7 Science-Backed Tips to Increase Productivity

How you can be more productive, based on brain and behavioral science.

Posted Oct 24, 2018 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

Whether you work at a job or work at a hobby or work at an avocation, if you are like me, you want to be productive. You want to get more done, with less effort, and enjoy it as much as possible. For me, one of the joys in life is feeling like I have accomplished something worthwhile and useful. And if I can feel energized before, during, and after, so much the better.

There’s no dearth of advice about how to be more productive, but recently I set out to find out what I could about the science of productivity. I ended up creating an online video course based on what I learned.

Here’s a summary of the science of productivity. See how many of these you currently use:

  1. Work with your own rhythms. We all have our own cycles of work and rest. Whether it is a daily circadian rhythm or a weekly rhythm or even a month-long rhythm, observe your own rhythms of when you are at a high work energy and when you are in “rest” mode. Fighting your own rhythm won’t make you more productive.
  2. Break tasks up into smaller steps. When you accomplish a task, your brain chemicals change. Accomplishing a step is like a small reward and it stimulates you to want to start the next task. If you are working on one big long-term task, it may take a long time to accomplish something. If you partition the big task into smaller tasks, then you have lots of accomplishments to feed your brain.
  3. Pay attention to the room and furnishings. Set up a place to work that is only where you work. If you have a comfortable and efficient space to work in, and if the only thing you do when you are in that space is your productive work, then your body and brain form a habit. Every time you walk into the “work” space, your brain automatically goes into productive work mode.
  4. Minimize multitasking. The estimate is that you can lose up to 40 percent of your productivity switching from one task to another, which is what happens a lot of the time when you are multi-tasking.
  5. Minimize alerts. To make multitasking less tempting, turn off automatic alerts and notifications on your computer, laptop, and phone.
  6. Sleep. Research shows that being sleep-deprived makes you less efficient in your work. Try getting 7-8 hours a night. Napping for 20 minutes during the day can also boost your productivity.
  7. Work with a team. There is a lot of research, from Allport’s study in the 1920s up to the present day, showing that when people work in a team, they are more productive and enjoy the work more. Sometimes working alone can be a good thing—but don’t forget the power of the team.

How many of these do you practice?

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