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7 Biohacks to Make You A Productivity Machine

7 Biohacks to Make You A Productivity Machine

Have you had a freshly brewed cup of coffee this morning? If yes, then you just hacked your biology to supercharge your performance. Coffee, i.e. caffeine, is by far the easiest biohack that most people have been doing for centuries. There’s many other easy biohacks not enough people do, which can massively increase your productivity levels, starting today!

These tweaks are small enough for you to implement right away. Anyone can do them and I split each biohack into a technique for beginners (the more hesitant biohackers) and the advanced (experienced biohackers).

If your lifestyle is too complex to give all of these a try, don’t worry. Even just one of the tweaks on its own can instantly increase your productivity and performance:

1. Upgrade Your Sleep

Getting enough sleep is by far the most important investment you can make. As action-taking high performers we tend to sleep less to create more time in our day, but of what quality? Accumulating sleep debt reduces our cognitive abilities, concentration and productivity.

Fortunately there are a couple of biohacks that can help you get those precious 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep night after night.

Beginners can do:
Take a magnesium supplement right before going to sleep. This essential mineral boosts recovery, helps relax the body and ensures you sleep like a baby.

The obvious: wear a sleeping mask and earbuds. In terms of evolution, our eyes and ears haven’t had enough time to adapt to the ever louder noise and light pollution we live with today. So a light and noise blocker is the easiest hack to avoid waking up frequently or waking up tired.

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Advanced:
Make your bedroom a no-screen zone. Screens from our devices emit blue artificial light which can disrupt melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep. Whilst your best bet is to stop using devices an hour or two before bed, you can also minimise the negative effects of blue light by wearing blue-light blocking glasses. Many established brands are now producing these, such as Swannies.

2. Start Your Morning On A Fresh Note

Now that we’ve upgraded your sleep, it’s time to build on that momentum by improving your morning routine too.

If this technique sounds crazy to you, consider that it is a natural way to keep the immune system in check, it helps regulate body temperature and blood glucose levels. Finally, it helps you truly wake up and get charged up for being productive.

The technique I’m talking about? It’s cold thermogenesis, by taking cold showers.

Beginners should start at:
Warm-to-cold showers. Alternating from very warm to very cold for the last few minutes of your shower.

Advanced:
Cold showers. Gradually reduce water temperature until it takes your breath away, then stay under it for a few minutes.

You can expect to feel your energy levels spike as you go on to have a productive day.

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3. Reimagine Your To-Do List

Know that feeling of overwhelm when you think of how many things you’ve got to do? This is when your productivity crashes, especially if you’re not prioritising your to-do’s. You should always be prioritising. Based on the Pareto efficiency, just 20% of the actions you take produce 80% of your results. So it’s important that you invest quality time into those 20% and allow to come up on your to do list organically.

You’ll need to be strict with yourself to really adopt this habit of focusing on fewer things to do. However, to your advantage, the brain is an ever changing canvas of processes. So don’t hesitate to start rewiring bad habits.

Beginners should start with:
Instead of the typical bullet point list, do a simple Pareto efficiency division every morning to outline what must be done vs what could be done. You should do this for at least 66 days in order to instil the habit, according to research from the UCL on habit formation.

Advanced:
Identify just ONE thing you need to do today that will get you closer to realising your goals. Not only will being so super-focussed make you more efficient, but you’ll also build up momentum by completing an important task every day, thus actually reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself. As with the beginners above, practice focussing on one thing first for at least 66 days to instil the habit.

4. Boost Your Focus with Nootropics

Nootropics, also better known as ‘smart drugs’, are supplements that enhance neurotransmitter processes in the brain. In essence they can boost your ability to focus which also impacts productivity.

Sounds risky? It needn’t be. You see, even your usual cup of coffee can be considered a nootropic.

Recommended for beginners:
Coffee. If you want an extra boost to your mental performance, add a teaspoon of coconut oil, MCT oil, or grass fed butter to your cup of coffee. These fats are broken down by your liver into ketones, the particles your brain loves, giving you an extra boost of energy.

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Advanced:
Many brands offer pill-based nootropic supplements. Some of the better known are: Alpha Brain, Ciltep, Aniracetam, Piracetam etc. All of these should be taken cautiously according to the instructions on the back of the bottle.

5. Upgrade Your Body Mechanics

We feel tired if we’re slumped in our office chair all day. Not only does bad posture cause us pain but it also makes us unable to breathe deep and thus supply the brain with enough oxygen to be productive. The key to overcoming bad posture is to hack the big chunk of your day that you spend sitting in the office – your office hours. We need to eliminate the constant sitting and move more.

Beginners should:
Set an alarm or reminder every 45 minutes to stand up and walk or stretch for 5-10 minutes.

Advanced:
Invest in a standing desk. Note that standing all day isn’t beneficial either. The key to better mobility and performance is to switch positions regularly: from standing to sitting, to walking and so forth.

6. Use Technology to Help Productivity

As noted before your mind is built on dynamic processes and your cells are refurbishing even while you sleep. You virtually wake up a new person every morning. This means you have all the power in the world to make yourself more productive. To harness that power, you need to constantly condition yourself in a variety of ways which will help you to maintain your ability to focus, achieve more and produce better results.

Fortunately technology can come in handy when you need some help with that conditioning. The following tech-biohacks are famous among productivity thought leaders.

Beginners should start with:
Use the Pomodoro timer technique to condition your mind into a routine of focussed work followed by a short rest. It doesn’t take many of Pomodoro sessions to find yourself delivering outstanding results in the same amount of time you had before but which you couldn’t use as efficiently.

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Advanced:
Listen to binaural beats. Via two different pure-tone sine waves, these beats are designed to trigger certain responses in your brain: from relaxing to working.

7. Unlock the Flow

Once you have all those biohacks listed above ready, you will experience an advanced state of focus and productivity. The last missing piece of the puzzle is achieving flow – the state where you lose a sense of time and experience pure joy in doing what you do best.

To access flow, you will need to condition your mind using similar approaches as above: you’ll need to set the right environment and avoid interruptions.

Beginners should start on:
Setting up your environment to work: no visual distractions in your sight and no phones that will buzz when you need to finish something important. Most importantly, you should concentrate on one task at a time.

Advanced:
The more time you spend in the state of flow the better able you will be to come back into that state whenever you’re working. To allow for an easy transition from distracted to super-focussed, you need to clear your mind. This is where meditation can help, independent or guided through apps such as Calm and Headspace.

Which of these are you implementing today?

Featured photo credit: Bethany Legg via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

Reference

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