How to be productive by doing nothing

By Robert Half on 15 August 2017

We live in a fast-paced world, and it seems we're all action-orientated. It’s easy to assume that doing as much as possible and keeping busy every hour of the day is the best way to be productive.

Sometimes, though, the opposite is true. Here are eight productivity tips that involve doing surprisingly little.

A tired brain is a useless brain

When considering how to be productive, think about how you can boost your energy levels. Rest plays a key part in this.

To give your brain a chance to recharge and avoid burnout and fatigue, try some age-old resting techniques. Some people love daytime naps (which may be restricted to weekends, depending on how progressive your workplace is), and others do a guided meditation on a daily basis. You might like to try out some of these different methods to help you relax and increase your work productivity.

Unplug from the internet

Switching off from the online world sounds impossible these days, but it’s worth considering – at least in short bursts. We consume more information now than ever before simply because it’s right at our fingertips. However, this is messing with our brains.

Set some time aside the night before the next day to switch off, perhaps starting with a technology-free hour before bed. This has been proven to increase the quality of sleep and reduce insomnia, which in turn will do wonders for your productivity during the workday.

Manage email overkill

That familiar pinging sound goes off and you feel the tension rise. You can no longer concentrate on the task at hand, instead you feel the pressure to reply to every email that’s beeped at you – and quickly.

It’s time to manage your email program (and its incessant notifications), but if you think lessening your email time sounds unrealistic or unproductive then think again.

Hold off on taking rush decisions

At times it may feel like you are under pressure to make an immediate decision, like giving feedback on a piece of work or responding to a colleague about an internal situation. Taking a bit of extra time to think about the solution and next steps can prevent a lot of back and forth in the long run. Assess the urgency of a situation and then decide appropriately.

Step back from technology frustration

Technology is great when it works, yet there’s nothing more frustrating than a computer that’s frozen up or a software system that refuses to behave itself. Instead of getting wound up, try taking a few minutes to think calmly through a solution and take some deep breaths. It can save time and energy in the long run.

Don’t let emotions get the better of you

It’s easy to act defensively when you receive an inquisitive email or when a colleague seems to be coming across a bit offensive. Instead of reacting immediately, it's wiser to step back and cool off. You’ll come back to it with a clearer and calmer head, which in the end will only have a positive effect on your productivity levels.

Take advantage of the apps

While technology can be a huge distraction during the day, it can help boost your productivity. It’s worth trying some productivity-boosting apps. A couple of the most popular include Wunderlist (a new take on the old-fashioned to-do list) and Pomodoro (a timer to help you focus on one task at a time).

Get out and exercise

Getting angry, frustrated or overwhelmed by work or colleagues? It’s time to run or walk it out.

Pushing through the mind boggle is tempting. While this might seem like a good way to get an extra hour into the work day, the truth is it’s counter-productive.

Even half an hour of exercise a day, which can be done before or after work or during your lunch break, is great for your mind and motivation. Getting outside is the best option if you can: fresh air boosts your mood and energy levels, which can be a great productivity boost during your workday.  

Being productive is sometimes more simple than you realise

Doing nothing might sound like the fast track to wasting time, but it could be the answer to getting through that ever-growing to-do list and re-igniting your job satisfaction. It’s worth a shot – after all, it won’t take much effort.

This article was originally featured as "How to be productive by doing nothing" on the Robert Half Australia Blog.

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