LIFEHACK: The Secret to Productivity is Dressing Up as a Superhero

By Don Hall

One of the lessons in The Woodshed — a storytelling workshop I teach from time to time — is all about what one wears while performing onstage. I tend to wear all black. It removes some of the personality so that the story takes focus rather than me. It looks professional. I feel like a badass wearing all black.

It’s that third reason that a new study underscores. 

"Researchers Rachel E. White of Hamilton College and Emily Prager and Catherine Schaefer from the University of Minnesota recently conducted a small study involving a group of children between the ages of four and six designed to measure their ability to stay on task.


"Six-year-olds persevered longer than 4-year-olds. Nonetheless, across both ages, children who impersonated an exemplar other — in this case a character, such as Batman — spent the most time working, followed by children who took a third-person perspective on the self, or finally, a first-person perspective."

A variation on the "dress for success" mantra, the idea that how you feel about yourself when gussied up as someone different from yourself motivates you to be more productive is an 8 on the self-help list.

In research published in July 2012 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, subjects made half as many mistakes on an attention-demanding task when wearing a white lab coat. On another attention task, those told their lab coat was a doctor's coat performed better than either those who were told it was a painter's smock or those who merely saw a doctor's coat on display.

A paper in August 2015 in Social Psychological and Personality Science asked subjects to change into formal or casual clothing before cognitive tests. Wearing formal business attire increased abstract thinking — an important aspect of creativity and long-term strategizing. The experiments suggest the effect is related to feelings of power.

I hate wearing finery. I have a couple of sports coats but prefer to wear jeans. I like a dress shirt but often go untucked. I almost never wear a tie because I hate them. Apparently this puts me at a disadvantage when engaged in the hustle to make a buck.

But Batman?

I can even do the gravelly voice...

I can even do the gravelly voice...

The notion puts cos-players in a whole new light.

Got a big interview for that dream gig? How about throwing on that Spider-Man outfit and nailing it? On a tight deadline to get those spreadsheets completed by the end of the day? Slip into the company washroom and emerge as Storm from the X-Men! That presentation to the company about your team P&L's? Do it dressed as the Fantastic Four and if people can forget how shitty all the movies have been, you will wow them!

The New CEO is rocking his casual Friday apparel!

The New CEO is rocking his casual Friday apparel!

Being productive is a challenge. Most people working 9-to-5 in an office spend approximately 70 percent of their time on Faceborg, cleverly switching the screen when the supervisor comes around (unless you're the CEO and then it's Pornhub). If dressing up as a fantasy character gives you the edge, I say go for it! At least it'll liven up that quarterly review.