You read it correctly– distractions that actually increase productivity. People are leaning toward more unconventional productivity hacks like healthy eating and using two computer screens, and we’ve uncovered five activities traditionally labeled as “distractions” that are actually proven to increase your productivity whether you’re at work, studying for midterms, or doing your family finances.
The ultimate goal is for you to become more productive in order to make the most of your potential. As Mark Fenske, the coauthor of “The Winner’s Brain” and associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Guelph in Canada says: “It’s paradoxical. You need to be able to focus to shut off distractions, but sometimes you can focus too hard. I sit in front of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and spend an embarrassing amount of time staring at the screen, then I get my best idea in the shower.”
Give some of these distractions a try and see how your productivity increases!
1) Look at photos of baby animals
Japanese researchers at Hiroshima University conducted a study with a group of 48 male and female university students who were asked to look at pictures of either puppies and kittens, dogs and cats, or delicious-looking foods like sushi and steak before completing a series of tasks. Those who looked at pictures of puppies and kittens performed– by a long shot– much better on the tasks than the others. The reason? Researchers say that it could be because “caring for babies involves tender treatments and careful attention to the targets’ physical and mental states as well as vigilance against possible threats. If viewing cute things makes the viewer more attentive, the performance of a non-motor perceptual task would also be improved.”
2) Stare at this screen
A time tested concentration tip is meditation– though, traditionally, meditation is conceived as sitting quietly alone in a small room in lotus position. Now, you can meditate in front of your computer or smartphone screen for 2, 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes at a time with Calm, a new startup whose mission is to reduce stress and increase calm. With guided calming sessions, you’ll get the short break you need to continue plowing through your to-do list.
3) Use at least 5 (yes 5!) social networks
This may have been the second time you’ve had to look twice at what you read in this blog post… but a recent study by Evolv, that monitored hundreds of metrics from Fortune 500 companies, discovered a significant correlation between social network use, employee productivity, and longevity in employees’ job positions. “Employees who belonged to more than five social networks had a 1.6 percent higher sales conversion than their counterparts and a 2.8 percent lower average call time,” say the researchers. Mike Housman, the managing director of Evolv, says that “employees that belong to multiple social networks, are likely to be more technologically savvy–making them more adept at their jobs. They may also be more efficient in job-related social situations.” Which are your top five social networks?
4) Take a 10-minute power nap
Though this distraction might be a bit more tricky to pull off, new research shows that taking a ten minute power nap can boost productivity and sharpen focus. Doctors at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio had participants nap in four time periods: 5, 10, 20 and 30 minutes (along with a control group that didn’t nap). After the nap, the researchers tested the participants for three hours and discovered that, while the 5 minute nap showed almost no benefits, the 10-minute nap “produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor and cognitive performance, with some benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.” If you decide to increase your productivity by taking a quick nap, the best time to do so is mid to late morning or early afternoon. Sweet dreams!
5) Chew a piece of gum
Research done in 2011 by the Department of Psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York has shown the positive cognitive effects of chewing gum. Surprisingly, when study participants chewed gum, their performance on multiple measures was increased– but only when the gum was chewed five minutes before, but not during, the cognitive testing. The benefits shown by chewing gum lasted for 15-20 minutes during the testing. The explanation? Researchers state that “the time-limited nature of performance benefits can be attributed to mastication-induced arousal.” In that case, for important yet relatively quick tasks, it’s ideal to keep a pack of chewing gum on hand.
Do you use any unconventional distractions to increase your productivity? Share them here in the comments! We’d love to hear your ideas and share them with our other readers.