During the pandemic, walks have become a vital form of self-care: they get you outside and allow your mind to rest, and as a result, can even make you more productive. However, not all walks may be beneficial, according to a new study from the University of Tsukuba Posted in Building and Environment.
Taking a 15-minute walk in hot weather appears to impair cognitive performance and reduce subjects’ productivity, according to the study.
The researchers created a simulated environment where students or workers took a test in an air-conditioned room. Then part of the group stayed indoors, part of the group walked outside in hot weather, and part of the group just rested outside in hot weather. All participants were then brought back into the room and asked to take another test, and changes in performance were measured.
Those who took the walk scored lower than the other two groups. This was especially true of men.
“The reduction in cognitive performance was more pronounced in male participants than in female participants,” the study said.
As summer approaches, those lunchtime walks you’ve incorporated into your daily routine might not be good for your productivity. However, there are plenty of other tricks to help you stay focused and get a lot done.
1. Develop a healthy sleep routine
The study results were more pronounced in sleep-deprived men, proving the importance sleep is our productivity.
To function better at work, develop a healthy sleep regimen.
In the few hours before bedtime, take a hot shower and avoid alcohol and television. According to experts, this gives you a better chance of having a restful night and being able to do more the next day.
2. Turn off notifications
Keita Williams of career coaching service Success Bully frequently turns off email or social media notifications while working. “I recommend turning off all alerts during these times of concentration,” she told Grow. “A push alert via email or a social media platform can create a reflex distraction.”
3. Multitask the right way
There’s a right way and a wrong way to multitasking, Raquel Benbunan-Fich, a professor of information systems at Baruch College who specializes in user behavior and multitasking, told Grow. “Multitasking works to a degree, but it really depends on the tasks you’re doing,” she said.
If you have to do a task that requires precision and focus, multitasking could worsen your performance, she said. If a task isn’t challenging enough, you may not be fully engaged, which can also make you less productive.
Tasks that fall between these two extremes — hard enough to keep your brain active, but not so hard that you have to devote all of your concentration — are the ones you can bounce back to and still be productive.
4. Time your tasks
Many people aren’t good at predicting how long a task will take them, Paula Rizzo, author of “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Successful and Less Stressed,” says Grow. “We’ll come to the end of the day and say, ‘I haven’t done anything,'” she said. “Well, where did you spend your time?”
To fix this, she suggests timing yourself to see how long tasks actually take. You may think that catching up on emails will take you 30 minutes, but in practice, it takes you two hours. Or you allocate an hour to pay the bills but find you can do it in 20 minutes.
Collecting data will give you a more realistic idea of whether a given task is something you can eliminate quickly. Over time, this information can help you create a to-do list that’s more appropriate for the number of hours you’ll be working that day.
If you’re looking to tackle longer tasks, you might want to use the Pomodoro techniquein which you use a timer to divide the work into 25-minute periods separated by small breaks.
5. Make a to-do list for your day, week, and month
Our tendency to focus on immediate or priority tasks is why it’s important to make a master list that includes bigger, long-term goals, Rizzo said. “Brain dump everything that’s going on in your head,” she said. Keep this list handy and refer to it when making your daily to-do list.
If you compare your daily to-do list to a master list of bigger goals, you might find yourself changing what you should actually prioritize.
It’s working for Benbunan-Fich, who called her to-do list a “saving grace.” Its dailies, weeklies and monthly To-do lists help her keep track of urgent tasks as well as long-term goals.
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