Stress Relief

You’ll Never Guess What Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

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Good news for those who live far from the equator: All that terrible weather is helping you kick butt at work. Turns out that even though sunshine and all of its vitamin D lifts your spirits, it’s dragging down your productivity, according to a new Harvard University study. “Bad-weather days eliminate potential cognitive distractions,” says study author Jooa Julia Lee, PhD. Think about it: You’re probably not envisioning a fun-filled beach day with your significant other when you look outside and see clouds, rain, and slush.

Though nice weather does have the potential to foster creativity (after all, if you hunker down maybe you’ll get out faster to enjoy the sunshine!), Lee says you’ll crank out more work if you’re in a windowless workspace when the sun is shining. Regardless of your weather forecast or desk location, practicing these productivity tips from Francesca Gino, PhD, a professor at Harvard University who specializes in motivation, productivity, and creativity, will give you the focused boost you need to show your work who’s boss.

Jot it down. “Our brain is wired in such a way that we go for the short-term rewards more often than the long-term ones, even when it is irrational to do so,” says Gino. Think: Crossing off the easy assignments over the more important ones. Make a list of your priorities to stay on track, and try color-coding or starring the tasks that require immediate attention so you don’t start checking off the duties that can wait.

Take a break. “We all have a finite amount of mental, emotional, and physical resources to draw on throughout the day,” she says. “These resources need to be replenished for us to stay engaged and productive.” Getting away from your desk is the key here, so even if you’re just fetching your mail or taking an afternoon coffee break, you’ll be giving your brain the breather it needs.

Don’t be a superhero. “We all think we can multitask, so we check our email while we’re on conference calls,” says Gino. “But research suggests our brains can’t multitask.” So next time you’re tackling a detailed report or prepping a presentation, toss your phone in your purse, turn off your email notifications, and power through.