3 Scientifically Proven Methods for Increased Productivity
Generally speaking, most self-improvement and productivity blogs are filled with the same redundant, generic advice that you could have figured out on your own. We’re all adults here, I don’t need to lecture you on the importance of time management. I don’t have to tell you that social media is a productivity killer, or that waking up early offers a person the opportunity to accomplish more in a day.
What I can tell you is that your current routine is likely having a negative impact on both your productivity, and your brain.
Whether you’re trying to run a business, make more time for your family, or both, these actionable steps will help protect your time, increase productivity, and create positive momentum going forward.
Contrary to popular belief, cramming as much activity as you can into one day is far from beneficial. Bouncing from task to task not only slows you down, it also reinforces negative behavioral patterns.
- Fueling Instant Gratification: While you’re multitasking, the brain is secretly rewarding you with dopamine. Checking a box off the list gives us a quick sense of accomplishment, even if it doesn’t actually pertain to the real work that needs to be done. Soon enough, you find yourself doing a whole lot of nothing throughout the day.
- Multitasking demolishes your IQ: In addition to shortening your attention span and your memory, overworking your brain can actually lower your IQ by more than half. Not to mention, everytime you stop one task and switch to another, it takes a few minutes for the mind to get back on track. Instead of saving time, multitasking slows you down.
Those who find themselves rapidly changing focus from computer, to phone, to iPad, to television have exhibited less brain density in the areas that give us the ability to empathize and control our emotions.
Freedom of Choice…or Choice Prison?
Although we tend to develop a liking for specific things in our lives (music, food, etc.), we just can’t seem to live without our options. You probably eat the same for breakfast most days, but you still find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator mulling over what you’re in the mood for.
Decision Fatigue is a real thing, and having too many options can destroy a person’s ability to focus on work. The earliest part of the day is when we have the most energy, so it only makes sense that we’d want to knock out the most difficult activities on our to-do list. The problem is that it doesn’t usually play out that way.
Instead, we’re thinking about other things.
Should I eat this or that?
Should I focus on this project first, or that one?
Should I do my laundry tonight? Maybe I’ll do it now.
What time should I go to the gym?
Reduce Decision Fatigue by taking a Feng-Shui approach to life. Are you really going to die if you don’t have 800 different outfits all in different colors and styles? Or can you survive with 5 outfits that are all the same?
Do you really need to use 8 different apps to get work done, or can you compile it all into 2? Do you really need to go to the gym, or would it be easier and cheaper to buy some equipment and run outdoors?
The goal is simply to preserve your energy for the most crucial goals of the day instead of wasting it on choices that aren’t long-term beneficial.
This article has some great tips on minimizing your choices throughout the day if you’re not sure where to start!
Take a Break, Man
So many of us, especially the younger generations, have grown up in a world where constant productivity is considered a good thing. We assume that if we’re not moving forward, we must be standing still. Hammering away at a task for hours on end means you’re more likely to become distracted and confused. Essentially the exact opposite of the productive outcome you’re looking for.
Personally, I don’t know how Elon Musk does it.
It’s okay to step away from work for a little bit.
In a study conducted by Professor Alejandro Lleras at University of Illinois, evidence revealed that when we’re exposed to a certain type of stimulus for a long enough period of time, the brain begins to treat it like background noise. In response, your mind wanders off to something more interesting.
While it really depends on the individual, most of us are able to focus on a task for an average of 50 to 90 minutes. So, set a timer and get to work; how long can you go before you notice you’re distracted again? Once you figure that out, you can create a better behavioral pattern.
Work for 60 minutes, break for 15. Increase the work time incrementally, and the breaks when needed. And keep in mind…this is a resting period, not an opportunity to start multi-tasking.
You’ve earned this little bit of free time, so enjoy it! Don’t spend your 15, 20, or 25 minute break stressing about a problem you haven’t solved for the day or trying to complete another task on the sly.
Take a short walk, stretch. Play catch with your dog. Do the opposite of focus. If your job entails being on your feet for several hours, you’re obviously going to want to sit or lie down for a bit.
Think of it this way; after running on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes, you’re pretty tired, no? Well, your brain gets tired too, Champ.
Even legends need rest.