15 scientifically proven ways to work smarter (not harder)

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you found this article from Facebook. I’m also guessing that you were procrastinating by scrolling through your newsfeed.

Don’t worry, I do it too. But the problem is, a lot of this activity isn’t making us more productive. It’s just wasting our time.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could let go of these distractions and actually be more productive?

It’s something that I’ve been researching over the past couple days, because the truth is, I waste way too much time using Facebook and Twitter.

But imagine getting more done so you can reduce your work hours and have more time to do things you actually want to do.

That sounds pretty good to me. So check out these 15 tips I’ve researched over the past couple days that will make you much more productive.

1) Fix Your Internet Speed


This may seem like an obvious point, but the negative effects of a slow connection on productivity cannot be further emphasized.

An Analysis Group based in Boston found that those living in cities with above-average internet connection speeds were generally more productive than their slower-internet peers.

The reason is simple—the quicker your web pages open, the less likely your mind is to get off track.

2) Natural Light is Key

Looking for a reason to turn off the lights? A study from Northwestern University found that daylight exposure plays a profound role in ensuring the average person’s sleep, productivity, and general quality of life.

In their study, they found that people who work with daylight rather than artificial light experienced better and more fuller nights of sleep than their windowless peers.

This is due to the circadian rhythm, which is only properly stimulated by the sun. If you work in an office that doesn’t have windows, don’t despair—there are plenty of natural light lamps on the market that can help.

3) Don’t Be Afraid to Nap

Naps may sound counterproductive to productivity, but the truth is the opposite: researchers have found that 20-minute naps are one of the best tools against that afternoon or mid-morning drowsiness.

By taking 20 minutes out of your workday for a quick nap, you can boost your productivity two or three-fold. There’s a reason why larger companies like Google and Pfizer have Sleep Pods in their offices.

4) Turn Off Every 90 Minutes

Many of us believe that the best way to be productive is to work at it all hours of the day; answering emails late at night, finishing up documents on the train to work, and even taking time out of lunch and dinner to polish projects.

But the body doesn’t work that way—we operate under the ultradian rhythms, in which our brain requires a break after 90 to 120 minutes, or else it starts operating way below maximum efficiency. So every hour and a half, stand up and take a break.

5) Time Tracking

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of wasting too much time on a particular task or project. Before you know it, you’ve wasted half or most of your day, perfecting a project that should have taken an hour.

With certain time tracking software and devices, you can ensure that you will never spend too much time working on any one task.

Researchers have found that time tracking is so effective that people who keep track of time experience activity levels 27% higher than others.


6) Take a Friend with You on Breaks

Socializing plays a big part in easing our stresses and clearing our mind: studies have found employees to be at least 36% more productive during working hours when they spend their breaks with friends, rather than spending them alone.

7) Don’t Obsess Over News

Social media ensures that we can stay updated 24/7, not only with our friends, but with local and global news.

And with so much power in hand, many of us opt to constantly check the news, looking for updates on events from all around the world.

But this obsession brings us down, because the news is generally negative.

Bad news to good news falls under a 17:1 ratio, because news companies are always less likely to report on happy stores.

And with more negativity comes less productivity. Take a step back from the news—spend the time reading a book, going to the gym, or working on yourself.


8) Become Happy

Happiness is good for us, so good that it can make us more productive. Researchers from the University of Warwick found that happy workers are 12% more productive. Why? Because happiness makes them love life more, boosting their engagement and energy levels higher.

9) Spend Your Night Planning Tomorrow

Plans are one of the best things you can do for your productivity. Not only do they ensure that you get everything you need to do done with its own allotted time, but they also ensure that you complete everything you want to do.

Without plans, we end up throwing too much time away, and we suffer as a result. Plans give us relief and ease our anxiety.

10) Invest in Plants

It has been long known that nature can do wonders for our happiness, productivity, and creativity. But let’s be realistic: we don’t all have the luxury of working in an environment surrounded by trees and plants.

The solution? Bring the plants inside. Even just a small pot of flowers is enough to mimic the effects of being outside. Not only do they look nice, but their presence reduces the harmful chemicals in the air.

11) Listen to Your Favorite Songs

While noise can usually lower your productivity, the right noise can boost it. Listening to your favorite calm and relaxing beats can help your concentration and focus, even through the most repetitive and mind-numbing tasks.


12) Don’t Multitask

Many of us have fallen for the hype of multitasking; juggling several things at once, getting a bit done for a bunch of tasks at a time. We believe that it makes us work faster, because we are less likely to get bored of work if we are constantly jumping around.

But the truth is the exact opposite: multitasking has been found to be 40% less effective than singletasking, and ends up shrinking the grey matter in the brain. This is because the brain feels overloaded when it is always in a state of task switching. So remember to turn off pop-ups and notifications the next time you sit down to work.

13) Clear Your Space

We have all heard about the connection between messiness and creativity or intelligence, but messiness and productivity is an entirely different issue.

It turns out that clutter in your work area lowers your overall brain activity, simply because you become distracted by the mess around you. By keeping your work space organized and clean, you minimize distractions and maximize your work ethic.

14) Find the Perfect Temperature

There is actually a perfect temperature for working, and that temperature is roughly between 21 degrees to 22 degrees Celsius, or 69.8 degrees to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is the exact window for ideal productivity—not too hot and not too cold. One study from Cornell found that workers who feel cold end up making more mistakes, costing them up to 10% in productivity.


15) Open YouTube

YouTube may be your office manager’s greatest nemesis, but one study from the University of Melbourne found that procrastination (specifically, YouTube) boosts our productivity.

The researchers compared the productivity levels of workers who were allowed to use YouTube and those who weren’t; simply put, those without access to YouTube were 9% less productive than their YouTube-watching peers.

Sometimes it’s important to just take a minute or two to get away from work, even if that involves watching a funny video online.

RELATED ARTICLE: How smart are you? Find out what science says

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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