Health

The Secrets of Crazy-Productive People

Published On 11/24/2015 Published On 11/24/2015
Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

You know those people who generally achieve what they set out to do, manage to make good money but still retain personal time, and are just generally more effective humans than the average schlub? While you might call these people “annoying,” they really just have an above-average ability to get shit done. But why do these lucky few operate as though they have a 30-hour day? Science has some good (and surprising!) answers. More Stuff You Will Like

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They de-stress like it’s their job (because it should be)

Sure, it’s super trendy, and you’ve probably heard it before, but meditation is scientifically proven to make you more productive! The number of successful, clearly productive people who meditate is near infinite (yes, an infinite number of successful people meditate), and includes hot shots like Oprah, Kobe Bryant, Arianna Huffington, Jerry Seinfeld, and, like, everyone else in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. There’s a reason for it. Meditation increases focus and alertness and decreases stress, and all of those things make you more productive. But the last part is especially essential, particularly if you’re not wild about meditating. Allowing your brain the time to have space away from your busy work lets you think outside the box. Feeling stressed out all the time doesn’t help you get shit done, plain and simple. Sure, an acute burst of stress can improve performance, but that constant, buzzing feeling of anxiety most people (70% of Americans) feel at work has detrimental effects, including suppressed immunity, insomnia, depression, and cardiovascular disease. You may feel like you have to march around talking about how busy and stressed you are because everyone at your office always does -- but that’s not actually helping you do a good job. Truly productive people know how to manage their stress. So if meditating isn’t for you, do something else to get your brain to chill the fuck out. Because cutting-edge neuroscience tells us that we’re more creative when our minds are in a state of rest, which obviously can’t happen when you’re running around like a crazy person. Allowing your brain the time to have space away from your busy work lets you think outside the box, in other words. Mark Twain apparently wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer after spending the summer relaxing with his family, which might make you feel even worse about that time your family forced you to go to Disney World even though you were clearly too old, come on, MOM. The point is that if you start a de-stressing regimen, you might just relax your brain enough to become the next great American novelist. Guaranteed. Continue Reading

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They’re organized, and not just for show

Sure, being idle is OK and you definitely don’t want the stress of busy work to rain on your parade. But you also don’t want laziness to get the best of you -- especially when it comes to your physical workspace.

Having a clean desk isn’t just cosmetically pleasing, or a way to convince a love interest that you’re not a pathetic slob. People who make sure to maintain order on their desks and with their paperwork are better at managing their time and, by extension, are more productive.

And if they really have their finger on the pulse, they might have a plant on their desk, because incorporating something “natural” into your everyday space boosts employee health, happiness, and productivity.

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They don’t multitask

Productive people may be able to do a million things -- after a long day at work, a productive person may take a ceramics lesson, then cook dinner, and then read and write poetry. And the dream of the working poet/custom earthenware maker/chef is still alive.

But that person is probably UNITASKING each step of the way. In other words, multitasking doesn’t really exist; what we think of as multitasking is really just switching back and forth between tasks, and science has told us that this oscillation messes with our performance and increases stress.

They’re nice to themselves

To come full circle, productive people understand that putting pressure on themselves isn’t the key to getting stuff done. In fact, as you now know, motivation is largely psychological.

It makes sense. Which would motivate you more: someone telling you you’re doing a great job and to keep going? Or someone telling you you’re not good enough?

If you chose the former, your answer aligns with the current research in the area of “self-compassion,” pioneered by Dr. Kristin Neff. Neff and her co-researchers have found that self-forgiveness -- being kind to yourself in the face of mistakes, procrastination, and whatever else might not be going your way -- results in doing better, and more, work. Neff has said, “The biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent.”

Of course, most people are wrong. If you want to be more productive, you’ve got to stop thinking you should be something better all the time. So there you go: lie down, take a nap, look at some plants, and forgive yourself. THEN, and only then, will you be the person you were meant to be.

At the very least, you’ll feel refreshed after that nap.

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Charlotte Lieberman is a freelance writer who was productive enough to finish this article. Follow her: @clieberwoman.

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