When thinking of the ways to become more productive, the first thing that comes to our mind is effective time management. But very often, the problem of reduced productivity lies much deeper. The following tips will not only help you to achieve higher levels of productivity, but also improve quality of your life.
Get a good night’s sleep
Many people sacrifice their sleep for the sake of getting more done. Of course, it might be tempting to emulate Margaret Thatcher who slept only 4 hours a night. But, in reality, the lack of a good night’s sleep can do more harm than good. Sleep deprivation has negative impact both on your health and your productivity. It can not only worsen your mood, but also hurt performance of your brain. The lack of a good sleep, if it occurs regularly, causes irritation, impairs memory and can also be one of the main catalysts for such diseases as diabetes and obesity. Moreover, the immune system of sleep deprived people is weaker and this reduces resistance of your organism to stress and its negative consequences.
People who regularly get a good night’s rest tend to demonstrate a higher level of performance, especially when it comes to mental activity. They are also happier and more resilient. For your body and brain to function well, you have to identify not only the number of hours you need for a proper sleep, but also pay attention to its quality. Before sleep time, try to exclude all drinks and food that cause alertness. Meditation, aromatherapy and warm bath will help you relax and have a deep sleep. Also, try to eliminate the use of gadgets right before sleep time. If you take care of a good night’s sleep, your brain will reward you in terms of a sharp focus and even improved decision making.
Eat a balanced diet and drink enough water
Balanced diet can vastly boost your productivity. When your body receives all the necessary elements from food, it will perform like a clock. The old adage says, “A healthy body equals a healthy mind”. Therefore, include in your diet more veggies, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats and proteins. Try to replace fast carbs with slow carbs which keep energy on a steady level and don’t cause its shifts. Also, drink enough water. Numerous studies have shown that there is a direct link between drinking enough water and brain performance. Over 70% of your body consists of water. And brain activity highly depends on the “water supply”. Drinking enough water will help you to avoid such issues as fatigue, attention disorder and exhaustion that can be caused by dehydration.
Take regular exercises
Sedentary lifestyle is the secret enemy of your health and performance. If you sit too much and don’t move enough, your metabolism slows down and you risk to gain weight and get problems with spine and posture. People who don’t underestimate the importance of regular exercises seem to be not only more successful in their work lives, but also get more joy from it. It can be linked to that fact that during exercises our body releases endorphins which are responsible for our state of happiness and relieve stress.
Also, regular exercises have positive influence on brain performance. According to Harvard Medical School, the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.
Moreover, it’s not necessary to sweat in the gym for hours. Even exercising for 15-20 minutes a day can yield a positive result. What’s more, the muscle mass you gain during workouts will not allow you to gain weight with ease, since muscles can burn calories even when you are in the state of rest. To get the most out of your workouts, it is better to combine aerobic exercises with strength training. Cardio training helps to burn fats faster and improves functions of cardiovascular system, thanks to increased level of oxygen in blood during workouts, whereas strength training keeps your muscles toned and helps to increase their weight.
Learn how to handle fear and negative emotions
Nothing causes so much stress and holds us back as fear does. Fear of uncertainty, fear of what others may think, fear of change – it’s like a poison of slow action that causes inaction and makes us feel completely lost. Most people will agree that fear doesn’t allow them to live their life to the full and fulfill their full potential. Fear can tremendously affect our productivity in terms of procrastination. By hiding in the “cubicles of our comfort zones”, we exacerbate situation and feel even more stressed. So, the only way to deal with fear is by facing it. But how?
First and foremost, you have to realize that fear is just an emotion or some “mental block” – it’s your reaction to different stimuli. But it doesn’t mean that the actual stimuli can do some harm. Fear is simply your response. To understand why you react to such stimuli in a certain way, you have to analyze the exact stimulus and why it presents potential threat. Ask yourself these questions: Is it the fear of unknown? Is it the fear of change? Is it the lack of confidence in my own abilities? Answering these questions will reveal a better picture of the main causes of your fear. Once you identified the cause, you have to figure out action steps that will help you to handle fear.
The most effective way to deal with fear is by doing things you are afraid of. For instance, if you are afraid of public speaking, try to leverage every possible opportunity to speak in front of people. Start with a small group of people and gradually enlarge your circles. The more often you expose yourself to such opportunities, the faster you’ll get rid of fear of public speaking.
If you are afraid of trying new things or not so sure whether you’ll be able to perform certain task, just agree to do it and try to figure out ways in the process. Very often many solutions aren’t not yet obvious to us, but if we are focused on finding those solutions and have faith in the process, we will come up with ways to solve the problem and accomplish required tasks. This quote from Thomas Edison - “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10 000 ways that won’t work” – might inspire you to keep trying even if your first attempts to make things work failed. Remember, there is no such thing as overnight success, and for most “overnight successes” out there it took years of hard work and persistence to get to the top.
One of the guaranteed ways to fill your life with positive emotions and eliminate fear is by expressing gratitude. Instead of complaining about new task, try to look at it from other perspective – you got another opportunity to learn something new and grow. The same holds true for the things that surround us – we have to learn to enjoy those little things too. Try to practice gratitude on a daily basis and you’ll enrich your life with positivity and joy.
Multitasking is a question for numerous debates. But, personally I work much better when I focus on one task at a time. When you constantly shift your focus from one thing to another, you actually do yourself disservice. Not only will it take you more time to perform your work, but also you’ll feel more overloaded. It’s much better to do one task at a time, and if you have to accomplish a complex task, it makes sense to split it into small chunks and take short breaks.
Choose your environment wisely
Your environment can be either a “productivity booster” or a “productivity eater”. The right environment refers not only to the physical location and conditions of work, but also people you surround yourself with. The old adage says, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.” When you are surrounded with people who bring out the best in you, teach you something and challenge you to become better, you increase your chances of success and work more productively, because you are inspired by the good example.
Develop a growth mindset
Growth mindset will allow you to embrace challenges with enthusiasm and consider them as new opportunities for growth. People with growth mindset aspire to achieve more and challenge status quo. They express “can-do” attitude and believe that they can develop their abilities. Such way of thinking pushes them to focus on looking for possible solutions, rather than spending time on whining about problems and “bad luck”.
Take at least one day off
No matter how busy you are, make it your habit to take at least one day off and dedicate it to rest, activities you love or close people. It will help your brain and body to recharge, get fresh emotions and even improve your relationship with people that matter to you. Taking a day off will make you feel stronger and empowered, which will result in better performance throughout the week time.
by Natalie Myhalnytska
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