A common cause of work-related stress is feeling that you are being non-productive. It’s unrealistic to presume that you’ll be productive every moment of your workday. Trying to adhere to such an impossible expectation is a sure-fire way to worsen your stress! However, we have prepared some helpful tips to minimise the time you spend doing non-productive things and help maximise your workflow!
Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is not necessarily a beneficial skill. Handling multiple complex tasks at once is certain to cause your attention to wane. By focusing on only one complex task at a time, you can devote your entire attention and effort to it. This “Single Tasking” typically results in higher quality work and will allow the task to be finished sooner rather than later.
1) Take frequent breaks. A good rule-of-thumb is to take a 5-minute break every hour. Use the time to stretch and move about, get a drink of water or take a bathroom break. Taking your eyes off the computer screen and focusing on different objects in the distance is also a good way to eliminate eye strain.
2) Eliminate unnecessary distractions. Do you have stimuli that bother you, like fluorescent lights or certain noises? Is there a brightly coloured folder or a certain smudge that keeps distracting you? Remove as many distractions as possible from your workspace and you’ll find it much easier to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
3) Complete your most important tasks at the time of day most productive for you. Notice when it is that you get the most work done: Try arranging your tasks so you perform the most difficult or intensive tasks at the height of your productivity. For many people, they are most productive in the morning, right when they start work!
4) Limit the time you spend checking social media and non-work texts and email. Studies have shown that some people can spend up to a quarter of their workday doing these! Limit yourself to checking them only at designated times (for example, before work, during your lunch break, and after work.) If the temptation is too strong, disable app notifications on your phone, delete the apps in question, or keep a separate work and home phone!
5) Operant conditioning (giving a reward for doing something) can be quite effective as a form of motivation. Give yourself something you enjoy after performing a difficult task! This could be a healthy snack, a quick stroll around the workplace, or even a sneaky peek at your social media.
6) Plan each day out the night before. Take 5-minutes to write a quick summary of what you need to do at work tomorrow and put it on a post-it note or as a file on your computer. Reading your notes before work can help ground you and provide a sense of direction for the day ahead! Even if your plans ultimately end up changing, your plan provides an outline or agenda to follow and can help ease your anxiety.
7) Clean your workspace. Clutter is distracting and can actually limit your brain’s ability to concentrate and process information.
8) Finally, in addition to a classic “To-do” list, try making a “Not-to-do” list! This list should be based on self-analysis and reflection. Note what distracting or unproductive behaviours you do, and catch yourself when you do them. Make a mental note to avoid the behaviour in future.