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3 Steps to Fuel Your Creativity and Purpose with Exercise

3 Steps to Fuel Your Creativity and Purpose with Exercise

Image: Brave the run

    Those who know me well know that I have a serious, worrisome, highly problematic addiction. I’m 100% addicted to exercise.

    Seriously, it’s a problem.

    You’re probably asking yourself why that could ever be a problem. Most people try hard to create an exercise habit, and here I am complaining about my compulsion to hit the gym?

    It’s not just my body that is hooked on the endorphins and treadmill-running. I think I could deal with that, if that were the case. But, here’s the kicker — my brain is completely addicted. 

    How could the mind be addicted

    to exercise?

    In my experience, there is no better place to come up with ideas than on the treadmill. I’ll usually be mid-run when an idea pops into my head, and I’ll reach for my phone to jot it down. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a full-fledged project and other times only a string of words. Either way, it’s amazing how running and working out helps me come up with amazing new stuff.

    More than half of the blog posts I write originate on the treadmill or some kind of exercise machine. I may only jot down three or four words while I’m working out, but I later turn them into full-fledged posts when I’m sitting at my laptop.

    This is your brain on exercise.

    What happens to the brain when you exercise? Here are a few facts from Greatist.com:

    • Mind wandering allows the brain to focus its attention on more distant tasks and issues in a unique, way allowing you to fuel your creativity.
    • Exercise can reduce stress, because galanin (a chemical found in the brain during exercise) seems to diminish certain stress-related cravings.
    • A midday workout can help productivity skyrocket (and even boost job satisfaction), so we can quickly gain back those hours lost in gym-land.
    • Besides increasing levels of feel-good endorphins, physical activity may work like antidepressant drugs to alter brain chemistry.
    • Staying in shape can also help us gain confidence and distract us from worries.

    Mind wandering, releasing stress, feeling badass? Check, check, and check.

    Eureka! So, research shows that there is a link between exercise and greater brain activity. Nolan Bushnell explains it like this:

    Get your heart rate to 80% of your ability, and then for the next three hours, just learn something. It turns out that when you are exercising aggressively, your brain is creating BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), ‘Miracle-Gro for your brain. You’re putting in hardware for the software.

    So, it’s definitely not a coincidence. When I’m running or exercising, my brain is developing that BDNF thing, and the ideas start flowing more freely than ever.

    Let’s get you on that Brain Miracle-Gro.

    Image: Brain on exercise
      Now that we’ve established just how beneficial exercise can be to your own creative spice, how can we get you to start benefiting from it?

      Also known as, how can we make sure you start exercising ASAP and start churning out  awesome ideas as a result?

      It’s hard to get into the exercise groove. Everyone wants a hot body and a healthy heart, but actually doing the work is another story, right?

      I’m looking at you, unused gym memberships.

      But what if the result you’re looking for at the gym has changed? Now it’s not just six pack abs and killer endurance. Now you’re looking for the ideas that will launch your life and your career further than you could ever imagine. Now you’re looking to grow your entire life.

      Now — at the gym — you’re looking to find the life you always dreamed of.

      Here’s how:

      1. Aim so low you can’t fail.

      Honestly, could you work out if I told you it would take you only five minutes? Could you say no to five minutes? Because that’s all I’d ask you for the entire first week you start exercising. Five minutes — you can do this.

      I can’t tap into my idea well if I don’t just start running, so I make it sure there’s no pressure involved.

      I find that part of the reason most people fail at attacking the monster that is Getting In Shape is that there is so much fear of failure. So, instead of trying to beat that monster outright, how about we hack the system and make it so there is absolutely no way you can fail? Five minutes a day is doable, and you know this!

      2. Let your mind wander.

      It’s time to disconnect and let your mind go free. This is not the kind of exercise where you are pushing so hard that you can’t focus on anything other than trying to catch your breath. If you are exercising that hard, stop and take a breather. What we’re aiming for is the kind of exercise that would work for meditation or makes you feel like swaying to some relaxing music.

      Stop scaring the ideas away by trying to outperform yourself.

      The ideas definitely don’t flow as well when I’m trying to beat my best mile time. The ideas flow when I’m being generous with myself, and allowing myself to relax into the workout. Sometimes that means I put on slower music, and other times that means I daydream. In very few cases will I put my creative hat on and try attacking specific problems while I’m running. Being out of touch and in tune with the music somehow activates areas of the brain that were dormant just a few hours before.

      Before I know it — bam! — there’s my solution.

      3. Keep a “capture device” handy.

      Whether you use Evernote like me or you prefer a traditional notebook, the magic is in capturing every single idea that pops into your head. It may make immediate sense or it may sound like mumbo jumbo — but that’s okay.

      Some mumbo jumbo idea is better than no idea!

      Ideas lead to other ideas, so the trick is in not judging ideas for not being good enough. For example, a lot of my treadmill time is spent daydreaming about playing the drums onstage with my favorite bands. Who cares? The ideas still flow while I’m daydreaming, so why judge the daydream itself?

      As long as my Evernote is ready to capture that innovative idea whenever it decides to show itself, I’m golden. As soon as I identify some semblance of a blog post or a new project, I write it down. As soon as I feel an important line or new concept coming on, I type it in.

      If nothing gets passed up, nothing gets wasted.

      Guess where I came up with the idea for this post?

      I’ll have you know that the gym is probably my favorite place to be. My poor phone needs a good cleaning, and my husband has resigned to my addiction and decided to work out with me.

      If you exercise, do you feel your ideas soar, too? If you don’t, could it be that you aren’t letting your mind wander far enough away from the exercise itself? If you don’t exercise, do you want in on the idea-grab?

      Forget looking good for the summer. Ideas are so much cooler than that.

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      Last Updated on September 30, 2020

      Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

      Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

      When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

      Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

      Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

      Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

      Effective vs Efficient

      Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

      A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

      Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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      The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

      Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

      When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

      Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

      Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

      The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

      If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

      When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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      • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
      • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
      • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

      Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

      Efficiency in Success and Productivity

      Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

      When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

      Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

      The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

      If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

      Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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      The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

      Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

      Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

      If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

      It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

      Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

      Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

      Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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      By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

      It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

      Bottom Line

      Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

      • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
      • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
      • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

      And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

      More on How to Improve Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
      [2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
      [3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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