5 Steps Towards Maximum Productivity, Across Your Life

We all know the things we’re supposed to do to be healthy, like exercise and eat well. Did you know doing them more can also help you do more, in work and life?
Activities that are physically and mentally healthy can directly correlate to a rise in productivity. There are 5 life hacks that you can do today to boost your productivity.

  1. Don’t Multitask, Do Multipurpose

Researchers have found that multitasking is impossible. Our brains can concentrate on just one thing at a time, and if we get distracted, it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus.

That doesn’t mean, though, that people can’t do two things at once. Productivity coach Nicole Bandes encourages what she calls “multipurposing” — accomplishing one focused task and one routine task at the same time.

For Example:

  • Listen to that skills-building podcast while you’re shopping for groceries.
  • Instead of eating lunch alone, grab a bite with a colleague and have a work meeting.
  • Schedule a conference call as you’re commuting (but not driving!) in the morning.

“It’s about getting multiple benefits out of one task,” she says. “You can complete two things if it doesn’t require having you to focus in two different directions.”

  1. Keep Moving

For years, Kaitlin Bitting aimed to schedule a workout into her day, but the Philadelphia public relations professional could never find the time. Finally, about a year ago, the natural night owl started setting her alarm for 6 a.m. to get to the gym first thing.

“I can sleep with the best of them,” she said. “But I needed to find uninterrupted time to exercise.”

While she started the workouts to improve her health, Bitting quickly noticed another payoff: She was far more productive at work.

Consider This:

  • Work out in the morning or at lunch, when you still have work left to do — it can help you do more during the day.
  • Get a standing desk. “Sitting is the new smoking,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of executive and international medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “So even getting a workstation where you can stand up can help.”
  • Take the stairs as much as you can, and get up and go for a walk during a work break.

Bitting became so productive, she found time to start moonlighting as a health and wellness coach.

“I feel best when I’m motivated and energized to do what I need to do during the day,” says Bitting. “It’s taken time, but I now know my body and how to increase my productivity.”

  1.  Go to Sleep

Working sleep-deprived can be akin to working drunk.

“People have failed sobriety tests when they don’t get enough sleep,” Faubion says. “Our brains don’t work well when we’re tired.”

Getting seven to eight hours is a must, she says. Easier said than done, right?

Consider This:

  • Go to bed and get up the same time every day. Studies have shown this reinforces your circadian rhythm and helps keep sleep quality consistent.
  • Get a real alarm clock, and leave the phone in the other room. “If you wake up in the middle of the night and start looking at email, you’ll train yourself to get up at night,” Faubion says. And don’t look at the phone at least an hour before it’s time to go to sleep. The light from your phone can delay your body’s release of melatonin, which helps invite your body to sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
  • Don’t drink anything two hours before bedtime so your body won’t want to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night — and keep you up afterward, Faubion says.
  • Try a sleep mask and a white noise machine to combat noise and light distractions.
  1. Treat Food as Fuel

Healthier eating habits can give us more energy during the day, which in turn, makes us more productive.

Consider This:

  • Rule Number 1: Don’t eat a heavy lunch. “A lot of people get into a big slump after lunch,” Faubion says. “Eat light.”
  • When it comes to snacks, stick to fruits and vegetables. Heavy-in-carb treats, like granola bars, will give you a quick boost of energy, but you’ll crash about 30 minutes later.
  • Keep your coffee intake in check. A cup in the morning and another in the afternoon is OK, Faubion says, but more than that may cause you to become jittery and unfocused.
  • Take some time on the weekend for some healthy snack and meal prep — putting carrots into snack bags or prepping weeknight meals, for example — to avoid succumbing to unhealthy eating during a busy week.

We each react to food in different ways, so be in tune with your body, says Faubion.

  1. Lean on Tools

Taking steps toward a more productive life can be daunting, Bandes says. Don’t rely on your mental energy for everything — tools can help.

There’s no shortage of tasking tools like Asana to help you track and checklist tasks for everything from a work project to your wedding. Consider non-email communications tools like Slack and the AI-assisted Boomerang for Gmail to help make work communications more efficient.

While some of these programs take time to learn and set up, they can ultimately help make your work more efficient and “free up time to do the things that help you meet your goals and move you in the direction you want to go,” Bandes says.

And for the moments when you feel like you’re running on empty, there are meditation apps like Headspace and Calm, that can help restore the mind and bring back focus.

Bryan Borzykowski writes about investing, personal finance, small business and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, CNNMoney and BBC Capital. Bryan is on Twitter: @bborzyko.

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