Study: The Key to Productivity Is Change and Experimentation

April 29, 2016

12:50 pm

Everyone has hit the wall at work before. Whether it’s struggling to finish a project or just finding the motivation to sit down at your desk, productivity is an elusive mistress. But one researcher may have found the key to getting off your butt and actually getting something done. And it’s a lot more ambiguous than you might have hoped.

Charles Duigg is a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of two best-sellers, Smarter Faster Better and The Power of Habit. In his search for the silver bullet of productivity, he discovered that, unfortunately, there wasn’t one. His research yielded a vast array of results that dictated experimentation was the only real way to be productive on a regular basis. Whether it’s changing locations, altering work patterns or even sitting in a different chair, the only consistent factor when it comes to productivity is change.

“What the most productive people tend to do is cycle through different systems and then pay attention to what works,” said Duigg on an episode of The James Altucher Show.

While you may insist that drinking coffee makes you more productive or that listening to classical music is the key to getting work done, Duigg states that it won’t last long. Without adequate experimentation on work habits, there is no way for people to accurately establish what works and what doesn’t.

For sore losers, this concept can be difficult. Mostly because failure is a big part of this equation. As every scientist, researcher and stand-up comedian knows, you learn a lot more from failing than you do from succeeding. If you try working at a coffee shop rather than your office and it turns out terribly, then you’ve learned something about your work habits that will inform on future decisions to be more productive.

“If you are not actually pushing yourself to a point where you’re failing at least a portion of the time,” said Duhigg during the same episode of The James Altucher Show, “you’re not actually pushing yourself hard enough.”

If you think you are plenty productive already, you are most likely wrong, particularly if you live in the US. Another study from Quartz showed that the disparity between perceived productivity and actual productivity is quite large. The research showed that US workers are 10.9 percent less productive than they think, creating a substantial need for experimentation when it comes to your work habits. After all, a little experience is always more valuable than a lot of skill any day of the week.


(H/T World Economic Forum)

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at

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