According to a just-released study, 48% of workers say that their productivity diminishes just before, or right after labour day weekend. To help you fight against that post-vacation productivity slump, I’ve sifted through the best posts I’ve made for A Year of Productivity so far, and have rounded up 21 awesome ways you can reboot your productivity to get your head back in the game.
1. Use the Pomodoro time management technique. The Pomodoro technique is a dead-simple time management technique, and it’s also deadly effective. In it, you work for 15 minutes, break for 5, and then repeat that pattern three more times, taking a 15-30 minute break at the end of it all. It’s one of the best ways I know to become more productive.
2. Look at pictures of cute baby animals. Really. Looking at pictures of cute baby animals has been shown to boost your cognitive and motor performance, and more. Here are 9 pictures to get you started!
3. Get more exposure to natural light. Especially if you spent all weekend having fun in the sun, too much exposure to artificial light at the office might sap your energy levels and productivity. Natural light regulates your sleep, releases stress hormones, and increases your energy levels and attention span.
4. Smile more! Smiling more helps you deal with stress and focus on the bigger picture, boosts your immunity, makes you happier and look younger, makes others trust you more, and of course, it feels great.
5. Respond to your email in batches. Email is addictive, but it can make you a lot less productive if you don’t use it right. When you blow through your inbox all at once, and shut it down when you’re not going to actually deal with new messages, you can become infinitely more productive. This works especially well after a holiday weekend, when everyone is replying to their backlog of messages.
6. Meditate. I talk about meditation a lot on A Year of Productivity, and find the practice so helpful that I meditated for 35 hours the other week to observe its effects, and wrote a comprehensive (but easy to follow) guide to help you get started. Meditation calms you down, lets you get by with less sleep, makes your brain younger, and helps your mind defragment.
7. Start a Waiting For List
8. Make more friends at the office. And what better time than now, when everyone’s transitioning from Relaxation Mode to Work Mode? Having office friendships increases your job satisfaction by as much as 50%, and makes you seven times more likely to be engaged in your work.
9. Only try to get three things done today. The Rule of 3 is a simple one, where you define three things you want to accomplish today, three things you want to get done this week, and three things you want to get done this year. Defining only three things to get done requires little overhead, and will boost your focus a ton.
10. Make sure your office thermostat is between 70-72ºF. Studies have shown that is the temperature where you’re the most productive.
11. Network with your coworkers. Networking with your coworkers is one of the highest-leverage things you can do at the office. It helps you learn, develop new skills, raise your profile, be thought about for new opportunities, gain access to the connections of the people you meet, and help others.
12. Repaint your office. The color of your work environment can significantly influence your behaviour and productivity. I interviewed world-renowned color psychologist Angela Wright to determine the exact color you should paint your office to become the most productive.
13. Simulate the creative vibe of a coffee shop with ‘Coffitivity’. The ambient hum of a coffee shop has been proven to boost your creativity, focus, and productivity. Coffitivity is a great app that simulates that vibe (available via the web, and for Mac, iPhone, and iPad).
14. Take breaks. You likely have a ton of stuff to do after the weekend, but sitting in front of your desk for hours on end will leave you zapped. Taking breaks (a five-minute break every half hour, or a 10-minute break every hour) is a great way to combat this.
15. Close your office door. That might be a bit difficult (especially after a long weekend when everyone is sharing stories), but if you really have something to hunker down on, it’s a great way to focus. After socializing a bit, of course.
16. Clear to neutral. You likely know how it feels to walk into a dirty house or messy office. ‘Clearing to neutral’ is a practice that significantly reduces the friction to starting an activity (like working) again, because it forces you to clean up after you’re done with something. Before you get back to work, clear to neutral.
17. Eat foods that will boost your focus. If your mind is stuck in vacation mode, you may need all the help you can get to refocus on your work. These 9 brain foods have been proven to boost your focus (don’t worry; the list includes chocolate).
18. Shut off pointless email alerts. You’ll likely get inundated with email alerts after the holiday weekend, and distracting email alerts can be detrimental to your focus and productivity.
19. Leave your smartphone at home. This one might seem rash, but I actually don’t think it is.As a productivity experiment, I only used my smartphone for an hour a day, for three months. One of the big things I discovered with the experiment is how many low-return activities a smartphone allows you to do, and how distracting it can be. If you’re serious about refocusing after the long weekend, leave your smartphone at home.
20. Plan for an earlier retirement. If you got a little taste of freedom over the weekend, there is a surefire way to retire decades earlier: save a higher proportion of your income.
21. Focus on something that’s important, but not urgent. When I interviewed musician Ernie Halter about how he is so productive, he brought up a quote by Dwight Eisenhower that goes, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” There is likely a lot of urgent stuff to deal with now that you’re back at work, but chances are a lot of it is urgent but not important. Identify and do something that’s important, but not urgent.