Eight counterintuitive ways to be more productive

These unconventional hacks can help you get your work done faster and more efficiently

The workday is full of distractions, and some days it seems impossible to get anything done. If you could use some new ways to sharpen your focus and complete your to-do’s, these unorthodox methods could be just the thing. Get ready to refresh your routine and do good work.

1. Doodle

While some may see doodling as a sign of not paying attention, the act could actually improve your ability to remember. Whether during a phone call or a presentation, scribbling can help with recall, according to research. Plus, whether you decide to doodle, draw, or color, the act of putting pen to paper feels good, as the practice activates the brain’s reward center

2. Stop being so serious 

Playfulness can help you be more productive, whether you’re shaking up a brainstorming session or bringing positivity to an otherwise sober meeting. Doing things to lighten the mood can bring joy to the room (or just the self), which can help boost creativity and well-being. Research shows that a little bit of lightheartedness puts people in a better headspace to do good work.

3. Take notes by hand

Similar to the outcome of doodling, taking notes by hand can help you retain information better. If you’re looking for speed, your laptop keyboard may be the most efficient way to document a meeting. But if you’re hoping to really learn something, old-fashioned pen and paper may be the way to go. 

4. Sit by the sun 

Try spending time in the sunniest spot in your office to be more productive. Natural elements like sunlight and plants can help improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress, and help you feel more alert. If your office is sparse, it might be worth suggesting that your company invest in some greenery: One study found that indoor plants increased workers’ productivity by 15 percent.

5. Plan to procrastinate

If procrastination is the bane of your productivity, you could try cutting it out cold turkey. But another way to procrastinate—surf the web, check social media, whatever it is you do—is to schedule it into your day. Doing so will help you reap the benefits of procrastination (on to that later) without disrupting your day. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, suggests scheduling the non-work tasks you’re tempted by into your workday. 

Anisa Purbasari Horton, an assistant editor at Fast Company, tried implementing planned procrastination into her own day, and found that doing so helped boost her productivity. “I was surprised by how much more on the ball I was with my work when I didn’t feel bad about ‘procrastinating,’” she wrote. “In fact, I realized that I wasn’t scheduling procrastination, I was scheduling breaks—guilt-free, mentally recharging breaks.”

6. Look at some cute animals

On the matter of procrastinating, if you do it right, you might be benefiting your work. Research finds that looking at cute animals can help employees feel happier and more engaged.

7. Skip the beginning of your project

As I write this, I have yet to craft the lede of this story. If you’re stuck at the introduction of your project, move on to the middle. A blank canvas can be daunting, so just getting some ideas down is better than ruminating over what to start with. 

8. Ban multitasking

Multitasking is not efficient. Performing two tasks at once requires your brain to actively stop one focus to start the other, and this switching requires extra time and often leads to mistakes, research shows. Multitasking can also decrease memory, especially when it comes to switching between different forms of media. If you really want to stay focused on one project, it’s wise to keep your phone out of sight. This will decrease the likely interruptions of a news notification or text, meaning your brain won’t have to stop and start over and over again.  

Kate Bratskeir is a writer for WeWork’s Ideas by We, focusing on sustainability and workplace psychology. Previously, she was a senior editor at Mic and HuffPost. Her work has appeared in New York, Health, Travel & Leisure, Women’s Health, and more.

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