8 Almost Effortless Ways to Be Way More Productive

How to power through more tasks before lunch than you usually complete in one day.

Take breaks early in the day


One study found that the most beneficial time to get out of your work zone is in between when you arrive at the office and when you break for lunch. Researchers also found that frequent short breaks were better at replenishing mental resources, such as energy, concentration, and motivation, than infrequent long breaks. “Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” explains Emily Hunter, PhD, who worked on the study. That 11 a.m. coffee break (and 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) is officially justified. Here's how to be more productive in your first hour of work.

Look at photos of baby animals

istock/Andrey Danilovich

As long as you don't get too carried away with those kittens on Instagram, looking at photos of cute animals could be just what the doctor (or your manager) ordered. One study found that people who looked at pictures of baby animals before they completed a task performed far better than those who observed photos of adult animals or neutral subjects. Get started with these photos of newborn sloths who just want to be your friend.

Keep a pack of gum on deck


Chewing gum is not a bad habit if it makes you more productive. And guess what? Researchers are beginning to think it does. "People who chew gum report increased productivity at work, which fits in with what studies show in the lab," Andrew Smith, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom who specializes in health-related behavior, told the Daily Mail. Chewing stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which in turn stimulates the part of the brain associated with alertness, says Smith.

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Take a whiff of peppermint


Keep a small dropper of peppermint oil at your desk and take a sniff whenever you need a pick-me-up. Recent research shows that peppermint helps people feel more alert and less anxious and fatigued. Learn more about aromatherapy with these scents that heal.

Give yourself a time limit


Break your workday down into 25-minute segments, with short breaks in between. During each segment, set your focus to one particular task (say, outlining a report or clearing your inbox) and don't allow any distractions. Doing this will force you to identify that tasks that are most important for you to complete first, as well as inform you how long it actually takes you to complete certain assignments.

Abide by the two-minute rule


Time management consultant and bestselling author David Allen pioneered this time-saving technique: If you determine a task can be completed in two minutes, do that task as soon as it comes onto your radar. "It'll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it," Allen told Success.com. "If you don't avoid the question about what's the next step, lots of two minute items could be done right then." Don't miss these tips on making a more effective to-do list.

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Eat the frog


Complete the task that you're most dreading as soon as you get to the office each morning. Time-management expert and author Brian Tracy calls this "eating the frog," a phrase that was derived from an old saying that says, "if the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day." Don't allow an annoying task to hang over your head for an entire day. Accomplish it while you're still full of energy first thing in the morning.

Curb chaotic colors


If your goal is to focus, color psychologists advise against bold color schemes. "Colors that are very saturated and not very bright—like emerald green and sapphire blue—generally promote an energy level that puts people into overdrive if they’re trying to do thoughtful work alone or to collaborate with others. They just can’t concentrate well,” Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental psychologist and principal at Design With Science, told the Huffington Post. Instead, limit your office—or at the very least, your personal space—to subtle colors like taupes, tonal whites, and warm grays. Add splashes of color with desk accessories and personal photos. These are the secrets to a more productive workspace.

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