Four Habits that Cultivate Productivity

May 26, 2016

Working smarter, not harder, requires developing the following four healthy habits.


Develop a morning routine.  On the subject of cultivating a mental attitude that will bring you peace and happiness, Dale Carnegie said, “Fill your mind with thoughts of peace courage, health and hope.”  That’s an impossible feat if you start each day haphazardly.  People who begin the day with the right routine set a positive tone for the entire day, minimize stress and maximize momentum.  The goal of a morning routine is not to do the exact same thing every single morning; rather, it’s to minimize variations.  Only you know which activities will benefit you most such as meditation, exercise, journaling, etc. so design a routine with activities that work best for you.  Eating a protein-rich breakfast will provide you with the energy you need to pump up your productivity, and help keep your focus sharp all day so you can accomplish as much as possible.

Designate time for email.  Sounds simple, but in our speedy society where immediate gratification and response have become the norm, this can be very challenging.  Instead of constantly checking email or responding to message notifications, carve out some specific times during your workday for email.  If this idea makes you cringe, consider the facts:

It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume a task after being interrupted1.

According to Tom Pisello of organizations lose approx. $1,800 annually per worker due to unnecessary emails from co-workers and $1,250 per user in annual productivity because of time spent dealing with spam.

Put your smart phone away.  If the mere suggestion of putting your phone away causes a slight panic attack, understand that while interruptions like text messages, Facebook notifications, etc. are short-lived, their impacts on our thought process last substantially longer.  In fact, a study published last year concluded that when people who were performing a task requiring intense focus received a text message or call on their phone, they had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make quick guesses.  Ignoring isn’t enough—people who received a notification of a call, but did not pick up, were still 3x more likely to make mistakes!  You may think that checking texts, push notifications, etc. only takes a few seconds, but they actually cost you many minutes in terms of resuming focus on the task at hand. 

Take a lunch break.  Many people believe working through lunch makes them more productive, but the opposite is true.  According to NPR, eating at your desk not only makes people anti-social, but it’s “bad for thinking, bad for creativity, bad for productivity, [and] bad for your body.”  Consider your workday a series of sprints instead of a mad marathon and take a break for lunch.  Removing yourself from your workspace enables your mind and body to rejuvenate so you can return to your desk with a fresh perspective and often, bursts of creativity and energy.

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