Increase Productivity & Reduce Downtime

How to Reduce Downtime and Increase Productivity

We all have a limit when it comes to how we perform mentally and physically. Taking care of ourselves in the right way can make a real difference to the way in which we perform. Therefore, understanding how to reduce downtime and increase productivity can help us in many walks of life.

Whether we want to be more productive on a personal level or on a professional level, there are various tools and techniques we can benefit from. And given the challenges we face across the planet, if you’re a social entrepreneur or changemaker, you may be looking for ideas to get more done.

Why We Should Work to Reduce Downtime

Of course, there are many contributing factors that play a part in how we feel. Whether it is work stress5, problems at home or other issues, they can leave us feeling below par. If we allow things to get on top of us then our productivity can suffer. As a result, it means that we may underperform and that can mean that we fail in delivering tasks or projects.

Downtime can escalate if we do not take steps to control or manage it. We are all only capable of doing so much and reaching our limits can lead to problems. Therefore, if we take care to understand the symptoms and follow up with steps to reduce downtime, we can continue to perform without ever falling behind.

Similarly, our mental health is vital. The same can be said for our physical wellbeing. Downtime occurs when we become unwell, fatigued or we suffer from problems that hold us back. As a result, we should actively focus on reducing downtime by utilising the correct techniques, methods and tools.

Balance Is All Important

However, downtime is also important. There is, of course, the healthy downtime we should take to rest and recuperate in order to approach all of those next things to do revitalised. Below we share a few ideas to reduce downtime when you need to. However, do bear in mind this is about keeping on top of all that you need to and therefore seek a healthy balance between keeping productive and enjoying a well-earned rest.

Start With Mindfulness

Our wellbeing can sometimes be put down to losing our way. We all lead busy lives and when we have projects or targets to meet, distractions can cause us to suffer. When we suffer, this can cause us to lose focus and that leads to reduced productivity.

To gain focus, mindfulness can help to make a difference and promote psychological wellbeing1. It is simple to practice and can be as simple as stopping what you are doing, closing your eyes and focusing on something around you such as sound or smells.

Alongside the various health benefits, mindfulness brings you back to the moment and creates focus8. This can help to reduce downtime and enhance productivity.

Focus on Happiness in the Workplace

In life, we face many challenges, some of which can leave us feeling down. The workplace is one thing that can have a detrimental effect on our positivity. If we have a job that we don’t always enjoy then we can feel demotivated. That feeling of unhappiness can cause you to experience stress. It can also cause you to become unwell and that can impact productivity9.

The truth is, in the workplace, it is important to find something you love doing. You can also take steps to make the most of the work environment. Simple things such as connecting with colleagues socially, or bringing small celebrations into the workplace for small achievements can all play a role. As they say, if you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.

Know When to Take a Step Back

Sometimes it is all too easy to believe that you are giving something all that you have when in fact, you have not realised that you are struggling because you have done too much. This could be working on a project or spending time researching at your computer, whatever it might be, it is important that you recognise when to stop.

If you take on too much or put too much energy into something it can leave you feeling drained. Therefore, recognising when to stop can enable you to refresh, clear your mind and start again. Then you will find that you can begin to make progress again.

Work in Short Bursts

You don’t always have to throw yourself into everything at full speed. What’s more, you also don’t have to attempt projects or challenges in one go. If you take this approach, you will find yourself hurtling towards burnout and ultimately, downtime.

Some of the most productive people know how to manage their time. When they do this, they can also keep their productivity in check. So, sometimes, it is better to work in short bursts with breaks. Setting a timer can help to ensure you stick to this rule and hit your productivity targets.

Remove Distractions

Remove Distractions

Our phones are ever-present in our modern lives. Taking a break from the constant stream of alerts and updates can help us focus on the task at hand. Photo by Borzoo Moazami on Unsplash

Our busy lives are awash with distractions. Whether it is checking the news on our smartphone or scrolling through the many social media platforms, there is a lot that can cause us to lose focus.

This kind of downtime is almost self-inflicted yet it is completely avoidable. What’s more, if you can avoid it you will find that your productivity will improve. It can help to find a quiet place when you find yourself distracted and when it comes to projects, creating lists in order of priority can help you to work through tasks without distraction. What’s more, mindfulness can also help deal with distractions by helping you to change your focus2.

Avoid Doing too Much

One of the least effective ways of working is trying to do too many things at once7. Multitasking is considered a skill but research has found that our brains can only take on two tasks at a time. Therefore, to keep on top of things, you should try to avoid doing too much at the same time. As a result, focus on one thing and you will find that you become far more productive achieving it. And once complete you’ll have the space to move on to the next.

Improve Knowledge

It can pay to keep on learning and in doing so, you can increase your productivity. Sometimes, downtime can be linked to a lack of understanding and an inability to seek a solution.

Therefore, if we are to become as productive as possible then improving our knowledge can help. Further, explore and understand the benefits of developing a growth mindset. This is not about studying but it could involve reading books or listening to the news. The right small snippets of knowledge applied to the task at hand can work wonders to our productivity.

Try a Change of Environment

Try a change of scenery

Taking a break and getting outdoors might be just the thing you need to refresh. Photo by Rural Explorer on Unsplash

Whether you are studying or working, a change of environment can make a huge difference6. Getting away from a stale environment can prevent your productivity from slowing down. You can take your laptop or book to a park, a coffee shop or any other space that makes you feel inspired. Fresh air can help to clear the mind, and with that can come a new level of clarity.

Create Lists

It is common to feel bogged down by the endless tasks that we have to complete. Whether this is in the home or at work, whatever it might be, it can prove challenging. However, to overcome downtime, creating short to-do lists can help to highlight important tasks3.

Creating a list with many items can prove overwhelming. Even if a to-do list contains one item, it can show you what is most important and is far more effective than a long list of small, unimportant tasks. You can also consider using some of the many productivity tools out there to help you organise and stay on top of the many demands on your time.

Tackle The Crucial Tasks in the Morning

Nobody knows what the day ahead contains even if we plan it out as best possible. So, if you choose to complete important tasks later in the day, you might find that they don’t get done. This could be down to a lack of time, interruptions or your inability to complete it.

If you tackle the important tasks first, it will make the rest of the day seem easier and that can help your wellbeing. This can remove the anxiety of knowing that a difficult task lies ahead of you later in the day. When you complete the important tasks first, you can clear your mind and improve your focus.

How you start your day can set the tone for the rest of it. You can even consider developing a series of morning rituals to help you along.

Confront Failures

There is no fun in failure but it can teach us so much4. To achieve success, you must experience failure yet allowing failure to stop you in your tracks will prevent you from moving forward. Failure should be seen as an opportunity to learn. Once we understand where we went wrong we can put it right and with that comes progress.

Take Your Time

Take your time

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Most of us live our lives in the fast lane but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, if we just take our time and stop, we can improve our understanding of where we are. This can be done through meditation or mindfulness. When we do this, we can reduce stress and that can help to improve productivity. Take small steps, take your time and you will get to where you need to be in good time.

The Right Balance for Productive and Happy Living

We all face challenges in life. Some of them are brought on by ourselves and others we cannot avoid. However, taking the time to understand how to reduce downtime and increase productivity can not only help us achieve more but it can also reduce anxiety. In turn, promoting wellness and positivity.

There are many things that we can do to make a change. Through taking a considered approach and by identifying what causes downtime, we can seek ways to avoid it and get past it. Downtime cannot be measured in numbers and it differs from one person to the next. However, when we experience it, we need to try to avoid it by using the correct tools that enable us to perform at our very best once again. All, of course, in balance.

1Kersemaekers Wendy, Rupprecht Silke, Wittmann Marc, Tamdjidi Chris, Falke Pia, Donders Rogier, Speckens Anne, Kohls Niko. A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Frontiers in Psychology. 2018.
2Mrazek, M.D., Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J.W. (2012). Mindfulness and mind-wandering: finding convergence through opposing constructs. Emotion, 12 3, 442-448 .
3Claessens, B.J., Van Eerde, W., Rutte, C.G. and Roe, R.A. (2010), Things to Do Today . . . : A Daily Diary Study on Task Completion at Work. Applied Psychology, 59: 273-295. doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2009.00390.x
4Robert L. Wears, Albert W. Wu, Dealing with failure: The aftermath of errors and adverse events, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 39, Issue 3, 2002, Pages 344-346, ISSN 0196-0644,
5T, Bharathi & Gupta, KS. (2018). Job Stress and Productivity: A Conceptual Framework. International Journal of Emerging Research in Management and Technology. 6. 393.
6Quality of the working environment and productivity. Research findings and case studies. Prepared by the Topic Centre on Research — Work and Health. Marc De Greef, Prevent, Belgium Karla Van den Broek, Prevent, Belgium
7Multitasking: The good, the bad, and the unknown. Cora M. Dzubak, Ph.D. Penn State - York
8Mindfulness, learning and the brain. Claxton, G. J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther (2005) 23: 301.
9Happiness and Productivity. Andrew J. Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi. Journal of Labor Economics 2015 33:4, 789-822
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