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5 Best Productivity Hacks Successful People Use

5 Best Productivity Hacks Successful People Use

We are living in the greatest time period ever in history. There is almost nothing in this world that is not available to us, if we are willing to put in the hours to research and learn. That’s all that’s between us and what we want in life.

In the same token, because of all the technology in this modern age, we are also face to face, daily, with more distractions than our ancestors ever had.

Try these five productivity hacks to leverage technology to the fullest, so we can optimize our life and reach maximum effectiveness

1. Setting Times to Check Your Email

This one is going to be huge for many people. Remember that experiment where Pavlov would ring the bell, and the dog would salivate? What do you do the second your email goes off? Yeah, the vast majority of people, if we’re honest, grab our phones the second our email goes off to check what it is and who it’s from.

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We have been conditioned just as the dogs were in Pavlov’s experiment. Listen, email is great, it allows us to connect and converse with people in a convenient way, on our terms, no matter where we are in the world.

Think about how many times this steals your focus throughout the day and how it scatters your attention. The Solution? Set times to check your email and stick to them. For people that can pull it off, just checking your email once in the day, maybe after your work, would be the ultimate goal. For others that cannot do this at first (or at all), shoot for checking it only twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Try this for a week. You will feel the difference.

2. Social Media

How much time do you spend on social media every day? Be honest.

Social media is another technological advancement that is absolutely fantastic for so many reasons. You can do things like connecting with family and friends out of town, share life experiences as they happen, communicate with friends you’ve been out of touch with and more.

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My question to you though is how many of your productive hours is it stealing from you every day? Time is the one thing in this life that we can never get back. If you were to look back on your life 30-40 years from now, do you think you’d say “Man, I wish I spent more time on Facebook.” No, I didn’t think so.

Set aside 30-45 minutes at night to go through your favorite social media accounts and do what you’d like, but I challenge you to stop the mindless scrolling during the day just because you’re bored. We all do it.

Every once in awhile I like to get into this mode of taking a break from ALL social media platforms. It’s amazing how clear I feel during these “breaks.”

3. The Pomodoro Technique

This is a simple, yet extremely powerful technique of breaking your work down into short intervals of 25 minutes and setting a timer. Then, when your 25 minute Pomodoro is done, you take a 5-minute break. Many people (myself included), find that when they are working off of a timer, it increases your output and productivity because you are trying to “beat the clock.”

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I was skeptical when I first came across this, but it works very well. There are many free Pomodoro timers that you can access online as well as apps on your smartphone. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

4. Your “One Thing.”

This is a popular new trend that was spiked by Gary Keller in his book “The One Thing”. This book stresses that although there any many tasks that each one of us is responsible for during the day, there is ultimately one thing that is the most important. Keller encourages readers that by focusing on their “one thing” and giving that all of their attention until it’s done, their productivity will soar.

This is another simple concept that is easy to discard how powerful it is until you try it.

Before going to sleep at night, plan out your day tomorrow like your normally would except identify clearly your one thing. What is the one thing that you can do or work on that would bring you the most results and bring you closer to where you want to be?

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5. Meditation or Quiet Time

Because of all the stresses of the modern world, we tend to neglect ourselves and our own physical and mental well-being. When our ancestors were growing up, they didn’t have phones ringing, email alerts going off, Facebook messages, Twitter alerts, Snapchats or any of the other distractions that we have today. As much as we all love our phones and social accounts, we must give ourselves a break as well.

Take at least 5-10 minutes out of your day, every day, to meditate or have a little quiet time and allow your mind some time to relax and shut off. Take this time and spend it in the way that best aligns with you.

There are some great apps that can help with meditation such as Headspace or calm.com. You can even use these for guided meditations. Maybe you prefer to sit outside quietly with a cup of coffee in silence or go for a walk in nature? It doesn’t matter which you choose. The important thing is that you take the time to “re-charge.” You will be at least twice as productive because of it.

Featured photo credit: static1.squarespace.com via static1.squarespace.com

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

How Do We Remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

7 Natural Memory Boosters

So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

1. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

2. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

3. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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