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How to improve your productivity (by doing nothing)

Published on: Oct 7, 2016

We live in a fast-paced world, and it seems we're all action-orientated. It’s easy to assume that doing as much as possible and keeping busy every hour of the day is the best way to be productive.

Sometimes, though, the opposite can be true. Here are five productivity tips that involve doing surprisingly little:

A tired brain is a useless brain

Rest plays a key part in boosting your energy levels. To give your brain a chance to recharge and avoid burnout and fatigue, try some age-old resting techniques.

Some people love daytime naps (which may be restricted to weekends, depending on how progressive your workplace is), and others make sure they get to bed at a reasonable time every night.

Unplug from the internet

Switching off from the online world sounds impossible these days, but it’s worth considering – at least in short bursts. We consume more information now than ever before simply because it’s right at our fingertips.

Set some time aside to switch off, perhaps starting with a technology-free hour before bed. This has been proven to increase the quality of sleep and reduce insomnia, which in turn will do wonders for your productivity during the workday.

Manage your email

That familiar pinging sound goes off and you feel the tension rise. You can no longer concentrate on the task at hand, instead you feel the pressure to reply to every email as it comes in.

It’s time to manage your email program (and its incessant notifications), but if you think lessening your email time sounds unrealistic or unproductive then think again.

When thinking about time management tips and improving productivity, research has shown that establishing boundaries between emails, concentrating on other work and work-free time is a lesson in how to be productive. Then you can set designated time to respond to emails when you’re in the right frame of mind, making better use of your time and creating more considered replies.

Don’t let emotions get the better of you

It’s easy to act defensively when you receive an inquisitive email or when a colleague seems to be coming across a bit offensive. Instead of reacting immediately, it's wiser to step back and cool off. You’ll come back to it with a clearer and calmer head, which in the end will only have a positive effect on your productivity levels.

Get out and exercise

Two-thirds of UK employees are skipping their lunch break, and while this might seem like a good way to get an extra hour into the work day, the truth is it’s counter-productive.

Even half an hour of exercise a day, which can be done before or after work or during your lunch break, is great for your mind and motivation. Getting outside is the best option if you can: fresh air boosts your mood and energy levels, which can be a great productivity boost during your workday.  

If you are a workaholic the thought of doing nothing might sound like the fast track to wasting time, but it could be the answer to getting through that ever-growing to-do list. It’s worth a shot – after all, it won’t take much effort.

Author: Robert Half