The Surprising Science Behind Productivity Hacks
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The Surprising Science Behind Productivity Hacks — They Actually Work


Just because you’re busy, it doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Check out the science backing up these life hacks that will ramp up your productivity!

1. Plan Your Breaks

Working straight through the day is actually not the most productive allocation of your energy. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, advocates working hard for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. These specific time limits won’t work for all people or all tasks, but the concept still applies; the FAA found that short breaks within long work sessions improved focus by 16%. Keep your focus sharp for shorter periods of time rather than lowering your focus so you can last throughout the day.

2. Stand Up

According to New York Times Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds, standing up every 20 minutes isn’t just good for your health – it’s also good for your productivity! Frequent standing breaks reduce your risk for diabetes, prevent fat accumulation in your body, and keep your brain more active. You can stand at your desk without interrupting what you’re doing, or even better, take a quick walk down the hall and back to reactivate your body’s metabolism.

3. Dial Up Your Green Factor

Those plants in your coworker’s office are not simply for decoration: houseplants have been proven to increase productivity by 38%. Moreover, creativity can be boosted by up to 45% by our little green friends. Plants improve air quality and reduce airborne mold and bacteria, which means you might find yourself taking less sick days, as well.

4. Get the Right Kind of Sleep

According to Harvard research, sleep deprivation costs American companies an estimated $63.2 billion per year in lost productivity, and researchers have found that sleeping too little (less than 6 hours per night) is the best predictor of job burnout. The solution may lay in daytime naps: air traffic controllers who were allowed a 40-minute break for a nap were more vigilant and had better reaction times.

5. Ditch the Multi-tasking

The science is becoming increasingly clear: even when you think you’re being more productive by multi-tasking, you’re really just slowing yourself down. Some researchers say that multi-tasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. Even if you’re good at switching from task to task, your brain still has to make the change in its mental executive function each time, and that costs you in time and concentration. In fact, multi-tasking can even weaken cognitive ability over time. If you’re a particularly bad multi-tasking addict, try an app like Freedom (for Mac, PC, and Android) to eliminate the worst distractions.

6. Enjoy Some Music

NCBI studies have found that listening to music improves the ability to recognize letters and images, increases worker speed and accuracy, and enhances focus. Especially for tasks that are repetitive and clearly defined, music seems to offer a welcome escape from the mundanity. But be careful – for more immersive tasks or learning, music can actually be detrimental.

7. Grab Some Vitamin D

Exposure to natural light improves your productivity by increasing your general well-being. According to Psychology Today, people who worked near windows slept better at night due to more regular circadian rhythms and reported better daytime functioning. Find a way to consume some sunlight during your work day for an instant productivity boost.

8. Turn Up (or Down) the Temperature

A Cornell study showed that employees made 44% more mistakes in a room with a temperature less than 68 degrees. The discomfort of the cold seemed to prove distracting, and bringing the temperature up to a comfortable level increased the test subjects’ output by 150%. A comfortable environment seems to be essential for a productive day.

9. Turn Off Your Email

Checking email can be a way to avoid doing what you really need to be doing. When you have email alerts activated, you’re allowing chance to dictate your priorities, and your focus is getting interrupted every time someone has any reason to contact you. Instead of being on-call constantly and allowing these constant interruptions, check your email at designated times during the day. This way you can prioritize what needs to get done and when. The Harvard Business Review recommends setting limits on your email to leave room in your day (and your brain) for uninterrupted, creative thinking.

10. Have a Drink

For tasks that require creative thinking, you might want to consider having a drink with lunch. Researchers have found that light increases in alcohol consumption facilitate problem solving. For advertising executives working on a creative project, for example, concentrating too hard can create writer’s block, whereas an alcoholic drink can lower those inhibitions. But while a drink with lunch might be a good idea for those working on creative tasks, it’s probably best avoided when you’re working on a project that needs meticulous, dedicated brain-power.

So now that you have these scientifically proven productivity hacks- what are you waiting for? Get out there and make it an unprecedented work day!

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