Whether you’re a student, desk jockey or mother extraordinaire, there’s a good chance that you are obsessed with productivity.
The truth is – we all are. Whether we’re hunched over TPS reports at work or chauffeuring kids around between extra-curricular activities, we always want to feel like we’re making the best use of our time that we possibly can.
A recent study from the journal of Psychological Science revealed that although we all tend to complain about how busy we are or that list of things we will just never find the time to do; we secretly love our “busyness”, and are actually happiest when we’re hard at work.
But how can you ensure that you’re getting the most out of your time? You’ve probably heard all the usual advice about making lists, taking breaks and eliminating distractions, but what about the less obvious tactics?
From laughing to Facebooking, here are some of the most outlandish tips for boosting your productivity, and the science to back them up.
1. Turn up the heat
If your office or workspace is chilly or downright frigid, you probably aren’t nearly as productive as you could be during working hours.
Why? Research shows that when our body temperature drops, we expend more energy just to keep warm, which means there is less energy left for the concentration and inspiration that you need to get the job done.
One study found that when temperatures were below 68°F (or 20°C), employees made 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when the room temperature was 77°F (25°C) degrees.
2. Don’t take your work (or yourself) too seriously
Although it might seem counterintuitive, numerous studies show that the key to getting more done is to simply stop taking things so seriously. Humor and laughter have been proven to boost creativity and increase productivity, whereas seriousness just stresses you out.
A survey by Wirthlin Worldwide found that 60% of employees believe they would be more productive if their employers encouraged humor. Another study confirmed this by showing that managers who use humor have the most productive employees.
3. Buy some yellow plants for your workspace
It’s no secret that colors can affect your mood, but did you know that they can also have an impact how productive you are? For instance, the color yellow is thought to increase alertness, which could help you focus, and in turn, get more done.
One study found that the addition of yellow flowers, pictures or lights can boost efficiency and energy, while another showed that having a plant on your desk can improve your productivity and cognitive attention.
Conclusion? Yellow plants will make you more productive.
4. Give yourself the option of not doing anything
How you frame your choices has a big impact on whether or not you will follow through with what you initially decided to do.
According to research by Wharton and Georgia State University professors, when you have to choose between two options, it’s more productive to include the additional option of doing nothing at all, because this makes you feel surer of your decision down the line.
5. Lists don’t always need to be organized
Generally speaking, list-making is a very organized activity: you start at the top left corner of the page, number the first item with a tidy 1, and then continue down the page in the same manner.
Recently, though, writer and author Ben Schott suggested a rather revolutionary idea – haphazard lists.
The idea behind this is that our thoughts aren’t organized or linear, so our lists shouldn’t be either. According to Schott, it could be far more effective to start in the centre of the page and write lists as clouds of related tasks, kind of like mind maps, which have been shown to boost creativity and productivity.
6. Belittle the most important tasks
Another symptom of list-making is that we tend to put the most important tasks at the top because we assume this will help us get to them first. But according to Stanford Philosopher John Perry, putting too much emphasis on the really important things actually makes us want to do them even less.
Perry suggests using “structured procrastination,” which really just means making things that aren’t important seem more important than what is actually important.
He advises placing daunting or even impossible tasks at the top of the list, and then positioning the more doable tasks that actually need to be completed lower down.
7. Embrace social media
It’s hard to resist the temptation to check our favorite social media sites every five minutes, and for those of us with desk jobs, this can be a real productivity killer, or so we think.
But a recent survey from Evolv has found that contrary to popular belief, employees who use up to four social networks are more efficient, and also tend to stay in their jobs longer.
The researchers surveyed 100,000 call center employees and found that those who belonged to more than four social media networks ranked as the most efficient in the workplace.
They had a 1.6% higher sales conversion and a 2.8% lower average call time – maybe because they just couldn’t wait to get back to Facebook or Instagram that picture of their lunch?