Name a person whose life isn’t busy… I’ll wait. However, being busy and being productive are not the same thing; just because you have a lot to do, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are using your time wisely. Here are some of my top science-backed tips to help you improve your productivity and get the most out of your day.
Improve Your Sleep Quality & Duration
Improving sleep hygiene and making it a priority can help improve productivity substantially. Poor sleep has been shown to dramatically reduce performance in activities ranging from athletics to study to work (1). Research has shown that a lack of sleep impairs cognitive abilities; in particular, memory capacity and problem-solving abilities. Studies have also shown that quality sleep can help to improve our ability to store memories for later retrieval (2). Below are some key strategies to help improve sleep quality:
Minimise Decision Fatigue
Have you ever had one of those days where you had 100 things to decide or one huge, extremely important, and potentially life changing decision to make? Those days leave you exhausted and incapable of getting much work done! This is called decision fatigue; it is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.
Although some decisions are just a part of everyday life, reducing the number, complexity and/or magnitude of decisions where possible can significantly decrease our stress levels and cognitive demand. This helps to reserve more cognitive capacity for other tasks, which can help to improve productivity (3). Establishing a routine and planning ahead can help to reduce the number of decisions that need to be made each day. For example, you could:
Don’t Try to Multi-Task – It Doesn’t Exist!
We all like to think that we can simultaneously cook dinner, keep an eye on the kids, talk on the phone, and crunch some numbers, but the reality is that the pot boils over, or a child climbs up somewhere they shouldn't be, or you forget what you were talking about. It may seem like we can multi-task but what we’re actually doing is splitting our attention up between tasks and processing them in sequence as opposed to simultaneously.
The brain is a single-channel processor, which means that it can only consider on one problem at a time and one set of a data at a time. Therefore, decisions and data processing are prioritised and attended to accordingly – some things don’t ever make it to conscious processing, which is why we sometimes don’t notice something right in front of our face when we’re under pressure and stress!
Not only can we not process multiple things simultaneously, it requires great mental capacity to swap between different sets of data and problems. Studies have shown that trying to complete too many tasks at once has a wide range of negative impacts on the human mind and negatively impacts productivity. Our short-term memory can only store about 7 pieces of information at once and for about 10-20 seconds (4). This means that for every task you try to attend to, you likely replace/lose some/all of the information retained from the previous task with the new task. Consequently, when you return to the previous task, your brain may need to work harder as it mightn't be able to recall the information you once had and must process it again.
Instead of trying to tackle multiple tasks/problems at once, learn to prioritise and dedicate specific time to complete each of them in sequence – do not jump back and forth between them. By doing so, you will help to improve your brain’s ability to process the task/problem and improve your productivity.
Introduce Essential Oils
Essential oils are used most aromatherapy. Inhaling the aromas from essential oils can stimulate areas of your limbic system, which is a part of your brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviours, sense of smell, and long-term memory (5). Certain oils can be stimulating, and others can be more relaxing in nature. Rosemary oil diffusion could help with increasing productivity in several ways. It has been shown to:
Listen to Music - That is of the Right Kind
Music can help in several ways. Firstly, it can help to drown-out background noise in a busy place, which can often be distracting. Secondly, when a task is clearly defined and repetitive in nature, research consistently suggests that music is helpful (9). However, the type of music and the nature of the task are important. If the task is physical in nature, music with lyrics can boost productivity. On the other hand, if the task requires a high degree of focus and concentration, classical or music of the same genre is best. Lyrics can be detrimental to focus-orientated tasks (10). If you do prefer to listen to music with lyrics, it may be beneficial to listen to songs you are familiar with as they require less attention and cognitive capacity to listen to.
Other Tips You Can Implement Right Away
There many other effective strategies to help boost productive, including:
It's not easy to juggle so many things in the day but by implementing easy strategies such as improving sleep quality/duration, minimising the need to make decisions, avoiding attending to too many tasks at once, using aromatherapy and listening to music, you can significantly help to improve you productivity and get more done!
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With over 10 years experience in the fitness industry and a burning passion for all things health and fitness, Amanda has a BSc in Exercise Science, a BSc in Health Sciences, and a MSc in Biomechanical Analysis. She is also an international IFBB Bikini competitor and a mother to Mya.
From commercial pilot to fitness coach, Daniel changed careers to pursue his passion for health & fitness. He holds a BSc and is a Certified Strength & Conditioner, Certified Fitness Trainer, certified nutritionist, an international men's physique competitor, and a father with a love for helping others become more educated to reach their goals.
David has a MSc in Exercise Physiology and is a Certified Strength & Conditioner and Sports Nutritionist. He has a passion for helping people peak physical performance. He has worked with a diverse range of clients from Olympic athletes who have won National, European and World titles to those just looking to look, feel and perform at their best.
Michelle creates out of this world recipes of everyday foods we love that are more diet-friendly. She is the woman behind the mouth-watering Instagram page, @peachypalate.