Kill The Productivity Killers

“When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever.” -- Menachem Mendel Schneerson

If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere where “showing up and existing from 9 to 5” are not the sole measures of success, than chances are optimizing productivity would yield benefits. If nothing else, getting work for other people done more quickly means working on your bliss more often.

Most all of us feel sluggish in mid afternoon, and many have tried methods for time management, but here are 5 things you may not be aware are leeching productivity from your day.

Your Phone:

Even if you’re not looking at it, your smartphone is probably distracting you. Fast Company details the sad news in this article, How the Device You Can’t Live without Is Also Destroying Your Productivity. It’s the notifications. Just hearing a vibration or ding hurts people’s performance on tasks. It adds to your cognitive load because you can’t help but wonder about the source and content of the notification.

“So even if you wait to respond until you finish what you’re working on, the fact that you’re aware of something waiting for you could be enough of a distraction to make you perform worse than you would had you not received a notification.”

Silencing your cell, as it turns out,  is golden.

Room Temperature:

No really. If you have access to the thermostat, make sure it’s not set at “sweater weather.” A Cornell University study found that warm workers are more productive and make less errors. How warm is warm enough?  The Cornell researchers jumped it from 68 to 77 degrees to get a dramatic 150% improved output in their typing task. But Berkeley Lab researchers found the ideal productivity temperature for classrooms and offices is exactly 71 degrees. Either way, it seems a warm spring day gets everyone back on track.


Make that a quiet, warm spring day. Cornell weighed in again on this issue and found that noises like background conversations, whispering and traffic decreased complex task performance, increase stress hormone levels and lower job satisfaction. If you’re thinking of drowning it all out with music, we’ve got some more bad news. Listening to music at work has also been found to decrease productivity.

So what can you do? Aside from telling everyone to shut up already, try some noise cancelling headphones. A simple solution to a complex noise problem.


This probably surprises no one as the studies have been done over and over to prove multitasking is a bust for productivity. Yet, we all keep doing it, even though research shows that multitaskers are less competent. And it’s not even something one can get good at by practicing. Although popular magazine articles may encourage multi-task training, Scientists have found no benefit to practicing performing multiple tasks at once.

So work instead at achieving efficient transitions between focused tasks.


The lines at Starbucks imply that coffee is keeping a lot of us going, but it’s no substitute for sufficient sleep. The University of Rochester has found that sleep essentially takes out the “toxic trash” from your brain, more specifically destructive protein by-products. And it turns out there is no other way to remove these toxins, which do, in fact, affect your cognition.  

This is bad news for many of us, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a third of U.S. workers get less than six hours of sleep each night, which most experts agree is not sufficient.

Low sleep, impairs attention, working memory, long-term memory and decision-making. And according to this University of Arizona study, the coffee cannot counteract these effects. Or as they say, “cognitive capacities remain degraded by sleep deprivation despite restoration of alertness and vigilance with stimulant countermeasures.”

Go turn up the heat, turn off the phone and take a nap if you need too, because the average American only has 683,280 hours on the planet and half of yours might already be gone.

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited