4 Productivity Hacks Based on Research

There’s an abundance of literature on increasing productivity. As daunting as some lists can get, know that you can start simple. Boost your productivity with these four science-based tips we curated:  

Have natural light in your working space.

Ever wondered why it’s sometimes harder to focus on a task when it’s dark, dull, and gloomy? It turns out, the lighting around you can make a huge difference.

Research shows that working in natural light improves health and wellness, ultimately increasing your productivity. Natural light also makes you more alert and it enhances your individual performance. In addition, working in daylit offices also allows you to sleep better and increase your vitality.

These findings were surfaced by a study conducted by Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell. He found that workers in daylit office environments reported an 84 percent drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms, which can diminish productivity.

Meanwhile, a neuroscience study conducted by Mohamed Boubekri, Ivy Cheung, Kathryn Reid, Chia-Hui Wang, and Phyllis Zee at Northwestern University demonstrated a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity, and quality of life.

The researchers compared office workers in windowless workplaces and workplaces with windows. The study concluded that workers in offices with natural light slept 46 minutes longer per night and have more energy for physical activity.

On the other hand, workers in offices without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality, poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, and daytime dysfunction.

Go for a walk.

If you’re feeling stuck, take a quick stroll. A number of studies show the various benefits of walking.

A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports showed that people who walked three times a week during lunch felt a lot better after walking for just half an hour. They were less tense, more enthusiastic, more relaxed, and could better cope with their workload.

If you need more motivation to get off your seat, a Stanford research revealed that walking can boost creative inspiration up to 60% compared to sitting. It doesn’t even matter whether you walk indoors and outdoors. The researchers claim that the act of walking itself is the main factor for this boost of creative inspiration instead of the environment. They also note that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”

A few companies have emphasized the importance of walking and have even gone as far as distributing a FitBit to their employees to monitor physical activity and overall health and wellness. Other believers of the power of the stroll include Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who were photographed conducting their own walking meetings with members of their teams.

Do not multitask.

The modern workplace has increased the convenience of communication and collaboration, and it makes other people - including yourself - more accessible. While this has sped up decision-making and churning out outputs, it’s not always an appreciated thing, wouldn’t you agree?

Try to avoid placing yourself in situations where you have to draft an e-mail, accommodate a phone call, and revise a Google Doc’s sharing settings all at the same time. As impressive as the juggling sounds, multitasking does you harm. Take it from MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller who insists that our brains are not wired to multitask. He further notes that what we know as multitasking is instead a very rapid switching from one task to another, which comes with a cognitive cost.

This cognitive cost is shown in a University of London study which claims that multitasking is known to lower IQ. The study found that those who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they would expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.

Pro tip: List down your high priority tasks for the day. If you work with a team or clients, snooze or regulate notifications from your computer to give yourself the headspace you need to complete a high priority task.

Count down in days.

One thing all of us deal with is deadlines. It’s a common motivator (or challenge), whether you’re running a startup, providing consultancy services, building a product, delivering a service, managing a team, or simply paying bills.

One trick to try? Think of your deadlines in days instead of weeks or months to emphasize its imminence. Psychologists Neil Lewis and Daphna Oyserman conducted a series of studies about people’s perception of deadlines and they found that the studies’ participants perceive a far-off event as being closer when time was expressed in days rather than weeks and weeks or months.

Lewis and Oyserman claim that we have the tendency to attend to the present more than the future. This however becomes a challenge as some future events need immediate action. They concur that in order for the future to energize and motivate current action, the future should feel imminent or closer.

Sounds easy? If you think so, maybe today can be your fresh start and your chance to finally complete the to-do list that’s been gathering dust on your desk.

By the way, if you’re looking for a stroll-able place to work at - with natural light, reliable wi-fi, and unlimited coffee included - check out Impact Hub Manila. We offer friendly rates and packages perfect for an entrepreneur’s or a freelancer's needs. Find a space near you!