Most of us like the idea of getting more work done every day, but with a limited number of hours and a feeling that we’re already doing our best, it may seem like there’s little to no room for improvement.
You can increase your productivity in many ways, like delegating various tasks, automating what you can, and using time-management apps to improve your output. But there are also a number of psychological tricks that don’t get nearly enough recognition.
How to get more done at work
These habits and changes can alter your state of mind, reshape your behavior, and even trick you into doing more work:
1. Commit to short time intervals
The most difficult part of any challenging task is getting started. If you know you’re facing a massive project, or a batch of tasks you don’t particularly enjoy, you may waste time procrastinating. According to one study, 88% of workers procrastinate at least one hour per day, so it’s a ridiculously common problem. An easy way to overcome this is to commit to smaller time intervals; instead of deciding to complete a three-hour project, commit to starting it for just five minutes. Once those five minutes are up, you’ll likely feel motivated to continue working on it.
2. Break big tasks into smaller tasks
Similar to doing work in small time intervals, you can also break up the biggest tasks into smaller ones. Large projects can be intimidating and difficult to manage, while small tasks are easier to prioritize, delegate, and accomplish.
3. Build momentum with small accomplishments
People tend to work more productively once they have some momentum. You’re more efficient if you can work at a steady pace versus constantly stopping and restarting. One way to do this is to first work on small, easy-to-accomplish tasks. Knock them out early in your day, and then keep that momentum going.
4. Turn off notifications
One of the problems with our modern world of communication technology is we’re too aware of what’s going on around us. We often think of the immediacy of communication as a good thing, but it often prevents us from doing our best. According to a UCI study, it takes about 23 minutes to recover your focus after a distraction, and any notification could serve as that distraction. Turn off notifications entirely on all your devices, and exit your email platform if you typically leave it open. You can always catch up on messages later.
5. Find the right music
Studies show that music can increase productivity, but there are a few important caveats. First, you have to get the volume right: too loud, and you’ll be distracted; too soft, and you won’t get the benefits. Second, you have to avoid lyric-heavy content, which could distract and disrupt you. Third, it needs to be music you genuinely enjoy (the genre isn’t particularly important). Find the right music for you and stick with it.
6. Develop and follow routines
This isn’t something you can accomplish in an afternoon, but over time try to establish some routines. Once you’ve established a strict process for completing a task, it will become easier to accomplish that task in the future. Start with small routines and work your way up to bigger ones. Aim to repeat your routine three days in a row, then three weeks in a row, and so on.
7. Break your obsession with perfection
In some ways, perfectionism is a good trait. It means you’re constantly looking for ways to improve and you want to do your work to the best of your ability. But perfectionism is not without its downsides. It can keep you from starting tasks that intimidate you and cause you to constantly question your work. Understand and accept that your work will always be flawed, and you will end up performing much better.
8. Have fun with your coworkers
Spend some time having fun with the people you work with. Laughing and doing things you enjoy relieves stress, and the positive socialization releases oxytocin, which will improve your mood and productivity. Spending time with coworkers also strengthens bonds with your team, allowing you to collaborate more efficiently and dramatically increase your productivity—as long as you do this consistently.
Putting it into practice
The biggest issue with these psychological tricks is to be effective they require effort and commitment. You can sit here and read this article, nodding your head in agreement about some of these ideas, but unless you actually start using them, they aren’t going to help you.
Whether or not you try some of these tips, at least make a concerted effort to shake up your routine and experiment with a few new tactics. It’s the only way to achieve change in your work habits.