10 Brilliant WFH Productivity Tips from Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant
Adam Grant has spent his career studying how people are motivated by and find meaning in their work, which is why he was the perfect guest to talk about how we can become productive while managing the anxiety that comes from SO MUCH uncertainty. Motivation is key.
Brit and Anj spoke with the New York Times bestselling author in the latest Teach Me Something New! podcast. Tune in for major inspo (it's clear why Grant's Ted Talks top 20 million views) and here are a few gems from the interview about collaboration, what makes introverts vs. extroverts tick and making work "suck a little bit less."
Focus on attention management vs. time management: Grant suggests focusing your attention on priorities vs. squeezing every productive moment out of the day for the sake of time management (which can set you up for failure). "You can't control the number of hours you have in the day," says Grant. "All you can do is try to focus as much of your energy as possible on the people and the projects that really matter to you."
Save creative work for when you least expect: As a morning person, Grant found that through research he was more likely to be creative at night when he was less likely to "think in an overly structured, linear way and more likely to take some unexpected leaps." On the flip side, if you're a night owl, think about approaching the creative part of your job in the morning when you may not be so focused on essential tasks, which can limit creative thinking.
Embrace the new shift in routine: Citing a study in London, where a train shutdown forced commuters to rethink their commute. In the end, many found better routes than the ones they had been following for, in some cases, 15 years. This "pause" may force you to break out of a rut, step back and find a new way of working that works better for *you*. "At least once a week you start out Monday, and say, "I'm going to make one big adjustment to my work routine." These can be small adjustments, like working out before work instead of after or taking two meal breaks instead of one (*twist arm*) and "figure out where they help and where they hurt."
Transition gradually into busy work: If you start with the work you feel passionate about it can be painful to then move on to boring work like admin tasks. Instead, Grant suggests a tapering period, where after you do a project that you're really passionate about you move on to something moderately interesting before going straight to the boring stuff. "That reduces the contrast, and the pain of then having to do something dull," says Grant.
Aim for intermittent collaboration: Citing research from Harvard's Ethan Bernstein, Grant shares how individuals working independently are less prone to groupthink so they likely have more great ideas. "They're less likely to conform, they're more likely to think outside the box," he says. "But groups together have more good ideas than individuals do because you get the wisdom of crowds and you can start to weed out the really horrible ideas," says Grant. Knowing this, he suggests creating a schedule of intermittent collaboration, where you balance time working separately and together with your teams.
Make work work for your personality: "One of the ways you can spot an introvert is if you stare them right in the eyes. Introverts will often feel like they're staring into the sun and be like okay, I need a backup here and reset a little bit," says Grant. "Whereas extroverts tend to find eye contact much more energizing and the intensity is not the same for them." That said, extroverts may prefer video calls more than introverts, which can be challenging at a time when Zoom calls and Google Hangouts are the best way to connect with coworkers. "One of the things I've noticed as an introvert is I find being on video calls exhausting but sitting on audio calls doesn't drain my energy at all," says Grant. "We should be very mindful of those kinds of preferences."
Consider the time you save getting ready in the morning: This is especially valuable for women who spend way more time in the morning getting ready for work but these days many of us are just letting a lot of those formalities go. "This is one of my favorite things that has been in some ways the silver lining as part of the crisis," says Grant. "For years one of the biggest competitive disadvantages that women have faced at work is just the amount of prep time that they do on hair and makeup and clothes, which as a bald guy, I will often leave my house five minutes after I've gotten out of bed," says Grant. "That's just grossly unfair."
Create a "to don't" list: While to do lists are necessary to keep track of must dos and not drop the ball, a "to don't" list includes "a list of things to avoid while working, which might include social media during certain projects."
Get creative outside of work: Exploring a passion outside of work can recharge and replenish your energy for work rather than deplete it. "Hobbies don't necessarily detract from work," says Grant. "[The research] suggests that if anything, it contributes positively to their energy and their performance on the job as opposed to sapping energy." However, if it becomes another item on your to do list and stresses you out, then don't force it. But if you have time, go for it.
Journal to manage anxiety: "Uncertainty is kind of the defining quality of anxiety," says Grant, so it's no wonder we all feel it right now. To deal, Grant suggests breaking out the old-fashioned journal. Citing research work by social psychologist Jamie Pennebaker, Grants says that when you keep a journal about some of your most stressful or traumatic experiences, initially your anxiety and stress will intensify (for about two weeks) because it's not fun to engage with these intense feelings. But over the next six months, you become less stressed.
This is especially helpful if you've lost your job as a result of the crisis. In one of Pennebaker's experiments, Grant says, out of about a hundred engineers who were laid off, those who were randomly assigned to keep journals were actually more likely to get reemployed. "They got reemployed faster, and they were more likely to keep their jobs as well," adds Grant. So put pen to paper and write out all those uncomfortable feelings. "There's something about engaging with your emotions and being able to form a coherent story about them. It just makes it easier to process them." If journaling isn't your thing, record a voice memo, which has the same impact. "The key was you had to describe the thoughts and the feelings that you have, and you had to form some kind of narrative around them where you can make sense of [them]."
What are ways in which you're coping with anxiety during this crisis? Share with us @BritandCo!
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Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.