The biggest accomplishments require years or even decades of hard work. But small adjustments can yield big results, too. We scoured the getAbstract library for ideas that can improve your productivity with small investments of time.
1. Practice power postures
Your body language is the outer expression of what you’re feeling inside, writes Akash Karia in 7 Things Resilient People Do Differently. If you’re deflated or depressed, your slumped posture will project defeat. When you’re pleased or proud, your shoulders and head are held high.
By practicing what Karia calls power postures, you can improve your mood and mental outlook. In a power posture, you expand the physical space you occupy. Stand or sit straight with your shoulders back and your feet shoulder-width apart, and breathe deeply for two minutes.
This brief exercise won’t even take 10 minutes – but it will create measurable changes in your body. Your testosterone levels will spike by 20%, while your cortisol levels will fall by 25%. Testosterone, the hormone found in both genders, boosts confidence, and more of it will help you tackle a tough day. Cortisol, on the other hand, is a stress hormone.
This small habit of taking control of your body will help you feel calmer and more resilient, which in turn will help you improve your productivity.
2. Stop to sharpen the saw
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey recounts the tale of an exhausted man who’s sawing a log with a dull tool. He’s so preoccupied with sawing that he sees no way to stop and sharpen the saw.
In Covey’s telling, highly effective people take the time they need to sharpen their tools, which in a modern economy are their bodies and their minds
Effective people take care of their bodies with a program of exercise that combines endurance, flexibility and strength. As evidenced by the growing popularity of short, intense workouts, you need not spend long hours at a gym to make a difference.
Exercise your brain, too. Turn off the mind-dulling television. Instead, read, do puzzles, tackle math problems or engage in some other stimulating activity to keep your mind alert, active and engaged.
3. Improve your productivity by figuring out what to focus on.
Too many hard-driving people mistake being busy with being productive. The most successful achievers know that the real key is focusing on a top priority, writes Kevin Kruse in 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management.
Kruse writes about the primacy of “most important tasks” – high-value activities that will pay the greatest dividends. Successful people focus on their most important tasks and make them a priority. Only when that work is out of the way do they turn to lower-priority items.
You probably won’t complete your most important task in 10 minutes, but you certainly can invest 10 minutes in thinking about what’s on your schedule for the day and which item should get priority. This simple tip can quickly help you improve your productivity.
4. Ditch the to-do list. Use a calendar instead.
For many people, to-do lists are an exercise in futility, Kruse writes. Crossing off one item simply leads to more tasks on the list – which might be why 40% of tasks on to-do lists are never completed. Instead of writing a to-do list, take 10 minutes to arrange your calendar for the day.
The very act of deciding what to put on your calendar is a type of prioritizing. Be ruthless about what deserves a spot in your schedule, and then stick to it. Working from a calendar can reduce stress and help you focus on your most important task.
5. Get in touch with your emotions.
Before you can control your emotions, you first need to acknowledge them, Karia writes. Resilient people are aware of their emotions and accept responsibility for them. Take time to think about how you’re feeling and how you responded to a recent setback or stressful moment. A traffic jam might leave you feeling anxious and angry. While that’s normal, it’s also healthy to search for what Karia calls the “positive intentions” behind your negative emotions. The traffic jam, for instance, spurred anger because it delayed your schedule and interfered with your pursuit of your goals.