Tricks to get work done in half the time, according to a productivity guru

Ben Stocken, CEO of business performance consultants West Peak
Ben Stocken, CEO of business performance consultants West Peak

With many of us now working from home, being able to complete tasks faster can spell more time for family or for doing the things people want, a productivity expert told Yahoo.

Ben Stocken, CEO of business performance consultants West Peak says that work no longer means arriving at nine and slaving away until five. He believes that it’s perfectly possible to ‘work smarter’ to complete tasks far faster.

Here are four tricks that Stocken says will help you get your work done in half the time.

‘Reboot’ your brain

We’ve all had days when we start with a bang – crossing tasks off our to-do list left right and centre, but then we hit the wall.

Stocken says that hitting the ‘reset’ button can often help.

He said: "If you’re finding it hard to keep the pace going, break the routine and give your mind a rest.

"Taking a quick cold shower can increase your alertness, boost your energy levels and quickly get you back on track.

"At the opposite end of the scale, try taking a power nap. A 20-minute bit of shut-eye can reset your brain. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher both swore by the benefits of a nap, and forward-thinking employers like Google even provide sleep pods for workers.

Britain?s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waves from the cockpit of a Short SR-3 aircraft at the New Hall of Aviation in Southampton, England on Wednesday, June 10, 1987. Britain goes to the polls in a General Election on Thursday, June 11. (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin)
Margaret Thatcher was a fan of power naps. (AP)

"However, if you’re chained to your desk and can’t snooze or shower, chewing gum is a good way of stimulating your brain. The chewing action increases activity in the brain's hippocampus, and is said to improve memory and focus. Sir Alex Ferguson was a big advocate of this trick during his days managing Manchester United."

Change your routines

The danger with workplace routines is that you end up forming habits that slow you down.

Stocken says that it’s possible to fall into bad habits, including getting distracted by chatting with colleagues, and that simply changing the routine can help.

Research published in Nature Neuroscience found that changing your routines can boost brain activity.

Stocken said: "Get out of mind-numbing routines and refresh your brain by changing where you work. Swap that monotonous home office for working in a coffee shop. As well as the change in visual space, the ambient noise can help you focus and banish the fatigue that can creep in from working alone.

Sir Alex Ferguson used to chew gum to keep his concentration levels high. (Getty)
Sir Alex Ferguson used to chew gum to keep his concentration levels high. (Getty)

"If you haven’t got another location to move to, even relocating to a new spot at home or at work can refresh your motivation. Instead of working at your desk, swap to your dining room table, or even tap away from the sofa for a while.

"You don’t have to work in silence either. Studies have shown that listening to music can improve inspiration, concentration and reduce stress. It’s best not to use pop music, as you can end up getting distracted by the lyrics. Try listening to classic music or even video game soundtracks – upbeat music can help boost your mood and productivity."

"And get the blood moving around your body by taking regular movement breaks, or using a standing desk."

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Turn off notifications and focus

Stocken said: "Focus on one task at a time, and don’t try to juggle multiple jobs at once. Multitasking has been shown to reduce focus and increase stress – and the brief mental blocks it creates can waste up to 40 per cent of an employer’s productive time.

Turning off notifications can help you achieve this, Stocken says.

Stocken said: "Eliminate distractions. Close unnecessary tabs you’ve got open, and stick to the one you’re working on. Find a quiet space where you can minimise interruptions from chatty colleagues.

"Motivate yourself by promising yourself small rewards for completing tasks. But avoid using food as a reward, as this can create other problems! Team up with a colleague to keep each other on track, or you can even make a competition with yourself.

"Setting yourself time-related goals by using a timer or time-tracking app. This is a great way to recreate that exam feeling and stop yourself getting stuck on one task."

Plan before you start

Stocken said: "Achieving more in less time doesn’t happen by accident – you need a plan.

He says that making time to organise your day is the best way to kickstart efficient working.

Stocken said: "Prioritise your tasks. Make a list and identify the most important and time-sensitive tasks to focus on first. Group similar tasks together so you don’t continually have to swap back and forth between different contexts. Concentrating on one project or clients for the whole day means you don’t waste time catching up on different ideas and demands.

"You can increasingly use software to automate tasks, with AI tools like ChatGPT and Claude being helpful when it comes to writing and researching.