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How to Supercharge your Productivity the Richard Branson Way

How to Supercharge your Productivity the Richard Branson Way

    Tim Ferriss wrote in his book The Four Hour Body about an occasion where a group of people were assembled on Richard Branson’s private island to brainstorm growth options for Branson’s Virgin Unite project. Branson was posed with the question, “How do you become more productive?”

    Branson leaned back and thought for a second. Then he said, “Work out.”

    He said that working out gave him at least four additional hours of productive time every day.

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    Benefits of Exercise

    We are all familiar with the multitude of benefits that exercise can bring into our lives. Regular exercise can control weight gain, improve health, prevent illness, improve mood and reduce sleep problems. Doctors also say it leads to a better sex life. Need I go on?

    But Branson has reminded us of a further benefit: Working out can assist us to become more productive. It increases our energy levels, reduces stress and improves stamina (and not just in the board room). But if you are already working out regularly what else can you do to become super-productive this year?

    Vision

    Having a clear vision for the future is a strong motivator when it comes to getting things done. If you have a plan, have set goals and know what you are working towards, it is easier to know what your priorities are and what you should be working on daily. One of the biggest problems when it comes to productivity is not that people don’t work hard enough but that they spend too much time working on the wrong things. Having a vision can reduce the chances of this occurring.

    Awareness

    Leadership expert Robin Sharma says:

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    “Better awareness leads to better decisions, which leads to better results”

    Knowing where you are now, how you currently work and how you currently spend your time can help you to make informed decisions about which tasks can be eliminated and which tasks you need to focus more on. When you know what you want to achieve and you understand how you time is best spent, the next step is to have a system.

    Systems

    What’s a system? Most of you who hang around Lifehack know what a productivity system is. David Allen has dominated the space with GTD (Getting Things Done).

    But systems are not just about organizing your work.

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    Having a system for organizing your clothes, your life and your dinners all assist in making life easier and reducing stress. Minimalism has become a fashionable system of late. So instead of trying to organize your life, why not simplify it? Eliminate all that is unnecessary and your life will be simpler and easier to organize.

    Technology

    Technology has become an enormous benefit to productivity. It can help us to do our work more quickly and efficiently most of the time. But we must choose our programs wisely.

    Firstly, we need to understand our personal requirements and then spend time understanding the programs we have chosen to help us. Spending time familiarizing yourself with your new programs can end up being a time waster, so choosing wisely is crucial. Technology is a great benefit — but can also be a huge distraction and a challenge to focus.

    Eliminate Distractions

    Social Media. It’s fun,  and can be beneficial for marketing and networking. But it could also be described as “public enemy number one” when it come to productivity.

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    Far too easily we get sucked into the flirtatious 140 characters, the unmissable articles that would prevent us from living a fulfilled life if they were to remain unread, the friends that can’t live without knowing what we did on Saturday night. We must take control and decide how much time we are going to spend on social media and then stick with it. The world won’t end if you resist to digg, stumble, tweet or post for a couple of hours each day. Turn off all message notifications — including email alerts — on both your phone and your computer. Remember to stay at the helm and not allow the waves to take control of where you go.

    Conclusion

    All of these tips can assist you in becoming more productive, happier and more successful, but remember it’s not sustainable to try too much at once.

    So, if you were to change one habit this month then maybe it should be to work out more. The abundant benefits are undeniable — and if Sir Richard Branson does it…well, what more can I say?

    (Photo credit: Jet Climbs After Taking Off via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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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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