Attempts to increase productivity – multi-tasking, working longer hours, and remaining constantly tied to technology – often backfire. The harder we work to get more done, the more likely we’ll feel frustrated by our lack of attention span and reduced performance. The solution to decreased productivity isn’t that we should try to work even longer hours. Instead, we can take steps to work smarter instead of harder and we’ll get the same job done in less time.
These four simple habits can help you get the most productivity out of the least amount of time and effort:
1. Engage in creative hobbies. The busier you are, the less likely you are to feel like you have time for creative endeavors. But, research shows that a creative hobby can improve your workplace performance. People who spend time doing activities that spark their creativity outside the office perform better at work, according to a new study published by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
Whether you enjoy visiting art galleries or you like decorating cakes, creative endeavors are linked to an increased ability to recover from work related stress. And the good news is, your creative hobbies don’t have to take a lot of spare time. For example, write short stories during your lunch break, or swap talk radio for music that inspires your artistic side during your commute. It’s likely to spark some creative problem-solving in the office, which can greatly enhance your performance.
2. Create goals that interest you. No matter how hard you work, if you’re not particularly interested in the task, you aren’t likely to perform well. In fact, your interest level may be one of the biggest factors in achieving success, according to new research from Duke University. A high level of interest optimizes your performance and keeps you deeply engaged.
It’s also important to feel like the task you’re completing is meaningful. If you view what you’re doing as important, you’re more likely to exert the self-control necessary to keep going, even when you feel uncomfortable. Delegate boring tasks, outsource projects that you aren’t passionate about, and create small goals that will keep you attentive throughout the work day to stay as productive as possible.
3. Reduce the work-home conflict. Without the proper lifestyle balance between work and home, you risk experiencing a major dip in productivity. When you’re feeling stressed about the demands of work and home, you’re more likely to become emotionally exhausted and depressed, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers also found a “rather direct” link between the work-home conflict and job burnout.
Find ways to proactively create a healthy work-life balance. Set limits on your willingness to work from home during evening hours or take breaks away from technology, for example. Setting limits and participating in stress relieving activities can optimize your workplace performance. (See my previous article on The 5 Things Successful Working Parents Give Up to Achieve a Work-Life Balance)
4. Practice gratitude every day. When you’re so busy that you don’t feel like you have time to think about anything other than work, take time to practice gratitude. Acknowledging all that you have to be thankful for and express thanks to your employees, supervisors, and business associates alike. Research shows that gratitude increases resilience to stress, reduces physical health issues, and produces an overall increased satisfaction with life – all things that can certainly help boost your workplace performance.
Not only can gratitude make you more productive, but it can also make the people around you more productive. A study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that when bosses thanked employees for their hard work, their expression of gratitude triggered a 50% increase in productivity. So don’t be shy about telling your team members how much you appreciate their hard work.
There’s a Zen proverb that says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” In today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to find time for healthy habits. But, slowing down can actually speed up your productivity. Minor lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping you work smarter and not harder.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
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