It is no secret that many of us feel better after some time outside. Whether it is the fresh air or the change of scenery, taking a quick walk outside can usually help to improve our mood. It can be challenging to add outside time to your Calendar on a regular basis. Although many of us crave the outdoors — we put off getting outside until the weekend or vacations. But the fact remains — going outside is vital to your productivity?
The relentless push towards higher productivity can tempt you to schedule an overwhelming amount of tasks without a break. The idea is that if you can push through everything on your Calendar, then you have successfully had a productive day. The grind can wear down even the most mentally tough worker. The struggle and push to accomplish every last task on your calendar can significantly decrease your productivity as time goes on.
If you are on a mission to increase your overall productivity, then scheduling downtime that includes the outdoors may be a practical approach.
Going outside increases productivity.
According to research performed at the University of Melbourne, even gazing at a screensaver of nature can help to improve your productivity. A screensaver may sound unlikely, but the findings were based on a simple experiment.
The researchers asked 150 subjects to perform a menial task of typing specific numbers as they flash on a screen. The task went on for five minutes before a 40-second break. During the break, one group was asked to look at a screen saver of a green meadow. The other group looked at a picture of a concrete roof. The task of typing numbers continued after the short break. Within the first group, concentration levels rose six percent. Within the second group, concentration levels fell eight percent.
The group that saw the grassy meadow performed significantly better than the group that saw the concrete roof. Both saw just a screen saver. Imagine if both groups had been exposed to the real thing.
Links between nature and productivity.
The link between nature and increased productivity has been studied in detail recently. With the entire human population pushing itself to become more and more productive, studies on a variety of techniques to improve productivity have emerged. Here are just a few of the research studies that have made a positive correlation between getting outside and increasing productivity:
A recent study evaluated the impact of nature on children with ADHD. One group of children took a walk in a city park; the other group took a walk in an urban setting. At the end of the 20-minute walk, the children completed the assignment. It was shown that children with ADHD performed better after their walk in the park. If I were experimenting — I’d have a group walk outside in an urban setting — and one group play indoors. We can’t all get to the city park.
Although the effects of nature on your concentration may not be as extreme as those described that particular study, this thought is an avenue worth exploring. Many of us experience a dwindling amount of concentration as the week progresses. Time in nature could help to regain productivity that would otherwise be lost due to lack of focus.
Someone in our office merely walks to the end of the long driveway to refocus and says that short stroll has made all the difference for productivity. The coworker suggests that I try to take the same walk a couple of times a day — I’m going to put this action into my schedule.
Improved short term memory.
A study at the University of Michigan tasked two groups of students with a memory test. The first group then took a walk through an arboretum; the second group walked down an urban street. After their walk, the two groups were asked to perform the memory test again. The group that walked through the arboretum improved their score by approximately 20 percent. The group that walked through an urban environment saw no improvement.
Even just a short walk through nature can help improve short term memory, which could lead to an increase in productivity. The arboretum is not even outside. The view within the building was enough to lead to beneficial results.
Increase in creativity.
Creativity is a significant component of our overall productivity. Being outside in nature has been shown to increase your productivity in multiple studies. The spark of your next idea may come after enjoying a beautiful vista or a unique moment in nature. When you are in a creative frame of mind, you are better equipped to tackle the tasks on your Calendar. Finding new ways to perform your tasks more efficiently allows your brain to express the creativity that your nature experience has sparked.
According to a study by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science, a 90-minute nature walk can increase the positivity in your brain. Of course, the researchers discovered that participants that walked through nature had a more positive outlook. Positivity can be measured by measuring — or tracking the amount of blood that flowed to “parts of the brain associated with rumination.”
Rumination is a focus on negative thoughts, so the decrease in blood to that area of the brain showed a real increase in positivity. When we are more positive about ourselves, we are typically able to accomplish more, The absence of thoughts that bring you down could allow you to accomplish more.
How to incorporate nature into your Calendar.
Everyone knows that nature is good for you. You already know going outside is a positive decision for your productivity. And, you understand that finding a place or places that you can get to in nature (especially during work hours) is going to help your overall health. Finding time regularly to disconnect is right for your overall productivity — and you may be more motivated to add a blocked-off time to your Calendar.
Where is nature supposed to fit into your day?
Finding nearby green spaces to enjoy can be a fun way to explore where you live. Open Google maps and look for nearby green areas to satisfy your nature needs. If you live in the city and don’t have access to a vast wilderness nearby — don’t worry. The benefits of nature can be gleaned from even the smallest area of green space. Get outside and access what nature you have available to you. If you live in an urban area — you’ll need to get creative. Consider arboretums, city parks, and rooftop gardens as a way to experience green space outdoors in your area.
If finding a way to get outdoors is challenging, then consider bringing nature inside. Find hardy plants to take care of in your office space to start enjoying nature on a small scale. With time, you may find more room on your schedule to get outside.
However, you choose to incorporate nature into your schedule, remember that it will be worth the effort. The increase in productivity and an overall sense of wellness will reward you for the time you set aside to experience nature.