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10 Unexpected Things You Should Do to Become Super Productive

10 Unexpected Things You Should Do to Become Super Productive

There are many things you can do throughout your day that are directly beneficial toward your productivity and workflow. Some of these things might not stand out or may seem like a waste of time, but you need to refresh yourself in order to improve your workflow. I love finding little hacks that allow you to grow your productivity by avoiding work. It’s not procrastination—it is growth. Let’s get super productive!

Take Breaks from Work

A study from the University of Illinois has shown that taking brief mental breaks from work or a task that demands attention can improve your focus in the short term as well as long term. Within the study, Professor Alejandro Lleras quoted, “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness.” These brief mental breaks will help strengthen the brain’s awareness.

What you should do:

1. Go for a 30 minute walk every day.

Take a walk around the block at your workplace. Get some fresh air and enjoy the weather and scenery around you (even if it is all buildings).

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2. Go on a run for over 20 minutes.

Sweat out some of the stressful day, come back re-charged, and work like you’ve never worked before thanks to a boost of focus and adrenaline.

3. Daydream for 10 minutes.

Try looking out the window or sitting on a bench, thinking about life, or even pop in some music and stare at the ceiling—be aimless!

Music, Audio-Reading, and Fresh Air

Fresh air and audio is all you need! “In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma,” says Dr Amit Sood at the Mayo Clinic. Gardening and getting out in the fresh air has proven to improve your mental capacity and complexity. Listening to audiobooks has also shown more effective in creating interactions with a reader than physical reading itself; it works in a similar way to how YouTube videos engage with viewers.

What you should do:

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4. Work in the garden for 20 minutes every week.

No virtual gardening! Even if you don’t have a garden, you should at least go outside and get some fresh air.

5. Listen to Audiobooks.

This will help retain info and let you relax while still reading.

6. Listen to music for 2 hours a day.

Show this article to your boss and make an arrangement for this to happen.

Your Clutter and Smartphones

Researchers at Yale identified that the two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feeling a connection toward them. This might sound weird, but it basically means you have a strong emotional connection with the items around you. This is the same reason that people have a stronger attachment to Apple products in Apple stores. Studies by Author Carmine Gallo show this connection.

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What you should do:

7. De-clutter your workspace.

Make it as minimalist as possible and keep it clean—in the same way the Apple Store is so attractive, make your workspace clean and clutter-free.

8. Leave your smartphone at the office.

And go on that walk; this is another great tip for a work-life detox and will improve your mental strength.

9. Separate from social media.

Check your social media accounts every 2–3 hours instead of every five minutes.

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10. Remove your shoes in the office

This will help you relax while at the office, and you will feel stronger and more comfortable with your surroundings.

Featured photo credit: Aleksi Tappura via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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