5 science-backed techniques to improve your productivity

Nick Harland
June 2022

From Italian tomatoes to Cold Turkey, here are 5 science-backed techniques to improve your productivity.

And now for something completely different.

Writing is our thing, really, but we also know that to write well every day, you need to stay focused and productive all day. Which is easier said than done. So we decided to do some digging about the best ways to improve our productivity and help us write the best we possibly can. We figure that way, we’ll have more time to go off and do that life thing.

Here’s what we found works when it comes to upping your productivity.

1. Get some morning daylight

The first step to improved productivity comes right after you wake up. According to neuroscientist and Stanford University lecturer Dr. Andrew Huberman, you should try and expose yourself to daylight (ideally sunlight) for between two and ten minutes every morning.

According to Andrew, this simple activity has a huge beneficial effect on your ability to focus and work. That's because this morning exposure to daylight triggers the release of cortisol in your body. Having healthy levels of cortisol in your body helps to wake you up, sets your body clock and increases your ability fo focus throughout the day.

2. Stand up

It’s easy to look at standing desks and sneer at them as some hip, tech bro fad that has absolutely no effect on how you work. But the science actually says otherwise. Not only could it help to relieve back pain, decrease blood pressure and ward off heart disease, but working at a standing desk has also been proven to boost your mood and energy.

According to one study, workers using a standing desk reported feeling less stress and less fatigue than those working sitting down. They also reported increased feelings of energy and vigour.

Whilst the study failed to show a big increase in productivity, the fact that it has such beneficial effects on your mood and energy suggests it is far more likely to boost productivity than to hinder it.

3. Remove distractions

Whether it’s overly chatty co-workers, idly checking your phone or scrolling through social media feeds, distractions in the workplace can come in many forms. And those distractions can hinder your time management skills, concentration and productivity.

There are a lot of things you can do to try and remove distractions from your day. For example, there are plenty of websites that you can use to block certain websites, such as Cold Turkey, Freedom and Stay Focused.

In your physical surroundings, you might want to try putting your smartphone out of sight and hidden away. Only allow yourself to open it during your lunch break. To avoid the lure of noisy co-workers, try working from home, listening to music whilst you work or just finding a space away from your colleagues.

4. Go for a walk after lunch

Everyone has had it: the post-lunch bout of fatigue. You become bleary eyed, you can't focus on anything and writing an email suddenly becomes a Herculean task. But it’s actually a perfectly natural part of our daily routine that everybody will go through at some point - and it’s all because of our circadian rhythms. They’re the things that determine our sleeping pattern, letting our bodies know when we're tired and when it's time for sleep. And there is a natural lull in our circadian rhythms after lunchtime.

To get over this, try going for a brisk walk (or even run) after lunch. You’ll not only wade off that fatigue, but also improve your productivity and creativity.

5. Try the Pomodoro Technique

Sometimes, no matter what you do, it can be difficult to remain focused on a task for extended periods. If that sounds like you, this is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in.

Developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, and named after a tomato-shaped timer (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), the Pomodoro Technique is a simple trick that has done wonders for our productivity. You simply work in 25-minute bursts followed by a 5-minute break. Every three or four ‘Pomodoros’, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

There are even plenty of YouTube videos that help you stick to your new 25 minutes on, 5minutes off schedule.

Nick Harland