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3 Counterintuitive Tips that Might Make You More Productive

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We all have different habits and personalities; for some of us, the usual productivity tips don’t seem to work. It’s entirely possible that doing the opposite of the conventional advice might actually help you to work better.

Here are some counterintuitive techniques you can start with:

1. Stop scheduling your day. My partner used to try to help me become more productive by giving me a fixed schedule. It sounded like a great idea; I was juggling school and teleworking at the time and needed some kind of structure to my day. One would think that an hour-by-hour breakdown of activities would help me make sure that the crucial things were taken care of.

Unfortunately, the rigidity of this schedule made me rebel against it. I couldn’t help it. Instead, I stopped focusing on planning my day and just listed the top four to five things I had to accomplish. This less structured way of planning gave me the freedom to do each task however I wanted. It’s no surprise that this worked, because autonomy can be a great motivator. If you suspect that a rigid schedule is hurting your productivity rather than enhancing it, this might be something to try.

2. Distract yourself. There are those days when you have to glue yourself to your seat and tell yourself to focus. You forbid yourself to idly browse the web, pet your cats or talk to a friend. While too much distraction can prevent you from accomplishing things, a little distraction may actually count as productive play.

A study from the University of Melbourne seems to support this. According to researcher Dr. Brent Coker, “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work — within a reasonable limit of less than 20 percent of their total time in the office — are more productive by about 9 percent than those who don’t.” In another study from the University of Utrecht, job satisfaction and employee productivity were improved by allowing employees to play computer games for an hour a day.

So the next time you feel an urge to do something “unproductive,” give yourself the license to do it for a little while; a little mental break might give you the boost you need.

3. Allow your work to be an essential part of your personal life. There’s a lot of talk about maintaining good work-life balance, which is all valid if your work is not something you’re passionate about. But if you love your work enough to consider it your life’s passion, why not celebrate it as a part of your identity and treat it as something essential in your life rather than just a means of financial support? The farther away your work seems from your life, the less pressing your tasks will seem. Passion’s the ultimate productivity tool.

Do you sometimes find that doing the opposite of conventional wisdom seems to work better for you? What counterintuitive techniques have improved your productivity?

Photo by stock.xchng user vidici

7 Responses to “3 Counterintuitive Tips that Might Make You More Productive”

  1. As someone who has worked from home for over 20 years I can relate to all of the above.

    I found adding a white board helped a tremendous amount. Having a list of to-do’s posted where I randomly gaze helped to focus with “soft reminders” on what needed to be done.

    I also find the mindlessness of surfing the web on link follows helps clear my head from all the hard focus stress.

    Great article you posted – thanks!


  2. Celine,

    Really enjoyed reading your post. Here are few tips to help with your suggestions.

    1. Stop Scheduling Your Day … I use to jot down 4-5 things I want to accomplish for the day otherwise my day is not complete.

    2. Distract Yourself. You can alot a 30-minute break to either web surf, youtube, etc or watch a quick 1/2 hour comedy sitcom on to reward yourself mid-day to having accomplished 2-3 out of 5 things for the day.

    3. Passion is definitely the #1 tool for productivity. Why do things you hate?


  3. Talk about controversy!

    Actually, the schedule/no schedule thing has no “answer”, so here’s mine: FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM. You don’t want to schedule everything, or your whole day, but there are definite benefits to doing some scheduling, both from a “get things done” perspective AND for the point of view of controlling others so that their flakiness doesn’t murder your day

    The distraction thing is smart, but it needs to be . . . scheduled. Funny, right? Basically, you reward yourself for productivity by taking short breaks every xx minutes

    As for mixing your work and personal lives: WOW. Yes, you need to love what you do. But you need even more to be able to shut it off. So while it’s a great idea to do what you’ve suggested, you have to be careful. This is the bailiwick of a scheduling professional, or a coach.

    Nice piece!

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

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