Study Says Having Sex Makes You More Productive at Work

If you want to be happier and more productive at work, the secret is to be more reproductive at home. At least, that’s what a new study out of Oregon State University concluded. Couples who have active sex lives do better in the office. It sounds great, but the study is arousing … some skepticism.

Keith Leavitt, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Business, looked at 159 married employees for two weeks and had them complete brief surveys every day. The people who engaged in a lil coitus reported feeling better the next morning, and those good vibes carried over through the workday, lasting up to 24 hours. Both male and female sex-havers reported feeling more engaged and satisfied with their work at equal rates, and this feeling was consistent even when factoring in marital satisfaction and sleep quality.

Leavitt attribute much of the good mood to the dopamine that’s released during intercourse.

“We make jokes about people having a ‘spring in their step,’ but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it,” Leavitt said in a release. “Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organizations they work for.”

Here’s probably where we should point out that two weeks isn’t a very long time for a study like this, and 159 people isn’t exactly a sweeping sample size. The study also suggests that sex and job satisfaction are a two-way street, making the conclusions a little more gray — and not in the 50 Shades way. The research found that people who brought their work home with them and were stressed at their job were less likely to have sex. In this reading, having sex is a symptom of a good job, not the cause of it.

There’s probably at least a kernel of truth to the idea that a good 69 leads to a better 9 to 5, so to speak. It’s just much more complicated than the study’s main takeaway makes it seem.

“This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional and physiological benefits, and it’s important to make it a priority. Just make time for it,” Leavitt said. He’s not wrong, but the study seems like it should be just that, a reminder, rather than final proof that nightly hookups will magically cure all your work woes.

How to Parlay Your Stress Into Productivity

It starts off slow. Heart rate building. Dry mouth. A drip of sweat slowly rolling down from your temple to your cheek. And then wham. A punch to the gut. Stress. It’s inevitable in life. And yet so many of us see it as something we can’t control. Or worse, something we should bury and ignore.

Stress affects us in different ways, at different times, but one of the most common situations we’ve all encountered is right before a big performance. Whether that means talking to your boss, singing karaoke, or playing sports. Pre-performance stress is a real thing. And it kills our ability to act.

But what if there were ways to rewire our brain to use stress to our advantage? To take those feelings of dread and anxiety and transform them into energy, excitement, and focus? To make stress our own version of Popeye’s spinach? Sounds like a dream. But thanks to new research into how our brains handle stress, it doesn’t have to be.

How Our Brains Handle Stress (and How to Train It to Use Stress to Your Advantage)

When our brains feel stressed, they release a chemical called noradrenaline.

Noradrenaline is one of these strange chemicals that is both amazing for us, and terrible. In the brain, it both increases arousal and alertness, promotes vigilance, enhances formation and retrieval of memory, and focuses attention; while also increasing restlessness and anxiety.

We don’t function too well with too much or too little of this chemical, but, according to Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin and author of the upcoming book The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper:

“There’s a sweet spot in the middle where if you have just the right amount, the goldilocks zone of noradrenaline, that acts like the best brain-tuner.”

Effectively, noradrenaline helps the different areas communicate smoothly while also making new neural connection.

Which means that as long as we find ways to control and handle stress emotionally, it can actually be an incredible way to boost brain function, increase creativity, and ultimately (and somewhat ironically) become happier, less anxious, and less depressed. But the trick is just that: How do we change the way we deal with stressful situations so that we use them to our advantage instead of crippling us with anxiety?

Start by Reframing the Situation

Many of the symptoms of anxiety and stress—dry mouth, racing heart—are the same as excitement. And studies have found that when people are put in stressful situations such as public speaking or singing karaoke, telling yourself to calm down can actually backfire. Instead, those who reframe the situation as exciting and ride the wave of stress are better equipped to handle it.

When we feel anxious right before a meeting or before talking to someone we respect, that anxiety can drain working memory capacity, decrease self-confidence, and harm our overall performance.

And knowing that this is our usual reaction makes matters even worse. The anticipation of anxiety makes us think of the usual counter-balance: calm down.

But when Alison Wood Brooks, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, began looking at how we react to the idea of stress, she found that people who reframed their anxiety as excitement performed better than those who tried to bury it with calmness.

Both stress and excitement are characterized by high arousal levels and a low sense of control.

See Stress as a Challenge, Not a Burden

Another way to look at this is as either a ‘growth’ or ‘fixed’ mindset—an ideaproposed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, which basically means that those who believe they can change, do.

With a fixed mindset, you believe that the things happening to you or the way you feel can’t be changed. This fatalistic approach holds you back from being able to change the way you see a situation.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset see potential failure as a chance to learn. They’re the ones who can turn stress into excitement and find that sweet spot where stress actually enhances performance.

Think about comedians or performers who worry if they don’t feel that ‘edge’ of anxiety before a performance. Or Tiger Woods, who said if he doesn’t feel anxious before a match, he knows he’s going to do badly. With the right mindset, stress can be a performance enhancer.

Build a New Track for Your Mind

We’ve all felt those situations where negative and unproductive thoughts, stress, and anxiety just won’t leave us alone.

Each ‘thought’ is actually a complex pattern of activity between proteins and chemicals, gene expressions, and neural connections in our brain. And the more we have a thought, the stronger that mental connection becomes. Neuroscientist Alex Korb describes this like a ‘ski track in the snow’:

“The more you ski down a path, the easier it is to go down that path and not another.”

So just like the fixed mindset, the more you react to stress with anxiety, self-doubt, and fear, the more likely you’ll feel the same way in a similar situation. But psychologists have found a fix. It’s called ‘cognitive reappraisal’.

A cognitive reappraisal isn’t about turning off your negative thoughts (which is pretty much impossible). It’s not about turning untrue negative thoughts into untrue positive ones. The goal is to step back and ground your thoughts in reality.

Here’s how Hooria Jazaieri, a licensed family therapist explained in The Wall Street Journal:

“I tell clients to think like a scientist. You are using your observations and descriptions about yourself non-judgmentally, observing and describing facts.”

So, rather than letting your negative self-doubt run wild, you need to recognize when you’re going down this negative path and stop yourself.

Writer Elizabeth Bernstein suggests we write down our thoughts and identify what specifically triggered them: “My boss sent me an email to call him and I started worrying that he hates my work and I’m going to get fired.”

Get those thoughts out of your head and on paper, and then get toss on your lab coat. Challenge your assumptions as a scientist would challenge a hypothesis.

Is your work bad?

Will you get fired over it?

Chances are when you start to actually think about it, you won’t have grounds to support your initial feelings. But don’t stop there. Look for evidence to the contrary. What are your successes? Did you get a promotion recently?

Write down all of the things that counter your self-doubt. Writing strengthens memory, and the more you commit to reframing doubt as confidence, the more you’re able to veer off that ski course you’ve been on.

And if that doesn’t work? Take it to the extreme.

You think your work is bad? Tell yourself it’s the worst. Tell yourself that there’s never been a worse writer/designer/developer than you and that you’re lucky they don’t toss you out to sea just to make the world a better place.

“You’re going for the laughter,” explains Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and author of Stop Worrying and Go To Sleep. The laughter will make you feel better and will help underscore the absurdity of your negative thoughts.

If you want to get in shape, it takes more than one monster session at the gym. And your brain is no different. Learning to reframe how you handle situations and turn stress and self-doubt into Red Bull for your productivity takes time. But actually not that much.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a 2014 study in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy showed that people who practiced cognitive reappraisals were able to significantly reduce their negative emotions in just 16 weeks. Four months to a better, happier, more productive you. And all it takes is a little perspective.

Study Explores How to Increase Productivity by Stopping Cyberloafing

A new study by Matthew McCarter, associate professor of management at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), looks into the bane of managers in nearly every industry: employees slacking off by excessively surfing the Internet, an activity known as cyberloafing.

“Leisure surfing can be helpful,” McCarter said. “It relieves stress and can help people recoup their thoughts, but cyberloafing is different. That’s when people are supposed to be working and are instead surfing.”

Cyberloafing costs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity in the United States annually.

“What’s happened now, with the advent of the Internet, is that it’s nearly impossible to keep people off the Internet at work because of mobile devices,” he said. “Getting people to stop cyberloafing is the big thing management is worried about.”

McCarter, an expert in managerial decision making in the UTSA College of Business, notes a study that found that British workers were being interrupted by Twitter and Facebook notifications about every 10 minutes. It took the employees about 23 minutes to get back to work, costing their employers thousands of dollars each year.

He partnered with Brice Corgnet at Chapman University and Roberto Hernán-González at Nottingham University to determine the best methods of eliminating cyberloafing in a standard office setting. A group of 10 volunteers were given a mundane data entry task, and were overseen by a manager, also a volunteer. They were paid the standard for a data processing clerk, but also given a bonus resulting from how much work the workgroup was collectively able to accomplish. At any time, the workers could click on a button and go surf the Internet instead of entering data.

Some people never left their work while others left their work right away. Still others went back and forth between working and online surfing. Overall, about 14 percent of the workers’ time was spent cyberloafing.

McCarter and his fellow researchers tried two different methods to stop cyberloafing. The first was an autocratic decision process, wherein the manager simply turned off the Internet access. This stopped the cyberloafing, naturally, but didn’t necessarily cause an uptick in productivity. The cyberloafing subjects, in spite, often just stopped working and would even stare at the ceiling until the day was over.

The second method allowed the group to vote whether to turn the Internet off. Ninety percent of the time, the group agreed to cut off the Internet. In this instance, the subjects who had previously been cyberloafing increased their productivity by 38 percent. As time went on, the former cyberloafers were equally as hard-working as those who had stayed off the Internet.

“In group voting, you strategically give your workers control over something,” McCarter said. “By giving them a voice to stop an unproductive behavior, not only did a strong majority agree to stop cyberloafing, but those who had been cyberloafing (and even who voted against turning off the Internet) redeemed themselves by contributing to the team and working just as hard as the others.”

8 Foods That Make You Unproductive at Work

If you have a desk job, I’m sure by now you’ve heard the mantra, “sitting is the new smoking.”

And, if you’re like most working Americans, you’re at that job for far more hours than you’re playing sports, chasing after your kids or otherwise moving. That’s why today, more than ever, it’s important to make the best of how you spend those working hours.

While you can find ways to incorporate movement at work – try taking frequent walks to the bathroom or water cooler, stretching occasionally, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking to and from work and home or the train or bus stop – it’s not always entirely possible to stay active on the job.

One thing you do have control over? What you put in your mouth. Food fuels your brain as well as your body, so what’s on your plate can affect your productivity. Here are eight foods (some of them deceptively healthy choices!) that can derail your on-the-job performance and focus:

1. Coffee

Your morning cup o’ joe can wake you up and get you ready for your day, but for some, a cup of coffee can mean multiple bathroom runs, disrupting your work flow. For some people, coffee makes them feel jittery or creates gastrointestinal disturbances. If you’re looking for a cleaner caffeine, try green tea, which can be gentler on your stomach. But if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may need an icy decaf to wake you up.

2. Fried, Fatty Foods

A fat-laden, heavy lunch can make you feel sluggish, bloated and unproductive. Keep a bottle of balsamic glaze as a dressing for your salad and go for grilled chicken, fish or meat instead of the fried varieties.

3. Candy Bars

An afternoon pick-me-up may give you a jolt of energy, but the impending crash will make you feel like putting your head on your desk. Skip a sugary snack that is a temporary pick-me-up in favor of an energy bar that provides a balance of whole-grain carbs, healthy fats, protein and fiber.

4. Vending Machine Snacks

Salty, processed and packaged foods can leave you feeling thirsty instead of satisfied. Aside from being void of value, these choices could lead to dehydration, leaving you tired and listless. Stock your workplace with non-perishable snacks that are rich in protein and fiber – think nuts or almond butter with whole-grain crackers – to help keep you fuller longer.

5. Smoothies

Even though you may love to slurp down these cooling treats, smoothies made with lots of fruit and juice without protein can make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. Smooth out the ride by choosing a beverage with benefits and make or buy one that includes Greek yogurt or skim milk.

6. Frozen Yogurt

If a bloated, gassy feeling is what you’re looking for, frozen yogurt is the way to go! Unless you can get crumbled antacids as a topping, I’d skip this frozen treat until you’re home in the evening. Unpleasant side effects are less common when the yogurt was scooped from a hard pack instead of as a swirl from a machine.

7. Sushi

Even if you’ve mastered the art of the healthy sushi order, you’ll likely feel the residual effects – thirst and bloat – from this soy sauce-heavy meal. If you’re craving a roll, ask for light soy sauce and skip creamy sauces and fried ingredients.

8. Any Unbalanced Meal

Meals that are unbalanced make us feel tired, irritable and eager to nosh. Go for the trifecta that will help you focus on your work instead of the fridge: a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. A turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with mashed avocado, lettuce and tomato is a perfect example of a powerful pick-me-up.

How To Be More Productive Every Day

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Ever notice how coffee can sometimes give you the jitters, while other times you can drink a whole pot and still stifle yawns? Or how you kill your to-do list with ease some days, and other days find it hard to get through even the easiest tasks?

You can thank (or blame!) your biological clock for those times you feel really “on” and the times when you’re feeling a little off, according to productivity research. There are teams of scientists, researchers, and doctors who are studying “chronobiology,” or how to get the optimal performance out of your body’s natural rhythm. Here’s how to capitalize on the best times of day to knock to-do items off your list.

Daybreak: Pay Bills (Or Clean The Bathroom)

Ideally, you should tackle any task that you really don’t like doing when you wake up, because we’re at our happiest and most optimistic, first thing in the morning, according to Cornell research. After tracking worldwide usage of the Twitter conversations of 2.4 million users, the study authors found that people are the most cheery and tweet their most upbeat statuses in the morning.

So, capitalize on your feel-good mood by doing the things that can make us grumpy (like paying bills). By the way, scientists, Scott A. Golder and Michael W. Macy, writing for Science Magazine, have also identified which days give us the most smiles (and it’s no surprise): “People are happier on weekends, but the morning peak, in positive affect, is delayed by two hours, which suggests that people awaken later on weekends.”

Early Morning: See Your Doctor

It may mean you’ll have to skip the gym or show up at work a little late, but if you have to see the doctor, aim to be the first appointment of the day. According to a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, doctors are less likely to detect warning signs, like cancerous polyps, later in the day because of fatigue. You’re also likely to spend less time waiting with an early appointment.

Mid-Morning: Check Off Detail-Oriented Tasks

According to a Pennsylvania State University study on alertness, you’ll be able to execute more accurate work and focus better if you get to it early. The study authors also found that optimal accomplishment happened around 8am and declined between noon and 4 p.m., especially after eating a meal.

Late Morning Or Late Afternoon: Drink Coffee

Maybe that wakeup cup of joe isn’t the best idea. According to scientists who study chronopharmacology — the study of how time of day may affect drugs’ impact on your body — you may be wasting your caffeine on the mornings when you’re naturally the most alert. Instead, save it for after 9:30 a.m. and after 2 p.m., two times of day when you naturally begin to feel lethargic.

Late Afternoon To Evening: Do Creative Work

After knocking out your detailed-oriented tasks in the morning, how do you deal with fatigue in the afternoons? Is there nothing else you can work on? Turns out, this is the best time to explore more open-ended problem solving. Fatigue makes us come up with more creative solutions, found an Albion College research study, published in Thinking and Reasoning. When you have what their researchers called “reduced inhibitory control,” then your “results showed consistently greater insight problem solving performance during non-optimal times of day.”

Early Evening: Take Your Medicine & Work Out

Researchers found that if you or someone you know is taking medications to help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, it may be better to take those pills at night and not in the morning. The study, published in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found that those who took their blood pressure meds at night had better results and possibly fewer side effects. The reason? You’re optimizing the drug’s impact on your body’s natural biological rhythm.

Generally, blood pressure rises naturally before you get out of bed and peaks midday. It then gradually falls, reaching its lowest between midnight and 4 a.m. So when you take pills in the morning or at lunch you may not actually be managing the hours when your blood pressure is at its peak. Popping the pill at night, however, will keep the morning rise down.

Something else to do in the early evenings? Work out. Turns out that just showing up to the gym isn’t enough. Aim to work out in the late afternoon to early evening for peak performance and to prevent the feeling that you’re dragging your heels, according to research published by the American College of Sports Medicine. Since body temperature is higher during that time frame, it is believed that muscle mobility increases, allowing you to get more out of your workout. Plus, warm muscles are less susceptible to injury. Another reason to sleep in and get to the gym after work instead.

Every 90 minutes: Take A Break

Even when we’re getting enough shut-eye at night, we can’t work endlessly on projects without getting fatigued. Florida State University researchers found that thanks to the constant shifts of our biological clock — which adjust our levels of hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol — we need to take breaks throughout the day. Ideally, we should work in 90-minute intervals for best productivity, found the authors who studied high performance players in music, sports and chess.

Corporations’ Newest Productivity Hack: Meditation

Since I started meditating two years ago, my practice has been shamefully sporadic. When I do manage to stop what I’m doing and sit down, device-free, I find following my breath to be a relief from—and a contrast to—what happens at work. But as David Gelles observes in his new book, that contrast is dissolving, perhaps for the better.

In Mindful Work, Gelles, a business reporter for The New York Times, catalogs the nascent trend of establishing employee well-being programs that promote mindfulness, an activity that is perhaps best described as doing nothing. More precisely, mindfulness means drawing one’s attention to the sensations of the present moment, and noting, without frustration or judgment, any mental wanderings that get in the way. It can be done anywhere—at your desk, on the subway platform—and at any time. Decades of research suggest that setting aside time for mindfulness can improve concentration and reduce stress.

Gelles first reported on the rise of corporate mindfulness programs in 2012 for The Financial Times, when he described a rare but promising initiative at General Mills. In the years since, similar programs have popped up at Ford, Google, Target, Adobe—and even Goldman Sachs and Davos. This adoption has been rapid, perhaps due to its potential to help the bottom line: Aetna estimates that since instituting its mindfulness program, it has saved about $2,000 per employee in healthcare costs, and gained about $3,000 per employee in productivity. Mindful employees, the thinking goes, are healthier and more focused.