8 Ways to Be More Productive at Work
1. Listen to feel-good music.
Here's a reason to mix business with pleasure: According to a 2010 study in the journalPsychological Science, being in a good mood boosts creative problem-solving skills. People exposed to uplifting music and videos performed better on a complex learning test than those who saw or heard a negative stimulus. "Your ability to find innovative solutions can be enhanced by a positive mood," says study researcher Ruby Nadler. So if you're stuck on a problem, take a quick break and listen to your favorite song, read a post from your favorite blog or do anything else that instantly boosts your mood.Photo: Thinkstock
2. Grab a pen and doodle.
Drawing can improve memory, according to research in the journalApplied Cognitive Psychology. Participants asked to doodle while listening to a telephone message recalled nearly 30 percent more information than non-doodlers. "Doodling prevents daydreaming so you can stay focused and concentrate, especially when it comes to boring material," says the study's lead researcher, Jackie Andrade, PhD. So the next time you're on a particularly mind-numbing conference call, scribble away.Photo: Thinkstock
3. Flex some muscle.
That reflex to clench your fists and grit your teeth in the face of bad news can actually increase self-control, making you better prepared to respond to a problem, finds a new study from theJournal of Consumer Research. While the study didn't focus directly on work scenarios, "our finding suggests that if people are trying to overcome a crisis or deal with a tough coworker, clenching muscles can help," says researcher Iris Hung. To tap into this willpower, firm your muscles the moment the problem pops up, she says. A stress ball can also help you power through a complex assignment.Photo: Shutterstock
4. Head to the water cooler.
"Gossip improves office communication and can help you find reassurance in a stressful job situation, two things that might increase productivity," says Jenny Cole, PhD, a lecturer at Staffordshire University in the U.K., who presented her research on gossip at the British Psychological Society Social Psychology Section Annual Conference last year. The catch: Hold the snark. Mean gossip creates negativity, so if your colleague just got a promotion, spread the news around the office in an upbeat way, Dr. Cole says.Photo: Shutterstock
5. Give meditation a try.
Time to get yourOmon: In a recent study from the University of California-Davis, people who meditated every day had a longer attention span during a demanding and stressful 30-minute test than those who didn't. "Meditation can help you develop your ability to block distractions from other thoughts and sounds around the office, or antsy feelings sitting at your desk," says study researcher Katherine MacLean, PhD. To try it at home, reserve 15 minutes a day to sit quietly, focusing on the sensation of inhaling and exhaling; if your mind starts to wander, gently redirect your thoughts back to each breath.Photo: Thinkstock
6. Search the World Wide Web.
Go ahead—watch that adorable puppy video. It can actually improve concentration, finds a 2011 study in the journalCognition. Taking brief breaks refuels a waning focus so you don't get burnt out after a long day spent staring at complex material, like spreadsheets. Other research from Brent Coker, PhD, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, found that surfing the Internet for fun at work boosts productivity by 12 percent. Our ability to focus declines after about an hour but enjoyable breaks in our workday help us feel restored, so fit in time to check Facebook and watch YouTube clips, he says.Photo: Shutterstock
7. Stretch your legs.
Get up already! Scientists say that any extended period spent inactive in front of a screen—like your computer—poses danger when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Even if you get regular exercise, it's still important to fit in short bursts of activity throughout the day, like standing during a phone call or walking to a colleague's desk instead of emailing, they say. And consider stepping outside for lunch—not only will it get you away from the screen, but it may keep you from mindlessly munching later on. According to research from the University of Bristol in the U.K., people who ate lunch while playing a computer game were more likely to indulge in snacks later on. "The distraction from the computer caused people to forget what they ate earlier and they were less likely to pay attention to cues that they were full," notes Charlotte Hardman, PhD, one of the researchers on the study.Photo: Shutterstock
8. Get a good luck charm.
Feeling shaky about a presentation or nervous for a meeting with your boss? Carrying a lucky charm might improve your performance, suggests recent research in the journalPsychological Science. "Acting superstitious increases confidence and makes people believe in their capabilities more," explains study researcher Barbara Stoberock. It doesn't have to be a magic rabbit's foot, either. Tote around whatever makes you feel lucky, like a picture of your daughter or a special piece of jewelry from your husband.
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