8 Things You Didn’t Know Are Making You Less Productive

The regular remedy to uplift moods for higher motivation and productivity is getting enough sleep, exercising and spending time with loved ones. This will help us prevent burnouts and so we can keep track with our life goals. But there are hidden details in our lives that may be playing tricks with our mind at a subconscious level aimed to dampen our mood to be productive.

Even with our best efforts to sustain a balanced life, we may still feel lethargic and unmotivated, for no apparent reason. This is something to be expected since our complex body and mind operate beyond our awareness. If you have always wondered what else could be sapping your mood and motivation, here are 8 subtle things that may be responsible.

1. Clutter

A cluttered room is a cluttered mind. Having all your things lying on the floor or desk doesn’t only mess up your room; it also clogs up your mind. Indeed, research has shown that the more clutter you have, the harder it is for you to concentrate.

Given that your brain is constantly trying to process what you see through your eyes, filling your surroundings with clutter only takes up the resources which would otherwise be used to focus on your task. Always having to look for items you cannot locate is also frustrating and time-consuming. This also applies to non-physical clutter in your life such as an overflowed email inbox, icon-filled desktop and the frequent notifications from your smart device.

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Removing clutter is a process of removing excesses and simplifying your life for the better so that your surroundings don’t compete for your attention. Contrary to what many people would like to believe, multitasking is a myth. The most productive approach to manage your work is to clear the clutter and focus on one thing at a time as much as possible.

2. Artificial Lighting

Getting enough sleep is not enough if the quality isn’t there. True, there are many factors that’ll affect the quality of your sleep, but the night light is probably one thing you have more control over.

For those of you with the habit of sleeping with your bedside lamp switched on, this could be the reason why you’re having trouble dozing off at night. Research has shown that exposure to light at night disrupts the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating both mood and sleep. And yes, this applies to looking at your smartphone, tablet and computer screens, thanks to their blue wavelength lights.

Some studies have claimed that it is these blue wavelength lights that have the strongest effect on the decrease in melatonin production. You can say that the safest bet for a good night sleep is to minimise your exposure to any light sources when nearing bedtime.

3. The Seasons

Now that you realise how light affects melatonin levels, you can probably understand how some seasons could influence your mood. People living in the colder climates may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression that typically arise from the lack of light during winter time.

Commonly referred to as the winter blues, SAD is said to affect 4% – 6% of the US population. While some researchers believe that the impact of seasonal change on depression may have been exaggerated, it is clear that our mood levels drop and productivity decreases to some extent during the darker winter months.

On the other hand, summer blues is a rarer form of SAD that occurs to people living in countries near the equator where the increase in heat and humidity during summer is cause for depression.

Instead of becoming sluggish, people with summer SAD become increasingly agitated by the unbearable heat, preferring to hide out from the summer heat at home. This disruption in their routine gradually takes a toll on their mood and productivity.

4. Weather Changes

When it comes to the daily fluctuations in weather, whether or not you started off with a good or bad mood matters.

A study done in 2008 reported that cold and dull weather is more likely to bring down your mood further when you’re feeling negative, as compared to when you’re feeling upbeat. Specifically, temperature, wind power and sunlight all affect your mood especially when you’re down. The amount of sunlight was also found to influence how tired an individual is, consequently affecting your motivation and productivity.

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Interestingly, some researchers found that people are more productive on days when the weather is actually unpleasant. They argued that people are able to focus better on their work on these days because they are less occupied with more interesting activities. Good weather, on the other hand, creates a conducive environment for the mind to wander from the task at hand, resulting in lower productivity!

5. Social Networking Sites

Needless to say, spending too much time on social networking sites at work reduces your productivity. Research conducted by the University of Michigan on Facebook users revealed that greater usage of the social networking site resulted in a bigger drop in mood at the end of two weeks. Indeed, when your Facebook checking becomes obsessive and starts interfering with your everyday activities, it is a sign of addiction.

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Resentment and bitterness arise when you start making inaccurate comparisons of your life with your friends’ and feel increasingly disgruntled with yourself. The result is a loss of self-esteem and a worsening of your mood.

If you often find yourself feeling envious over your friends’ posts about their latest vacations or achievements, it might be time for you to cut back on Facebook and other social networks. Otherwise, the negativity will gradually gnaw on your self-image.

6. Your Posture

A downcast person will have a tendency to slouch, while someone bursting with confidence would hold his or her chest high up. What many of us don’t realise is that sometimes it is the way we hold our posture that determines how we feel rather than the other way round.

One study in 2009 has shown that when participants were made to either sit slumped or sit upright while they fill up a mock job application form, those seated slumped evaluated their self-confidence poorer than those seated upright. Similarly, a separate study found that walking in a slouching manner has been linked to a decrease in energy levels as compared to an increase in energy when a person is skipping.

It appears that correcting your bad posture doesn’t just benefit your health and appearance; it can even improve your state of mind.

7. Colors

Our minds and bodies react differently to different colors. We innately associate the color red with danger and threat, so much so that it intensifies our physical reactions. For this reason, ‘stop’ and ‘danger’ signs are often painted red to improve our reaction time in avoiding tragedies.

According to an article from The Huffington Post, research in color psychology has revealed that a combination of blue and green is considered as an ideal choice for the workplace. Green is after all the color of nature which means that it is easier on our eyes and evokes relaxation.

In that sense, working on a green background is a good idea if you have to stare at the computer screen for hours each day. The color blue improves our capability to think creatively. This is definitely a plus for many of us involved in writing, design and other creative work.

8. Who You Hang Out With

Good social relationships are crucial to our mental well-being and we have a natural tendency to unconsciously take on the emotions of others. This phenomenon, otherwise known as emotional contagion, bestowed us with the gift of empathising with others – a necessary recipe for forging deep relationships.

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The great thing about is that we’ll slide towards positivity when we’re always around optimistic and cheerful people. Similarly, your mood will spiral down towards depression if the people you interact with day in day out are filled with negative emotions. It’s wise to be selective about who we spend our time with.


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