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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Peak Productivity

As many of you know, I am constantly searching for the productivity holy grail!  I feel that I manage my time pretty well, going through decent spurts of great productivity but then (longer) periods of downtime.  I do, however, always feel like I could/should be doing more somehow.  But, from new articles and research that I’ve come across, it seems that a number of our natural human instincts are actually spot on and should be encouraged. 

In the April issue of Inc. Magazine, there’s a whole section devoted to research on and techniques for increasing productivity, or I should say from what I gathered, making better and healthier use of your time, even if you’re not getting more actually done (quality versus quantity).  Recently, I feel that I’ve really begun to appreciate how important it is to let the brain rest.  I feel so inundated every day with information, much of it useless, but still I have to figure out how to dodge and weave away from the cr*p and to capture the truly useful and important information.  Once it’s captured, then it needs to be organized and then acted upon or filed away for future reference.  Rather than tout yet another system for accomplishing these tasks, the articles in Inc. try to give some scientific insights into how the brain reacts to these processes and what will help it react better.  The cover story “Get More Done” makes some unusual suggestions, but hear them out.  I found the following 3 points quite thought provoking:

1.       Think Fluffy – recent research findings suggest that viewing cute images heightens mental concentration and carefulness.  Test subjects who viewed pictures of baby animals experienced enhancements in their fine motor skills and performed better on dexterity and visual search tests.  So, feel free to go on over to my Facebook page and get your fill of cute lamb and baby animal pictures!

2.       Turn Up the Heat – literally.  Studies show that office workers are more productive when the thermostat is turned up to 77 degrees.  Typing errors dropped by 44 percent while typing output rose by 150 percent.

3.       Let It Rain – bad weather is good for productivity.  Not surprisingly, when beautiful sunny skies aren’t calling, people get more work done.  A Harvard Business School study found that turning desks away from windows can boost productivity as well as letting employees work shorter hours on good weather days as long as they make up the time during bad weather or other times.

There’s also an article that recommends against multi-tasking, stating that not only is the brain not equipped for it, but that it might actually do harm.  The article recommends 3 approaches:

1.       Dedicate 20 minutes to one task, then switch to another task rather than trying to do both (or more) at the same time.

2.       Cut down on email and check it only a few scheduled times per day (and turn off notifications the rest of the time).

3.       Answer quick questions in person or by phone to further cut down on the amount of email.

Other articles explain the importance of physical exercise as well as sleep and “disconnection” for the brain. Mmmm, maybe I need to go back to that new crochet project I just started and get off the computer!

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