Boost Productivity At Work

Every spring since the beginning of your cooking life, you’ve heard the same chipper siren call: IT’S TIME TO REORGANIZE YOUR PANTRY! And if you’re like most cooks, you either drown it out with NPR so as to avoid this chore, or see it as your deluded pathway to life happiness—if your pantry were more organized, your life would be so. much. better.

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1. Have 30-Minute Meetings

As Jeff Haden notes in an Inc.com article, “whoever invented the one-hour default in calendar software wasted millions of people-hours.” The truth is that most meetings never need more than 30 minutes to accomplish their missions. Many really only need 15 minutes. Don’t be a calendar-default deadbeat. Next you’ll tell me you kept your phone’s default ringtone, too.

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2. Light problems

A dull, dark workspace is not going to inspire creativity and imagination. And while your office will obviously have some lighting, additional lamps can offer a more personal touch and help you focus on your computer. A small lamp on your desk can help you read smaller-printed documents and reduce eye strain and headaches.

In addition to electric lamps, position your office so that it receives plenty of natural light. My personal layout is to position my desk in the middle of two separate windows. Most of the time, the light shines in my office and makes me feel better. If the light starts to shine in my eyes, I close the blinds.

But not all kinds of light are good. If you are going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer, I would recommend investing in a pair of anti-computer glare glasses. Also take some time every day to look away from the computer and take in your personalized, organized, and open office.

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3. Make Sure Everyone is Taking Regular Breaks

In the old days, there were set break times when employees could step away from their work and relax for 10-15 minutes. Today, it’s less structured. Most workplaces allow employees to manage their own schedules—as long as they’re getting the results expected of them, they can plan their days how they see fit.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean people end up taking no breaks at all. You’d think this would enhance productivity, but it actually has the opposite effect. The time-tracking app DeskTime found that the 10% most productive workers work an average of 52 minutes, then break for 17. People need regular breaks to recharge, otherwise they’ll spend all that extra time working at a suboptimal level.

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4. Declutter the Office Desk

It’s easy for even the most organized people to let their desks get cluttered by papers, food wrappers, gadgets, and everything else that makes its way into the office. But, Leo Babauta writes, “For today’s knowledge workers, every distraction is a drain on productivity and sanity. Every ringing phone, instant message, flashing email reminder, pile of papers, cluttered sticky notes and phone messages and knick-knacks and memo posted on the wall—each of these things slows you down, wastes your time and energy, and stresses you out.” The answer? A work space free of distracting clutter. Babauta extols the productivity virtues of cleanliness in the office in his Lifehack article “10 Steps to a Zen-like Working Environment.”

At the end of each week, encourage your employees to take some time to organize their spaces. It doesn’t have to be a full-scale cleaning job (or the type of Zen minimalism Babauta advocates), just enough to give the place a good pick-me-up.

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5. Smell The Roses—Er, Lemons

When you feel yourself lagging, try sniffing lemon—a study by Japanese fragrance company Takasago found that employees working on computers made 54 percent fewer typing errors when the air around them was lemon-scented. If you’re not up for slicing lemons at your desk, splurge on a diffuser or brew a hot cup of lemon tea and breathe deep.

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