In our fast-paced, competitive society, discovering ways to be more productive is in high-demand. There are countless productivity-related smartphone apps available and the website ProductiveMindset.com, which was founded in 2010 by entrepreneur Christopher Spence offers tips on how to get important things done, and has been “liked” by more than 2.7 million Facebook users.
You’ve probably come across common productivity-boosting advice, like setting goals, turning off email and instant messaging alerts, avoiding social media sites, and getting a quality night’s sleep, but there are some lesser-known ways that can be effective, too.
Here are six unusual ways to improve your concentration and increase productivity.
Up the cute quotient.
It may have be a while since you’ve seen a “Hang In There” kitten poster, but according to a recent Hiroshima University study called “The Power of Kawaii”, that quintessential image from the 1970’s might actually be a key determinant in your ability to focus and produce to your potential.
Study participants were required to complete a dexterity-focused game (similar to “Operation”). Performance was measured by showing participants pleasing images including puppies and kittens, adult cats and dogs, and appetizing foods.
The results indicated that participants completed the task with greatest accuracy after viewing pictures they perceived as “the cutest.” Among these particular study participants (which included men and women), the images that produced the best results were those of puppies and kittens.
Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that “cuteness-triggered” positive emotion improves performance in tasks that require so-called “behavioral carefulness,” like driving or office tasks, by “narrowing the breadth of attentional focus.”
Take a brief gum break.
Though scientists remain largely divided on the actual reason behind the mental boost, studies have found that “greater cerebral activity” takes place following gum chewing.
A 2011 study published in the journal Appetite found that chewing gum was associated with performance advantages for the first 15-20 minutes of cognitive testing, but only when gum was chewed for about five minutes preceding the activity and was spit out before work began.
Alternate nostril breathing.
You’ve got two nostrils, yet most humans don’t breathe in a balanced manner. To increase creativity, concentration, and mental balance, practice a form of yoga pranayama called alternate nostril breathing.
Press your right thumb into your right nostril to close it off and then inhale through your left nostril. Using your ring finger on the same hand, close the left nostril, lift your thumb, and exhale through the right.
Reverse the pattern and repeat several times to feel the calming and balancing effects.
Let the sun shine.
If your office has dim or harsh florescent lighting, equip your workspace with a “light therapy” lamp designed to mimic and deliver the benefits of natural daylight.
Lift your bedroom blinds as soon as you rise, and get outdoors early–even if it’s just for ten minutes.
Soaking in the powerful brain boosting morning light will stimulate serotonin levels, which in turn, can enhance your mood, focus, and sleep quality.
Sniff energy-boosting scents.
Certain essential oils, like rosemary, lemon, basil, juniper berry, peppermint and sage are credited with their ability to boost energy and focus.
Though you should be cautious about applying pure essential oils topically, there are many ways you can reap their benefits, including releasing the oil into the air with a candle diffuser, or mixing oils with a bit water in a pot that is heated on the stove.
If you work in close quarters, soak a cotton ball in essential oil, and place it next to your computer so you can add fragrance to your personal space and inhale the scent when you start to feel sluggish and unfocused.
Emotional freedom technique (also called “EFT” or “tapping”) is a form of psychological acupressure used to release anxiousness, stress, depression, a racing mind, and self-doubt.
The idea is based on connecting with “meridians” ( aka: energy pathways) in the body, which are found in areas like the outer edge of the hands, top of the head, inner eyebrow, bones on the sides of the eyes, under the eyes, under the nose, on the chin, on collarbone points, under the arms, and inside of the wrist.
By tapping repeatedly on such pressure points in tandem with positive affirmations regarding the tendencies and thoughts that prohibit you from behaving in the manner you want, EFT is thought to increase mental clarity, and relaxation.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.