On good days, you likely leave work thinking;
‘I’ve done a lot today, I achieved everything I wanted to and I’ve ploughed through so much work.’
Then there are those other days when you’re heading home and can’t remember what you got up to.
You know you were ‘busy’, but if asked, you wouldn’t have much to show for it.
What is it that is killing your productivity on these days?
Why are some days far more productive than others?
Here are some factors that may be affecting your ability to work productively:
You’re not getting enough sleep
We’ve all experienced this at some point or another.
Whether it was the neighbour’s cats fighting outside or you were just working late, sleep deprivation can cause a serious decrease in productivity levels. Take a look at your ‘good days’ and see if you can find a pattern in how sleep may be affecting your performance.
Sleep deprivation affects your attention and makes it harder to concentrate, your reactions are also slower, making commuting to work more dangerous and it also becomes harder to learn new skills and retain information. Get at least 7 hours of rest and these problems can be avoided, or, if you have to work late the odd day, make time for a power nap the next day to maintain your energy.
You’re trying to multitask
Although it sounds good to say you can multitask, it will likely reduce your overall productivity. It takes about 23 minutes to fully return to a task after an interruption, and switching back and forth makes us tired, less efficient and prone to making more errors. Multitasking has also been shown to increase production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
Believe it or not, multitasking can be addicting.
When we complete a task, even a small one like sending an email, our brain’s get a hit of dopamine, the reward chemical. It’s relatively easy to end up subconsciously chasing this chemical, through regularly switching tasks.
In fact, there is even evidence that suggests multitasking can damage areas of the brain, permanently.
A recent study from the University of Sussex ran MRI scans on the brains of multitaskers (specifically those who spent time on multiple devices at once, eg. smartphone and television). The scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, the area in the brain responsible for emotional control and empathy.
Stick to tackling one significant task at a time and you might see more work getting completed.
You’re not working at your optimum time
The 9 to 5 working habit has been embedded into British culture for years, with the familiar, never-
ending ‘rush hour’ being a significant testament to that.
More and more companies, however, are opting for flexible working hours, giving employees the ability to control when they work.
We’ve all heard about the ‘morning person’, but what about the ‘night person’?
Some people work best at the crack of dawn, and some people work better in the evening, so employers are beginning to accommodate both.
If you find you are more productive later on in the evening, it might be worth discussing flexible working options with your employer.
Procrastination is a word commonly thrown around, but putting off your tasks until the last
minute can be a dangerous route to take for your productivity. Not only does it create a situation where you eventually need to rush through work, but you also have to endure the stress of having the task at the back of your head the whole time you’re putting it off.
Michael Townsend Williams, founder of mind-coaching comany Still Works, suggests working out how you’re feeling at that exact moment, and then doing all the tasks that are possible within your current state of mind. That way, you can ‘build up’ to the more challenging tasks, having already had a ‘warm-up’.