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5 Science-Backed Ways To Effectively Boost Your Productivity

5 Science-Backed Ways To Effectively Boost Your Productivity

You consider yourself to be a relatively busy person. You have a lot to get done in a short amount of time, leaving little room for distractions or breaks. Lately, though, you’ve noticed a sharp decline in the amount of tasks you’ve been able to get done on a daily basis. Your workload hasn’t increased. You’re not taking that many breaks. So what’s the problem?

Learning the science behind productivity, and what you can do to increase the amount of tasks you can complete every day, is your key to success. Here are five ways science says you can boost your productivity, starting today.

1. Make a list of mindless activities

Have you ever been in the middle of something and distracted yourself by thinking about another thing you need to do when you get home? Not only is that distracting, it can also be stressful. When that happens, make a list of all the mindless chores you need to get done later, but plan other activities along with them, like listening to an audio book or watching a TV show.

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In the right context, according to science, multitasking works. Mindless activities like laundry, washing dishes, and cleaning take time. If you pair them with listening to recorded lectures or podcasts or watching the news though, you can get your chores done and learn something new at the same time.

2. Complete a string of smaller tasks first thing in the morning

Distractions do a really good job of stopping our productivity train in its tracks, and one way to eliminate this hindrance from the equation is to push yourself into a flow state, which happens when we immerse ourselves so deeply into a set of tasks that everything else around us almost ceases to exist.

To launch yourself into a flow state, list out a few smaller things you want to get done and get going right away. Not only will you feel more productive while successfully completing multiple tasks in one sitting, but you’ll also free up more time later in the day for larger projects and breaks, too.

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3. Write down daily S.M.AR.T. goals

Yesterday you planned on clearing all the emails in your inbox. Not too difficult of a task, right? What you didn’t take into account before you started, though, was how many emails you had waiting or how long it would take. There were just too many, and instead of breaking it up, you just never got started.

Setting goals for yourself on a daily basis will help you fight through distractions and roadblocks to productivity. Making them specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-based will help you define exactly what you need to do and what you can expect to have achieved once you’ve done it.

4. Sit down and just start

One of the biggest roadblocks to productivity is procrastination, and procrastination often happens unintentionally. We’ll start reading that article in five minutes, and five minutes quickly turns into ten. We’ll answer that email after lunch, but after lunch, something else always gets in the way.

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To beat this productivity blocker, just start. Don’t even give yourself enough time to change your mind. Click over to that tab and start reading. Hit the reply button and start typing. Once you begin, you might be surprised at how quickly and effectively you can complete that task, and you might even be more motivated to jump right into the next one.

5. Schedule out time to relax

Look at your schedule for the upcoming week. Have you blocked out any time to relax? While this might seem counterproductive, working relaxation into your schedule will, in the long run, leave you more room to get things done.

Trying to push through all your work at once will leave you feeling burned out and unmotivated, so break up your work load with 10 to 15-minute rest periods in-between. During those periods, complete a few of those mindless tasks we mentioned earlier. The key is to let your mind wander and recharge.

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By doing multiple things at once (within reason), settling yourself into the occasional flow state, setting goals and just getting to it—with the occasional break in-between—will boost your productivity and keep you on task even when you have to step back and let your brain breathe for a few minutes.

Featured photo credit: Hillary via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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