15 Psychology Experts Share Their Best Productivity Tips
Experts share their favorite tips for being productive.
Posted Mar 11, 2013
Take breaks from your desk to stimulate your productivity. "Walk Away: Without realizing it, I spent years trying to be productive in the most unproductive way--sitting at a desk for hours. Now I 'walk away' from my office after a few hours (or less). Moving, if only to get a cup of coffee, water a plant, or walk outside for five minutes, made me sharper and more focused. With short breaks, improvement in concentration and productivity soars. Try it." - Susan Newman, Ph.D.
Don't be afraid to close your door. "There are a couple, seemingly simple things that I do to ensure that I am productive. The first is simply closing my door at the office! Although I am extremely welcoming, I am often approached by colleagues, peers, and students about various topics ranging from sports to clinical considerations. Closing my door ensures that I remain productive. Second, I schedule "avoided" tasks; when I block out time (and get reminded on ALL of my Apple devices), this ensures that I engage in productive action. Action precedes motivation; these small steps facilitate more action and lead to me feeling accomplished." - L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D.
Stress relief helps reduce distractibility. "Plan exercise breaks: stress leads to binary (either/or) thinking, distractability, and procrastination. Taking time to reduce stress enhances productivity by keeping you sharp and boosting your capacity for creative problem-solving." - Craig Malkin, Ph.D.
Buck conventional wisdom if something else works better for you. "I think you really have to know yourself. For example, conventional wisdom says to do your most important task first; however, I find that if I start with a few easy tasks, I feel better and get on a roll because I get something checked off my list right away. Then, I'm motivated to tackle the harder things." - Barbara Markway, Ph.D.
The Pomodoro Technique. "When I don't want to do something, or my confidence is low, I use a productivity technique called The Pomodoro Technique. You set a timer for 25 minutes of work, then take a five minute break, then set the timer again. I know I can do anything for 25 minutes (and starting is the hardest part) so it works great for me. For more information: PomodoroTechnique" - Heidi Reeder, Ph.D.
Make a plan to deal with unresolved issues to free up your cognitive resources. Outstanding minor complaints (e.g., having to call a customer service hotline to dispute a charge) often nag at us for days when they remain unresolved, and interfere with our ability to be productive in the moment. Making a plan to address the issue (e.g., deciding on a specific time to make the call later) will quiet the nagging, free up our intellectual and emotional resources, and maximize our productivity in the moment. - Guy Winch Ph.D.
Use conditioning techniques. "Work in a place that you associate with work, such as an office building or library. Don't try to work on something that requires sustained attention in the place where you play and relax, such as your bedroom or family room. Your surroundings set the stage for your focus--if they are associated with work, you will focus on work." - Amy Przeworski, Ph.D.
Use an app to cut yourself off from the internet. "If you’re like me, you dip in and out of social media and e-mail all day while doing bigger tasks. There’s a fabulous Firefox plug-in called Freedom that prevents your computer from connecting to the internet for a programmed period of time, thereby removing temptation and allowing you to focus. If completely going off the grid is too limiting (or too scary!), LeechBlock is another handy tool that allows you to block specific sites at certain times." - Beth Buelow, ACC, CPC
Passion. "You may not always be able to choose the projects on which you work, yet when you do have a choice (e.g., of college major, range of assignments our boss needs helps with, committee memberships), go with that which you are most interested. Being passionate about what I do means that juggling the demands of teaching, writing, mentoring students, conducting research, and serving on committees is not necessarily always effortless, but certainly gratifying." - Kristine Anthis, Ph.D.
Put your phone away when you really need to get something done. "I’m most productive when I eliminate as many distractions as possible and focus on one time-limited project. When I really need to get something done, I close my web browser and my email program, put my smartphone in my purse and give all my attention to the task at hand: the less multitasking, the better." - Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D.
Don't overestimate how much you can get done in your available time. If you plan to do an unrealistic number of tasks, you'll end up dreading the day ahead. Before I get out of bed, I mentally identify one important task that I will judge the day's success by. I prioritize this task and any small but critical time sensitive tasks. - Alice Boyes, Ph.D.
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