Monday morning strikes fear (or at least a flat mood) into the minds of many. If you are suffering from a case of Monday-itis, browsing employment websites might be overtaking the time spent doing your actual job.
But here’s the good news: research conducted by the University of New South Wales and behavioural science consultancy Inventium has found that a solution as extreme as a change of jobs is not the only option. Instead, making simple changes to the way you work can significantly boost not only your productivity, but how much you enjoy coming to work.
The research was conducted across over 400 Australian workers as diverse as
software engineers from one of the world’s largest technology companies, lawyers from a top tier Asia-Pacific law firm, and staff from one of Australia’s largest banks. A combination of the below techniques increased individual productivity by 26% over a six-week period. In addition, people’s energy levels increased by 22% and satisfaction with their job was boosted by 11% – all through changing how individuals approached their work.
Re-learn how to stay focused
We are working in the age of digital distraction, where the average worker can only stay focused for six minutes before they do a “just check” or email or messenger, according to research by Rescue Time. This leads to workers prioritising “Shallow Work” (work that is non-cognitively demanding) over “Deep Work” (work that requires intense focus and concentration for uninterrupted periods of time). By understanding the difference between these two types of work helps workers prioritise Deep Work over Shallow Work.
The average worker is a chronic multitasker, flitting between emails, Slack, working on a presentation, checking their phone, and so on. Professor David Meyer found that multitasking makes tasks take 40% longer compared to if we monotask (focus on one thing at the one time). By making this one change to workers’ behaviour, up to two to three hours per day for the average eight-hour-a-day worker can be freed up.
Structure your day according to your Chronotype
When is the best time of day to undertake certain tasks? The answer lies in working to our Chronotype (the natural peaks and troughs of our energy levels over a 24-hour period).
Larks, for example, are at their cognitive peak in the early morning. As such, Larks should schedule their most cognitively demanding Deep Work for this time of day. In contrast, Owls have their cognitive peak at night and are best served working on less cognitively demanding work during the day.
Assess your Chronotype to determine when you should be doing work that requires the most heavy lifting.
Boost your energy through taking the “right” kind of breaks
We need to forget about the stereotype of the innovation genius who works 16 hours straight without a break – this is not the best way for your brain to thrive. Psychologists have uncovered that there are ideal conditions for taking effective breaks. For example, research from the University of Colorado has shown that in contrast to one 30-minute break or no breaks at all, hourly five-minute walking breaks boost energy, sharpen focus, improve mood and reduce feelings of fatigue in the afternoon more effectively.
Eliminate digital distractions
Email, social media, Slack. The endless pings, dings and notifications they produce are designed to grab our attention. To avoid being constantly distracted, there are multiple tech and non-tech hacks we can use to eliminate the need for willpower to stay off these applications. For example, use Freedom to block yourself from visiting distracting websites and opening up your email, pause your inbox to stop your inbox feeling like a game of whack-a-mole, and try using a paper notebook. All of these strategies will help eliminate digital distractions.
So don’t hand in your resignation just yet. Try some of the above strategies to bring more joy into your working life.
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