How to be productive by doing nothing

Published: Thu 20 Jun 2019 12:26 PM
World Productivity Day a reminder of the importance of switching off to maximise productivity
Auckland, 20 June 2019 – In today’s fast-paced world, everyone appears to be action-orientated and being “busy” is worn like a badge of honour. It’s easy to assume that doing as much as possible and filling every hour of the day is the best way to be productive. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true.
In light of World Productivity Day (June 20) and in a bid to reduce the growing impact of workplace burnout[1], specialised recruitment firm Robert Half is using the day to promote the importance of rest in maintaining our productivity.
Megan Alexander, General Manager of Robert Half New Zealand, said “It’s not always about pushing ourselves to do more and more. Rather, global perceptions of productivity are changing to favour more flexible and people-centred work styles. This was recognised in the Government’s ‘wellbeing’ budget and its focus on mental health. It was also discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with Wharton School presenting research findings on the benefits of reduced working hours. Its study found that by encouraging rest periods and more flexible work options, people actually focused their attention more effectively. They could produce just as much, often to a higher quality, and were more loyal to the organisations that gave them the flexibility to care about life outside of work.”
Finding yourself in a productivity rut? Megan Alexander, shares eight productivity tips that everyone can adopt which involve doing surprisingly little:
1. A tired brain is a useless brain
When considering how to be productive, think about how you can boost your energy levels. Rest plays a key part in this.
To give your brain a chance to recharge and avoid burnout and fatigue, try some age-old resting techniques. Some people love daytime naps (which may be restricted to weekends, depending on how progressive your workplace is), and others practice guided meditation on a daily basis. You might like to try out some of these different methods to help you relax and increase your work productivity.
2. Make switching off part of your daily routine
Switching off from the online world sounds impossible these days, but it’s worth considering – at least in short bursts. We consume more information now than ever before simply because it’s right at our fingertips. However, this can mess with our brains.
Set some time aside at night to deliberately wind down and switch off, perhaps starting with a technology-free hour before bed. This has been proven to increase the quality of sleep and reduce insomnia, which in turn will do wonders for your productivity during the workday.
3. Manage email overkill
That familiar pinging sound goes off and you feel the tension rise. You can no longer concentrate on the task at hand, instead you feel the pressure to reply to every email that’s beeped at you – and quickly.
It’s time to manage your email program (and its incessant notifications), but if you think lessening your email time sounds unrealistic or unproductive then think again.
When thinking about time management tips and improving productivity, research has shown that establishing boundaries between emails, concentrating on other work and work-free time is a lesson in how to be productive. Then you can set designated time to respond to emails when you’re in the right frame of mind, making better use of your time and creating more considered replies.
4. Hold off on making rush decisions
At times it may feel like you are under pressure to make an immediate decision, like giving feedback on a piece of work or responding to a colleague about an internal situation. Taking a bit of extra time to think about the solution and next steps can prevent a lot of back and forth in the long run. Assess the urgency of a situation and then decide appropriately.
5. Step back from technology frustration
Technology is great when it works, yet there’s nothing more frustrating than a computer that’s frozen up or a software system that refuses to behave itself. Let alone someone suggesting that you “try turning it off and on again”. Instead of getting wound up, try taking a few minutes to think calmly through a solution and take some deep breaths. It can save time and energy in the long run.
6. Don’t let emotions get the better of you
It’s easy to act defensively when you receive an inquisitive email or when a colleague seems to be coming across offensively. Instead of reacting immediately, it's wiser to step back and cool off. You’ll come back to it with a clearer and calmer head, which will only have a positive effect on your productivity levels.
7. Take advantage of the wealth of fantastic apps now available
While technology can be a huge distraction during the day, it can help boost your productivity. It’s worth trying some productivity-boosting apps. A couple of the most popular include Wunderlist (a new take on the old-fashioned to-do list) and Pomodoro (a timer to help you focus on one task at a time). And in keeping with the meditation suggestion, Headspace is a great resource to use to help make this a daily practice.
8. Use designated breaks to get out and exercise
Getting angry, frustrated or overwhelmed by work or colleagues? It’s time to run or walk it out.
Pushing through the mind boggle is tempting – across the ditch, some 90% of working Australians admit to having worked through a lunch break, and 25% do it every day – while this might seem like a good way to get an extra hour into the work day, the truth is it’s counter-productive.
Even half an hour of exercise a day, which can be done before or after work or during your lunch break, is great for your mind and motivation. Getting outside is the best option if you can: fresh air boosts your mood and energy levels, which can be a great productivity boost during your workday.
“Doing nothing might sound like the fast track to wasting time, but it could be the answer to getting through that ever-growing to-do list. It’s worth a shot. After all, it won’t take much effort,” said Megan Alexander.

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