You can get more done while feeling less stressed and gain extra free time – for fun, family and you – along the way. Discover the innovative sciencebacked strategies to make it happen.
The tips that best hone concentration aren’t what you’d expect.
We all have hidden pockets of time in our days, research shows. The key to taking advantage of them: being extra productive, but in a way that’s smart, not stress-inducing. And these four new groundbreaking techniques will help you do just that – getting your must-dos (work, chores and errands) done faster, so you have plenty of time for your want-tos (family, friends and exercise).
REWIND YOUR CLOCK
“Your cells contain special ‘clock genes’, which operate on a loop, priming your body to do different things at different times based on day-long cycles of light and dark,” explains Suhas Kshirsagar, an Ayurvedic physician and the author of Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life. Sync up your habits to these genes, and you’ll operate super efficiently.
One of the most powerful ways to do this is to schedule your workouts between 6am and 10am. “Levels of cortisol, a stimulating stress hormone, peak in this window, so if you exercise then, you’ll feel more invigorated afterwards,” Suhas says. “Plus, research shows you’ll double or even triple your cognitive per formance for the rest of the day.”
To further boost your productivity, eat your largest meal at lunch. By 10am, your digestive system is operating at full capacity, Suhas says. For the next four hours, your body is primed to turn a substantial, balanced meal into energy, keeping you fuelled through the afternoon.
CREATE MORE WHITE SPACE
Jotting down every errand, play date and phone call in your calendar might seem like a smart organisational move, but it can make you less productive, says Laura Vanderkam, author of the new book Off the Clock. Keeping lots of empty blocks of time on your calendar is what’s truly essential to getting things done. Free time feels shorter when it comes before a task you’ve logged, reports the Journal of Consumer Research. So if you have an hour before you need to leave for, say, school pickup, you behave as though you have only 30 to 45 minutes of usable time.
Feeling rushed is a productivity killer. “If too much of your day is blocked out, you might say no to something that would have been a great use of your time,” Laura says.
To create more white space, stop scheduling to-dos that don’t need to be done at a speciﬁc hour, like going to the grocery store. Laura also suggests calendar triage. “Once a week, look at what’s planned for the week ahead,” she says. “What should be cancelled? What can be cut short? Give yourself more breathing room.”
PASS THE ONE-MINUTE MARK
Research shows that we work on a task for an average of just 40 seconds before we become distracted, says Chris Bailey, author of Hyperfocus. “Our brains are typically resistant to starting something new, especially if the job is difficult or boring,” he says. “But once we do it for a few minutes, our concentration kicks in.” One way to get over the initial hump: If you don’t feel like working on something for an hour straight, don’t force it. Allot 10 to 15 minutes to the task, and go from there. “Chances are, once you pass the one-minute mark, you’ll keep working for longer,” Chris says.
GIVE YOURSELF AN OUT
“Breaks are crucial to being productive,” says Chris. The trouble is, we tend to think that what we do during our downtime will be more restorative than it is. Take scrolling through Instagram, for example. Being the audience to other people’s lives doesn’t always feel relaxing in the end. Chris says the best breaks have three key characteristics: you can do them without much focus, they’re things you truly enjoy, and they’re activities you don’t have to exercise control over. “Think about things that leave you feeling fully recharged, such as taking a walk outside, doing a favourite hobby, or playing a game with your child,” he suggests. Devoting 15 or 30 minutes to one of these rejuvenating activities every few hours will keep your mental abilities fresh and your productivity high.
Keeping empty blocks of time on your calendar is key to getting things done.
TEXT BY MIREL KETCHIFF PHOTO 1TPGIMAGES