“It’s easy to fall into a pattern of ‘always working’ rather than working smart. Here are five ways to avoid that trap:
1_Take more breaks. On average our brains are only able to remain focused for 90 minutes; then we need at least 15 minutes rest. (The phenomenon is based on ultradian rhythms.) By taking period breaks roughly every 90 minutes you allow your mind and body to renew–and be ready to fire off another 90-minute period of high activity.
2_Take naps. Research shows naps lead to improvement in cognitive function, creative thinking, and memory performance. In particular, napping benefits the learning process by helping us take in and retain information better.
3_Spend time in nature. Unlike natural environments, urban environments are filled with stimulation that captures attention dramatically and additionally requires directed attention (e.g., to avoid being hit by a car), making them less restorative.
4_Move and work in blocks. The idea is that you set up at various cafés, workspaces, or pubs to get chunks of work done throughout the day. Create a plan for what you will accomplish at each location so you can immediately jump into those tasks. The important part to note is having a clear finishing point based on your task list rather than the time you will move to a new location. And when you move, cycling or walking is a good way to go.
5_Check your email first thing. This one is fairly counterintuitive; basically everyone says not to check email right away, but I do and find it extremely useful. Dealing with important issues first thing helps me make quick decisions about whether my day needs to be adjusted to fit in with what everyone else is doing or whether I can proceed with the tasks I already had planned.”
Jeff Haden for Inc.