Psychology behind Productivity

Psychology behind Productivity


Man has a natural tendency to be lazy when it comes to work and more often than not, it is the circumstances of the individual wherein he is obligated to work. The developmental process of the society is hindered due to this tendency. There is abundant material as well as human resources which are utilized to produce minimum output which is a huge lack in our organizational structure. 

Irrespective of constant efforts in developing countries, low productivity is on the rise. If the resources that are available like money, time and energy are utilized properly, it will lead to higher productivity. To satisfy individual and societal needs, man is the main factor that uses the available resources to produce goods and provide services. Thus, high productivity is when minimum resources are used while maximum output is obtained. 

Human- The most important resource 

To achieve optimal productivity and create wealth, the most important factor is the resource of humans embedded with skills, expertise, intelligence and experience. Behavioural scientists reveal that increased productivity is directly proportional to the level of subjective well-being of humans. Human beings as a resource are essential to maintain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced world. Individuals must be highly motivated so that innovation can be produced which is a factor in success

  • Physiological needs: A sufficient amount of nutrition, exercise and healthcare leads to higher energy levels which is essential to achieve higher levels of output. Similarly, high levels of stress disrupt the attention, concentration and thinking abilities which eventually leads to burnout and decreases productivity. 
  • Financial security: In developing countries, financial stress is one of the main factors which result in low output. Financial insecurity directly impacts productivity and performance on tasks. There must be fair compensation as well as benefits provided to the individuals to get the maximum output while using minimum resources. 
  • Work-Life Balance: The number of hours an individual works is not important, what’s important is the quality of work produced. Thus, sufficient time for rest, hobbies, and family helps to recharge the energy and motivation levels of an individual. 
  • Social well-being: Positive social interactions and good relationships, personal as well as professional, are linked to higher productivity. It is important that an individual feels included in the community and that the need to belong is fulfilled. 
  • Cognitive needs: Continuous learning opportunities must be provided to an individual to enable growth and increase motivation. It is important to engage in tasks that are cognitively stimulating and challenging since this will result in higher productivity.

Defining Productive behaviour 

Productive behaviour is defined as behaviours that help to achieve particular goals and visions of an individual. The goals could be personal and professional. Productive behaviour can be evaluated by the quality of work, and the output that is achieved. The behaviours which increase the quality of work and the output are considered to be productive. Whereas, the behaviors which decrease these measures are unproductive. 

8 Strategies to Increase Productivity 

1. Challenges and accomplishments:

Research shows that setting specific and challenging goals can enhance productivity and creativity. It is suggested that individuals develop specific goals since it sets a clear strategy for their personal development. The path becomes clear as to how an individual wants to achieve the short-term as well as the long-term goal. However, the goals must be achievable. Accomplishing the goals that challenge your creativity and problem-solving skills further improves productivity which is greater than any one-time monetary reward. 

Read More: 4 tips to Set High-Achieving Goals

2. Deep work:

To boost your productivity, it is suggested to engage in deep work. Deep work is defined as focusing on a task that is highly demanding in the cognitive aspect without any distractions. To perform deep work effectively, you must assign ‘focus time’ for yourself where you work towards your goals. It is recommended to set aside blocks of time every day to dedicate to your work. Social media, email and other distractions must be eliminated during focus time. 

3. Create Learning Opportunities:

Progressing from simple to complex tasks tends to improve productivity. Gradually when you move from simple tasks that have been mastered to more challenging and complex structures, it can lead you to think broadly. Your mind expands and your thinking capacity becomes flexible. You tend to develop the tendency to adopt various perspectives to think about a particular situation. The constant pursuit to learn more and expand your thinking develops a productive mindset. 

4. Passion and Strengths:

While you pursue your goals, it becomes relatively easier to be productive if your goals align with your interests. If you are passionate about the work you are doing, it doesn’t feel like just another job. Rather you feel energetic and motivated to work. Work can not be regarded as work anymore, instead you find it fun. Another point that is to be considered is your strength’s alignment with the work you are doing. While all of us possess weaknesses, we are dispositioned to a certain extent to excel in some areas. While focusing on your strengths, you can achieve success relatively quickly which creates a positive loop of motivation and success.

Read More: The Psychology Behind Passion

5. Organization and Delegation:

To accomplish your higher-order goals which hold the maximum value to you, it is important to organize your lower-value tasks. It is ideal to delegate some of the tasks that are not high in priority and importance. Shouldering off some of the responsibility might prove to be useful for improving your productivity for high-priority tasks. It is best to focus on what you do well and invest your time in the right ways. Using certain tools and software may also help with organization. 

6. Incentives:

The motivation to be productive works effectively with the inclusion of a reward for their work. The incentive could be anything ranging from intrinsic to extrinsic incentives. Internal incentives could be the fulfilment of needs of personal development, autonomy, satisfaction, achievement, passion, interest, and state of flow, the list is not exhaustive. Similarly, external incentives could be monetary rewards for their work, recognition, praise, job security, benefits, perks, and more. 

7. Boundaries:

To avoid burnout from overworking, it is important to set boundaries to preserve your time and invest it in the right direction. It is a productive use of your skills and time when you learn to say no to requests that don’t suit your priorities. By avoiding to entertain requests from others, you tend to increase your productivity in the task that matters the most to you. Investing time in tasks of low priority, especially when it’s of someone else, leads to overwork and eventually burnout. This results in low productivity. 

8. Rest:

In today’s hustle culture, being busy constantly is considered to be an indicator of success. Being busy is considered to be a sign of high prestige and importance. A mindset shift is required among people today and it is not about being busy all the time. It is about the quality of your work and making every moment count. Rest for your mind and body is equally important to stay productive in your tasks. 

Productivity Tips for Your Brain 

The most powerful tool that you have available to boost your productivity is your brain. Understanding the basic functions of your brain can help you stay well-organized and increase your efficiency. The executive functions of the brain include problem-solving, reasoning, decision-making, planning and execution. These functions help to regulate your emotions, suppress biases, think creatively and solve complex problems to boost productivity. 

To settle your brain after a long day of work, you must sleep per night for 7-9 hours. Sleep cleans out all the information of the day and makes room for new information to be taken in. Taking in a healthy diet is equally important since your brain takes up 25 to 30 per cent of what you eat. The boost that you get from eating a good diet creates new pathways in the brain which help to overcome any pre-existing biases and help you to think clearly.

Read More: Unlocking Better Sleep: Understanding and Addressing Sleep Disorders

Messages are passed around in the brain in the form of electrical signals from one neuron to another through synapses. When you don’t hydrate yourself, these synapses lose their plasticity. For the neurons to keep firing, it is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. The serotonin in your brain takes a dip in the afternoon, thus to obtain efficiency in your work, it is best to set for yourself a morning routine. In the morning when your brain energy is at its peak, the most cognitively challenging tasks can be scheduled then. 

Yerkes-Dodson Law 

Does this ever happen to you during an exam or an important work presentation? If you are a little bit stressed, your performance is excellent. However, if you are too stressed and life seems difficult, your performance suffers and you shut down. In contrast, when you are not stressed at all, you do not feel motivated to work or perform any task. 

This phenomenon is the Yerkes-Dodson Law which says that there is a relationship between arousal (stress) and performance. It claims that an optimal level of stress is required to perform optimally in your work. So, increasing levels of stress tends to improve your performance but only to a certain level. Beyond that, if you feel stressed, you might crumble in the face of anxiety. Hence, when stress and anxiety are low, productivity is low. Whereas, when stress and anxiety are high to a certain extent, productivity is also high. When it is recommended by experts to set realistic goals or perform challenging tasks, this law comes into the picture to show us how it can affect productivity. 

For example, if an employee is given a reasonable deadline to complete a project, there would be a moderate level of stress which will create a sense of urgency. This will motivate the employee to stay productive while being engaged in the task without getting overwhelmed. Whereas, if an unrealistic deadline along with a complex task is given, high stress and anxiety would overwhelm the individual. There will be more errors and the quality of work will decrease. This will result in low productivity. 

Neuroplasticity and Productivity 

Recent research has shown that it is possible to consciously change the structure of your brain to optimize brain functions and increase productivity. This is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of your brain to change its structure whenever it learns something new. Before there was a notion that brain structures could not be changed and the brain is static, however when the malleability of neurons was discovered it changed the whole perspective. 

Humans are born with tons of neurons that connect to rewire the brain when we experience new things or learn a new language. This ability to consciously change the structure of our brains gives us a lot of control over our level of productivity and performance. We can create new pathways in the brain to process information faster so that fatigue can be avoided. This would result in fewer errors and less fatigue. 

We can think of it as a muscle. The more we work up our biceps by doing bicep curls and lifting weights, the size of our biceps will increase accordingly. Similarly, if you exercise your brain enough, it becomes more receptive to information. For example, if you take up a new challenge of learning a coding language, over time you will see that due to neuroplasticity you will become faster and more efficient when applying the new coding language in your work. This will boost your productivity in work wherein you will not have to think every time you are coding, it will start coming naturally to you. 

Read More: 10 Meditation Techniques Everyone can (and should) Explore

Meditation is a mechanism that can be used to enhance the neuroplasticity of the brain. Meditation results in an increase of the gray matter in brain areas that are associated with learning, and memory. By practising meditation, an individual may be able to manage work-related stress since it also improves emotional regulation. Thus, the ability to stay calm under pressure along with consistency in performance is experienced. Thus, creating sufficient learning opportunities along with meditation can be used to develop your brain in a way that supports your working capacity and abilities. Through neuroplasticity, goals of personal as well as professional development can be achieved. 


To maximize productivity, it is important to look at all the factors in a holistic manner. It is necessary to take care of the needs of our biggest resource, which is human beings. Their physiological, psychological and emotional well-being along with financial security and a healthy work-life balance contributes to productivity. Additionally, understanding the needs of your brain and its functions improves cognitive performance and productivity. Utilizing effective strategies like setting achievable goals, challenging your abilities, and doing the deep work becomes essential. 

In conclusion, productivity is not about working hard, instead it’s about working smart by obtaining maximum output. Maintaining a balance between the well-being of an individual and their development is crucial. Productivity is the result of optimal stress levels along with professional growth. 


Are some people naturally more Productive? 

There exist individual differences in the personality of individuals that lead to varied levels of productivity. Some people may be more open to experiences which is one of the Big Five personality traits. It includes characteristics such as coming up with novel solutions, engaging in creative work, and coming up with novel ideas. This helps with the creativity process as well as productivity. Similarly, some individuals who are high in extraversion may thrive in the work environment since social settings are their strong suit.

Their communication among the other team members and the management will be stronger which will help them to achieve job satisfaction and success. The positive feedback loop of success and productivity then tends to help them achieve their goals. Openness to experience, agreeableness and neuroticism are other personality characteristics that contribute to our understanding of whether a person will be more productive or less productive in their work. 

Read More : The Five-Factor Model of Personality: All You Need To Know

Do some people procrastinate more than others? 

Procrastination is often associated with personality traits that an individual has. Some people may be low in conscientiousness which is a personality trait where people become less organized and lack discipline. This may lead them to procrastinate more and delay task completion. Neuroticism is strongly linked to procrastination. People who are high in neurotic traits are more anxious and go through self-doubt. Procrastination is used as a coping mechanism to not feel overwhelmed and experience the fear of failure. Thus, avoidance coping behaviour leads to low levels of productivity. As a result, the individual may get overwhelmed by the increased workload and the negative procrastination loop persists. 

References + nal_Behavior_on_Firm’s_Productivity_and_Performance_-A_Review_of_the_Literature ion_and_Productivity_Report_Submitted_in_Partial_Fulfillment_of_the_Requirements_for_the_ Degree_of_Bachelor_of_Business_Administration

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