Your Productivity Varies – Here’s Why

Even before I was first introduced to the idea of Biorythms, I recognized that my level of skills, intelligence, perception, and even physical strength would vary from day to day, sometimes from moment to moment.

This awareness, now actively studied by scientists, makes it clear that our ability to function – and particularly to function at or near our highest levels – is greatly influenced by many factors.

It stands to reason, then, that we can improve our track record by paying attention to these factors and attempting our most difficult tasks, projects, and goals when we’re at or near our peaks. We can also reserve our low periods for routine, easier to-do list items.

It’s a simple but potentially very effective approach. Here are several factors you may want to monitor, as they can influence your ability to be productive and successful:

Encumbrance and Assistance

Science shows that people wearing heavy backpacks judge walking distances to be farther and upward-trending inclines to be steeper. In much the same way, people holding a grabbing device that extends their reach tend to judge things as closer to them.

But this phenomenon extends beyond tangible objects. It also emerges from our own bodily feelings.

For example, the other day I was suffering with a cold, and the thought of traveling 25 miles to see a play I was interested in seemed difficult and undesirable. However, a day or two later when I was feeling better, the same trip seemed relatively easily and entirely worthwhile.

Clearly, your judgment about what’s easy and difficult, what’s worthwhile and pointless, and even what can and cannot be accomplished, may depend to a great extent on how you’re feeling when you make those judgments.


We all know about feeling “hangry.” But you may not realize your sustenance exerts a much wider influence on your productivity and success than this simple feeling.

For example, your blood sugar level greatly impacts your ability to delay your gratification and make effective decisions. Low blood sugar drives you to go for immediate rewards and to make decisions more quickly, taking more of a short-term point of view, and avoiding complex analyses. Basically, you just want to move on from the current task so you can get something to eat.

Feeling well fed, on the other hand, increases your willingness and ability to spend more time, take a longer view, think more deeply, and ultimately select more sensible options or courses of action.


The role of physical discomfort is a complicated and counterintuitive one, but it’s backed up by science. People who more easily feel disgusted or who are more worried about catching disease tend to be politically more conservative. It’s the same with people who are more easily startled and more generally fearful.

Not everyone who’s super-sensitive turns out these ways, of course. But enough do to make it noteworthy.

These feelings, which arise in our subconscious, have the ability to drive our conscious minds toward starker, less flexible attitudes. These, in turn, can profoundly influence our choices, behaviors, and – ultimately – our level of productivity and success.

There’s not much you can do to change these fundamental feelings and fears. But it’s interesting and insightful to recognize their influence on your thoughts, beliefs, and choices.


We’re profoundly different when we’re feeling isolated compared with when we’re feeling socially connected. The presence of other people tends to reduce stress, promote personal happiness, and even make pain more bearable.

Think about working on a task, project, or goal on your own, versus working on a similar one with a team. You’ll probably recognize that having people around often makes challenges seem less daunting, tasks seem easier, setbacks seem less disastrous, and milestones seem more attainable.

Of course, these are just a few of the many items that influence our choices, our level of functionality, and ultimately our productivity and success.

What’s the takeaway here? Perhaps this: don’t take for granted your everyday ability to make progress on your tasks, finish your projects, and accomplish your goals. Cherish every moment you’re on the right track, and devote as much of your time as you can toward whatever is most important to you. Why? Because if, as, and when these and other influences take hold, you may not be half so able to.

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