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10 Psychological Hacks To Make You More Creative And Productive At Work

10 Psychological Hacks To Make You More Creative And Productive At Work

Many times, when we think about productivity, we think in terms of time-management tricks, how to get motivated, and ways to work faster. The focus is often on getting more and more done, faster and faster. But what if we just slowed down a bit and thought about productivity in its truest form: being able to create or produce in the most efficient way possible, not necessarily in the fastest time possible?

Our lives would be so much better, and far less stressful.

Doing too much, too fast isn’t a great strategy. It overworks the mind, and our bodies can’t keep up in the long run. We burn out eventually. That is why it’s necessary to chart a new course for being productive that doesn’t rely solely on tricks to be faster. After all, when our minds get overworked and we burn out, it can take 6 months to 2 years or more to fully recover. Who wants that?

Here are some psychological tricks that will help you influence your own mind in such a way that you become more creative and productivity at work.

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Hacks to Boost Creativity

1. Establish psychological distance.

Ever wonder why it’s easier to give advice to a friend than it is to solve your own problems? It’s because you are “psychologically distant” from your friend’s problem, meaning you can think more clearly and logically about the issue. If you want to gain clarity and new insights on what you are working on, step away from the task for a while. That will help you to be “psychologically distant.” Studies show that establishing psychological distance between you and a problem boosts your creativity and allows you to think more objectively.

2. Allow yourself to daydream a little.

Daydreaming or mind wondering is a common feature at work. You can be sitting at your desk working and suddenly you realize your mind is elsewhere—probably thinking about the kids or what you will have for dinner. Rather than feel bad about it, or bash yourself for “slacking off,” embrace it. A little daydreaming can boost creativity. That’s because it allows your brain to relax and think outside the box. Researchers actually say that our most inventive and creative moments come when daydreaming.

It’s when daydreaming that the mind can make associations between bits of information buried in our subconscious that we had never considered in that particular way.

“This accounts for creativity, insights of wisdom and oftentimes the solutions to problems that the person had not considered,” explains Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University.

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3. Listen to uplifting music.

Music plays an important role in how we feel and interpret the world. If you are looking for some motivation, inspiration for creative thought, or just looking to calm your mind so you can think more clearly at work, listen to some uplifting music. Mozart’s piano sonatas and Beethoven’s immortal classics, for example, can help you do exactly that. Not only will you lift your mood and feel happier when you listen to music, you’ll be able to move through dull, repetitive tasks quicker and more inspired.

4. Get a little messy.

This might sound strange or counterproductive, but a messy desk at work can actually indicate higher creativity. Those workers who thrive in messiness or a lack of organization are in fact often more creatively minded. That’s because a little disorganization is a creativity stimulus itself. You train yourself to become a better problem solver and more adept at tackling crises as they arise when you get a little messy at work.

Of course, everything should be done in moderation. Being too disorganized might set off worrisome alarms and hinder creativity and productivity just as well.

5. Stay connected with people.

Working alone for long periods, day after day can bring problems. Human beings are social creatures and we need outside stimulation and interaction with fellow human beings to thrive. Your creativity will go down, your productivity will follow suit, and your effectiveness will go down as well when you work in total isolation. So, slot in adequate time for social interaction during work to stimulate your mind, but not too much time as your productivity may go down again. Use good judgment.

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Hacks to Boost Productivity

6. Set realistic deadlines for yourself.

This is an effective way to not only improve task performance, but to also decrease procrastination, according to a study by MIT Sloan School of Management and INSEAD Business School. Simply knowing you have a deadline to meet tunes the mind properly and provides the motivation you need to tackle the job head-on and finish it when it ought to be finished. You may even impose on yourself consequences for failure to meet self-scheduled deadlines just to raise the stakes a little higher.

7. Reward yourself for a job well done.

Give yourself a reward each time you complete a task in a proper and timely manner. Do this every time immediately after you’ve finished the task. That will program your brain to believe that you will always reward it for tasks well done. When you do this consistently, you may find that you’ll become more motivated to get the job done every day, on time and on priority.

8. Practice mindfulness.

People are easily distracted from tasks they find boring or have no interest in. This is one of the reasons we procrastinate at work. To counter distractions, practice mindfulness. This involves staying completely aware of (paying close attention to) your responsibilities. Focus on one task at any given moment to ground yourself. Once you train your mind to pay close attention on what is happening in the moment, you will find it easier to avoid distractions and get work done more effectively.

9. Surround yourself with plants.

People who keep living plants nearby while at work are often calmer, happier, and more self-driven. Why, you ask? Because live plants alter our perspective and perception of our work environment, explains Marlon Nieuwenhuis and his research team. Just one plant can boost your productivity significantly as you begin to consider your office a healthier place to work. And indeed, your office will be a healthier place to work in with greenery nearby. That’s because plants improve air quality in the office, enhancing your concentration and general workplace satisfaction

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10. Bring in natural light.

Can’t stand sitting under the fluorescent light bulbs beaming above your office desk any longer? Good—those bulbs are hindering your productivity. People who spend large chunks of time indoors and are not exposed to natural light are generally more stressed, depressed, and tend to let those feelings bleed into their personal and professional lives, too.

Fortunately, studies show that natural light exposure may help to increase serotonin levels in the brain and alleviate depression symptoms. Get outside more and change your office or desk light bulbs out with those designed to mimic natural sunlight. This will fight this sad, unmotivating effect and you’ll feel happier, more inspired, and more productive at work.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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