Productivity Snakeoil

When it comes to being more productive, there are lots of myths out there. Often spun by ‘snake oil’ salespeople to encourage you to buy the next miracle product to help you get more done in less time, it’s hard to find genuine advice on how to procrastinate less and do more. As virtual offices and working from home has grown in popularity, we’ve pulled together the latest scientific evidence to help you be genuinely more productive, wherever you’re working.

Bottle of snakeoil
Bottle of snakeoil

Polyphasic sleep

Found to have strongly negative effects, and evidence of claimed benefits are very weak.

38,700 search results

Multitasking

In more than 97% of people, attempting to do multiple tasks simultaneusly reduces productivity. There are exceptional "supertaskers" for whom this is not true, but they are rare.

389,000 search results

Avoid carbs

Conflicting evidence - one study found high carb meals slow reactions, but high protein meals can make you more distracted.

1,030,000 search results

Cold showers

Likely no direct effect on productivity - they could possibly even have a negative impact on cognitive performance.

7,640,000 search results

Set a timer/Pomodoro technique

While there's little direct scientific evidence for Pomodoro and similar techniques in themselves, studies have shown taking short breaks and diverting away from a task periodically can improve overall productivity.

9,330,000 search results

CBD oil

While some studies suggest CBD oil can help people cope with anxiety, there's no evidence that it aids productivity in people without anxiety or any other conditions that CBD oil may aid.

9,670,000 search results

Drink coffee

Evidence is mixed on whether it aids productivity directly, but it may also help indirectly by reducing stress. Little evidence of negative effects (other than some risks during pregnancy).

20,400,000 search results

Go for a walk

Studies have shown that walking increases creative ideation both during and after the exercise.

25,900,000 search results

Prioritising hardest tasks

Has benefits in avoiding false sense of progression, but could have negative impacts for some people.

26,000,000 search results

Listen to music

Overall evidence is inconclusive - it may have positive, neutral or negative impacts, and may depend on the type of work, music and other factors.

30,200,000 search results

Blocking distracting websites

Some evidence suggests it increases productivity, though the effect on individuals varies and may depend on type of work.

33,100,000 search results

Comfortable shoes

Some evidence suggests that comfortable shoes do aid productivity in school children, but research is limited.

35,700,000 search results

Work in cafe/coffee shop

Background noise may improve productivity for some people, but the impacts may vary depending on the specific environment and whether others are being productive there.

37,600,000 search results

Standing desk

Though some studies claim a positive effect on productivity, the majority have found no clear link.

39,100,000 search results

Getting dressed to WFH

Studies have found positive links between wearing 'work clothes' and productivity. Others have found a link between working in pyjamas and poorer mental health.

46,600,000 search results

Clean desk/workspace

Studies show that some clutter on a desk can actually improve creativity.

50,000,000 search results

Drinking water

Drinking water can positively affect cognition.

76,400,000 search results

Fewer meetings

In general, meetings have been found to be unproductive and wasteful. But some meetings are essential, and could be improved with better structure, preparation, etc.

80,600,000 search results

Natural light

Multiple studies demonstrate the importance of natural light in the workplace and its positive effect on productivity and health.

112,000,000 search results

2 monitors

Studies have shown that two monitors can increase productivity by as much as 42%.

179,000,000 search results

Playing video games

Research is limited - it has been seen to help with teambuilding, although the same results can also be achieved with alternative, work-related activities.

235,000,000 search results

Getting up early

People who naturally get up early may have an advantage, but naturally late risers may not benefit from forcing themselves to wake up earlier. Most important thing is a regular schedule.

445,000,000 search results

To do lists

Even if doesn't achieve anything directly, making a list can free up cognitive resources.

462,000,000 search results

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