8 Simple Habits To Make You More Productive in the New Year

No matter what your resolutions are, use these simple techniques to meet your goals

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- Posted on Jan 1, 2018

An array of New Year's resolutions with festive decorations.

The season has arrived when we give ourselves an annual review and pick a few ways we can improve our health, our parenting, our faith life, or maybe our attitude. Among the most popular New Year’s resolutions are losing weight, eating better, being more organized, living life to the fullest, learning new hobbies, and spending less (or saving more).

We could sum up all of these adjustments in just one resolution: to be more productive. Getting things done in an efficient manner helps us to stay healthy, try new things, manage money, get organized, and enjoy life a little more.

Being more productive doesn’t have to involve a major overhaul of our schedules and priorities. It doesn’t even require more time or energy. Increased productivity is a result of incorporating into our hours and days some simple habits. Here are a few to start with, some easy adjustments that you can make in the new year that will help you to get more things done and leave you feeling more productive and accomplished in 2018.

In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader

1. Track Your Accomplishments

A body in motion stays in motion: a person who feels successful and accomplished is going to be far more productive than someone who is discouraged by her progress or doubts her abilities to get a job done. Logging your achievements every day in an app or an old-fashioned journal is an important exercise that boosts productivity and communicates to your brain that the train is in motion – toward your next goal.

Some workplaces even have acknowledgement boards, a common space devoted to recognizing the accolades of team members and showing gratitude for team successes and efforts.

2. Dress Up

A growing body of research supports what your mom told you about dressing for the job you want. Apparently the pants, ties, shoes, and dresses we put on the morning yield a biological result that can impact our thinking and productivity levels.

For example, five studies published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that donning more formal attire was associated with enhanced cognitive abilities, increased abstract processing, and a feeling of empowerment. The clothing we wear really does influence our thinking and our attitudes, promoting higher productivity. Put on the power suit and see for yourself.

3. Do One Thing at a Time

You may think that putting together a sales presentation while helping your daughter with homework and talking to your sister on the phone is saving you time and rendering you more productive. But a growing volume of research suggests that multitasking makes us less efficient, yields more mistakes, and can actually lower our IQ. Our brains prefer when we focus on just one task, allowing the left and right sides of the prefrontal cortex to work in harmony. When we introduce a new task, the brain splits in half and throws a tantrum, causing mistakes.

One study showed that by eliminating email for a few days, employees could better focus on their tasks and had lower stress. While most of us can’t afford to shut off email for days at a time, we can reserve periods of time throughout the day to check messages, reducing the impact of continuously shifting gears. The more we can concentrate on one task at a time, the more efficient and productive we become.

4. Take Breaks

If you’re tempted to skip your lunch break to power through an assignment, you may want to reconsider. Our brains, like every other part of our bodies, require rest in order to perform at an optimal level. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve our ability to focus on a task for prolonged periods of time. In the study, participants performed a 50-minute task.

The group that was given two brief breaks had no drop in performance over time (performance dropped for everyone else). Our brains need rest in order to focus and perform. If you want to increase your productivity, reboot your brain periodically through the day: stretch, grab a cup of Jo, or enjoy a conversation by the water cooler. Then get back to work.

5. Hydrate

You probably know that staying hydrated is important to your health and especially to athletic performance. But did you know drinking water throughout the day can make you more productive? A study conducted by researchers at the University of East London found that drinking enough water every day resulted in a 14 percent increase in productivity at work and home. When adequately hydrated our brains are able to better focus on tasks and perform better. Dehydration contributes to tiredness and sends SOS messages to our brain that make it difficult to concentrate. If you want to be more productive, be sure to drink enough H20.

6. Be Prompt

Being punctual is polite, yes. But there’s more to it than that. Showing up on time sends a message to your brain that you are the master of your universe – an effective manager not only of your time, but of your life. It yields a feeling of self-respect that will ultimately make you more productive at work, home, and other areas of your life.

Being tardy, and especially chronically tardy, creates anxiety and stress that diminish performance. The guilt, even if it’s subconscious, fuels a negative spiral that works against efficiency. If you want to be more productive, set your alarm and get to your meeting on time.

7. Give Back

According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, the greatest untapped source of productivity is a sense of service to others. In his book, “Give and Take,” he presents studies and personal case histories that reveal how focusing our gifts and talents on helping other people motivate us to accomplish even more. You would think that this “other-directness” would distract us from our goals, but it ultimately leads us closer to them.

8. Pray

We typically don’t associate prayer with productivity, but developing a regular prayer routine leads to better concentration and increased productivity. Prayer is an exercise in focus and disciple that translates to our work and home life. In our quiet time with God, we use and strengthen a resiliency muscle that makes us stronger in every other area of our life.

The time we set aside to organize our thoughts, glimpse at the bigger picture, and be still grounds us and restores us. It provides a calmness that allows us to perform our daily tasks with better clarity. Flexing our spiritual muscles prepares us for the challenges that we face throughout our day. Most importantly, prayer supplies us with hope, the ultimate motivator.

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