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8 Weird, Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Focus And Productivity

8 Weird, Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Focus And Productivity
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So you’ve found yourself slacking off at work or school and are wondering what you can do to improve your focus or productivity. You’ve heard all of the old methods: drinking coffee, exercising, getting a good night’s rest, etc. While those simple tips may work for most, they simply do not work for some. Here are 8 science backed ways to increase your productivity that you’ve probably never even thought about trying.

1. Listen to Video Game Music

Video game music is designed to keep you focused on completing a task while being a minimum distraction. If you think about it, how many times can you recall losing focus while trying to complete a level in Mario? There are many types of gaming soundtracks available for free, you just have to choose the right one. You can read this article on video game music and its impact on focus to learn more.

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2. Hit the Gym After Studying

While working out might be the last thing on your brain while studying for a studies have shown that those that do can recall information better the next day. According to the study even light exercise may help with retention.

3. Dress to Impress

Sure it may seem only natural to want to study in a sweater and sweat pants. However, studies have shown that those who dress up have less problems paying attention. According to the study students that wore white lab coats while doing tests made about half the errors as those who were wearing regular clothes. Will the white coat method work for you? It could be worth a try.

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 4. Work in Natural Light

While we all can’t have an office with windows, you should always make it a point to get some fresh air and sunlight during the day. According to a recent study :

“Compared to the afternoon, people who had DL (Daylight) were significantly more alert at the beginning of the evening, and subjects who were exposed to AL (Artificial light) were significantly sleepier at the end of the evening.”

So if you’re having trouble staying awake or focused, just take a quick trip outside. Chances are it will help you wake up significantly.

5. Crank Up the Heat

We all hate being too hot, however, chances are that if the office is frigid you’re not being as productive as you can. What is the science behind this? To put it simply, your body uses more energy to keep warm when it’s cold in the office. That means there is less energy left for focus and concentration. According to this study workers made nearly 44% more errors and were half as productive when the temperature were set at 68F as opposed to those working in 77F conditions.

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6. Go Green

If you’re having trouble focusing in your office or cubicle try bringing a little greenery into your life. Studies have shown that offices with greenery are 15% more productive than undecorated offices. Not only does it improve productivity but the study also concluded it improved morale and the overall perception of air quality in the office.

7. Look at Cute Animals

A study in Japan has concluded that looking at simple pictures of cute animals can improve productivity. The study tested individuals and their performance after looking at pictures of cute baby or adult animals. They concluded there was an increase in performance in those test subjects after viewing the pictures. According to the study:

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“the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing.”

8. Make. Everything. Yellow.

Well, not everything of course. But studies have shown that the color yellow increases concentration and alertness. Why? Because it is the color most associated with happiness. Just a simple poster or photo of some yellow flowers may be enough to boost your concentration and focus throughout the day.

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Colby Almond

Professional

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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