Increase your productivity with smart self-management – Part 2
Tips from Richard Staudner
Our smartphone - blessing and curse at the same time
We know it. The smartphone is our biggest disruptive factor .
Have you ever considered how much time you spend with your smartphone? When surfing , on social media , in chats with friends or on various apps .
Take a look at the statistics on your smartphone on what you spend most of your time with. Every operating system can now display this.
Several hours a day? Unfortunately for many of us it is “quite normal”! Don't blame yourself, it's not your fault, most of the time you pick up your cell phone unconsciously or out of habit (1) . But from now on you can set the rules of the game.
Turn off notifications on your phone
Interruptions , such as smartphone notifications, take you out of your workflow and focus. Studies show that after a disruption - even if it's just a notification - we need up to 30 minutes to get back into the flow and thus be fully mental again (1).
If you get a text every 10 minutes, you will almost never get into a productive working state.
So make it easier for yourself and switch off the display notifications. Only essentials should come in, such as calls or messages from emergency contacts.
You can read everything else after your focus session. Social media in particular is now on hiatus .
Bored in the lecture?
Every student knows that. You are sitting in the third lecture and the topic presented is really far from interesting or even captivating.
Cell phone use during university lectures is associated with poorer exam results (2) and generally poorer academic performance (3) . The mere presence of the cell phone, even when not being attacked or ringing, inhibits cognitive performance and attention (6,7) .
So it's better to put it in your backpack out of sight .
The smartphone as a business tool?
If you have to work with your smartphone, try to limit this work to a certain period of time. Set aside about a scheduled hour a day for email and social media interactions and posts.
For example, I only answer emails in the morning or at the end of the working day. In between, I want to work focused.
Your communication partners get used to this working style sooner than you think and lose the expectation of getting an immediate answer to every e-mail. Don't let the time pressure of others become yours.
Tidy up your phone, it should only contain the essentials. Especially on the home screen . Move social networks and gaming apps to at least the second side of your smartphone interface.
You should restrict notifications on the lock screen and also sounds, or ideally switch them off completely. Many people cannot even follow a 10-minute conversation with others because of such disruptive factors . Let alone work in a focused manner.
Speaking of posts in the social networks! You want to post something and get lost in an hour-long Instagram spiral? There are also solutions for this, namely some apps to post without opening the desired page.
You don't have to consume for hours yourself to send something out into the world.
Your workplace setting is that important
Make sure it's really quiet around you. Cal Newport recommends doing the focus sessions early in the morning, when the rest of the world is still quiet.
But even if that doesn't work, or you don't have your own room, or you share a workplace, there are ways. For example in a shared office.
The fairy tale of multitasking
Multitasking in the office and also in your free time is a no-go. It leads to cognitive overload and in fact you only pay divided attention to all the individual tasks. The result: poor quality and more time.
Everything that comes to your mind during your work you write down on a notepad and deal with it as soon as you have finished your focus session.
To settle the issue of multitasking once and for all. Scientifically speaking, qualitative multitasking is not possible. A study also showed that students who see themselves as multitaskers lag far behind their single-task peers in terms of attention. You miss valuable details and information.
This negative effect is further intensified by intensive smartphone use.
Time Management or "Just do one thing quickly"!
Do you know that? You prefer to tidy up the whole apartment, clean the bathroom, cook and do research for your new sofa before you even start work. Putting off unpleasant things, sometimes work and studies are part of it, is a productivity killer!
#1 Procrastination is (but not always) a productivity killer
But this quality can be mastered with training. People who avoid making decisions and procrastinate in everyday life and in their free time do the same at work (4) .
Practice not procrastinating in everyday life and don't forget it takes a long time to train habits. According to one study, an average of 66 days before it becomes second nature).
Hold on! What counts is that you keep at it, so it becomes automatic and your brain learns: what needs to be done now, will be done now.
In fact, procrastination, or simply procrastination, isn't always bad. If your tasks are creative , it's often better to do it later. If your mood suits.
Some distance between the task and the beginning leave room for new approaches. The best way to use the time in between is to do other, simpler work.
#2 Manage time and work well
At the end of the day, you are the boss of your work organization. If you haven't already, then you will! These are also the opportunities that arose from newly created working models during the Corona period, such as more flexible working hours through home office.
Divide up your work well. Studies show that people who schedule work themselves or follow a regular work schedule deliver better results, invest more time in each project, and miss deadlines less often (6) .
Stress at the end of a deadline can sometimes even help focus (7) .
But in principle, as we know, stress is not good for our health, worsens sleep and causes permanent misery (8 -9 ) .
#3 Free time is free time
Be strict with yourself but also with your colleagues! Work begins and ends at a fixed time. If possible, schedule your focus time and also the simple tasks with a block in the calendar.
You can't reschedule a doctor's appointment at short notice if you feel like it. After your planned work, you are really done and treat your body and brain to a well-deserved break. That means no reading e-mails, no phone calls and no solving problems.
This is an act of self-love and respect for yourself!
Now it's free time!
#4 Sleep well for focus
Adequate sleep is essential for workplace productivity , job satisfaction, focus, and memory (10, 11) . Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep, a regular sleep rhythm and good sleep.
Good sleep means deep, restful sleep. Achieving this requires, for example, a suitable (cool) temperature in the bedroom and a shutdown of the body with suitable lighting conditions (red tones).
As many already know, artificial light has an activating property like the sun. If you have to work in the evening, you can also use blue light glasses. This blocks the blue light frequency from lamps, smartphones and laptops and enables your body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin naturally.
#5 Moving for focus
Physical activity and a healthy diet promote performance and productivity at work (12,13) . Try to fit in short walks during your breaks, or even a short workout when you're at home. You can get off the public transport one or two stations earlier and walk or cycle the rest of the way to work.
Provide your body with sufficient nutrients instead of energy drinks and unhealthy snacks. You shouldn't eat while you're working, only during breaks . Healthy nutrition is the basis for a long healthy life. You shouldn't just do this for work, but for yourself.
. . . . . . . . .
That might all be a bit much all at once.
You, too, can pick 3-5 topics from this blog entry that you want to implement. And please start with the simplest topic and only move on to the next once you have successfully implemented it.
Do not forget it.
Of all these tips for staying focused and avoiding multitasking, you don't have to do them all at once. The routine and the new habits level off over time.
My suggestion: You can start with your mobile phone, for example.
- Turn off display notifications to minimize distractions.
- Next, schedule your first focus session into your calendar. With every step towards focus, you create a little more space for the things that really matter in life.
- The goal is not to be productive all day, but when it really counts.
I wish you a lot of fun in the flow state.
Your performance optimizer
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- Aaron LS, Lipton T. Digital Distraction: Shedding Light on the 21st-Century College Classroom. Journal of Educational Technology Systems. 2018 Mar 1;46(3):363-78.
- Wu J, Mei W, Ugrin JC. Student Cyberloafing In and Out of the Classroom in China and the Relationship with Student Performance. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 2018 Mar 1;21(3):199-204.
- Hen M, Goroshit M, Viengarten S. How decisional and general procrastination relate to procrastination at work: An investigation of office and non-office workers. Personality and Individual Differences. Apr 1, 2021;172:110581.
- Lally P, Jaarsveld CHM van, Potts HWW, Wardle J. How are habits formed: Modeling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. 2010;40(6):998-1009.
- Ariely D, Wertenbroch K. Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment. Psychol Sci. 2002 May 1;13(3):219-24.
- Degroote C, Schwaninger A, Heimgartner N, Hedinger P, Ehlert U, Wirtz PH. Acute Stress Improves Concentration Performance. Experimental Psychology. 2020 Mar 1;67(2):88-98.
- Kruk J, Aboul-Enein BH, Bernstein J, Gronostaj M. Psychological Stress and Cellular Aging in Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019;2019:1270397.
- O'Connor DB, Thayer JF, Vedhara K. Stress and Health: A Review of Psychobiological Processes. Annu Rev Psychol 2021-01-04;72(1):663-88.
- Ishibashi Y, Shimura A. Association between work productivity and sleep health: A cross-sectional study in Japan. SleepHealth. 2020 Jun 1;6(3):270-6.
- Sun-Suslow N, Campbell LM, Tang B, Fisher AC, Lee E, Paolillo EW, et al. Use of digital health technologies to examine subjective and objective sleep with next-day cognition and daily indicators of health in persons with and without HIV. J Behav Med [Internet]. August 9, 2021 [cited August 11, 2021]; Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-021-00233-x
- Tarro L, Llauradó E, Ulldemolins G, Hermoso P, Solà R. Effectiveness of Workplace Interventions for Improving Absenteeism, Productivity, and Work Ability of Employees: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Mar 14;17(6):E1901.
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