How familiar is that feeling of starting a new week with great intentions about increased productivity?
And how often do you find yourself reaching a Wednesday afternoon slump that lasts for the remainder of the week?
How frequently do you promise yourself that things are gonna be different just next week? You assure yourself that you’ll be focused, responsible, productive, and attentive, only to repeat the same disappointing pattern, completing only a portion of the work you wanted to.
The truth is, motivation is simply not enough to break this cycle. Good intentions are great, but on their own, they’re not gonna get your brain into a more consistently productive space.
In this article, we’ll take a look at actions you can take to stop this ridiculous cycle. Read on for science-backed techniques that will help you get the most out of your week at work.
1. Start Your Day with the Right Kind of Fuel
What you put in is what you get out. Fill your body with junk, and you can expect substandard results. As tempting as it may be to stop at McDonald’s on your way to the office or skip breakfast entirely, you have to realize that your brain is going to pay the price somewhere down the line.
There are many dietary fads floating about, promising to maximize your brain’s potential. Some of them may work, but only in the short term, and some of them may have the exact opposite effect.
Be wary of nutritional trends. Sure, some of them may work, but if you want to see consistently great results, stick to what science has already proven. Your health is at stake, and so is your career. Do you really want to roll the dice on an eating plan that’s making waves just because someone with 2.5m Instagram followers swears by it?
When in doubt, turn to science. And science has already proven that a decent intake of protein for breakfast results in an improved mood, capacity for concentration, and fewer distractions from hunger pangs. Simply getting up early enough to prepare yourself a protein-rich meal is already a great way to start the day in a productive frame of mind.
Take this tip seriously. Your brain deserves the best fuel you can give it, and a decent serving of protein is scientifically guaranteed to improve its ability to focus.
2. Get the Most out of Your Team
No man (or woman) is an island. Even in the age of digital nomads and decentralized workforces, very few people find themselves in a position where their level of productivity rests entirely on their own shoulders.
Perhaps you’re a senior staff member who’s been around longer than anyone else, or maybe you’re the team manager. If you’re in any position where you can influence your team’s culture, there are countless techniques you can use to foster a greater sense of teamwork and increase your productivity as a result.
When managing your team, some of the most important goals are ensuring that:
- Every person in the team knows what’s expected of them and how this ties into the bigger picture.
- There’s a culture of open communication, and everyone feels that they’re being listened to.
- There are productivity tools in place that make communication and workflow management simple.
- People are doing the work that they were hired to do. It’s the work they want to do and that they’re good at.
- There’s a sense of camaraderie, and conflicts are resolved in a healthy way as soon as they’re spotted.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to being a great team leader than meeting these goals, but these are some really healthy initial objectives to set for your team’s culture.
3. Get Enough High-Quality Sleep
This sounds like a no-brainer. To maintain a consistent level of productivity, it’s vital that your brain gets the rest it needs. That should be simple, but unfortunately, it isn’t.
Why is that? Well, we live in a culture where dedication to work at the expense of our mental health is still a thing.
Sure, work-life-balance has become increasingly important in the past decade or so, but the bootstrapped startup culture often dictates how we prioritize rest. Somehow, we believe that having a consistent sleeping pattern isn’t as important as knuckling down for 90 hours per week to “get the work done.”
There’s no small amount of evidence proving the contrary, however. A recent survey conducted by Savvy Sleeper showed that people who maintain a consistent sleeping pattern and get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night showed a significantly better attitude towards work than those who don’t.
On top of an improved mental state, these “consistent sleepers” also feel a greater sense of satisfaction with their careers. Of all the survey’s participants, a far greater number of healthy sleepers felt that they get the most out of themselves at work than those who sleep inconsistently.
Don’t just take the word of 1000 survey participants. There’s a ton of science proving the relationship between a great night’s sleep and improved cognitive functions.
So, forget about impressing your boss or whatever compels you to pull an all-nighter. You’re not doing yourself or your company any favors.
4. Remove Worries About the Various Risks Your Company Faces
This strategy is especially relevant for the founders of young, successful businesses who need to start thinking about safeguarding their capital or revenue.
Perhaps you’ve just secured funding from an angel investor. Or maybe you’ve snagged a whale of a client and your monthly recurring revenue is looking great. Either way, if you want to be as productive as possible, it’s time to bring in some specialists to minimize the risks most businesses face as they start growing.
If your company is highly dependent on IT systems, it’s critical to have a professional do a risk assessment for you. Worries about the countless ways that online villains can destroy your reputation will destroy your productivity. Burying your head in the sand isn’t the solution either – you need security problems spotted and fixed.
Another area of concern that you’ll want off your plate is financial compliance. How much of your time is spent worrying about whether you’re on the right side of financial legislation? Is the person doing your books experienced enough to navigate the waters you’re sailing your company into?
If not, consider getting hold of a fractional CFO. These people are experts in managing all areas of financial risk without the commitment of an executive-level salary. Involving them in your financial affairs will go a long way towards freeing your mind from these very valid concerns so you can focus on being productive in crucial areas, like business development.
Take a critical look at every operational function in your company. Then ask yourself how much time you spend thinking about it when you can hire someone to do this thinking for you.
It’s a worthwhile exercise, and you’ll be surprised how much mental space you can buy for yourself by outsourcing your worries to specialists.
5. Take Small Breaks Throughout Your Day
We’ll end with my personal favorite productivity hack: the Pomodoro Technique.
It’s brutally simple. Instead of sitting down and trying to focus for hours on end, force yourself to think about something other than work for five minutes every half-hour.
In my and many other professionals’ experience, staying focused when you know you have a small break just around the corner is much easier than pushing through a seemingly endless stretch of forced concentration. It’s also a super-effective antidote to procrastination and avoiding distractions like social media.
I can’t recommend this way of working highly enough. It’s honestly been a life-saver for me during times when I simply couldn’t find the capacity for even five minutes of concentration. After three sprints, you may even find yourself “in the zone” and more than happy to skip your five-minute breaks because you don’t want to interrupt your flow.
Some Closing Thoughts
It’s almost comforting to think that the solution to being more productive doesn’t lie in finding some untapped resource of concentration or maturity inside us.
Getting the most out of our work-week is mostly about overcoming bad habits, removing distractions, and improving our environments. If we approach this problem by focusing on actionable solutions rather than putting pressure on ourselves to become some kind of concentration superstar, we’re giving ourselves a much better chance of succeeding.
Have realistic expectations and take it easy on yourself, too. Don’t stress if the ability to maximize productivity doesn’t come to you overnight. Be ambitious with your goals, but realize that it may take time to reach them. Don’t forget that there are plenty of email productivity extensions out there to help you reach your goals.