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5 Productivity Hacks That You Probably Haven’t Heard of Yet

By Guest Post | 07 December 2015

How productive are you, and oculd your productivity be improved? If you’ve tried all the tips and you still haven’t seen the improvement in your performance that you desire, it’s time for something new. The hard truth is that, while everybody wants to be more productive, few people offer any new suggestions for doing so. Instead, popular websites rehash the same ten productivity tips over and over again, as if readers haven’t already seen the same material covered several times before.

Well, that stops today. Instead of boring you with strategies you’ve probably already heard – and tried – we’ve rounded up some of the best scientifically-proven and lesser-known productivity tips that all students can benefit from. Give them a try, and watch your academic performance soar!

Here are five productivity hacks you probably haven’t heard of yet.

Do you use productivity hacks? If so, how do you decide when to give them a try?

Smart hacks for maximising productivity

  1. Have your computer announce the time.
  2. Keep a houseplant.
  3. Take a cute animal break.
  4. Look at something blue.
  5. Rework your to-do list.

1. Have your computer announce the time.

I’m not talking about measuring your time with Pomodoro trackers or other interval timing tools. Instead, there’s a simple little feature within your computer that can be turned on to announce the time every hour, on the hour.

Here’s how to do it on a Mac, and here are instructions for Windows users. How does this help you? According to Owen Williams, who published the hack on The Next Web:\

“When your computer is audibly saying the time to you, it’s a regular reminder to get back to work. And it actually works. This ridiculous trick has actually made me write more consistently throughout the day and has reduced my time spent on distractions; I’m now more aware of where the time goes, as opposed to just letting it slip away.

2. Keep a houseplant.

All you green thumbs out there, rejoice! Your hobby isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it may be boosting your productivity as well. Psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan of the University of Michigan, U.S., expound on the idea that plans can improve productivity in their “attention restoration theory.” Essentially, when your brain is working hard, it needs a break from time to time. Looking at a plant or other type of greenery for even a few seconds can provide a rejuvenating jolt.

The science backs up their claims. Their study on the benefits of plants in offices and a 2013 study on how nearby plants impact computer workers both found that participants think clearer and recall information more readily when they work near plants.

3. Take a cute animal break.

Can viewing cute animals really help you to be more productive? One study, conducted by Hiroshima University in Japan, says yes. According to the study’s lead researcher, participants’ performance on concentrated work improved by 44 per cent after viewing cute pictures.

Now, let’s get one thing clear… When I say, “take a cute animal break,” I’m not suggesting that you let viewing a single image devolve into a half hour of aimless web browsing. Instead, check out a few cute pictures that give you that “warm fuzzy” feeling, and then head straight back to the books to put the positive feelings you’ve generated to work.

4. Look at something blue.

Here’s another weird one for you… The idea of colour theory has long been applied to marketing campaigns and business initiatives, but did you know that the colours located around your study space can influence your productivity?

One recent study, conducted by the University of Texas, found that grey, white and beige office walls lead to feelings of sadness in women, while men felt similarly depressed when surrounded by purple and orange. A better alternative? Blue. According to Taskworld:

“Blue is universally known as an excellent colour for productivity. It is also a stable and calming colour that helps workers focus on the task at hand.”

Of course, you don’t have to run out and paint all of your walls blue to capture this benefit. Try a blue throw, a blue file folder, or a poster that’s predominantly blue. When you feel your focus waning, gaze at the item for several seconds and see if your productivity improves.

5. Rework your to-do list.

Effective students keep lists of their upcoming assignments and assessments, but could it be possible that the way you’re structuring your to-do list is actually working against you? Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Original Miscellany,  suggests so:

“Given that few of us think in rigid sequence, why do we inevitably start lists at the upper left-hand corner of a piece of paper and continue down in a neat, linear cascade? Varying the format can make a list far more useful.”

How else can you organise your to-do lists? Suppose you’re sitting down to the start of a new term and need a way to visualise all of your upcoming deadlines. Instead of writing a vertical list, use a large sheet of paper to spread out important dates and create space around each deadline to record tasks that must be completed in advance.

Alternatively, you could display the same information using a spiral diagram, winding out from the central theme of the course and denoting important dates along the way. It’s well established that there are different types of learners out there, including those who retain information better when it’s presented visually, versus aurally, versus kinaesthetically. Why, then, wouldn’t there be a better to-do list format to suit every user?

Ultimately, the guiding principle behind adopting any productivity hacks should be, “Don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.” If your current system isn’t working – whether or not you’re already following the de-facto productivity wisdom out there – you need to make some changes. The hacks listed here are just a jumping point. Isolate what isn’t working in your routine and experiment with new solutions. You might be surprised by how much more you’re able to achieve.

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