Is Trying Too Hard Hurting Your Productivity? Here Are 4 Ways to Boost Your Productivity When You Feel Lazy This Winter
It might sound unfair, but cold weather affects your work performance. That means you're less efficient in the winter. But, that doesn't mean you don't have any control over it – here are four ways you can boost your productivity this winter and counter these productivity-lowering seasonal effects!
Your body changes during the winter. Researchers found that exposing yourself to cold temperatures, like your daily commute to work, can lower your productivity. They had participants exposed to temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours then let them warm up in room temperature for another two hours. What are the results? During cold temperature exposure, participants had lowered reaction time, working memory, performance, and had other lowered cognitive abilities. What's worse? These lowered effects continued for an hour after the participants were already in room temperature!
These researchers tried to mimic the daily life of an average person in winter – you commute to work in the cold, then get into the office where you warm up. Your commute probably doesn't involve non-stop exposure to cold weather for two hours, unless you walk to work from far away. But between walking to the bus stop, the parking lot, and other intermediate journeys where you're not in a heated environment, you're spending a significant time exposed to the cold.
In another study, researchers found that cold weather affects your planning behavior (which they say affects your overall productivity). They found that in most cities they studied, people's planning behavior drops significantly when it gets cold, which could mean they also experience a drop in productivity.
Does this mean that your brain power is lower when you first get to work in the morning or if you work in cold weather? Does it mean your productivity is lower overall during the cold seasons? It's certainly possible given the data, but researchers still need to conduct more comprehensive experiments with larger pools of participants. But if you want to offset winter's possible productivity-lowering effects, you can do the following:
Take a break every 90 minutes. Some studies show that our brains get tired and sluggish after 90 minutes of non-stop working and concentration. After working for 90 minutes, don't force yourself to keep going if you're feeling lazy. It will only waste time with lower productive work. Instead, take a break for 10 to 20 minutes and then continue – this way, you'll only be losing 20 minutes but will get more done overall when you restart.
De-clutter. Take some time to clear or organize your workstation. According to UC Davis, needless clutter around your workspace can distract your mind and split your focus from the tasks at hand. It takes less than three minutes to clear your work area – only keep close the essentials you need for what you're currently working on.
Get ergonomical. The National Institutes of Health promotes ergonomics in the workplace, finding that it boosts employee health, productivity, and overall wellbeing. Ergonomics is all about making your job easier by implementing daily tools that are easier and more comfortable to use. For example, if you sign papers frequently in your day-to-day duties, an ergonomic intervention would be a pen with a better grip. This allows you to spend less effort signing so you'll have more energy to put into other tasks. If your daily duties require you to walk around the floor, supervising many areas of your workplace, you should invest in ergonomic footwear. Researchers recommend changing your shoes every year and to wear specialty shoes if your work requires you to be on your feet often. They warn that not doing so can cause harm to more than just your feet – it can harm your heart too.
Mini-workout during break. Researchers found that exercising boosts your productivity. It stimulates your mitochondria to make more energy for your cells, including your brain cells. They also found that over time, regular exercise promotes new brain cell creation and slows down neurodegeneration in your older years. Exercising also makes your brain release chemicals to lift your mood if you're feeling lazy – if your profession requires inspiration, then exercising can give you that pick-me-up when you're in a slump or have writer's block. If you're going to exercise during your lunch break, exercise before eating because when you eat afterward you'll burn more of your food rather than storing it as fat. Why? Researchers found that a 45-minute bout of vigorous exercise boosts your metabolism for 14 hours! They also found that less intense exercise also boosts your metabolism for a couple of hours afterward. With a higher metabolism, more of your lunch will be burned rather than stored. But if you're exercising for productivity, do a low intense mini-workout so your energy levels get boosted without you feeling tired.
It's winter and your productivity might be suffering because of the cold weather. Fear not, follow these tips and you'll help counter these productivity-lowering effects.