TIME

This Is What’s Actually Making You Horribly Unproductive

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Ron Bambridge—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Talk about a silver lining: New research shows that crummy weather actually makes you more productive at work. Unfortunately, this means now that the long winter much of the country endured is finally over, your motivation could vanish faster than giant snow piles in a big-box store parking lot.

If you think gloomy weather saps your motivation, you’re not alone; more than 80% of people surveyed by researchers thought so. But the authors of this new study found out the opposite is actually true: Good weather makes us want to go do fun things, and thinking about what we’d rather be doing distracts us from what we should be doing. Career and workplace experts have some suggestions for how to keep “spring fever” from infecting your job performance on nice days.

Work on less detail-oriented projects. Bad weather drives people to focus more on the task at hand, which improves performance, but nice weather disrupts that focus. “Cognitive distractions led to higher error rates,” says Jooa Julia Lee, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University and the lead author of the study, “Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity.” “Individuals may wish to avoid working on a task in which errors would be costly when they have task-unrelated priorities,” she says. If you can’t avoid it, double-check your work to make sure

Do creative or collaborative work instead. Lee and her co-authors found that nice weather can benefit creative thinking. Another winner: Projects that require working with others. “Weather-induced positive moods may improve workers’ productivity on tasks that require creativity, as well as affective interpersonal skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence,” she writes.

Ask for flexible hours. See if your boss will let you work longer Monday through Thursday so you can take some time for yourself and leave early on Fridays, or ask about other flexible schedule options you can implement in nice weather. Even if this isn’t possible, take advantage of your lunch breaks and spend them outside on pleasant days, says Peter Friedes, co-founder, Managing People Better, LLC.

Don’t fight it. “A key factor of staying focused and productive is to acknowledge when you aren’t, due to spring fever or anything else,” consultant Bernadette Boas tells Monster.com’s MonsterWorking blog. Just like going on an overly restrictive diet can lead to a junk food binge, denying the siren song of a warm, sunny day can backfire. “If you fight it, it will only consume you, then sabotage your efforts,” Boas says. She suggests picking a few items on your to-do list and rewarding yourself with a brief break outside after you’ve completed them.

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