What’s essential and what belongs in the bin?
Keep the greenery
If you can keep it alive, of course. Research suggests that keeping a plant at your desk can boost well-being at work, while being around the colour green can improve creativity. If you’re looking for something low-maintenance that will grow with minimal light, think peace lily or philodendron – they’ll also offer you more of a screen from snack-hoovering colleagues.
Lose your ‘stuff’ pile
Unless there’s a pressing need for you to have it to hand, file it – it’ll only distract you, and research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that “task switching”, or rapidly shuffling from one job to another, can make you up to 40% less efficient. If you’ve got several projects on, break up your time into 30- to 60-minute chunks so you work on one thing, then another.
Keep Post-it notes
Feeling stressed? A to-do list will work: willpower researcher Roy Baumeister reports that simply writing down goals can reduce the cognitive stress of unfinished tasks. Keep it short, but focused: “emails” or “pitches” isn’t effective, but to-do lists that focus on concrete, achievable tasks to tick off will allow you to ride the momentum of a few easily-achieved tasks and stay productive throughout the day.
Lose the laptop
Yes, it’s OK to be the only one in the morning meeting who doesn’t haul in a shiny MacBook Pro. In a 2016 study published in Psychological Science, researchers found that test subjects retained material better when they took notes by hand – probably because they were more likely to summarize and paraphrase than try to get everything down verbatim. By “encoding”, you’re more likely to remember what was said.
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