A look at some less conventional, evidence-based strategies that can help you get more done by enhancing your brain power.
You’ve probably read lots of ways to increase productivity through better time management, reduced distractions, and improved calendar management. The three strategies discussed here may be even more important for boosting your productivity!
GET MORE SLEEP
There is mounting evidence that sleep is incredibly important to our daily recovery. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans, on average, get 90-minutes less sleep than the recommended eight hours a night.
In a 2018 podcast, Dr. Matthew Walker provides some alarming facts.
- The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life.
- Lack of sleep is associated with: Alzheimer’s, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, and suicide.
- The impact on your mental acuity of getting four hours too little sleep is the same as drinking a six-pack of beer.
Think about it this way…
How would you feel if your heart surgeon was short on sleep?
Or the pilot of your airplane?
Employees suffering from sleep deprivation:
- take on less challenging assignments,
- are more likely to engage in unethical behavior like lying or cheating, and
- are less productive,
The good news? Here are a list of some of the benefits of getting enough sleep:
- Sleep reboots your entire body; including your brain.
- Sleep regulates appetite, weight, and food consumption.
- Sleep improves memory and enhances problem-solving.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of staying up late to get more work done. In reality, if you get the sleep you need, you may find that the work goes faster and is of better quality – you will be more productive when you are well-rested.
My post entitled, Mindfulness – The New “Gateway” Habit, discussed how meditation is a great tool for increasing awareness, attention, and focus.
In the fall of 2013, I read Kelly McGonigal’s, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, and it changed how I thought about meditation. The author’s description of meditation as a strategy for improving focus was compelling enough for me to start a daily meditation practice that I have stuck with ever since.
In our distracted, digital world, who wouldn’t benefit from improved focus?
In today’s world of constant distraction, greater focus translates to greater productivity.
John Ratey, MD and Richard Manning’s book, Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization, points out that our bodies were designed to be in motion. Back when we were primarily hunters and gatherers, humans maintained a level of fitness that enabled them to outrun dangers and threats in order to survive. Our DNA has not changed, but our activity level has. Today, we spend much of our day sitting.
Research indicates that even those who exercise regularly are at greater mortality risk if they are sedentary, especially sitting, for long periods of time. Exercise can improve overall brain health by stimulating plasticity (the ability for the brain to change) and enhancing cognitive function.
Exercising alone is not enough. It’s important to reduce the amount of time sitting – adding additional movement into your day will improve cognitive function, enabling you to be more productive.
Here are other ways to incorporate movement into your day:
- Use the Pomodoro Method (25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break) to increase awareness of time and build in regular movement breaks,
- Easy active breaks like walking around the block or up and down stairs, refilling your water glass, or stretching,
- Standing when possible and considering the purchase of a standing desk.
Resist the temptation to sit all day at your computer. It’s no surprise that an organization now exists to promote standing and that a search for “sitting is the new smoking” on Google results in 164 million hits.
Regular movement (in addition to exercise) is important for brain function and productivity.
There are many ways to boost productivity; the three topics discussed here are powerful and accessible to everyone. Give sleep, meditation, and more movement a try and see what it does for you!