Back to blog

Train Like NASA: 20 Ways to Improve Work Performance

Learn the best ways to improve work performance from the coolest workplace in the world — the International Space Station.

Benita Liew
Writer at Motion
May 6, 2024
Table of contents

What do the International Space Station (ISS) and the average office have in common? They’re environments where success hinges on working efficiently and effectively.

It isn’t just about putting in the hours — it’s about working smart and finding ways to improve work performance.

Now, you might not be dodging space debris or doing science in zero-g, but the tricks astronauts use up there can seriously boost how you work down here.

And the best part? These strategies are totally doable, right from your own desk — no space suit needed.

If you’re looking to stand out, boost employee productivity, or simply make your day less daunting, buckle up because we’re about to launch you into a workday that’s light years from the ordinary.

CTA Template

Maximize your team's output with Motion

Sign up now to get started

Get Started

20 NASA-approved ways to improve work performance

If you’re looking to improve work performance in your organization, here are some helpful tips inspired by today’s space explorers:

1. Put your people first

Just like astronauts need to stay in top shape to perform at their best, businesses should prioritize the well-being of their employees.

But how, you ask? By offering a healthy work-life balance, access to health and wellness programs, and mental health resources.

Don’t forget to provide flexible work options and a positive work environment, too! These also help create happier, more engaged employees. Considering the fact that workplaces that put people first are 3.8 times more likely to build high-performing teams, it’s just smart business.

2. Be smart with your time

In space, every second counts. That’s why every task, from scientific experiments to maintenance activities, is carefully scheduled to maximize each mission’s success.

Businesses can take a leaf from NASA’s book by prioritizing time management in project planning. This means setting clear goals, breaking bigger projects down into manageable tasks, and regularly reviewing priorities to focus on what matters most. Strategic time management helps companies use their resources wisely and meet important deadlines.

3. Communicate clearly

In both space missions and business, clarity of communication can make or break success. Astronauts and mission control need to be good at communicating verbally, using technical documents, and following strict protocols to manage space travel safely. They even need to be able to communicate with specific hand gestures.

Businesses can mirror this success by setting up effective communication practices to keep everyone on the same page. These include holding regular meetings, documenting processes and expectations clearly, and encouraging open feedback.

A shared calendar is a great way to get everyone in sync. It makes it crystal clear what everyone’s working on and when, which means less need for back-and-forth communication.

Weekly schedule in Motion

‎Teaching employees active listening and communication skills can also help minimize misunderstandings and improve teamwork.

4. Level up your teamwork

On the ISS, seamless collaboration between astronauts and mission control is literally a matter of life and death. At the same time, space agencies thrive on the synergy of diverse teams who bring various skills to the table, all united by high-stakes, common goals.

Businesses — particularly smaller ones or those in traditional industries — can learn from this by nurturing a team-first culture.

Encourage your teams to collaborate across different departments and create interdisciplinary project teams. This can lead to new ideas and stronger relationships. Celebrating team successes can inspire even greater collaboration and result in bigger wins.

5. Take charge with accountability

On space missions, each astronaut knows that their actions directly affect the success and safety of the entire crew.

You can bring this same sense of ownership into your business by making sure each employee feels accountable for their role.

Set clear expectations, provide the necessary resources, and support them in hitting their targets. Recognize good work and address any issues that pop up to improve employee engagement and motivation. Also, encourage open feedback so that employees can take pride in their successes and learn from their mistakes without fearing undue criticism.

6. Unite under one mission

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon during a mission that united the nation.

Like astronauts who see their roles as part of a larger quest for discovery and progress, your employees should understand how their efforts contribute to the company's overarching mission. So, make sure your mission, values, and organizational goals are well-communicated.

Employees who feel connected to these elements aren’t just more driven but also perform better. Plus, they're 70% more likely to recommend their workplace to others, which boosts your company’s reputation.

Employees who align with the company mission like their work

‎7. Roll with the punches

Dealing with the unexpected, like dodging space debris, comes with the territory for astronauts. This means they need to think on their feet, change plans quickly, and rearrange their priorities to protect the crew and preserve the mission.

Businesses also face unexpected challenges that require immediate attention. Being adaptable helps your company quickly handle these surprises, ensuring they don't derail your ongoing projects or long-term goals.

With Motion, this flexibility is built-in. We automatically reshuffle your tasks when something unexpected pops up, saving you and your team the hassle of manual replanning.

8. Build a trusting space

Just as astronauts need to be able to trust their teammates in space, businesses do better when everyone feels safe enough to share their ideas and concerns. This kind of trust sparks innovation and teamwork, as teams are more willing to suggest new ideas without fear of being judged. Creating such a supportive atmosphere can lead to more creative and effective ways of solving problems.

9. Develop cross-cultural competence

What else do today’s businesses and international space missions have in common? They bring together teams from different parts of the world. This makes cross-cultural training a necessity for both astronauts and business professionals.

Astronauts might need to learn Russian to work more effectively on the ISS, just as business professionals benefit from understanding how to interact with colleagues and clients from different cultures. While not everyone needs to learn a new language, knowing the nuances of cross-cultural communication is useful.

For businesses with international ties or diverse teams, investing in this kind of training can dramatically improve their communication, collaboration, and understanding of global markets.

10. Play with the latest tech

Space missions depend heavily on the latest tech to succeed. Similarly, businesses can gain a lot from using new technology to streamline their operations, become more efficient, and explore new opportunities.

With Motion, AI can create your perfect schedule for you and recommend which tasks to tackle next. This cuts down on the hassle of making those decisions and takes care of the repetitive tasks, saving you two hours every day. That means more time for you to spend on the things that really move your business forward.

Add a task in Motion

‎11. Balance routine with flexibility

Space agencies create a balanced daily routine for astronauts, mixing work, exercise, leisure, and sleep — plus weekends off when possible. This structured lifestyle keeps these professionals sharp and helps them maintain a sense of normalcy in the vastness of space.

Why not bring a bit of this cosmic order to your workplace to boost employee efficiency?

For example, you can use Motion’s Meeting Assistant to plan specific days for meetings or its focus time feature to block out times for deep work. Setting clear work hours can help separate employees’ professional lives from their personal ones — which is especially crucial for remote workers.

12. Provide continuous training opportunities

Astronauts are a talented bunch. But before they jet off into space, they undergo intense training covering everything from piloting spacecraft to handling emergencies.

And their learning doesn’t even stop there.

The same principle applies to businesses, as well. No matter how skilled your new hires are, they still need to get up to speed with your company's specific processes and tools. And since the business environment is always changing, upskilling is a must for building a dynamic team.

Encourage your team’s professional development by offering courses, workshops, and seminars. This not only helps them stay updated on the latest industry trends but also keeps your team sharp and ahead of the curve.

13. Give (and receive) the gift of feedback

Constructive feedback from astronauts is a key part of having successful missions.

Take the Skylab 4 crew of 1973, for example. They voiced their struggles with long hours and inadequate rest, prompting NASA to revise their schedules to include more downtime. This change boosted these astronauts’ productivity level for the remainder of the mission.

You can (and should) do this in your business, too. Hold regular job performance reviews and feedback sessions, and maintain open lines of communication between staff and management. This helps you spot areas for improvement, sharpen your strategies, and celebrate your team’s successes, resulting in a more motivated and efficient workforce.

14. Reflect so you can grow

Astronauts don't just rocket into space and forget about it — they hold detailed debriefing sessions after their missions to sift through what went well and what didn’t.

You can bring this reflective practice right into your business by holding regular reviews after wrapping up projects or big initiatives. These discussions can reveal important insights and promote a culture of continuous improvement.

A manager debriefing their team after a completed project

‎15. Tackle risks head-on

Space travel comes with plenty of risks, from failed rocket launches to docking difficulties and disastrous return trips. That's why astronauts and space agencies plan and prep so meticulously.

Running a business isn't a walk in the park either, so it pays to be ready. Think of it like creating a safety net — a risk management plan.

Start by identifying potential risks, gauging their impact, and then creating strategies to handle them. Being proactive like this keeps disruptions at bay and your business operating smoothly even when things get bumpy.

16. Keep it simple

Remember the story about NASA’s space pen versus Russia’s pencil? While it might not be true, it still makes a great point: simpler solutions are usually better than complex ones.

Businesses can gain a lot by promoting a mindset that favors simple solutions before exploring more complex or expensive options. So, push your team to go for the straightforward fixes first. They're often the quickest, cheapest, and most effective way to get things done.

17. Implement simulation and scenario planning

Astronauts reap huge benefits from intense simulation training that replicates the real challenges of space. They practice everything from spacewalks to piloting spacecraft and running experiments. This dress rehearsal doesn’t just familiarize them with their tasks — it also sharpens their ability to perform under different, often challenging conditions.

Similarly, simulation-based training or scenario planning can help prepare your employees for the unexpected. It sharpens their problem-solving skills and keeps them cool under pressure, which is especially valuable for field teams who regularly interact with clients and face unpredictable situations.

18. Support remote employees

In space, no one can hear you scream — which is why astronauts train to handle isolation on the ISS.

But what about when you're working remotely? Can your team hear you work?

Of course not. This means businesses should learn how to better support their remote workers.

Regular check-ins, virtual hangouts, and making sure remote team members feel included and valued can make a big difference. These techniques help keep remote employees connected, engaged, and feeling just as essential as their in-office colleagues.

A virtual water cooler space

‎19. Zero in on the details

Precision fuels space missions, guiding everything from scientific experiments to spacecraft maneuvers. Astronauts rely on checklists to double-check every detail and prevent errors. This razor-sharp precision is their secret to staying safe and efficient — and nailing their mission goals.

In business, this same precision matters, whether it’s in crunching numbers, serving customers, or developing products. By instilling quality assurance practices and a culture that prizes attention to detail, you can boost efficiency, safety, and overall success.

20. Put safety above all

In astronaut training, safety isn't just important — it's everything. And your business should follow suit.

Pay close attention to your physical workspace: make sure the temperature is comfortable and that the workspace has good ventilation and proper lighting. Extend safety measures to include providing the right tools and equipment, whether it's hard hats for construction crews or ergonomic chairs for office teams.

Employees perform better in safe (and comfortable) environments where they aren’t constantly worried about accidents or being injured on the job.

Let Motion help your employee performance skyrocket

You don’t have to travel to outer space to look for ways to improve work performance. From nurturing your team’s well-being to cracking tough challenges with smart fixes, the universe is the limit when you apply these tips in your everyday office life.

Better yet, channel your inner astronaut by embracing the smartest tech tools to skyrocket your team’s efficiency.

Tired of endless to-do lists and juggling planners without making headway? Say goodbye to that hassle because Motion uses the power of AI to create a perfect schedule and organize your team’s tasks.

Get started with Motion’s 7-day free trial to start turbocharging your team’s productivity today.

Benita Liew
Benita is a wizard at breathing life into the dry and dense world of B2B SaaS. Bringing a fresh perspective to every piece, Benita turns exhaustive research into a delightful read, making even the most well-covered topics feel fresh and exciting. When she's not writing, you can find her collecting recipes and crocheting her own clothes.
Written by Benita Liew