August is a slow month. Half of your office is probably out on vacation and you wish you could be outside to soaking up these final days of summer. Concentrating is becoming harder and harder. Luckily, we looked far and wide for some of the most surprising productivity tips to help you keep up at work.
When you make a list you probably go from top to bottom, or maybe you start sticking things on the top because you want to get them done first. WRONG. Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Original Miscellany, a compendium of lists, told Real Simple:
Varying the format can make a list far more useful. Start in the center of a page and write items in spatial relation to one another, so that you create clouds of related tasks; draw a Venn diagram for party invitees so you can note how people will interact. During the 18th century, sailors in the British navy would sign petitions of grievance in a circle so that ringleaders could not be identified.
Don’t just look at your cereal bowl when you first wake up. You need some beautiful colors in those retinas. Research suggests that exposure to bright colors in the early morning lifts your spirits and energy.
In 2009, University of Michigan researchers found that subjects who strolled through a nature setting saw a 20% improvement in attention and focus tests. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds. But people who don’t live in the middle of a nature preserve are not completely screwed, according to the researchers. A slightly quieter street with a few trees can work, or a park, or even looking at potted plants may help your concentration.
A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. So break out the Louis C.K. YouTube videos and laugh a little.
Okay, this one sounds a little weird, but some people swear by it. It’s really just the getting up part that’s hard, but once you’re up, you have a lot of peace and quiet while the rest of the world is sleeping. You may be surprised by how productive you can be. Hey if the cast of The Today Show can do it, then you definitely can.
Try to limit the amount of time you spend on menial decisions like choosing an outfit. Make it a little easier and give yourself fewer choices. You can also do this with meals. Yes, it’s a little boring, but if you find something you like to eat, stick with it.
Daniel J. Levitin of The New York Times suggests breaking up your day into projects if you want to be both productive and creative. He wrote, “If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.
Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.”
As we all know, the temperature in our office is never quite right. In the summer we’re too cold and in the winter we’re too warm. Well, it turns out being warmer is probably better when it comes to productivity. A study found that when people feel physically cold they feel more alone, and then perceive others to be less caring and generous (i.e. cold). But when we’re warmer, we feel we have more in common with others and act friendlier, which can in turn help our productivity.
—Meredith Lepore is the former editor of the women’s career site, The Grindstone.
This article originally appeared in Levo League and is reprinted with permission.