In this world of constant distraction, focusing on just one task at a time is unusually difficult. With multiple screens and constantly-updating news feeds, mono-focus can even seem uncomfortable and unnatural. (Responding to emails during a conference call seems like a much more efficient use of time!).
At the end of the day, this hectic multi-tasking really damages the quality of our work output and, unfortunately, our overall efficiency. The best way to maximize your productivity, and increase your creative output, is to train yourself to focus. Plus, studies show that employees who get more done are also the happiest at work. Here are a few surprising tips (that are all quite fun!) that will help you focus, be more productive and tap into your creative muscle at work.
Looking at pictures of cute animals
You mean kittens stuck in tubas can help you concentrate better? Believe it or not, researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan recently exposed a group of test subjects to images of puppies and kittens before having them play the children’s game “Operation.” A separate control group did not see any pictures, and were also asked to play the game. Those who saw the super-duper cute pictures were actually better at the game than those that didn’t. They performed the tasks in the game more deliberately and more accurately. That’s right, a group of REAL scientists basically jjust told you that your Buzzfeed addiction is actually HELPING your productivity!
I can’t wait to tell my mom she was wrong for making me go to bed at a decent hour! It is well known (or at least, socially accepted) that there are morning people and there are night owls: morning people tend to be at their best in the, you know, morning, while night owls thrive in the wee hours of the night. So, does this means that a morning person won’t be as creative at night and vice versa? Actually no. Turns out, being tired is actually BETTER for doing creative work. The theory is that when your brain is fatigued it’s not as good at filtering out distractions, and when you are trying to be creative, you need your brain to make more connections and be open to new ideas. So heck yeah you should stay up to watch “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” It’ll make you better at your job!
Being in Nature
University of Michigan researchers found that subjects who strolled through a natural setting saw a 20% improvement in attention and focus tests. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds, researchers say. Nature images “engage our so-called involuntary attention, which comes into play when our minds are inadvertently drawn to something interesting that doesn’t require intense focus, like a pleasing picture or landscape feature. We can still talk and think while noticing the element,” according to the Wall Street Journal. However, participants who took a walk in a busy city did not see any cognitive benefits, so if you are living in Manhattan…good luck with THAT!
Exercise in general, Yoga in particular
Ugh does exercise fix everything?! It’s so annoying! University of Bristol researchers found that employees who enjoyed a workout before going to work—or exercised during lunch breaks—were better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them. It also showed that people’s general mood improved on days of exercise, and they were measurably less calm on non-exercise days. Yoga, apparently, can be particularly beneficial to your work life. Maren Showkeir, co-author of “Yoga Wisdom at Work Finding Sanity off the Mat and on the Job”, says, “The physical practice of yoga actually only constitutes one of Eight Limbs that comprise the philosophy of the exercise. The other Limbs offer a wide array of guiding principles—including a moral framework, a code of conduct and other practices—that help people become more focused and self-aware. Yoga helps people stay connected to themselves and to others as well as the greater good of the whole.” So downward dog it is!
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University studied 75 employees at Replacements, Ltd., who were allowed to bring up to 30 dogs to work each day, and found that it helped certain employees be more productive while building relationships. Despite some complaints regarding allergies and distractions, the majority of people who work in companies that allow pets are happier: “Scratching a dog behind the ear allows even the most worked-up employee to relax and re-prioritize.” So apparently all these tech companies with their pet policies aren’t actually onto something…
Now tell us, do you find cuddling a puppy, or taking a lunch break and hitting the gym to improve your productivity? What tips and tricks do you use to stay on track and combat the afternoon lull?