6 Lazy Ways to Trick Your Brain Into Being Productive
By Thorin Klosowski / Source: LifeHacker
Forcing yourself to be productive is tough, but it's not just willpower and self-control that help you to get things done. You can also pull little tricks on your brain to make it work harder, like adjusting the temperature or looking at cute pictures of animals. Here are a few scientifically-backed ways to boost your productivity without even trying.
Use Your Procrastination to Your Advantage
We all have dreaded tasks on our to-do lists. While science suggests the best way to power through those awful tasks is to just get started, you can also take another approach and trick your brain into making those tasks less dreadful. This is called productive procrastination, and creativity site 99U explains how it works:
Essentially, you're performing a mental trick that makes the task you're dreading less substantial by moving it down on your priority list. When you complete each smaller task, the bigger one seems like less of a pain. Productive procrastination isn't going to work every time, but it's certainly helpful now and again on those days where you're having trouble getting started.
Use Your Office Lighting and Temperature to Boost Productivity
It probably comes as no surprise that your environment has a lot to do with your productivity. While we've talked about triggers in your workspace before, and temperature and lighting are big ones. In fact, as Leo Widrich points out at the Buffer blog, regulating both can provide a boon to your productivity, and you hardly have to lift a finger. Widrich points to one study from Cornell that examined temperature and productivity:
Essentially, you want to regulate the temperature in your office. That means grabbing a space heater (or air conditioner in the summer), or at least keeping yourself warm with a sweater. It's not just temperature, either. Lighting plays a role in productivity too. While direct research on lighting is still fresh, we do know that more exposure to daylight can imrpove productivity. While we've debunked the myth that getting up early makes you more productive, one big benefit of waking up earlier is that you get more time in the natural light of the sun.
That said, the wrong kind of lighting can cause eye fatigue and have a negative effect on your productivity. So, if your computer screen is getting a lot of glare, or you're forced to work under a direct light, it's important to prevent eyestrain by taking breaks, wearing computer glasses, or using an app like F.lux that changes the color temperature of your screen based on the time of the day. The less fatigue you have, the more likely you'll remain productive. Photo by Nicholas Todd.
Take Your Work to a Coffee Shop
If you're the type who likes to focus in on a job, cut yourself off from the world, and power through work, it might sound counterintuitive that the ambient noise of a coffee shop can actually help you focus. As odd as it sounds, studies do show that the ambient buzz of a coffee shop makes us more productive. As The Wall Street Journal points out, it's all about hitting the right level of distraction to get that productive boost:
Of course, everyone is a little different, and your results may vary. If you're stuck in the middle of an unproductive day, getting out of the office and into a noisy coffee shop is one way to trick your brain into working a little harder, no willpower required. Photo by dailylifeofmojo.
Take a Nap
It's not exactly easy to take a nap in the middle of the day, but it turns out a perfectly timed nap boosts your productivity more than you'd think. The best time for a power nap is between 1:00 and 3:00 PM in the afternoon, and you should keep it at about 15 to 20 minutes for maximum benefit.
Our own Adam Dachis gave this a shot himself, and found that it worked well for him. A perfectly timed nap has all types of benefits, including boosting your memory, your cognitive ability, and enhancing your overall performance.
Timing the perfect nap is dependent on when you wake up in the morning, but this interactive nap wheel helps you nail down the right time. The perfect nap may be the laziest way to boost your productivity, but it's certainly one of the most effective.
Play Unfamiliar Music While You're Working
The direct effect of listening to music to boost productivity is still inconclusive, but we do know that music can increase your mood by releasing dopamine. To anyone who has cranked up their favorite song to power through a day of monotonous work this sounds like common sense, but it's possible that listening to unfamiliar music is actually better for focus. The music service Focus at Will describes it like so:
This approach doesn't necessarily work if you're a musician or you listen to music critically, but if you're the type to just throw something on in the background, playing music you don't know might be all you need to concentrate on the task at hand.
Look at Photos of Cute Baby Animals
We'll end with one of the stranger research findings we've seen: looking at cute baby animals can actually improve your concentration and productivity. The study, conducted by Hiroshima University in Japan, found that looking at pleasent and cute images increases concentration. After looking at cute animals, participants in the study increased their performance in concentration tasks by an astounding 44 percent. Researchers were unclear of exactly why the pictures increased concentration, but they have a theory:
While it's by no means a definitive study, it echoes similar theories that temptations like reality TV and cute YouTube videos are beneficial for productivity as well. Next time you're feeling a little zapped of concentration, tune into some adorable animals for a couple minutes and see what happens.
As with any little brain hack and power-up, overuse of these techniques will likely make them stop working. They're also not a replacement for a good productivity system and an optimized schedule. That said, if you're stuck one day and you can't seem to get things done, a change of location, a break to look at adorable animals, or some new music might be all you need.
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