3 Science-backed Habits Of Highly Productive People

July 2018

Productivity isn’t all about getting things done fast. At it’s best it involves employing a state of mind in which you can focus on one task at a time and work through your to-do list with clarity, quality and speed.


This productive and efficient mindset has been affected from UK workplaces recently, with the unusually hot weather taking a significant toll on city life. Both mental and physical functioning are directly impacted. For example, on the hottest day of the year so far, the 19th of July, health problems and incidents of violence spiked. And as blistering summer heat causes concentration levels to dip, workplace profits and the economy follow.


However it’s time to act, as despite the heat, to-do lists aren’t getting any shorter!


At Soma we have explored the literature to uncover what research reveals more productive people are doing differently during their work day. Here are 3 science-based habits you can incorporate into your day to improve your productivity:

1. They take regular, dynamic breaks.


This might sound counterintuitive but recent research conducted at Harvard suggests taking more frequent breaks reduces the effects of fatigue and boredom. In addition to this, going for a short walk or a healthy snack has been shown to increase attention and information retention. This is due to an increased blood flow to the brain.Try the pomodoro technique – focusing intently on a task for 20 mins then taking a self enforced break.1

2. They tackle their most difficult task in the morning, while the brain is fresh.


You might already know this task as ‘Eating Your Frog’. Taking on your most difficult task first thing in the morning has been shown to decrease stress levels as well as making us feel more accomplished throughout the day. If you procrastinate your ‘frog’ it splits your attention, draining energy levels.2 Get it over with! Eat your frog!

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” – Mark Twain


3. They change up their workspace!


Recent research investigating the relationship between your workplace noise levels, cognitive flexibility (your ability to work your way through a task) and creativity shows that a mild level of noise where you work can increase your productivity. In addition to this, our brains thrive from novel experiences and unpredictability. So changing your surroundings can give your brain the kick-start it needed to smash through your to-do list! So much so, that this has become known as ‘The Coffee Shop Effect’.  If you ever feel yourself struggling to maintain attention, try this one out and head to any new environment.3


Put it into Practice


You are now ready to use the actionable tools you have read about in this article. Try them out and watch your to-do list disappear.



1 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/001401399185487  Sluiter, J. K. (1999). The influence of work characteristics on the need for recovery and experienced health: a study on coach drivers. Ergonomics, 42(4), 573-583.

2 Tracy, B. (2007). Eat that frog!: 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.</p>

Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997) Longitudinal Study of Procrastination, Performance, Stress, and Health: The Costs and Benefits of Dawdling. Psychological Science. 8:6.

Sirois, F. M. (2014). Procrastination and Stress: Exploring the Role of Self-compassion. Self and Identity. 13:2.

3 Vischer, J. C. (2007). The effects of the physical environment on job performance: towards a theoretical model of workspace stress. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 23(3), 175-184.

Amabile, T. M., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., & Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the work environment for creativity. Academy of management journal, 39(5), 1154-1184.


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