The last time we checked, the length of a full day was 24 hours. But a new study has discovered that actually, to complete all the work, play and activities on the average person's list, you need 27 hours. Problem? You bet.
It explains why we feel so stressed out - we're not completing the tasks we set ourselves on a daily basis and often feel like there isn't enough time to get the day done. Apparently 61% of us would like to be more productive.
Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a UCL expert in human behavior has worked with Direct Line to act as a 'director of achievement', offering quick tips to help us balance our work/life commitments.
It may seem counter-intuitive, to be more productive by actually taking a break, but Dr Chamorro-Premuzic believes that it helps. He isn't alone. Dr Alejandro Lleras, psychology professor from the University of Illinois says: “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness." Meaning, that you might think staring at the same thing or sitting in front of your desk is productive, but it actually isn't because you zone out and stop paying attention.
Here are 10 brilliant tips from Dr Chamorro-Premuzic on how to keep motivated and focussed throughout the day:
Listen to a minute and a half of loud rock music per day at 11.30
People often experience periods of distraction throughout the day, which can impact on their ability to get the job at hand done. The more extroverted you are the more external stimulation you will need to be productive. At 11:30am, most office workers will experience a slump – it’s been quite some time since breakfast and lunch still feels far off, so this is an ideal time to use music and background noise to keep you going! Be careful not to get distracted though - a minute and a half of a song will be long enough to stimulate you, but any longer may end up diverting you from your task. If you need to keep background noise, try rainfall or a constant white noise that won’t impact your concentration too much.
Allow time for a power-nap during the day (whether it’s for five minutes or an hour!)
<a href="http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jul2002/nimh-02.htm" target="_blank">Harvard research shows</a> that half an hour long workplace naps can prevent burnout, whereas an hour long nap can actually boost performance! Research also shows that daytime napping (within reason) does not affect night-time sleep. Power-napping will refresh your mind, improve your memory, self-motivate and up your focus – explain that to your boss when they catch you asleep at work!
Jog to meetings and lunch to boost endorphins
Everybody knows that exercise enhances mental activities, but the most effective way to use exercise to boost productivity is to embed it in your working life. Invest 30-60 minutes per day on enjoyable exercise to switch off from routine or boring problems and re-charge your batteries – and it is always better to re-charge them in the middle of the day. Even if you don’t have time to get to the gym, go for a run, bike ride or a brisk walk to grab some lunch. Not only is this beneficial physically, but you’ll get those all-important endorphins working for you which will improve your mood and keep you positive throughout the day.
Write in different colours and fonts (but not red!)
Looking at the same thing for a long time will bore you. Since we spend most of our working hours in front of a computer – if you don't, consider yourself lucky – it is important to implement visual changes to create a more stimulating and exciting work environment. In fact, very simple and small changes such as modifying the font or the colour of font we use in our word processor can enhance attention span and boost creativity. If you don’t work on a computer, use a different colour of pen or marker when you write. Even if you’re planning out the school run, you’ll be surprised what a change in routine can do if you’re starting to feel like motivation is weaning. Make sure you implement these changes regularly, but try to avoid using red, as research has shown that writing or reading in red font enhances anxiety and stress levels.
Indulge in social media for five minutes at a time
“Many companies are obsessed with banning social media sites. The reality is that in moderation, cyber-slacking (wasting time on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter) can have a positive impact on performance. First, our attention span is limited. Second, social media is a great window into business-related opportunities and personal life management. So, if you can use it rather than abuse it, spending time on your favourite networking site – say, five minutes for every hour you work – will provide some necessary distraction and keep you entertained at work; plus you can make that type of entertainment quite useful if you use it to organize your leisure time.”
Start a hobby that improves self esteem (to make the things that ‘have’ to be done, like going to work, feel easier)
Doing something to ‘better yourself’ will make you feel more positive about your life in general and make it easier to do the things that you ‘have to do’ like going to work, chores around the house, running errands, etc. Of course, not everyone has the time to take up a new activity that’s going to cut into family / personal life time, but you’ll reap the benefits of this one even if the new hobby is something small like signing up for the ‘word of the day’ or the e-version of your favourite newspaper so you can read during your morning commute.
Get up on the wrong side of the bed
Even with our sleeping patterns, we can get into a routine which is just a little too comfortable. Try sleeping on the wrong side of the bed to switch it up. You’d be surprised what a little change in routine can do to give you a fresh perspective on a problem. Also, try to avoid ‘bedtime brainstorms’, as thinking about work or a problem that you’re not going to be able to solve overnight will keep your brain active when it should be going into sleep mode.
Set New Year’s resolutions in July
Instead of waiting until after the holidays to get your resolutions sorted, set them and start working towards them in the summer, this way, when January rolls around you’ll have a massive head start and be more likely to see them through. When the holidays finish, most people find it difficult to keep motivated because not only is the time off and party season over, but now you’ve got the unpleasant experience of sticking to those pesky resolutions. To avoid this, get started in the summer when the days are longer and the cold won’t be getting you down. You’ll be more likely stay on track and achieve your goals.
Tube surf on the way to work
You can’t change the fact you need to be at work in the morning but you can change your mindset. Taking a new route will give a different perspective on your whole day. Getting too heavily into a routine can stunt creativity and motivation, so mix it up by getting out of the rut!
Get a personal mantra (and stick to it!)
When work and your day-to-day isn’t enough to keep you motivated, you’ve got to find other ways to keep you going and not lose too much heart. Try looking at historical or literary figures you admire and adopt their personal mantra. Say it to yourself in the mirror; have it taped on to your computer, loaded on to your iPod, whatever will be the most accessible for you so that you can repeat it when in a moment of need.
Eat a piece of fruit at 3pm to combat the afternoon ‘slump’
Although your instincts may tell you that you need to have a coffee or tea break when you are tired, it is actually a lot more useful to have a fruit break. Fruit consumption will provide a healthy sugar kick to your system that will boost your concentration and give you extra energy levels. In addition, you will enjoy it and consume essential vitamins for your immune system, which pays off in the long term. Focus your breaks around typical ‘slump periods’ in that day. For example, have an apple at 3pm or an orange at 11am (or both), get yourself into the habit of consuming fruit, and make a ritual out of it. It is also useful to use this ritual to replace whatever processed or unhealthy snack you have been using so far.
Let imagination and creativity run wild by reading your favourite childhood book
Re-living movies or books we enjoyed when we were younger replicates the same emotions and thoughts we had then. It is an excellent way to let your imagination run wild if you’re looking for a little extra creativity throughout the day. Maybe you need some inspiration when getting that DIY project done or some creative new ideas for a client, either way, getting back into a child-like mind-set may be just what you need!
Luke Reid, 24 from London tested the advice, saying: "I often find it difficult to focus on one task alone and end up trying to do several things at once. By actually stopping and allowing myself five minutes on Twitter, or a quick 10 minute walk around the park at lunch it boosted my mood and made the day easier to digest – so I could keep progressing without becoming overwhelmed."
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