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4 Scientifically Proven Ways To Boost Your Brain Productivity

4 Scientifically Proven Ways To Boost Your Brain Productivity

The complex machine that resides inside us, the human brain, is responsible for everything in our lives. Our actions and reactions are largely triggered by this super computer in our heads.

In recent times, this super computer along with the body in which it is housed, has, for most people, become overworked and fatigued. Culturally we have also latched on to the word productivity.

This is a word that conjures up visions of getting more things done in less time and doing it efficiently. There are numerous tips and hacks to help us be more productive as well. But how can this productivity be sustained? Getting motivated once in a while and getting a task done is not enough. We want to sustain productivity for long amounts of time.

In order to achieve our desired productivity levels, let us understand how our brain works and how we can subsequently create long, sustained periods of productivity in our lives.

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Activate the Neocortex:

Our brain is comprised of three interrelated brains:
1. The Reptilian brain is the oldest brain in terms of evolution.

It is that part of the brain that produces an instinctive, non-thinking reaction. It is the part of the brain that makes a deer look up at the slightest of sounds. It is our natural survival instinct.
2. The Limbic brain is responsible for our emotions and motivations.

As a part of the limbic system called the amygdala, this brain also plays a part in determining what events get stored in our memory.
3. The Neo-cortex is also called the ‘New Brain’.

It is responsible for higher level functions such as sensory perception, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and creative thinking.

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Any threat or fear in our lives invokes our primitive brain structures.This causes us to resort to the flight, fight or freeze response. When our brain operates primarily from the limbic and the reptilian side, we inhibit our reasoning and creative thinking abilities.
For example, when people at work feel threatened– either from the fear of losing their job, losing the promotion, not being recognized, or any other fear, the stress hormone cortisol is released. When people operate with inhibited neocortex functions, they are not able to think and produce creatively and in an innovative manner.
Simon Sinek makes an excellent point in his presentation on work induced stress. Simon illustrates the effect of stress on our work abilities. He goes on to tell us how to combat this by serving others. The best thing that leaders can do is to make others feel safe, thereby increasing their neocortex activity; this, in turn, leads to more productivity.

Ultradian Rhythms of Productivity:

Scientists believe that alternating work cycles with short breaks leads to a productivity boost. This was discovered by psychophysiologist Peretz Lavie. Mirroring our work cycles with the body’s natural ultradian rhythms of 90 minutes work followed by 20 mins of rest leads to enhanced energy levels. These 90 minute cycles are very similar to our 90 minute sleep cycles; thereby leading to sustained levels of productivity without fatiguing our brains.

4-5 of these cycles a day is ideal. Our bodies’ natural cycles are good indicators for when to take such breaks, as an alternative to setting timers. Psychologist Anders Ericcson, in a noted study of high-performing violinists, found that the top performers practiced every morning for 3 cycles of 90 minutes each followed by a break.

Neuroplasticity:

Neuroplasticity is is the ability of the brain to rewire or change itself at any age. For a long time, it was believed that the neural networks in our brain are fixed after a certain age and no rewiring was possible. That is no longer true!

So how can we take advantage of neuroplasticity?

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Simply, by exercising our brain and exercising our body.

Exercise creates new synaptical connections. Exercising the mind can be done in numerous ways – learning new things, trying new experiences, even simple things like taking a new route to work, trying a different cuisine or a different food item, or reading different books; these are all simple ways to enhance the rewiring process. This process leads to increased productivity. As managers and leaders, we can urge our peers and subordinates to eat healthy, exercise regularly, take on innovative assignments or new projects to take advantage of the power of neuroplasticity.

Being in the Zone:

Have you ever been ‘in the zone‘?

The zone is where time seems to stand still, or you have no recollection of the passage of time, and the things and the people around you seem to melt away as you are so immersed in an activity. This state is also referred to as flow. The flow experience is when we are engaged in a task to the point that we are immune to our surroundings. Wikipedia defines it as:

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“The mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. It is a state of supreme creativity.”

When people work in a state of flow, they are naturally productive. As managers, we must identify people’s interests, strengths and talents and marry these to their work assignments. People will find themselves more frequently in the flow state and thus be naturally productive!

Featured photo credit: Victor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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