I read many blogs to get inspired, learn, and to see what other people are doing. I’ve noticed that over the past few years, more people have been writing about productivity. This makes sense because as entrepreneurs and business owners, we are always looking for ways in which we can improve our productivity – or get more done in a shorter amount of time. I often see posts and articles focusing on apps, devices, open offices, and other external technologies to help increase productivity. Such things are often helpful. For example, you can increase your productivity by not snoozing your alarm every morning. However, when we rely only on external assistance to help us solve a problem or achieve a goal, we are only partially helping ourselves.
The truth is that we must learn how to rely on ourselves to strengthen our own weaknesses, because we created those weaknesses or at the very least, allowed them to fester. For example, when it comes to productivity, timers and to-do list rarely can change what happens inside our brains. After all, we easily trick ourselves into thinking that being busy is the same as being productive. John Jantsch, a leading small business marketing expert, explains:
I think a lot of entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being busy and calling it being productive. Busy is really easy – productive is really hard.
Busy is checking email, reading Facebook and listening to podcasts. Now, some of that may actually be productivity inducing, but real productivity is probably more like focusing on important strategic relationships, finishing that new product or completing the proposal for that new client.
Fortunately, science can help us uncover productivity gains that we typically ignore. For example, psychologists and researchers have discovered that among external factors that impact our productivity, one stands out: clutter.
In an article for The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published results from a study on organized and cluttered living:
Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.
The researchers discovered that when there was too much stuff in sight, people had a significantly and measurably more difficult time being productive. This translates into lower levels of productivity and even more clutter. Basically, clutter caused people to lose focus and brain processing power – even when they were accustomed to working in a messier area.
Why should you care?
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