Do we live in a productivity-centric society? Yes. Do we try not to base our worth on said productivity? Yes. But do we still care about being productive? Duh. We’re human, and we make our living based on being able to get things done. Part of that means being productive.
But don’t you find that when you think about how to boost your productivity, the opposite happens — and suddenly, you realize you’re scrolling in the deep sea that is TikTok yet again? And don’t you find that makes you spiral even more, and start to madly Google hacks to boost productivity, until you’ve gone down way too many rabbit holes trying to figure out how to get back on track? Or is that just us? Either way, make the madness stop!
“But how,” you ask. Is there a way to increase productivity — without making a mile-long to-do list? Why, yes. Yes, there is. It starts with four simple words: Change up your routine. Gasp. Wow, yes we know — you didn’t see that coming. But changing up your routine just might be the (somewhat easy and non-committal) productivity hack we all need. If becoming more productive sends happy shivers up your spine, let us break down why this can work for you, and some tips on how to get started.
Okay, but like…Why?
If you’re like us, you need to know the answer to “why” before you can start anything. Well, come sit down, kindred soul — we’ve got the answers. We are the kind of people who love answers and predictability, which is why we so love a good routine. Routines make things easier: They allow our brains to work on autopilot and get things done with little stress. But too much of a good thing will bring you down. Remember the Titanic? We rest our case.
Changing your routine — that is, completely deviating from your norm — leaves space for novelty in your life. And novelty is everything to our brains. Literally. Researchers have found that we can actually only focus for 20-minute intervals, unless novelty is at play. And routine is the exact opposite of novelty and open-minded thinking — which means you’re at risk for cognitive boredom and missing out on those “light bulb” moments. In fact, it’s been found that humans are pretty likely to stick with what we know, even if that “what we know” isn’t great for us or helping us grow. Which is the opposite of what you need to boost productivity.
So it’s time to change it up. And if the sound of that completely scares you, try these tips to ease you into it.
1. Change your location
Are you always working at the kitchen table, sitting in that same chair with your coffee mug to the right of you? Drop a pin somewhere else. When we mix it up and change locations — going to different coffee shops, taking a different route to a friend’s house, or simply working in a different spot — we rev up our hippocampus, which helps us process and retrieve memories. Stimulating your hippocampus means you’ll have better memory — and better memory means you’ll spend less time looking back at your notes or trying to remember that one thing that one person in your Zoom meeting mentioned that one time. Productivity, baby!
2. Take more breaks
Breaks may seem like the antithesis of how to boost productivity, but in reality, breaks have everything to do with it. It turns out that we can only truly focus for short periods of time before our brains get bored. But by taking breaks, we reset the brain —- and studies have found that breaks skyrocket your focus and your attention span. Since we know that putting new things into practice is hard unless there’s something shiny to go with it, here’s our favorite pomodoro timer that breaks down work into 25-minute intervals, with short periods of rest.
If you ever got in trouble at school for zoning out, now’s your time to shine. That’s because letting your mind wander is actually great for productivity, among other things like creativity. In fact, if you’re stuck in a rut trying to solve a problem, letting your mind wander for a while before coming back to it can be helpful. As you’re daydreaming about building your empire and becoming best friends with Michelle Obama, your brain is still working on the problem in the background and coming up with solutions —- but continuing to add in new information can hinder the process. So, if you need permission to stare out the window every day, this is it. Do it for your productivity.
See? Changing up your routine is good for you — and doesn’t have to be too hard. Shake things up from time to time, and thank us later.