Five ways to boost your productivity, backed by science

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Esther Gibbons
by Esther Gibbons
24 March 2021

If you’re feeling in need of a productivity boost, you’ve come to the right place. This isn’t just about getting more stuff done at work, either – these tips will help in all parts of your life. 

1. Sleep well

A daily routine of copious cups of coffee might be your way to sharpen your wits. However, there is nothing that will help you as much as a good night's sleep. A rested brain has increased concentration, working memory and logical reasoning and is vital to being a healthy and motivated individual. 

Virgin Pulse has some great sleep tips for improving your sleep:

  • Set a sleep routine – go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends

  • Get outside and enjoy the sunshine, especially in the morning

  • Do some exercise, even if it’s just a walk or a quick workout

  • No more coffee in the evenings, it’ll stop you sleeping properly

  • Wind down in the evenings, avoid your phone (and other screens) for an hour before you go to bed

2. Big projects first 

We all have different peak productivity times in the day. You might be an early bird or a late-night thinker. Choose to do your most creative or essential jobs during the time you have the most focus. Brian Tracy's Eat the Frog technique gives us insight into how to tackle those weighty tasks and get things done. If you were forced to eat a live frog, you wouldn't want to sit and contemplate, but dive right in. Apply yourself in the same way. Don't avoid things that seem overwhelming or unpalatable. 

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3. Stop multitasking 

Are you used to second screening and juggling devices and tasks? Scarily you might want to review these habits as they are said to reduce productivity by as much as 40%. A University of Sussex study goes further reporting it can change the way our grey matter works, and not in a good way. 

If you are a multitasking addict, you might want to know that a University London research study shows that it could lower your IQ to the average range of an eight-year-old during cognitive tasks. Food for thought. 

4. Get active

Exercise is not a personal indulgence, but a tangible contributor to being more productive. And Harvard Business Review tells us that it increases mental power. Boost your performance at work and home by making it part of your life. Get those trainers on and start limbering up your mind as well as your body. This Virgin Pulse article has some great tips for building fitness breaks into your working day.

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5. Be lazier

Now obviously we’re not promoting shirking your responsibilities. But authors Will Declair, Jérôme Dumont and Bao Dinh of The Extra Hour (published by Virgin Books) advocate getting strategic about your to do list and “looking for ways to sidestep as many low-value tasks as you possibly can”. 

In their book, they write: “Basically, anytime you find yourself grinding away at a long, repetitive, or boring task, you should ask yourself how you might tweak the way you work to avoid having to do it again in the future. Admittedly, faced with all our more pressing day-to-day matters, making time to reflect on how we work isn’t easy. What is, and always will be, is simply to stay on autopilot and continue doing as you’ve always done.”

They continue: “What we need to do is adopt an investment mindset whereby we put in the effort in the short-term to get results in the long-term. Basically, we should be thinking about our productivity the way a business would, and invest to succeed.”

Read more from The Extra Hour in our extract from the book.