This story first appeared on PR Daily in October 2012.
Sometimes your productivity comes to a screeching halt.
You can’t possibly do anything right now. Even getting up to use the bathroom seems like a chore. A coffee the size of a soda New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban might help, but even then, completing that assignment seems like a distant possibility.
Thankfully, there are less-caffeinated ways to overcome this impasse.
Here are five ways to be more productive at work:
1. Eat more super foods.
The wedge of deep-dish pizza you had for lunch is not going to power you through the day. That’s not just personal experience talking; it’s science.
A 2005 study by Great Britain’s International Labour Organization (ILO) found that nutritional intake has a direct impact on productivity. It even said that eating proper foods could boost the U.K.’s national productivity level by 20 percent.
So what kinds of foods should people consume to avoid the mid-afternoon stall?
According to an infographic from MindFlash.com, which cites the findings of the ILO study as well as data from WebMD, foods that boost productivity include:
• dark chocolate,
• nuts and seeds,
• raw carrots,
To learn more about these foods and how they affect you, check out the infographic.
2. Look at pictures of kittens.
Browsing images of adorable kittens seems like a time-wasting activity, but a recent study found that people who looked at pictures of cute baby animals—as opposed to those who viewed images of adult animals or delicious foods—before completing a task were the most productive.
Here’s one to get you started (via):
3. Take a break.
Don’t take time only to look at cute animal pictures. Get up and do something.
As tempting as it might seem to muscle through a task so you can knock it off your to-do list, researchers have found that doing so will lead to stress and exhaustion. In fact, taking regular breaks dramatically increases productivity, particularly for people who work at a computer, according to a study from 2011.
In that study, University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras and postdoctoral fellow Atsunori Ariga explored a person’s ability to focus on repetitive computer tasks for an hour. The result: Those who took two short breaks over the course of an hour saw no drop in performance compared with the people who worked straight through.
4. Focus on one activity.
In other words, don’t multitask.
You know that person in the meeting who’s typing something on his laptop, checking his smartphone, jotting down notes, and nodding in agreement? Well, that person is stoned—or at least as mentally dulled as someone who just smoked pot, according to researchers.
A British study from 2005 found that workers distracted by phone calls, emails, and text messages experienced a greater temporary drop in IQ than a person smoking marijuana.
Similarly, a study from last year noted that multitasking hurts short-term memory.
So, what’s the solution to this problem, given the always-connected world in which we live?
PR exec Gini Dietrich offered some advice in a column she wrote last year for Crain’s Chicago Business:
“Choose a challenging task that needs to be accomplished the next day. Block out 60–90 minutes to at least get it started, if not complete it. Close email. Turn off Skype and instant messaging. Put your email in offline mode. Turn off every alert you get for your social networks. Set the timer for your allotted time, and get to work.
“I’m willing to bet good money you’re much more productive working this way. If it works, determine the top five things you need to accomplish each day, set your timer, and get to work.”
5. Stop forcing yourself to be a morning person.
Unless, of course, you are a morning person. Then by all means, get cracking when the rest of the world is struggling through its first cup of coffee.
The point is to find your “peak time” and harness it for optimal productivity. If, for example, you kick out the jams from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., then block out that time for your most important projects.
To determine your peak time, Lifehack.org suggests you monitor your workflow for a week and jot down when you’re most productive. Adjust your hours accordingly.
Of course, determining that you’re an evening person is all fine and good, but how do you benefit from it when you have to be at your desk by 8 a.m. every morning? That might require a meeting with your manager, a job change, or perhaps just boatloads of coffee—plus a few super foods and kitten pictures.