Tag Archive : productivity

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3 Science proven Ways to Take Breaks at Work

Have you been at least once in a situation where you have eaten your lunch break at your desk?

We all get so focused in our work lives that often forget that we are humans and we need to do normal activities in order to take care of our bodies, live healthily and spend time for ourselves.

So my question in this post is – do you take proper breaks at work? How long does your usually break take?

Here are 3 proven by science ways to take breaks and feel more relaxed at work:

Distract and Recharge

Studies have shown that intense focus on work makes us less focused in the long run. According to the University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras – our brains naturally stop registering sights, sounds, and feelings if they remain consistent for a period of time with how they react to thoughts that remain consistent for long periods of time. “If sustained attention to a sensation makes that sensation vanish from our awareness, sustained attention to a thought should also lead to that thought’s disappearance from our mind,” Lleras explains.

So instead of constantly thinking about a single problem’s solution, you can create distractions that will take away your attention from the task, so after you can come back with a fresh mind.

Regarding that try out this method by watching cute puppy videos, play Scrabble, talk to a friend – but don’t take too long – after all you are still at work!

Relax your Eyes

Most of us spend around 6-9 hours a day on a digital device so it is not surprising that our eyes take the burden of much of our tech-fueled lives. Fortunately, there is a simple exercise that will help you take a vision break and reduce your eye fatigue called: 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer screen and focus on an item at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.  Easy as 1-2-3.

Besides taking breaks to protect your eyes, there are other simple ways to protect your vision throughout the day:

  • Dim your lights: Your computer screen should be the brightest thing in the room.
  • Reduce glare: Try an anti-glare screen cover, clean your screen regularly, and make sure you’re not too close to a window.
  • Make your workspace more eye-friendly: appropriate ergonomics help diminish weakness in your entire body but your eyes especially.

Let Your Mind Wander

There are a couple of various methods of meditation that show positive results – everything from reducing anxiety and stress to increase the ability to focus. If a zen routine isn’t your style, there is another way.

A report published in Science magazine found that simply taking some time to let your mind wander can help you come up with more ideas, clever thoughts and uncover hidden answers when you’re back at work. The best part is that you might not even need to do anything. When we stop paying attention to anything, our brain’s Default Mode Network takes over which gives our mind a well-deserved rest.

NYU psychology professor Scott Barry Kaufman found that daydreaming is an incredible way to access our unconscious and allow ideas that have been silently incubating to bubble up into our conscious. Meaning that while you believe that you’re doing nothing, you’re actually mining profundities of your mind for more creative solutions to the problems you’re confronting.


When done correctly, breaks can actually be the ultimate productivity hack, because they help us relax and allow us to do more in less time. Contrary of the popular believes in our culture of doing, where breaks are considered to be unproductive.

To reduce long working hours and burnout, simply take a break. We know we all deserve it.

3 ways to avoid burnout and boost your team’s productivity

The number of tips and tricks to boost your team’s productivity is constantly rising. The problem is that much of these tips focus on short-term performance, and they damage the efficiency in the long run. Instead of focusing on team’s well-being and prosperity, teams are putting too much pressure to complete the ever-growing to-do list which can result in long working hours, stress, and eventually, burnout.

Luckily, there are a number of sustainable solutions that you can implement to achieve team productivity.

Make Work Meaningful

People are satisfied when they work on something that’s important to them and towards something they feel invested in. There is a direct connection between discovering meaning in work and high productivity.

Start by finding out what motivates your team

Create a survey to find out your employees’ satisfaction, asking the question: “What would cause you to take another job with a different company tomorrow?”

Provide regular one-to-one feedback sessions with your team members. These feedback sessions shouldn’t just be a one-way talk on how the team member is performing, but a chance to see how they are enjoying their role, talk about their future goals and plan how they aim to achieve them.  

Implement importance through professional development

Help your team members find meaning in their work by providing them with self-reflection. Ask them questions like: What are you working for? What impact do you want to create in your job?

This can help employees feel that they are trusted and respected, and increase the level of commitment and productivity. Once you’ve identified what impact they would like to make and how you can start by providing them with more investment in their work and create professional development plans so they can achieve that impact.

Ensure Focused Workloads

Prevent your team members from trying to handle too many tasks at once. Studies have shown that switching to a new task while in a middle of another increases the time it takes for both tasks to be finished.

Streamline tasks with project sprints and retrospectives

Sprints can empower all kinds of teams to work in a more focused way. Setting key points with your team is going to ensure that your work is focused and eliminate the chance of bouncing between unrelated tasks. Employees can streamline their tasks over each sprint when moving tasks through to completion. The team can glance back at what has been accomplished during that sprint, in order to improve the work productivity.

Establish healthy working guidelines

In this era of constant Slack notifications, emails on phones, and working across time zones, having a defined working cut-off hours from 9-5 isn’t so easy to implement. Individuals who are unable to detach from work during their downtime experienced more exhaustion compared to the ones who are able to distance themselves from highly demanding work. It is proven that these people can recover from stress more easily, which leads to higher productivity levels.

In order to establish a healthy working environment in which team members should feel free to distance themselves from work in their downtime, you ought to establish some guidelines for when employees are not expected to read and respond to messages, such as 6pm-9am. You can also encourage team members to set up a do-not-disturb period for notifications.

Support the Work-Life Balance of your team members

In order to increase your employee’s productivity, you should make sure that their time at work supports their well-being.

Provide flexible working hours

Support your team well-being by offering adaptable working options. Your employees would like the possibility to work from home from time to time. This practice should be encouraged because it boosts the team productivity. Workers who were allowed to work flexibly achieved more and were much happier in their work.

There are a number of tools that can help you enable effective remote working:  Slack, Uberconference, GitHub, Dropbox, and Harvest or Time Doctor.

Encourage well-being activities at work

Between everyday responsibilities, it is very hard for people to find the time for activities that are useful to their physical and emotional wellbeing. For that matter, some companies are providing the opportunity to support well-being inside the work environment, and there are seeing extraordinary outcomes and productivity.

So regardless of whether you are more inspired by mindfulness sessions or you think that your team would appreciate an additional physical activity, try to get an expert to your office to convey a weekly wellbeing program. You could also offer each team member an individual well-being budget or an extracurricular course of their choice.


There are a lot of great ideas on how to improve your team’s productivity. Keep in mind that every team is different, so the best practice is to discuss these issue and come up with a solution that you feel comfortable using and will lead to great results. The best solution, however, is to be strategic, not obsessive with your to-do list.

Each and every one of us is trying to be as productive as possible during the day. In this quick business world, we all struggle with the toughs of how can we be faster in finishing our work tasks, not be distracted easily and have time for everything we thought of finishing during the day.

Here are several tips on how to make your life easier, get your work done and have time to spare.

Have one task in mind. An average person has 70,000 thoughts per day which 49 per min. So keep things organized and do tasks one at a time. Multitasking is a bad habit that does not result in long-term productivity.

Don’t stop if you get stuck for more than 30 seconds move on. If you stop and decide to open Facebook or look at your phone, you can get easily distracted and lose time that you can spend working on your tasks.

Listen to music – Background music helps finish tasks faster. Choose music that will not distract you like instrumental music or hip-hop. Do not choose music that is too loud or too soft – it can distract you or make you fall asleep.

Keep the lights bright – increasing light levels from 300 lux to 2000 lux improve productivity by 8% (most offices work at 300-500 lux ) 1000 lux is full daylight (not direct sun).

Infographics courtesy of Funders and Founders

Don’t question anything you do in the first 15 minutes. Start your tasks and finish them. Afterwards, review them and see where did you make mistakes.

Make 1st draft in 15 minutes (let it be bad). Take a break, drink coffee or chat with collages, clear your mind and review your task from more clear perspective.

Do use a timer if you can’t hack it in 15 minutes you can’t-do it at all. Tracking your time is very beneficial so you can have a clear view on how much time you are spending on your tasks during the day.

Write short 140-characters emails otherwise you don’t know what you are saying. Make your emails simple and elegant. Gmail for example now offer a quick reply suggestions for their mobile app. This will save you time and you will still keep your professional attitude.

Keep your desk clear it will clear your mind. Many things on your desk are the same as many thoughts in your head. So keep things on your desk tidy and clean, that way you will be more concentrated on your work instead of your trash.


Time management is one great topic that people keep forgetting about. As human beings it is in our nature to be different. We love different things, we have different passion about different subjects, we want to live a life full of emotions, with high expectations, fulfillment and personal satisfaction.

Yet, most of the people struggle to figure out their personal and professional lives by sticking to the well known “I don’t have enough time” excuse for a certain activity.


Fig 1: Stop the glorification of busy


This is the result of the lack of knowledge in time management. If you have wondered, how the people who you admire manage to “have time” to do everything — you will find the answer in educating yourself in time management.

Time management — redefined

The ability to use one’s energy effectively or productively, to achieve a certain goal.


In most of the books and coaching materials you will find as recommended, time management is defined as effectively utilizing your personal time to achieve a certain goal. There is a small gotcha it the definition…

… We have 24 hours available per day, but every day we don’t have equal amount of energy. As such, we are not able to be evenly effective every day. This brings us to the point that we should focus on managing our energy rather than our time.

Let’s learn how we can get the best of ourselves.

Fig 2: Energy flows where attention goes


We can reach our desired goals, we need to first plan our work and then work our plan.

Planning starts with discovering and forecasting of a certain group of actions that we need to do in order for the desired goal to be reached.


Fig 3: Planning


As an example let’s simulate with a proper use-case — House renovation.

You have decided that it is time to make your place more pleasant for living. Time is right, budget is good— overall great conditions for house renovation.

As part of the planning phase, first we need to get enough information in order to get prepared for the planning phase.

  • What is our vision?
  • What is our purpose?
  • What do we want to achieve as an end result?
  • Which rooms do you want renovated?
  • How much can you afford to spend?
  • How will you use the rooms once they are renovated?
  • How do you want the house to look like?
  • What are the requirements for color, floor, storage, materials?

Always ask questions which will lead you to valuable answers

The answers to the questions should enable you to get the whole picture. Until you get there, you need to continue asking.

Back to the project…

Coming back to the house renovation we’ve researched that we want to do the following changes to our home:

  • Modify the lobby;
  • Modify the living room;
  • Modify the kitchen
  • Modify the balconies;
  • Our goal is set: We need to renovate our house. — How we are going to get there?

Focus on small victories to win the final battle.

This brings us to the point that we can break the tasks into a smaller group of sub-tasks.


Fig 4: Work Breakdown Structure


Click here to download the sample template.

Once the group of actions has been discovered, defined and written down , next step is to estimate the total amount of time and money we are going to need to accomplish our goal.



Fig 5: Estimation


Estimation is a forecasting process of rough quantification of the quantity of resources we are going to need in order to accomplish a certain activity.

A resource can be: time, money, energy…

Why do I need an estimate?

Resources like personal time, energy and budget aren’t infinite. Knowing what’s it gonna to take is a must if we do plan to make a certain goal reached.

Knowing how to estimate is a skill like everything else. You start as a beginner and improve upon it based on your previous experience and reflection.

This skill will help you to get a better sense of your personal time and energy.

How can I estimate my goal?

Creating an estimate is consisted of two parts:

  • Action items(tasks) that we need to do for a goal to be reached (Check the WBS above);
  • Definition of the working process;

We’ve already defined our list of actions, now lets write down our working process.

In our example for the purpose of renovating our house the process is consisted of:

  • Analysis;
  • Design;
  • Logistics and ordering;
  • Execution;
  • Test;
  • Feedback;
  • Polishing and Cleaning;

We have to understand our working process in order to forecast how much resources a certain action item is going to utilize in each phase.

For example:
Let’s estimate how much time we are going to need to renovate our lovely home.


Fig 6: Estimation template


Click here to download the sample template.

We will forecast how much time we are going to need in every phase of the process:

  • Analyses —116 hours;
  • Design — 15 hours;
  • Logistics and ordering— 43.5 hours;
  • Execution— 72 hours;
  • Test — 21.6 hours;
  • Feedback — 4 hours;
  • Polishing and Cleaning— 8 hours;
  • Total: 280 hours;

The total amount of resources we are going to need will be the sum of the totals of each of the action items

Now, let’s calculate, based on the start date, when we are going to finish our home renovation.

Assuming that one business day is consisted of 8 hours. If we decide to start today — 2016–07–16, when we are going to finish our home renovation?

280 hours / 8 = 35 days? — We should be done by 2016–08–20, right?


Fig 7: Being wrong is ok


This is were energy and effectiveness comes into consideration. We need to be fully aware on how much work in average we can do per day. If the business day is 8 hours, for the actual work we are using 5–6 hours. Rest of the time we are using it to learn something new, to read some content on the internet, social media, discussing with our colleagues…

Now back to the calculation:

280 hours / 6= 47 days? — We should be done by 2016–09–01.

As we can see, the mistake we’ve made in our assumption is equal to 12 days.

If we try to think how often we underestimate, we will see why most of the plans are failing. Underestimation as a mistake often leads us to different kind of resource issues (budget, time…), and normally this results in plan’s failure.

How can I train myself to estimate better?

If you do not have any experience in the field, first do your research, discuss with others who have experience in the field and then try to compose your own estimation. Once you have your own estimation written down, consult with a professional to provide you with his estimate. Compare and consult with the professional to understand the difference.

On the other hand, If you plan to improve your estimation skills in your current profession, always track what you have estimated and what was the outcome in the end. This will give you a better picture on where your mistakes are and what you need to correct for the next estimation.

Prioritization, grouping and dependencies

As soon as you are feeling comfortable with your estimation, next important step is to focus on setting the right priorities, mapping the dependencies between the action items and group them to speed up the work.


Fig 8: Priorities…


Prioritization can be done based on urgency. If we are desperate about a new kitchen, we should start from there.

We will try to discover all of the action items that needs to be done so the professionals can do their job. (Choosing color, tails, creating a design).

Once we set the dependencies, we will group the action items to speed up the work. If we need one hour to buy a fridge and one hour to buy an oven, we can group those action items and once we are in the tech-market we can buy both of them in one hour. This will give us one additional hour to use it for another action item.

Fig 9: Execution process


Click here to download the sample template.

It is time for some action…


Prepared with a plan we are one step closer to reaching out goal — our renovated lovely home!

Plan is mandatory but execution is the key

Before starting to do the actual work we have to set up a certain system in place which will allow us to measure, track and overview the progress.


Having a system in place will help us to avoid a deviation of the plan and will help us to prevent and react about potential issues as the plan progresses.


Fig 10: Motivational


Having said that, a minimal requirement of such system should allow us to:

  • Create, plan and schedule the activities;
  • Get an overview of the action items phases and statuses;
  • Notify and remind us for action items due dates;
  • Record feedback and retrospective thoughts on the previous work;

There are plenty of tools out there, both professional and generic, to support you in your goal execution. To name a few: Trello, Asana, Basecamp…

For the purpose of simplicity and to get a sense running the execution, we will roll out with Trello.

Trello is a web-based project management application originally made by Fog Creek Software in 2011, that spun out to be its own company in 2014.
— Wikipedia

I wouldn’t go into details on how to start with Trello. There is a great getting started documentation which will guide you to the basic examples and usage of Trello.


Fig 11: Board with action items describing the progress


Remember the statement above related to the small victories? — Lets start!

We are going to define what action items we are going to focus on in the following week. Since we have 40 hours(read 30 hours productive time) available per week, we will map which action items we are going to focus on per week based on the action items priority and dependency.

Week 1:

  • Find an architect (1 hour);
  • Design how the kitchen will look like (32 hours);
  • Weekly reflection;

Week 2:

  • Order new tiles (2.5 hours);
  • Order furniture (5.5 hours);
  • Order a fridge and an oven (2.5 hours);
  • Find an electrician (1 hour);
  • Upgrade the electric installation (9.3 hours);
  • Change the lights (7.4 hours);
  • Weekly reflection;

Week 3:

  • Weekly reflection;

In other words, define your battles and define what do you want to achieve in the following week.


To get a sense of the progress, you will need to communicate. As good questions leads to valuable answers, here is a list of question which are going to be useful while trying to reach your goal:

  • What am I going to do today?
  • Are there any obstacles that prevent me/us from doing/finalizing an action item?
  • Am I achieving the goals that I have set?
  • What are the achievements from yesterday that made me proud of?
  • Am I happy of what I have achieved so far?
  • Is there something that I could have done better?
  • Am I missing a certain skill, knowledge or expertise?
  • How can I improve myself?
  • What should I learn next?

All of the answers should be written down so later on you can reflect and learn from your past mistakes. This is the process of transforming your mistakes into experience.

Click here to download the sample template.

Fig 12: Motivational


As we are coming to an end from this article journey, I would like to shortly sum up the know-how we are going away with from the article:

  • Define your goals;
  • Split the goals into smaller chunks of action groups;
  • Estimate the amount of resources it is going to take you to achieve the goal;
  • Execution is key. Use a system to measure and track your progress;
  • Reflect on your personal work, write it down and improve yourself;
  • Check if you are aligned with your goal regularly;


In case you’ve missed the download links for the document templates above, feel free to download them from the links bellow: