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A tool like Rescue Time can help by letting you know exactly how much time you spend on daily tasks, including social media, email, word processing, and apps. It sounds counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Some research has shown that taking short breaks during long tasks helps you to maintain a constant level of performance; while working at a task without breaks leads to a steady decline in performance.

While we usually think of a stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can actually be helpful in terms of giving us focus and helping us meet our goals. For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline, and then stick to it. You may be surprised to discover just how focused and productive you can be when you're watching the clock.

Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends implementing the "two-minute rule" to make the most of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. According to Olenski, completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists online.

Meetings are one of the biggest time-sucks around, yet somehow we continue to unquestioningly book them, attend them and, inevitably, complain about them. According to Atlassian, the average office worker spends over 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings.

47 Easy Ways to Increase Brain Function

Before booking your next meeting, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone, or Web-based meeting which may be slightly more productive. If you absolutely must have a meeting, there's some evidence that standing meetings they're just what they sound like--everyone stands can result in increased group arousal, decreased territoriality, and improved group performance. For those times when meetings are unavoidable, you may want to check out these 12 unusual ways to spur creativity during meetings. While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an important skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite may in fact be true.

Psychologists have found attempting to do several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity. Instead, make a habit of committing to a single task before moving on to your next project. Neuroscience Jan 27; Dance Bust a brain-boosting move on the dance floor this weekend. Research suggests dancing involves mental challenges like coordination and planning, and may protect against cognitive decline Six months of dance intervention enhances postural, sensorimotr, and cognitive performance in elderly without affecting cardio-respiratory functions.

Kattenstroth, J. Holt, S. Fronteirs in Aging Neuroscience ; Duh—has anyone ever done the Macarena? Golf A few rounds of golf may do more than just work out the arms Training-induced neural plasticity in golf novices. Bezzola, L. Journal of Neuroscience ;31 35 One study found golfing causes structural changes in the parts of the brain associated with sensorimotor control. Get smart and hit the green.

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But research suggests yoga can improve mood and concentration, enhance cognitive performance , and even prevent cognitive decline in older adults Long-term concentrative meditation and cognitive performance among older adults. Prakash, R. Neuropsychology, development, and cognition Epub ahead of print. Namaste, Einstein. Slipping between the sheets might be the better option: For most people, a solid seven hours of sleep is important to maintain cognitive skills such as learning, concentration, and memory.

Banks, S. Sleep ;33 8 But other research suggests even naps that last a few minutes can increase alertness The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Lovato, N. Progress in Brain Research ; On the other hand, some scientists say naps only improve memory if they involve dreaming. Adding a twist to the day keeps the brain on its toes — try wearing a watch upside down or brushing your teeth with a nondominant hand. Getting Organized Leftover pizza crust and a pile of old receipts are more than just unsightly—they may also impede our ability to get stuff done.

Clear the desk and the mind at the same time: An organized workspace may help improve memory and cognitive skills. Doodling Stick it to those elementary school teachers and fill every margin to the brim. Research suggests doodling during a cognitive task helps improve memory because it keeps the brain stimulated. Baird, B. Consciousness and Cognition ;20 4 Flossing Fresh breath, fewer cavities, and avoiding embarrassing situations with poppy seeds are all great reasons to floss. Pick up some mental—er, dental—floss on the way home today.

9 Proofs You Can Increase Your Brain Power

Lawn Mowing The grass is always greener, and the brain may be sharper, after we mow the lawn. One study found lawn-mowing releases a chemical that relieves stress and might even boost memory in older adults.

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Writing by Hand Sans Serif and Cambria are awfully elegant, but writing words by hand can improve cognitive skills like learning and memory. Adults studying a new language may be more likely to remember words when they write them out instead of typing them. Stay sharp by writing out a to-do list or penning a heartfelt confession of love.

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Sharpening the Senses How exactly does that cold water feel traveling down the back of your throat? Try involving new senses in routine activities, like eating with the eyes closed and placing more emphasis on taste and smell probably not the best exercise to try with hot soup. Research suggests sex can actually increase brain function. A tumble between the sheets raises levels of serotonin, which boosts creativity and logical decision-making, and the hormone oxytocin , related to problem-solving ability skills that might help with figuring out where those undergarments ended up last night… Rationality and Emotionality: Serotonin Transporter Genotype Influences Reasoning Bias.

Stollstorf, M. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Positive Relationships I get by—and smart! Ertel, K. American Journal of Public Health ;98 7 Spend some time with friends and fam today to avoid forgetting their names later in life. Pleasant Conversation Oh, how do you do? A quick chat may do more than just pass the time—socializing can also improve cognitive functioning Mental exercising through simple socializing: social interaction promotes general cognitive functioning.

1. You are the company you keep

Ybarra, O. Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin ;34 2 Take a few minutes to talk it out before the next big test or meeting. A hearty laugh may be the key to solving a tough problem, since research suggests laughing encourages people to think more creatively Hedonic tone and activation level in the mood-creativity link: toward a dual pathway to creativity model.

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De Dreu, C. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology May;94 5 Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Isen, A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ;52 6 Panicking about what to say in a big presentation? Just picture everyone in their underwear. In one study , people who thought about their ancestors before a series of cognitive tests performed better than people who focused on something else. These test results? Meditation Who can think clearly with a mind full of worries?

Luders, E. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience ; Meditation training increases brain efficiency in an attention task. Kozasa, E. Neuroimage ;59 1 Plus the more you practice meditation, the better you get at making decisions. Start off with a few minutes of meditative belly breathing to improve concentration. And you can get started with that ASAP by following these ten simple tips.

You've just been assigned a major project. Naturally your mind is racing with a million different thoughts on where to start and what you'll need to get the job done on time. As a result, you start creating a to-do-list that is massively bulky. The problem with these out-of-control to-do-lists is that they're overwhelming and prevent you from being productive. That's because you're multitasking and directing your energy to unimportant tasks and activities.

Instead, keep your to-to-lists lean and mean by only focusing on your 3 to 5 most urgent, important, and challenging tasks for the day, aka your Most Important Task MIT. Focus on one task at a time before moving on to less critical tasks. When you do, you'll feel more productive and less anxious. According to Lou, "If you put them off to later, you will get busy and run out of time to do them.

Get them out of the way, and the rest of the day is gravy! When it comes to productivity we often focus on how long something takes to complete; as opposed to what we actually accomplished in a day. For example, you just spent four hours writing a 1,word blog post. You may be be a bit bummed since that took a nice chunk out of your day.

But, what if you focused on the smaller parts of the blog post? For example, you broke into five word sections, formatted it properly, added headings, ran a spellcheck and added images. Suddenly you realize you actually completed a lot in that timeframe. In fact, research from the Behance team found "that placing importance on hours and physical presence over action and results leads to a culture of inefficiency and anxiety.

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One way to assist you with measuring results instead of time is by generating done lists. This is simply an ongoing log of everything you completed in a day. By keeping this list you'll feel more motivated and focused since you can actually see what you accomplished. Additionally, according to Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich, done lists allow "you to review your day, gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishments, and helps you plan more effectively.

The team over at Mind Tools state that we're more effective at work when we have a "positive attitude. They willingly help a colleague in need, they pick up the slack when someone is off sick, and they make sure that their work is done to the highest standards. And, you'll never hear them say that their work is "Good enough. Furthermore, a good attitude at work will help you set standards for your work, ensure that you're taking responsibility for yourself, and make decisions easier since they're based on your intuition.

But demonstrating ethical decision-making and integrity could open many doors for you in the future.