Between your smartphone, social media, and the constant barrage of emails loading up your inbox, it's become easier than ever to find yourself incidentally burning the midnight oil. But it doesn't have to be that way.
You could very easily clock out at a more reasonable hour by employing some of these dead-simple, productivity-boosting hacks from the comfort of your workstation. Don't be a desk jockey. Take back your life before it's too late.
1. Add an extra screen or two
It may look absurd, but more screen space can shave some serious time off your day. Rather than toggle between different windows, tabs, and applications, more screens means being able keep everything open and accessible all the time.
2. Surround yourself with things that make you happy Spoiler alert: happier people do better work. To keep your mood up, it’s recommended that you keep photos of friends, family, or pets on display. You may also want to consider adding a small plant or two, as they’ve been shown to boost productivity of entire offices by up to 15%.
3. Sunlight is your friend Do what you can to get a desk near a window, since exposure to sunlight has been proven to make you more productive. If you can’t swing that, switch your screensaver and desktop background to a scene of nature—exposure to them has also been shown to increase health and productivity.
4. Go offline
Cutting the cord to the web may sound drastic but it’s a fool-proof way to double down on whatever task you need to finish. Put your phone in Airplane mode and turn off your laptop’s WiFi. If you're just looking to put an end to the distracting ping of new emails, consider installing the wonderfully liberating Inbox Pause plug-in.
5. Clean up, you slob
Sure, some creative geniuses live behind a train wreck of a desk and turn out some of their finest work. Until you become one of them, clean it up. An organized workspace has not only been shown to motivate people, but a cluttered one often undermines productivity.
6. Kill the noise As much as the open office may improve team communication, when you really need to focus it’s good to have a pair of quality noise-canceling headphones. Pro-tip: listen to ambient sounds as they've been shown to significantly help keep you on track. Bookmark this page and boot it up when it’s go-time.
7. Get off your ass If you haven’t made the leap to the standing desk quite yet (or even if you have), get up at least once an hour to grab a glass or water or take a lap around the office. Not only is it important for your physical health, but it can help you come back with fresh eyes to whatever project you’re working on.
8. Abide by the 2-minute rule If something interrupts what you’re doing in the moment but can be addressed in under two minutes (responding to an email, confirming an appointment, etc.) do it immediately. Letting those little tasks stack up can royally mess up your schedule later on.
9. Browsing Cute Overload is legitimately a good use of company time
Studies have shown that taking little breaks to look at photos of cute animals can boost productivity. Seriously.
10. Turn up the heat Studies prove that workers perform best in an office temp around 77 degrees, or slightly warmer than average room temperature.
11. Create micro-routines Break up your day into more manageable chunks of time. For instance, if you divide every hour into 15-minute sections, perhaps use the first 15 of each hour to catch up on emails and the other 45 to knock out parts of a bigger project. That way you’re not flailing randomly between tasks and set smaller (and seemingly more manageable) goals.
12. Don’t check out too early on Friday Before you skip out for the weekend take a few minutes at the end of the week to make sure Monday won’t be a beast, and take care of any small work that may muck it up. You'll thank your bleary-eyed self a couple days later.
13. There is such a thing as the smell of success
The scents of lemon, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, cinnamon, and mint have all shown promise as mood and productivity boosters. Keep a few essential oils at your desk and let them occasionally waft in your vicinity. Especially if you're wont to eat Indian food for lunch.
14. Start your day with the worst tasks When you kick off the workday with your least-favorite type of work, you won’t spend the rest of it dreading it, thus creating a more pleasant and productive day overall.
15. Break up with to-do lists, and stay strong It’s been shown that scheduling out your tasks rather than writing them down in list form better compels you to complete them. When you reserve time to finish something, it’s harder to avoid than simply looking at a list of things yet to be crossed off.
16. Ditch the office once a week If it’s acceptable to telecommute where you work, consider requesting a day to work remote each week. It'll give you perspective and you won't have to wear pants.
17. Get some color
Don’t let the bland beiges of your cube kill your soul. Surround yourself with colorful accents (or even sheets of paper) to help you do your best work. Green has been shown to make you more creative, while yellow helps you concentrate (it subconsciously tells your brain to decrease production of melatonin).
18. Do a little work on Sunday night Take a few minutes out of your Sunday Funday to look at the week ahead. Being prepared for your schedule is more powerful than you might believe, and Game of Thrones doesn't start until 9 p.m., so you'll have plenty of time.
19. Eat tons of (healthy) food Stock up on blueberries, bananas, nuts, dark chocolate, green tea, and leafy ass salads—they’ll keep your brain running on all cylinders. And as much as you may be craving it, that Chipotle burrito for lunch will just weigh you down, man.
20. Lighting is crucial While you most likely don’t have control over your entire office’s lighting, bring your own desk lamp with a natural light bulb. Fluorescent is not only ugly, it’s soul-crushing. Warmer light does wonders to create a more positive mood and make your desk look extremely baller to boot.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. His secret productivity weapon is Spotify’s bountiful jazz playlists. And so, so much coffee.