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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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