If there’s one thing that almost every person
I’ve met seems to struggle with, it’s productivity. For most of us, staying focused for extended
periods of time until the task at hand has been completed seems impossible. I’ve written about mental speed and focus
a lot in the past. It’s something we all struggle with at times
— even if we love what we do. In a world so filled with distractions, staying
on-task for longer than five minutes has never been more difficult. Not only that, but our brains are literally
being dumbed-down by the technology we use. As Netdoctor puts it,
“Because it’s so easy to find the answer to, well, everything on the Internet, our
own internal hard drives have become fuzzy-headed.” Thankfully, we weren’t born with the attention
span of a goldfish — something just went wrong along the way. That being said, here are five ways to supercharge
your productivity in order to make the most out of your working hours. Scrolling through social media during every
waking moment of our day may indeed seem like an innocuous pastime — but it isn’t. I mean, sure, it doesn’t hurt anybody. Nobody’s going to fall ill if you continue
watching cat videos on Facebook. But there’s no doubt that social media usage
is destroying our ability to focus. See, the content that we absorb on social
platforms is designed to grasp our attention immediately. It’s short, snappy and to the point. The thing is, our brains are plastic. They’re malleable, able to grow and change
to suit our needs. Whenever we commit to a new habit or change
our behaviour, our brains also change to enable us to perform those new tasks more easily. What does this have to do with focus? Well, everything. If the only content we’re soaking up on
a day-to-day basis is in the form of two-sentence Facebook statuses and sixty-second videos,
that’s what our brains get used to. When we sit down to produce an hour’s worth
of work or read a book or have an in-depth conversation, we can’t do it without feeling
an irrepressible urge to pick up our phones. It follows, then, that the first step we can
take to maximising our productivity is to limit our social media usage. Cut it down. Shut it off, even. I actually deleted all of the social media
apps on my phone last weekend for this very reason and already I’m noticing changes
in my ability to concentrate, as well as how mindful I am throughout my day. Give it a try. You might be surprised by the benefits. Countless studies have shown a clear link
between hydration and cognitive performance. When our bodies are dehydrated, it becomes
very difficult for us to focus. This is one that often goes unnoticed when
it comes to productivity. It almost seems too simple to be true. We might be doing all we can to ramp up our
productivity in other ways, perhaps even using all of the tips on this list — but if we’re
not drinking enough, we’re not going to be able to concentrate. Being even mildly dehydrated can have a significant
impact on our cognitive performance. But how can you tell if you’re mildly dehydrated
without experiencing any of the usual symptoms? An easy test is to check the colour of your
urine. Allison Aubrey of NPR says that we should
aim for a ‘pale lemonade’ or ‘straw’ colour. There are a few other signs of dehydration
that we can look out for, too, including… Moodiness
Brain fog and Poor cognitive function
Or, as a study published in the Medicine & Science journal, puts it,
“We find that when people are mildly dehydrated they really don’t do as well on tasks that
require complex processing or on tasks that require a lot of their attention.” If consuming enough water is essential to
your productivity levels, how much should we really be drinking? The Mayo Clinic recommends 2.7 litres daily
for women and 3.7 litres for men. That’s probably a lot more than you’ve
heard before, and if you haven’t been meeting those guidelines, perhaps that’s why you’ve
been struggling to concentrate. You should also factor in things like exercise
and outside temperature, drinking more where necessary. I don’t know what it is, but when we’re
sitting at a desk for hours on end, we just can’t focus. Some studies have even shown that we lose
focus after just 14 minutes. I suppose our mobile phones are partially
to blame. Whatever the cause, I’ve found that there’s
also a pretty simple solution. When we’re working for extended periods
of time, just making an effort to get up and move at regular intervals can work wonders. As soon as that brain fog starts to creep
in, I get out of my seat and throw down twenty jumping jacks before doing a little lap around
my house. My neighbours probably think I’m insane,
but that’s okay. As long as I can get my work done. How does this actually help us? Well, firstly, it’s great for our spinal
health. Sitting at a desk for hours is terrible for
our backs. There’s a reason why doctors keep claiming
that sitting is the new smoking. Because it’s awful for us. Simply getting up and moving every thirty
minutes or so can counteract those negative health impacts. Moving around when our focus starts to wane
is like jumpstarting a dying engine. It kicks things back into gear and allows
us to concentrate again when we sit back down. It resets our focus. Making a conscious effort to incorporate physical
activity into our working days will have a tremendous impact on both our health and our
ability to remain focused. That’s what I’ve found, anyway. You might not be a particularly messy person,
in which case I’m sorry for lumping you in with the rest of us untidy peasants. Chances are, though, if you’re anything
like me, your office needs a good clean up. I have the luxury of working from home. While it’s a luxury, it’s incredibly easy
for me to allow the plates and coffee mugs to pile up. Before long, I’m drowning in toast crusts
and mugs. Mess isn’t good for anything, really. It only makes us feel stressed out and in
need of change. Untidiness in our workplace is awful for our
concentration. I don’t know what it is, but if there’s
mess in my office, I can’t focus. I need to clear it first. Is that weird? Maybe. But it certainly helps. Simply clearing up any mess in your room and
organising your desk can work wonders on your ability to concentrate for the simple reason
that you’re just not thinking about the mess. There have even been studies that have proven
this to be true. Evidence shows that when multiple visual stimuli
are competing for your attention, it becomes harder to narrow your focus to just one thing. Working in a messy office? It might just be time to tidy things up. Have you ever heard writers and creatives
talk about this magical thing called flow? I’m sure you’ve probably experienced it
yourself — but it’s rare. Flow is that wonderful state of mind in which
everything just, well, flows. It feels easy to work tirelessly for hours,
ideas pouring out of you and your focus like a laser beam. How, then, do we consciously put ourselves
into that flow-like state? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Firstly, it’s important that you love what
you do. That you’re passionate about your work. Otherwise, it’s going to be very difficult
to get really stuck into something if it bores you to death. I don’t get into much of a flow when I’m
handling my accounts, for instance. But I’m in full-flow right now. Once you’re onto a task that stimulates
you, you’re faced with the next challenge. Pushing past distractions and the temptation
to procrastinate. Whenever I begin working on something new,
I’m usually half-in and half-out. I’m not quite stuck into it yet, and I’m
still thinking about checking Facebook or getting up to make a cup of coffee. If you can get past that first five or ten
minutes though, your focus will gradually start to improve. It’ll get stronger during every distraction-free
moment that passes. And then, before you’re even really aware
of it, you’ll be deep into that precious flow state we all dream of. But only if you can get past that first phase. If you can ignore the urge to give up or do
something else. Once you’re in full flow, the urge to open
a new tab and start wasting time will certainly arise. Ignore it. Let it pass. As soon as you succumb to it, you’re toast. For me, finding flow and staying in it has
been the key not only to producing more work, but also to producing better quality work. Perhaps the same will be true for you, too. Though it’s something that we all struggle
with from time-to-time, being productive isn’t quite the impossible task it often seems. Increasing our working output just requires
a few simple changes. Perhaps you’re dehydrated, maybe your office
is a mess or maybe you’re using social media too much. Whatever it is, by making use of these tips,
remaining focused and meeting the working demands of each day becomes far easier.