1. Cultivate a routine of regular stretching. Morning stretches are great for waking the body up but if you don’t have free time or you already worked out in the morning, try to stretch at lunchtime. Ideally, this should be done before lunch but could also be done 30 minutes afterwards. The act of stretching will ‘reset’ the spine, open the lungs, pump blood into all the muscle-groups and ultimately help prevent the after-lunch slump so many of us experience. Stretches can be as simple as raising the arms while trying to touch the ceiling, touching your toes, rolling the shoulders back and hugging the arms behind the back.
2. If you work in a noisy environment and music is too distracting to work to try Noisli, an excellent web and mobile app. Noisli is a background sound and noise generator. If you work better to the sound of birds chirping while water flows through a windy meadow then this is the app for you. Random white noise can be generated as well as coffee shop sounds. The web version is free and the app costs a couple of dollars. Alternatives included Coffivity and Noizio.
3. Give up the coffee and try Matcha Tea. Matcha is a cancer-fighting, fat-burning super drink that delivers caffeine in a more steady release fashion. Coffee tends to give us a jolt and then bring us back to earth with a thud. Matcha tea gives a milder buzz for a longer period of time. Matcha is packed with antioxidants and doesn’t raise insulin levels, thus helping keep cravings and blood sugar under control.
4. If you are easily distracted by the likes of Facebook and Twitter you have two tools to help. Use Rescue Time to get a log of exactly how much time you are spending on these sites in relation to the amount of time actually working. It's an excellent tool for understanding where time is being wasted. Secondly, use website blocking software. Most browsers (Chrome, Firefox) have plugins that will do the job.
5. Use the Pomodoro Technique to work in chunks of time. The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management system in which you use a timer to break work down into 25-minute intervals. Then you take a short break, the idea being that chunks of solid, undistracted work followed by short breaks help maintain mental agility.
6. Practice Yoga once or twice a week. Yoga can help with posture and concentration and is an excellent way for stressed-out workers to relax. Check out the MindBody connect app which allows you to search for Yoga schools in Ireland and abroad.
7. If you must snack at the desk try to go for low-sugar snacks. Sugar will cause a spike in insulin levels leaving you hungrier later on and can bring your energy levels right down. Snacking on high sugar foods at work is probably one of the least productive things you can do. Eat fruit, nuts or chocolate high in cocoa. We love Clonakilty Chocolate’s Raw and Sugar-Free Mulberry Goodness chocolate bars.
8. Put a plant or plants near your workspace so you not only have something green and natural in the room, but the plant's air-filtering properties will also help remove contaminants in the air. The air in the modern office is full of dust, ozone, viruses, and bacteria. Anything you can do to help lessen the impact of these contaminants will improve your productivity and health.
9. If you find you are tired in the morning and can’t sleep at night, especially during the winter you might be suffering from SAD or just a badly adjusted internal clock. A natural light can work wonders in lifting your mood, energy, and productivity. We use the Philips goLITE on our desk for 15-20 minutes first thing in the morning. The natural light from the goLITE helps trick the body into thinking it’s a bright, sunny morning. The body clock resets, you have more energy in the morning and you become sleepier in the evening for bedtime. The Irish winter months are an ideal time to use a natural light daily.
10. Get a Standing Desk. Yes, this will change your life, and we’re not just saying that because we sell them. We love standing desks and use them at work and at home. Our energy and concentration levels have improved considerably. They take a little bit of getting used to but once you’ve used them you will never go back. The legions of techies in Silicon Valley currently using standing desks can’t be wrong!
11. If you find yourself working till late and then being unable to sleep, resulting in tiredness the next day then you should try Flux for night-time viewing. Flux is an app which automatically changes the light and colour on your monitor depending on the time of day. The light from your monitor is designed to look its best during the day and produces an effect on the eyes and brain like the effects of sun light. This is not a good thing while you’re working at 10pm right before bedtime. Flux adjusts the brightness of the screen, creating a warming glow which helps reduce the blinding light effect of a monitor at night.
12. Colour affects productivity. Colour is very important to our mood and influences our behaviour. Because of this we should really look at our place of work and how the ambient colours may be affecting our energy levels and moods during the day. Blue, for example, is a calming colour and also called the most productive shade to use in the office. Blue is also good for motivation.
Humans react very positively to natural elements in the office. Plants in the office, natural light, or garden views are all associated with higher levels of happiness, productivity and a reduction in levels of stress. Using green in the office can help mimic the effect of natural objects. Obviously, this won’t replace the real effect of plants and natural light but adding green touches to the office is a step in the right direction. Experiment with different colours to see which ones work best for you.
13. A clean, tidy desk is recommended for distraction-free, high productivity work. This report from Harvard Business Review discusses a report that examined the effects of a cluttered environment on a workers persistence in completing a task. The report shows that cluttered environments lead to distractions and unfocused thought.
14. Make the 15-minute meeting rule the norm. Meetings are always too long. The fixed one-hour meeting is how old school companies have worked for a long time. The problem with this is that people will generally fill the time with non-productive talk till the hour is completed. 8 people in a meeting for 1 hour is an entire work-day of manpower.
Set meetings for 15 minutes and if more time is needed then take an extra 5-10 minutes or reschedule for another time. Only include the most relevant people for the meeting as they can then convey important information to their colleagues if required. Try to stand in the meeting if possible. An even better option is to hold meetings in a room with only a high-table. This may appear a but strange but it keeps people alert, its better for your body, and will make sure that the meeting does not run over time.
16. Meditation can help you focus and be more productive in as little as 10 minutes a day. Meditation helps the mind de-clutter, helps you remove yourself from unimportant distractions, and gives you the mindset to see what’s important and what is trivial. If you’re new to meditation try an app like Headspace to get going. Try meditation in the morning or early afternoon. It could be one of the best things you do all year.
17. Completely block computer based distractions with an app like Freedom.This may appear to be an extreme measure to take but if you need to meet a deadline or are having trouble focusing on a task because of reminders, messages and other computer based distractions then this app may be what you need. It’s free to use so give it a try.
18. Trello is a project collaboration tool which can also be used as a type of super to-do list. We use Trello to organise tasks for the day, for the week, and for the month. We also use it to show uncompleted and completed tasks clearly. Its many features include collaboration for teams where members can view processes in their current stage and contribute in a very user-friendly and intuitive way.
19. Taking notes, copying information from the internet, scanning text from a paper document, recording voice memos, and journaling are just some of the tasks that one of our favourite apps, Evernote, can help you with.
Evernote is a free app (with upgrade features available) that you can use and keep in sync on your desktop and mobile devices. It’s a great way of collecting ideas and storing them categorically. If you’re reading a magazine on the train and need to scan a piece of text, add a voice note explanation to it, and then send this note to a colleague Evernote will take the pain out of the process.
20. If you are constantly repeating tasks throughout the day then it’s worth seeing if Zapier can help with automating these tasks. If, for example, you work with multiple calendars a Zap (automated action event) that you create can automatically copy events from one calendar to another. If you’re an Evernote user (see tip 9.) and you’d like to backup your notes on a regular basis there’s a Zap that works with Dropbox to do this automatically. Just set and forget! There are hundreds of Zaps to choose from that will surely take out some of the routine time-consuming tasks you perform daily.