Too often we equate being productive with those quirky new apps that are designed to help us do a million things at once. Now don’t get me wrong: I love gadgets and apps as much as the next guy, but I've found that we often ignore the simple changes we can make in our physical environment that can help us be more productive—no gadgets or downloads required.
Here are my top six easy changes that can boost your office productivity:
1. Post a “Do Not Disturb” sign. When you’re up against a deadline or facing a task that requires extraordinary focus, closing your office door and keeping folks out can be your very best move. Forcing yourself to buckle down and removing the distractions that keep you from staying focused can yield great results. But it’s important to save the sign for times when it really matters: If the sign’s always up, people will start to ignore it.
2. Get two screens. Using dual monitors will improve your productivity more than you’d think. You’ll find it's easier to copy and paste between the screens, rather than having to switch from one window to another. The interesting thing here is that two screens—and no more than two screens—are ideal. Any more than that, and you’ll find you waste time trying to locate pieces of data or that one of the screens ends up being a distraction in the form of social media or a news feed. Moving from one screen to two, though, will be enough of a time-saver that you'll be astonished how much faster you can get things done.
3. Use both standing and sitting desks (or a convertible desk that does both). Taking the simple step of changing your posture helps keep you fresh and gives you a sharper focus. Your body fares best—both in terms of health and attention span—if you change your position frequently. If you can possibly fit two desks in your workspace, give yourself a few options. If you’re working in a small office, purchase a convertible desk that you can raise or lower as you need to change position.
4. Paint your office. For decades, we’ve known that colors affect our moods, so why not put the power of color to work for you? Blues tend to have a calming effect and can actually lower blood pressure—that’s why NYC police cars were light blue for many years. Orange and red can stimulate your energy, but they can also stimulate your emotions, making them questionable choices for your office walls. Yellow is cheerful and sunny, but your best choice is probably green. Green invokes balance and concentration, and it's the least likely color to alienate or rile up visitors to your space. Even if you’re in a rented space and can’t paint your walls, try employing splashes of color through the use of artwork to brighten your space and boost your productivity.
5. Soak in some natural light. No matter how much we evolve, our bodies are designed to respond to—and even crave—natural light. Just think about how grouchy we all get in the depths of winter when we haven’t seen the sun for days … or even weeks! If possible, situate your desk near a window, or add a window to your office if you can. Natural light brightens your outlook and stimulates you, keeping you fresh and focused for your workday.
6. Get a plant. If you don’t have the option of installing a window in your office, you can still bring a little of the outdoors into your workspace. And while you might not be able to paint your walls green, you can green up your office with a living plant. It may sound like a small thing, but a 2013 study showed that living plants in a workspace may improve both productivity and focus. Another study revealed that during computer tests designed to simulate stressful working conditions, the presence of live plants decreased stress, improved reaction times and lowered blood pressure among participants.
Sure, you can find apps to help you manage your time better or buy a wristband to monitor your sleep and daily exercise. Just don’t make the mistake of overlooking your physical space when it comes to maximizing your productivity. A fresh coat of paint, new lighting and physically reducing distractions are all effective ways to get the most out of your workday.
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