This is like putting blinders on a horse, forcing them to only see straight ahead and can keep even the most undisciplined person distraction free.
Better Productivity at Work By Siloing Email to Specific Times
Another culprit for distractions is simply checking email.
I’m a recovering addict myself and know the perils of mindlessly checking my inbox throughout the day.
Here’s the problem.
The average person checks their email 15 times per day — often needlessly.
But whenever you check your email, it takes 64 seconds to get back in the groove with the task you were working on, which can really do a number on your productivity.
Not only that, a study by the University of British Columbia discovered that frequently checking email creates added stress, but limiting it to just three times a day reduces stress significantly.
So, another simple way to have better productivity at work is to stop checking your email incessantly, ideally limiting it to just three times daily.
And when you do check your email, you can use Kosmo to focus solely on that task, so you can knock it out quicker.
Just click “Start” from your inbox.
Better Productivity at Work by Working No More Than 40 Hours Per Week
You could make the point that America is largely a workaholic culture, where working insane hours has become a badge of honor.
After all, the more hours you work, the higher your output, right?
Multiple studies have found that working more than 40 hours per week doesn’t really raise productivity and can have a host of negative health consequences.
Tom Popomaronis of Inc.com mentions:
- Working more than 40 hours per week increases the likelihood of abusing alcohol, unhealthy weight gain in men, and depression for women.
- There’s a 60% increase in cardiovascular issues when working more than 10 hours per day.
- Productivity basically ceases after working more than 50 hours per week.
This other graph illustrates how productivity declines when putting in overtime hours.
It’s not pretty.
Even Henry Ford discovered back in the mid-1920s that productivity returns diminished as employees worked more than 40 hours per week.
This comes, of course, with some caveats. For more physical and industrial-related jobs, 40 hours is a good target.
For those in the information workforce, taking strategic breaks and periods of unplugging may allow you to work more hours without attendant burnout or suffering a lack of productivity.
Essentially, you need to pace yourself, know your limits, identify cognitive load levels, and just chill when you need to.
Don’t Skip Breaks for Better Productivity at Work
And it’s equally important to give yourself adequate breaks.
A study by the University of Illinois found, “even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.”
And there’s plenty of other data to back this up, which you can find in the article from Derek Thompson of The Atlantic.
The bottom line is that we operate best when we work intently for a period, then follow that with a deliberate break.
This is “the surest way to harness our full capacity to be productive, which brings me to my next point.
Better Productivity At Work By Getting Good Nutrition (Don’t Skip Lunch)
Failing to take the time to eat a proper lunch is another byproduct of our 24/7 work culture.
A study by Right Management found, less than 20% of Americans take time off for a midday meal, and nearly 40% eat at their desks.
And their productivity suffers for it.
Getting proper nutrition is vital for staying productive and has major performance advantages.
“Part of the reason lunch can boost your performance at work is that food literally fuels your brain, which needs a constant supply of energy to function optimally,” writes Ellie Kriger of The Washington Post. “So the worst thing you can do for your midday mental performance is to skip lunch; and the best thing you can do, it seems, is to eat one with a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Not to mention it also gives you time to relax and chill out, which kills two birds with one stone.
And if you’re looking for some healthy lunch ideas, here’s a list of 40+ of them from Ambitious Kitchen.
Better Productivity at Work by Working with Your Natural Energy Cycles
Another scientific concept to be aware of for getting better productivity at work is ultradian rhythms.
If you’re unfamiliar, these are recurring bodily cycles that take place over a 24-hour period.
Simply put, ultradian rhythms indicate that people work best for 90 minute intervals and then take a 20 minute break to recharge.
Here’s what that looks like visually.
Following this type of schedule allows you to work with your body’s natural energy cycles, which is key for avoiding fatigue and burnout.
So, rather than pushing, pushing, pushing, where you’re constantly in “grind mode,” you go with the flow and get more done with less effort.
For a full rundown on ultradian rhythms, check out this video from Joseph Sparks.
Better Productivity at Work by Completing Critical Tasks During Peak Productive Hours
Also important for working with your natural energy cycles is understanding when you’re at your productive peak and aligning your schedule accordingly.
Say that you’re a ball of fire around 11 am and full of energy and enthusiasm.
But by 4 pm you feel more like a lethargic sloth.
Based on that, you would want to tackle your most important tasks at 11 am, then coast the rest of the day so that you’re handling less critical tasks in the late afternoon.
This is essential for capitalizing on your natural energy and preventing mind-numbing fatigue.
So, what time of day are people the most productive?
It varies, but a study by Lemonade found that it usually peaks between 9 am and 11 am.
Then, productivity gradually declines as the day moves on, taking a serious nose dive after 5 pm.
My suggestion is to monitor your levels of energy and productivity over the course of a week or so and keep track of when you feel the most peppy.
This should give you a pretty good idea of what your most productive hours are, and you can adjust your schedule around that.
Better Productivity at Work by Not Forcing Early Wakeup Times
Only 10% of people are naturally early risers, according to Breanna Draxler of Discover Magazine.
Yet many of us have work schedules that force us to wake up far too early before we’re fully rested.
In fact, “a full 80% of people have work schedules that clash with their internal clocks,” explains Celine Vetter, assistant professor at the University of Colorado.
And this can be a huge problem when it comes to being productive.
It’s hard to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, and naturally, your productivity can suffer.
Researchers say it’s especially bad for night owls because living in a world geared for early starts throws off their circadian rhythms and even sets the stage for health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.
While telling your boss, “I’ll show up when I feel like it” may not be viable, it’s a good idea to adjust your schedule wherever possible so that you’re not continually forcing yourself to wake up early.
Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep for Better Productivity at Work
Another area where many people go wrong is deliberately sleeping less in hopes of getting better productivity at work.
But that just doesn’t work.
A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found people who only slept five to six hours were 19% less productive than those who slept for seven to eight hours.
Further, people who got less than five hours of sleep were 29% less productive.
And check out the toll that sleep deprivation takes on the GDP in different countries around the world.
My point here is simple.
Get more Z’s — at least seven per night — for better productivity at work.
If this is something you struggle with, I suggest watching this video from Therapy in a Nutshell for sleep hygiene tips.
Better Productivity at Work by Setting the Thermostat to 77 Degrees
Another factor that might not be so obvious for getting better productivity at work is setting the right temperature.
A study by Cornell University analyzed the performance of employees in an office during the course of a month based on different temperatures.
According to their findings, 77 degrees was the optimal temperature, with employees having only a 10% error rate when typing.
That was significantly lower than the 25% error rate when the thermostat was set to a cooler 68 degrees.
Stick to a Consistent Schedule for Better Productivity at Work
Finally, the Harvard Business Review identified a clear correlation between stable scheduling and seeing better productivity at work.
This particular study involved employees in retail stores and found, “Sales in stores with more stable scheduling increased by 7%, an impressive number in an industry in which companies work hard to achieve increases of 1-2%. Labor productivity increased by 5%, in an industry where productivity only grew by 2% per year between 1987 and 2014.”
In short, having a consistent schedule leads to better productivity at work.
That’s because it helps you get in a good groove and prevents you from being overwhelmed.
Now I’m not saying that your schedule should be so rigid and predictable that you’re driven mad from boredom.
But it’s nice to have a basic routine so you can move throughout the day more smoothly.
Better Productivity at Work FAQs
What are some of the most common productivity killers?
- Context switching
- Getting caught up in distractions
- Not getting enough sleep
- Not taking a proper lunch
- Not working with your body’s natural energy cycles
Is it better to single-task or multitask?
Multitasking has been proven to hurt productivity and is a huge source of stress and fatigue.
How can you minimize distractions?
What are the peak times of productivity for most people?
Between 9 am and 11 am.
Smash Through Your Day With These Science Backed Tactics
Productivity hacks are a dime a dozen these days.
Unfortunately, many are based more on a hunch or subjective experience than actual raw data.
But these 13 science backed tactics are all rooted in authoritative studies to help you get better productivity at work, while at the same time lowering your stress levels.
Want a tool that can make distractions a thing of the past? Check out KosmoTime, and learn about its full range of science-backed capabilities.