How to kickstart your workflow mojo

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We get it, working from home can sap your motivation at times. Here are some ways to speed your way through your work, chores and tasks alike – backed by science.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

Working harder is great but working smarter is better — and looking at ways to efficiently mow through your tasks is a win-win, because you clear them faster and feel more motivated afterwards. Next thing you know, you’re done for the day.
If you’ve been finding it impossible to get past that one email, adopt some of these methods and their principles — backed by research — to kickstart your workflow mojo once again.

 

DEADLINES SAVE LIVES

Your manager wasn’t that far off. Setting an achievable deadline actually promotes productivity because of Parkinson’s Law, where the effort and work expands according to the timeline of the task. In other words, the more time you have for the task, the more likely you’ll waste time on it. And a lot of this has to do with flow.
It takes immense effort to achieve full concentration, and finding your flow – or being in the zone – has often been said to produce great results. By placing an over-generous marker, the general tendency is for one to run on half a tank. So if there’s a realistic deadline, then it’s actually working to power your natural motivation.
But what if it’s a huge project? The Harvard Business Review found out that breaking down larger projects into daily tasks led to better satisfaction and higher achievement rates through small wins – so really, these short-term goals help to nudge people in the right productive direction.

 

RHYTHM DOES IT

We each have our own ultradian rhythm, similar to our circadian cycles for sleep. By working with our natural bio-rhythm and matching our activities to the alert phases, we achieve more – even if we wake up at 9am instead of 4am.
As a guide, we generally perform well at a task until it hits about the 90-minute mark. Swedish psychologist and researcher Anders Ericsson studied high performers such as athletes and musicians, and found that those at the top of their fields practised in intense bouts. It is evident that we are most productive when hedging work into compartments, and following through with scheduled breaks.
The Pomodoro Technique for instance, recommends 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. And when it comes to maximising your efficiency and enjoyment of the tasks at hand, prioritise them with the Pareto Principle, which lets you invest your best energy on the top 20 per cent in value-creation work.

 

SPACE OUT RIGHT

Having a conducive workspace is a fundamental element in your quest for workplace domination (or at least finishing your projects on time), although work-from-home has admittedly complicated this. So that means no more working at the dining table!
To pitch yourself at the right kind of uplifting environment for work, it’s important to pick an uncluttered space with plenty of natural light. The former creates visual distractions, while studies have shown that a sunlit work spot helps to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm for better sleep, and reduces drowsiness by 10 per cent and raises productivity by 2 per cent.
To further enhance your space, adding plants can help. They’re known to boost productivity by 15 per cent. And for a perfect soundtrack, put on some white noise (lyrical songs might prove distracting for some), classical music or even binaural music for a boost in productivity.

 

BREAKS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Don’t feel bad about taking a break. As evidenced by the earlier point on our bio-rhythms, taking clear-cut scheduled pauses actually heightens motivation in the long run.
It’s important these breaks are enjoyable, so make sure that your rest period is really a departure from work. For a change, why not take up the Work-From-Villa packages at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok? Every spacious bungalow comes with secure Wi-Fi and game consoles, which allows you to easily break for some entertainment.
Feeling drowsy? Rest assured that science has proven that a nap is beneficial for your productivity, but just make sure that you time it right.

 

DITCH THOSE UNHEALTHY STEREOTYPES

And finally, it’s time to reconsider what we know about work ethics and model behaviour in
the office. Multi-tasking and perfectionism may sound great at an interview, but studies are showing that these actually impair work.
Multi-taskers can experience a productivity dip of 40 per cent because of the time taken to switch between different tasks. Perfectionists burden themselves unnecessarily because they can’t delegate, have a tendency for over-delivering, and leave no room for realistic goals (which ironically leads to more delay).
Rethink your work ethics and drop the toxic ones – it’ll free you up to get the actual job done.

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