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6 science-supported ways to be more productive

6 science-supported ways to be more productive

A research article published in The nature last month revealed something interesting about productivity … at least to ants.

Eisuke Hasegawa, a professor of agriculture at Hokkaido University, studied lazy ants. Conventional wisdom tells us that ant colonies are role models for discipline and solid teamwork, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, with up to half of ants relaxing at some point. » Even when observed over a long period of time, 20-30% of ants do nothing of what can be called work, ”said Professor Hasegawa. to NPR .

In fact, the favorite activities of ordinary ants include aimless wandering, quiet sitting and polishing. You may think that these lazy insects are a burden to your colony, but they prove to be generally beneficial. Lazier-than-average colonies have proven more resilient, as working ants are there to replace their fallen colleagues.ant_lazy_efficient

Even in humans, laziness is not necessarily a negative trait: one person’s laziness is another’s efficiency. Frank Gilbreth Sr. was an efficiency expert and a pioneer in the study of motion. As his son pointed out in his 1948 book, A dozen cheaper , «My father believed that a lazy man always makes the best use of his Therbligs [un término inventado por Gilbreth para representar el movimiento en el lugar de trabajo, una inversión de su apellido] because it is too indolent to dissipate movements. Every time my father started doing a new movement study project in a factory, he always started by announcing that he wanted to photograph the movements of the laziest man at work. «The kind of person I love,» he said, «is the person who is so lazy that he doesn’t even scratch himself. You have to have one of these somewhere.

Not for a second would I recommend avoiding scratches as a productivity exercise, but it’s a good point: pushing yourself doesn’t really help anyone, so that long working hours are such a terrible idea .

With that in mind, what can you do to improve your productivity and make the most of your limited time on Earth? These are some of the best suggestions in science.

1. Hard work kills productivity

People are not forced to work hard without interruptions, and productivity is fast. Henry Ford discovered this as early as 1926, when the Ford Motor Company reduced the working hours from nine to eight, contrary to conventional wisdom. Productivity improved as more was done in less time, and other companies followed suit.

Working for shorter periods, but with more concentration seems to be the answer. This summary document from 2011 He explains that long hours not only do not improve productivity, but often actively worsen things.

2. Breaks, both short and long, are a pretty good thingtake_breaks_reguarly_science_productivity

However, good luck that will change your entire work philosophy, no matter how much academic evidence there is on your side. Working at 9-5, as Dolly Parton sang, is here to stay for the time being, but you can improve your productivity under this strict mandate.

Taking breaks is the answer. The holidays offer a full recharge, but even short breaks can help. How small? Well, a 2012 study from Hiroshima University found that students who viewed images of children with animals were more productive than those who viewed images of adult animals or attractive-looking foods. So, here it is …

This is not the only study that supports regular breaks. A 1999 Cornell University article suggests that workers who received regular automatic reminders take a break from their computers

13% more accurate than your co-workers , While 2009 study from the University of Melbourne found that those who took part in the wonderful euphemism “Internet surfing in your free time at work” were more productive than those who stubbornly adhere to their schedule, “as long as WILB does not exceed 12% of the time. working time «.

Twelve percent, right? It’s pretty specific, though not as good as Julia Gifford’s advice Muse . Using a productivity app called DeskTime, Gifford’s team found that the magic number was 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break. Rinse and repeat.dont_procrastinate_science_productivity

This is not comfortably shared in the average eight-hour shift, but the message in the research is clear: it’s not wrong to take a well-earned break, no matter what your manager has to say on the subject.

Just don’t overdo it.

3. Do not work in silence

Put it on Spotify. A 2005 study from the University of Windsor I found that the background music ensured that workers stay focused more and can work more creatively, although from personal experience I would advise that anything with fun lyrics is not possible (my choice: indie instrumental band Unwed Sailor .)

Also there is evidence to suggest that low ambient noise , like the one in your standard office, helps you get things done. Home workers can suffer without them, but don’t be afraid: applications can give the illusion of a lively environment so that your productivity does not suffer.

4. Set deadlines and meet them

Deadlines work, as this 2002 document shows . The problem, as the document points out, is that we are not good at setting realistic values ​​for ourselves, so a degree of flexibility is needed.

5. Stop multitasking now

You think you can do more tasks, but you really can’t.

Don’t take my word for it, asks Stanford University, which in 2009 published an investigation which shows that those who routinely multitask struggle to pay attention, remember information, and move from job to job. None of this means great things for your productivity, no matter how many tabs you think you can create.stop_multitasking_now

So you have a little fun, and what? Well, an academic study suggests that if you lose focus on a task, either through your own fault or simply by answering a call or answering an email, it takes about 23 minutes to return to the original focus .

It’s a small wonder that you’ve come so low on the list, although it suggests there’s still hope for you …

6. Don’t procrastinate

We have already explained how procrastination is a bad thing and deadlines can be an effective way to conquer them, but there is another reason to continue: the Zeigarnik effect.

Named after the Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, who first observed the phenomenon in the 1920s, the idea is that incomplete tasks remain in the mind and disturb the brain until they are completed, at which point it can finally relax.

In other words, if you put the procrastination aside and actually start your project, then the Zeigarnik effect will often hit you and mentally sting you until you finish the bastard.

Hey, you wanted to be more productive, I didn’t say it would always be a comfortable experience.

READ NEXT The awkward truth about long working hours: it doesn’t work for anyone

Images: Miki Yoshihito , Sancho McCann , waffle plate , Judit Klein Yes Rennett stowe used under Creative Commons