Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Some days we feel on top of the world checking off everything on our to-do lists and other days we feel stuck moving from one task to the next. I know we are not alone in experiencing these ebbs and flows of productivity. In this blog, we will walk through science-backed data on how you can hack your brain into being productive even on those days you’re not feeling motivated.
1. Optimize The 90-Minute “ Sprint”.
In a study conducted by Tony Kleitman for Harvard University, he describes that our brain operates at a high function for only about 90 minutes at a time. After the 90 minutes, our brains start to use stress hormones for energy. As a result, our prefrontal cortex begins to shut down and we begin to lose the ability to focus and think strategically. To combat this brain burn out, schedule your time around big projects to be about 90 minutes and then take a break to rest to refuel your mind. Pick back up your project or move on to your next task for your next 90-minute sprint and be very strategic about taking breaks during your day so you can optimize your productivity.
2. Create Productivity Habits.
Making decisions takes energy, it is proven when we have too many decisions to make we are less likely to make one. This is why it is important to develop daily habits around productivity so you expend as little energy as possible thinking about doing them, instead, you automatically wire yourself to do it at a certain time every day. This structure will give you a great foundation during your day and will guarantee things get done. For example making a habit such as starting every day answering all your emails first thing when you log on. It’s easy to see that one email you want to avoid and save for later, this kills your productivity because you cant check off your list that you are done all emails. Create the habits and stick to them. Create certain time goals for each category during your day and do not move on until your category is completed.
3. Don’t Avoid:
Tackle your hardest or least like things first. Sometimes our biggest obstacle is just getting started. There is always that one task that seems like the longest and most daunting so we are saving it for last. Switch this mentality, when you have something weighing you down it takes the concentration and focus off of everything else you are doing in your day because you know you still have to get to that item at some point. Make it a point to start with your least liked or hardest task first ( if it works with your natural energy circadian rhythm). This will allow you to 1. Already feel accomplished and productive because you finished it and 2. You are more likely to actually get more accomplished because everything after are things you don’t mind doing.
4. Identify Your Body’s Natural Productivity Rhythm.
For the most part we all identify as a morning or night person. Some of us feel energized and alert first thing in the morning while others feel dazed and sleepy. Figure out what is your natural energy circadian rhythm and lean into that. If you feel most energized in the mornings, save your emails for later and start with writing your hardest paper. Vice versa maybe you feel slower in the mornings so start with something easier and then once you get into your peak energy hours begin your bigger projects. Once we take time to figure out how we work best this makes setting up our days in a productive way much easier because we begin to work with ourselves instead of against ourselves.
5. Create A Productive Space.
Mess = Stress. When we feel we are in a stressed or chaotic space this bleeds into our work. If you are in a cluttered environment this creates excess stimuli for your brain to take in and takes your focus away from your work. In an article written by Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, she explains that our minds will subconsciously begin to create a to-do list, making mental notes of everything around us, this signals to our brain that our work is never done and begins to create stress in our bodies. Making sure you are in a space that feels calm and organized will help you remain productive and focused on the tasks at hand.
What are your productivity hacks? Let us know in the comments below!
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