How to Improve Productivity (According to Science!)

improve-productivity-according-to-science.jpgWe all strive to get more done. Answer more email, complete more tasks, and cross off more projects.

In a world of distractions, finding the time and environment to focus can be a challenge.

Mavenlink has you covered. This article is more than your average “How to Improve Productivity” post. In fact, we bet you haven’t seen most of the productivity tips on this list.

Each of these is backed by science, and you can find the original study or article linked to the tip. As an added bonus, you’ll find a few new tricks for using music to boost your productivity. (Hint: It partially has to do with video games.)

Here is your list of eight unexpected ways to improve productivity, backed by science.

  1. Go to your happy place
  • A 2014 study found that people who find themselves to be personally invested in their work, and who found their work enjoyable, were more productive than their peers.
  • What you can do:
    • Seek out projects that challenge you. These projects tend to make you feel more engaged in what you’re doing, and you’re more satisfied when they’re complete. The enjoyment you get out of this can fuel even better work.

  1. Go to the gym
  • Scientific American reports that people who go to the gym after a hard focusing effort, such as studying, recalled more of what they were supposed to absorb.
  • What you can do:
    • When your work requires huge amounts of information processing, use this trick. Hit the gym at lunchtime after rigorous morning meetings or after work if most your meetings happen later in the day.

  1. Walk toward the light
  • Natural light makes you more alert, since it wakes you. Your circadian rhythm is expecting sunlight during the natural daily cycle. According to this Behavioral Neuroscience study, getting natural light releases hormones and improves cognition. There’s a nighttime effect too; Business News Daily reported that people who worked in offices that had windows were able to catch nearly an hour more of sleep per night, on average.
  • What you can do:
    • If you work by a window, you’re set. If not, step outside for a reboot; the sunlight should give you extra energy to come back clear-headed.

  1. Turn up the heat
  • Offices set at 77 degrees were found to be the optimal working temperature. People working in this heat made fewer errors and doubled their productivity as compared to people working at 68 degrees.
  • What you can do:
    • Get your body temperature heated for work by changing your thermostat. If you don’t have the authority to change your office temperature, try adding warm clothes and drinking hot drinks, like tea.

Offices set at 77 degrees were found to be the optimal working temperature.

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  1. Find a coworker with a baby
  • A Japanese study found that looking at pictures of cute babies makes you more productive. The images produce positive feelings. After looking at cute pictures, subjects performed better at tasks.
  • What you can do:
    • Share cute baby photos with colleagues. You’ll see theirs and get the bonus of bonding.

  1. Break for 17 minutes
  • Science has finally answered the question about how to time your coffee breaks. According to a Fast Company article, the perfect balance for productivity is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17 minutes. 
  • What you can do:
    • Tackle your tasks in 52-minute increments. Schedule an hour in your calendar to ensure you get an uninterrupted time slot. Focus on the work during its scheduled time, and break during your scheduled break. No exceptions.

The perfect balance for productivity is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17 minutes. 

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Bonus! A reboot for your old favorite: Music

Maybe you’ve heard that music helps you focus. Science backs that up, and we can all agree that for some people, putting headphones on helps us get in the zone.

Here are four fresh perspectives on making music work for you.

  1. Keep music at low volume. — Don’t go crazy with the volume. You need just enough white noise to find your zone.
  2. Rely on familiar music. — You’ll be better able to drown out music you’ve heard already.
  3. Try video game music. — It’s engineered to keep you focused on task completion.
  4. Listen to ten hours of this song. — Science says “Weightless” by Marconi Union is the most relaxing song ever.

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