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Why Resting Your Brain is the Best Way to Boost Your Productivity

Why Resting Your Brain is the Best Way to Boost Your Productivity

No matter what method you try, or what advice you take, if your brain is worn out, you’re going to struggle with productivity.

Many believe that stress is good – you have to get that adrenaline flowing to get anything done. But stress keeps your brain on red alert, firing neurons like pistons on the Space Shuttle and releasing all kinds of stress-related hormones and making you a really tired person. When your mind is tired, you’re not functioning at full capacity, and you’re sure to get behind. It’s ironic really, the harder you try to be productive when your brain’s worn out, the worse it gets.

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Why Stress Management Doesn’t Work

Let’s be honest – stress is fear. If you reflect upon the things you’re stressing about, you’ll quickly understand that there are all kinds of things flying around that are scaring you. “What if so-and-so outperforms me?” “What if I don’t meet my deadline?” “Who am I if I can’t rise above my peers?”  We like to call this “stress” because it feels bad to admit that we’re scared – really scared.  Telling our friends “I’m so scared of failing” will get some awkward responses in our culture, so we say “oh, I’m so stressed out about ____.  Pass me that martini.”  And we all chuckle and talk about something else. Fear is weakness, so we call it stress.

Then we try to “manage” our stress, which is impossible – fear cannot be managed, it has to be dealt with directly.  If you have fears about where your career is headed, you have to deal directly with those fears. If you have to be “the best” to feel good about yourself, you have some fear about other people’s opinions about you – you’ve got to deal with that one too.  Stress management deals with symptoms, not the real problem.

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The opposite of stress/fear is peace. If you want to be productive, you’ll have to learn to manage your peace, not your stress.

5 Fundamentals of Peace Management

1. Get some sleep.  Cut down on the coffee, take a break from booze, turn the TV off, and crash. You’ll quickly find out that if you live with a lot of “stress,” sleeping won’t be easy – our fears love to crawl into bed with us.

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2. Get organized.  One of the things we stress about most is taking care of what my old boss used to refer to as “Your Rats,” those little things that gnaw on you, that can chew your leg off if you don’t deal with them. The best curriculum for this is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”  I tried this and it saved a lot of peace.  He’s got books, seminars, free advice, and it’s all very simple.

3.  Learn to let go.  There are things you can control, and things you can’t. Get a piece of paper and make two columns.  Title the first column “Things I’m worried about that I can control,” and the second, “Things I’m worried about that I can’t control.”  Use the system in Step 2 to take care of the things you can control.  With column 2, you have to realize that worrying about things you can’t control doesn’t change anything, it only steals your peace, puts your brain on red alert, and makes you more inept at taking care of the things you can control.

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4.  Let people off the hook.  When someone makes us angry, we tend to wander around like a zombie thinking of ways we can win an argument, or get even.  Nothing will eat your brain’s reserves faster.  To keep anger from sapping your productivity, you’ll have to get good at confronting, and when confronting’s not an option, try forgiveness. With regards to confrontation, check out the book “Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior,” and do everything they tell you.  You’ll be surprised at how well it works, and how good your brain will feel when you learn to speak up in a way that’s honest and peaceful.

Courage Required

Not many people live like this. Facing our fears and organizing our lives in a way that’s best for our brains is no small undertaking.  But it’s not nearly as hard as walking around day after day with a thousand monkeys on your back while trying to think creatively, boost your business, make money, and have fun.

But anyone can succeed at peace management.  As long as you’re willing to read, talk to people who are good at it, and be persistent, you can step into a life that’s more peaceful, and infinitely more productive.

Featured photo credit: Matthew Kane via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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