HR Management & Compliance

How to Use Humor to Boost Human Effectiveness

As an engineer, I am obsessed with efficiency. Even my name is efficient: My full name is Andrew, but I go by Drew because it’s only one syllable. But through my work with organizations around the globe, I’ve learned that you can’t be efficient with humans because they have “emotions” and “feelings” and get “sick” and “tired” and have to “eat” and “sleep.” Instead, you have to be effective.

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One of the best ways to be more effective is through using humor. Here are four ways using humor at work can boost human effectiveness.

  1. Humor helps you do tasks faster.

Let’s face it: Some of our daily tasks can feel nauseatingly boring—data entry, expense reporting, and e-mail aren’t exactly the most exciting things to do day in and day out.

Humor can help you find ways to enjoy these tasks more and help you work faster. Doing data entry? Listen to upbeat music, and enter data to the rhythm of the songs you hear. Updating expense reports? Turn it into a game, and time yourself to see how quickly you can do it. Going through your e-mail? Read each message in a different accent in your head.

Finding ways to “play your work” helps you focus while staying energized about the task at hand.

  1. Humor helps you solve problems faster.

Being able to quickly solve problems is an important skill for being effective. Whether you have to find a way to save your company $10,000 or you’re simply figuring out how to unjam the copy machine, you have to find solutions.

Humor helps you look at problems in a new way to see new connections. Studies show that a dose of humor releases serotonin in the brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity, and improves overall brain power.

The next time you’re faced with a problem, try watching a funny comedy clip or reading interesting trivia to warm up the brain before brainstorming solutions.

  1. Humor helps you learn better.

If you want to be more effective, you have to be more smarter (OK, so that’s not grammatically correct …). No matter what you’re working on or how long you’ve been working on it, ongoing training and development will increase your ability to do your job.

Using humor when learning can help you better understand material and remember it longer. One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating your own mnemonics for material you’re learning. Remember “Spring forward, fall backward?” Since learning that mnemonic for Daylight Saving Time, I’ve never forgotten whether to set clocks forward or back an hour.

Find ways to turn key points of what you’re learning into a helpful mnemonic so you don’t have to go back to your notebook every time you want to implement something you’ve learned.

  1. Humor helps you have more energy.

Time management is a great tool for increasing efficiency. But it doesn’t matter how much time you have if you can’t get yourself to be productive with that time.

Humor boosts energy by burning calories, increasing bloodflow to the brain, and relaxing your body. It also counteracts the negative effects of stress, which helps to prevent burnout and can improve your mood so you’re in the right mind-set to get stuff done.

To be more effective, be sure to schedule breaks throughout your day so that you can recharge and come back to your work more engaged and with a fresh perspective.

Using Humor to Boost Human Effectiveness

By following these four research-backed ways of using humor, you’ll not only be more effective in the workplace but also have a lot more fun in the process.

Andrew Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. He is the author of Humor That Works: The Missing Skill for Success and Happiness at Work and CEO of Humor That Works, a consultancy for human effectiveness. For more information, please visit, and connect with him on Twitter, @drewtarvin.

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