Top Tips to Be More Productive at School or Your Office

PHOTO: Researchers claim that adding plants to the workplace will, "pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity."
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Many students and employees returning to school and work this week after their summer vacations may need a mighty jolt of energy after fun in the sun. Placing a plant in your office is among the simple tips that may increase worker productivity.

According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, office productivity increased 15 percent in places that had leafy plants that were about three-feet tall on average, spaced about every 3.3-square feet. The plants in the office apparently increased "workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration and perceived air quality," according to the researchers from the University of Exeter, the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the University of Queensland, Australia.

"Being close to nature perks you up," said the author of "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast," Laura Vanderkam.

Vanderkam, who was not involved in the plant study, said, "Even if you're stuck in a cube, you can bring a bit of nature inside. Just remember to water it. A dead plant is a morale killer."

Top Tips to Ease Back Into the Office After Vacation

Here are more tips to boost your productivity for students and workers:

1.
Plan the day before you're in it.

Before quitting time, list three to five priorities for the next day, said Vanderkam, who also wrote "168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think."

"That's enough to feel productive, but not enough to overwhelm you. What three things have to happen for the day to feel like a success? If you know what you intend to do when you show up, the day will be off to a great start."

Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, suggests people take it a step further and separate tasks into time frames.

"It’s far more effective to note that you will have five reports by 3 p.m. rather than knowing it has to be done at some point in the day," he said.

He recommends people wake up earlier to boost productivity.

"Starting your day even 30 minutes earlier can make all the difference," Gimbel said. "In that time someone can read the paper without distractions, listen or watch a news program, stretch and mediate, have breakfast, et cetera. This can make all the difference between the employee frantically rushing to their desk and having time to ease into the day."

2.
Take a real lunch break.

"We all reach a point of diminishing returns," Vanderkam said. "Getting up from your desk and moving around will help you concentrate afterwards, and avoid the mid-afternoon slump."

Gimbel suggests that people get up and walk around.

"Whether it’s walking to a different department to have a conversation someone would typically have via email or phone, or walking outside, take a 15 minute break to clear the mind and recharge for the rest of the day," Gimbel said.

3.
Make a five-minute list.

"We all have bits and pieces of time here and there, and they're hard to use well," Vanderkam said. "So, inevitably, we check email. But there are lots of other things you could do: read a bit of poetry, text a loved one, write in a journal. Make a list of these things that will make you happy in little bits of time, and aim to do at least one a day."

Similarly, Gimbel said keeping a journal at work is handy for tracking the endless ideas we spend hours later trying to remember.

4.
Perform a 4 p.m. triage.

Sometimes it's hard to know when the day should end, Vanderkam said.

"So, an hour before you intend to leave, figure out what's still outstanding on your to-do list," she suggests. "Then buckle down and do it. That way, you can walk out the door knowing you've had a great day."

5.
Adjust your workspace, including the people around you.

Gimbel said that if your workplace allows it, employees should adjust their workspace so that it works for them.

"This can be in the form of a stand-up desk or having goals written on a whiteboard that sits in front of them so they have a visual reminder of deadlines," he said.

If workspaces are moveable, employees should sit by productive staff members, Gimbel suggests.

"By sitting alongside top producers, employees can pick up positive habits that will help train them to be more efficient and productive," he said.

6.
Identifying your least-favorite thing to do.

At the end of the day, procrastinators need to first think about why they are putting things off, and seek out ways to adjust, he said.

"If it’s a particular task that for some reason always gets put on the back burner, start with that next time around," he said. "Writing out areas of weakness and mapping out how to rework the day to increase productivity is extremely beneficial to staying on track."

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