6 unexpected ways to boost productivity

by | Dec 12, 2021 | Last updated May 18, 2022

These past two years have certainly presented its fair share of challenges, and as soon as we’ve gotten used to a new normal, there’s another new normal to get acquainted with. So, it makes sense that you may be having trouble focusing on a specific task or feeling motivated to get anything done (even if it’s just folding the laundry—we’re staring at a pile as we write). For many, this feeling is amplified during the holiday season.

If you feel like your productivity fluctuates from one day to the next, we’ve come up with—and tested—six tips to help you check at least one thing off of your to-do list right now. (Well, as soon as you’re done reading.)

1. Follow the 90-second rule 

Most of us try to do many things at once, like brushing our teeth while trying to tidy up the bathroom (just us?). But it’s been proven that doing one thing at a time (also known as single-tasking) can help us accomplish more than multitasking. That’s where the 90-second rule comes in. When you’re in the middle of one task and another to-do pops up, ask yourself, “Can I get this done in 90 seconds?” (You can also choose 60 or 120 seconds, but keep it short). If you can get it done, take care of it now. If not, write it down and save it for later. 

2. Take a mindless break

We know—we preach mindfulness at Noom. That’s not changing. But taking a planned break to be mindless can increase your productivity, specifically when that break involves baby animals (say it with us, “Awww.”). Researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan examined how well people performed tasks before and after looking at pictures of baby animals, adult animals, or delicious food, or taking no break at all. People who took a mindless break to look at baby animals were 15% more productive. So give yourself permission to stare at mini pigs in rainboots. Your productivity will thank us later.

3. Say no to scrolling 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever opened your favorite social media, entertainment, or news app, and before you know it, 30 minutes have gone by. Your phone isn’t the enemy, though. In fact, you can use it to boost your productivity. If you have an iPhone, you can actually decrease your screen time by choosing specific apps that you’d like to limit your interaction with, and how much time you want to spend with them. So, whether that’s 10 minutes, half an hour, or 2 hours, pick a goal that feels reasonable for you. When your time is up, you’ll get kicked off. (Don’t worry, you can rebel and keep scrolling, but a friendly boot is always a good reminder.)

4. Elevate your energy hours

The secret to being more productive isn’t working more, it’s working more efficiently. The best way to do this is to plan your days around the times you perform at your best to whatever extent you can. Let’s be real, you’re not going to get much done in the morning if the thought of waking up before 8 a.m. makes you want to sink further into your sheets. (That’s us.) To figure out when you work best, try writing out all of the hours of the day. Identify blocks of 30 to 60 minutes (or more) when you find yourself feeling the most energetic, motivated, and inspired. These are your energy hours, so make sure to do your most challenging tasks during these times. 

5. Eat for energy

Food is probably the last thing you think of when it comes to productivity. In fact, you’ve probably forgone a snack or forgotten a meal when you’re busy trying to get things done. But food contains calories, and calories are your body’s energy source. Eating regularly (and strategically) can help fuel you throughout your day. Better yet, there are a few types of foods that can give you an extra energy boost:

  • Grab some fruit— it’s a great source of quick energy (and nutrients).
  • Eat regularly—it’s the best way to sustain your energy.
  • Enjoy nutrient-rich, whole foods—processed foods are high in refined sugar and low in fiber which can make your blood sugar spike and drop more quickly, leading to a crash in energy.

6. Aim for “good enough”

We live in a culture where greatness is expected and perfection can feel like the gold standard. But focusing on getting things “just right” can leave us ruminating over what we’re working on and stop us from starting or finishing. Try setting a goal for yourself to do something “good enough.” It’s hard to get used to, but we have a feeling your good enough is pretty great already. After all, we are all our own worst critics.

Whenever you’re feeling like you could use a little productivity boost, try one of these tips. You’ll be powering through your to-do list in no time.