July 15, 2016

Productivity Hacks for the Busy Professional

This post is written by Rick Peterson, Senior Director of Marketing Strategy for Bamboo. Rick drives the marketing efforts globally for Bamboo with a lean and mean team. We asked him how he manages to stay positive, productive and professional. He told us that he would give us the answers as long as we agreed to give him the keys to the blog for a series of posts. 

Take it away, Rick!

Look around at any bus stop or subway train during the morning commute and you’ll see some epic multitasking. For most professionals, there’s no such thing as “down time” and those few minutes riding to work are used to catch up on emails, down a smoothie and start that mental to-do list. While multitasking may seem like the best way to conquer our mounting workload, it can actually inhibit productivity.

In a study out of Stanford University, researchers found that we’re actually slowed down by this process and less capable of filtering out irrelevant information. In other words, while we flit from task to task, we’re not retaining what’s important and may be just wasting our time and energy.  But if multitasking is off the table, how do we manage our daily output without sacrificing time or quality of work? Here are a few workplace hacks that can actually help you stay focused, get through that to-do list and be a happier, more productive employee:

1. Wipe your mental slate

Just like those Etch A Sketch toys from childhood, sometimes you gotta start with a clean slate. With so many things to keep track of on a daily basis–dentist appointments, board meetings, the presentation that’s due next week– it’s hard to carve out extra brain space for actual work. To help unclutter your mind, start a to-do list and jot down any appointments or reminders that pop up in your mind throughout the day. A great tool for note-taking is the Bamboo Spark. You can start multiple lists on separate pieces of paper then save and organize them digitally, so you can return to them throughout the day.

A good tip for streamlining to-do lists is to organize them by the amount of time they take. David Allen calls this the “two-minute rule”: if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. Everything else can go into a secondary category so you’re able to check things off and get that wonderful dopamine high from the sense of accomplishment.

2. Feed your brain

There’s debate whether breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, but there’s no arguing that your focus and concentration suffers when you’re hungry. It’s important to eat whole foods that can help sustain your energy and won’t cause a spike in blood sugar the way high-sugar, processed foods can. Foods high in omega-3s are especially beneficial for brain power, so opt for cashews, walnuts or hard-boiled eggs when you need an on-the-go snack. 

3. Tune out distractions

Our brains have a natural tendency to wander so add email alerts, the ding of a new “like” and a status update and your head can spin from all the ambient noise. If you really want to get things done, you need to actively tune out any potential distractions. Adjust your settings to turn off push notifications from that dating app and sign out of your social network. Need extra help to resist the lure of the latest celebrity gossip site? Download a blocker like Self Control  (for Mac users) that lets you block access to those tempting sites or Cold Turkey that can block websites or time-sucking gaming apps.

4. Use time-saving apps

Fortunately, there are people whose jobs are focused on building technology to simplify our lives. Take advantage of these time-saving apps to increase your output. Slack bills itself as team communication for the 21st century where users can share files and message colleagues in one place versus constantly battling with their inbox. Evernote is another popular app to help organize and share important reminders, notes or to-do lists. Bamboo Spark smart notebooks works with both Evernote and Slack, as well as OneNote and Google Docs. Write on pen and paper, open up the Bamboo Spark app (with a free Wacom Inkspace account) and convert your handwriting to text. Save your plain text notes in any of these time saving apps.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking some time out to go for a short walk, grab a latte or even meditate can pay off in the long run in terms of productivity. We live in a state of constant stimulation so even just sitting quietly for 10 minutes or people watching can be transformative and boost your creativity.

For more tips on productivity and insights into marketing strategy, check out Rick’s LinkedIn updates. 

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