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.
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.
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.
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
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.