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The Science Behind Productivity

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Our willpower isn’t enough to keep us productive. So how do we keep pushing forward and avoid becoming complacent?

AsapScience, known best for their YouTube channel where they release a weekly video of fun and interesting science, published a short, informational video on what we can do to increase productivity at work. I’m more of a visual learner, and if you are too, then this video will be right up your alley. Check it out!

It was kind of shocking to find out that you can actually use up all of your willpower, which is called called Ego Depletion. But if you think about it, it totally makes sense. You just get tired of putting in the effort. Their tips on getting around this issue are spot on.

We all know the dread of starting a new project. Your mind can run a mile a minute just thinking of all the work you are going to have to do before you even begin. Their advice? Just start! They mention the Zeigarnik Effect which is that natural drive we all have to finish tasks we have accepted. Not completing the task actually makes us feel uneasy, which leads to thinking about the task even more. But no one has ever completed a task without first starting it. It may sound a bit cliche, but getting started is always the most important part of anything.


© Flickr user US Department of Education

Their time management technique is something we here at AccelaWork believe will help your productivity growth. Break your day down into segments and leave time for rest! Cramming all of your work in without a breather will drive you crazy. So give yourself a deadline to work with and write it down on your calendar. Seeing that every day will help give you the drive to finish your work. And by limiting each segment of work to a finite amount of time, the overall project won’t seem so insurmountable.

And as we write in the post that’s linked above, trying to just plow through your work isn’t always the best way:

Knowledge workers should typically work for a few hours after waking up, take a break for a couple of hours midday, then continue again in the evening. They would work better if their work was spread out throughout the day.

“Cognition is best several hours prior to habitual sleep time, and worst near habitual wake time,” says Kenneth Wright, neuroscientist and chronobiologist, as quoted in a recent article in The New Yorker.

Sure, there may be times when you’re on a tight deadline and simply have to get things done, but if you manage your time better, make accountability charts, and are aware of these things from the start of a project, you’re far less likely to run up against a situation where you’re short on time despite having a ton of work left to do.

The accountability chart, which they compare to those who have a diet diary, is a fantastic way to see where you’re lagging. Writing down the time you have spent in certain areas of your work can help you figure out where you need improvement. Also, to help boost efficiency try to avoid multitasking; completing multiple activities at once is a sure fire way to miss something or complete work inaccurately. As the video points out, implementing an action plan will set you up to accomplish all your goals productively.

Looking for more help on putting these principles in place? Give our our organizational productivity consultants a call today to learn more about how we can help improve productivity in your organization. We’d love to find a way to help!

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Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea transplanted from Illinois to South Carolina. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her dog and her family. Alyssa is very active on social media. She has been part of the AccelaWork team since 2013.
Alyssa Shea

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