27th February 2014

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by: designers-i

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Categories: Engage for Success Blog

5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder, Backed by Science

Belle Beth Cooper an employee at Buffer recently wrote a blog post on ways to work smarter, not harder and she backed these up with scientific findings. She starts the blog mentioning Buffers culture which encourages working smarter not harder. ‘Our team is all about getting plenty of sleep, exercise and recreation time so that our time spent working is as productive as it can be.’

1. Take more breaks: Respecting our natural attention spans

On average, our brains are only able to focus for 90 minutes and need at least 20 minutes rest thereafter, if we consider our natural ultradian rhythms:

ultradian rhythms

Just getting away from work and having a rest can be a good start. Taking breaks throughout the day* can help you to refresh your mind and reset your attention span.

Another way to implement breaks—especially when you’re busy—is to work in small bursts. ThePomodoro Technique is perfect for this. Just set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, take a short break. Stretch your legs, grab a drink, check your email, or just sit back and relax.

Or, if you’re really strapped for time, try switching to a different kind of task to give your mind a rest. If you’ve ever tried the 7-minute workout, you’ll understand how this works. As you exercise your arms, your legs get a break. Then exercising your legs gives your arms a break.

When you have lots to do, you can use small, easy tasks like replying to emails or following up a phone call to give your brain a rest from the hard work that takes up the rest of your day.

2. Take naps: One of the most efficient ways to boost your brain function

Research on naps has shown they lead to improvement in cognitive function, creative thinking and memory performance. In particular, napping benefits the learning process, helping us take in and retain information better.

The improved learning process comes from naps actually helping our brain to solidify memories.

One study into memory found that participants did remarkably better on a test following a nap than those who didn’t sleep at all:

Not only are naps beneficial for consolidating memories and helping us to remember new information (handy if your job includes a lot of research during the day!), they’re also useful in helping us to avoid burnout.

3. Spend time in nature

Spending time in nature, lets our minds fully relax and unwind, helping us to focus for longer when we return to work. Plus, other research has found that for students, motivation to learn is higher when they do so surrounded by nature instead of being inside a classroom.

4. Move around and work in blocks

Workstation popcorn starts with a clear, thought-out to do list. At each venue, you need to know what you’re going to work on before you get set up, so that you can jump into it immediately.

5. Check your email first thing in the morning

This one is really counterintuitive, especially if you have read anything online about productivity in the past couple of years. Pretty much everyone says not to do this, but Belle does it every day and finds it really useful.

Engage for Success does not own this blog content. It was originally posted by Buffer blog and the full blog post can be found here.