Feeling like you’ve been productive at the end of each day is always satisfying. For planners, having a clear to-do list when you go to bed is the best sleeping formula.
Productivity is about working fast and well and accomplishing all your goals for the day. The problem with productivity is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed: setting too many goals, not taking breaks, staring at a computer all day. Feeling productive is a great feeling as long as it doesn’t become an overwhelming source of pressure that causes more stress than accomplishment.
It’s all about balance and mindset. As contradictory as it may sound, practicing non-related work activities and taking breaks help to accomplish more – and therefore helps you to feel productive.
According to Francesco Cirillo who created the Pomodoro technique, human brains can only stay focused on a task for 25 minutes. Therefore, his secret to being a highly-productive individual is to be highly-focused on a task for an intense 25 minutes before taking a 5 minute break. That’s one effective method to organise your working day.
There are also different activities which will help boost your concentration and help you to perform better within 25 minutes:
Exercise in the morning
Working out in the morning will increase your energy level throughout the day and will get you into a positive mood. Whether it’s jogging, pilates, Zumba, or swimming, moving your body improves blood circulation and feeds your brain with endorphins – the happiness hormones.
The worst part is getting out of bed, but once you are up and on the way to the gym, you have done 80% of the job. Not only will waking up early make you feel accomplished, but it will also give you more time to take care of yourself. At 6 am, everyone else is sleeping, which means that you can focus on your workout and getting your mind ready for a good productive day.
TIP: Make your life easier by preparing your gym gear and keeping it by your bed so you don’t waste time in the morning looking for a sock or your gym bag.
Eat healthy and vitamin-enriched food
An effective workout routine always comes hand in hand with a nutrient-enriched breakfast. Make sure to include complex carbohydrates, proteins and fruits/veggies. Whatever happens, never skip breakfast as it will mess up your level of concentration in the morning. Instead of focusing on your brain, your body will be on “survival mode” because you have been fasting for more than 12 hours. Productivity comes with a healthy functioning metabolism and eating whole-food meals will contribute to fuelling your brain throughout the day.
TIP: During winter, a good old bowl of porridge with fruits is a great nutritious meal. Drizzle some nut butter on for extra protein (and flavors). If you are more of a savoury breakfast type of person, a classic scrambled eggs with whole-wheat bread and a side of spinach are perfect. If you have no time between the gym and work, you can always make a protein smoothie with oats, spinach, bananas, nut butter, frozen fruits and a protein powder of your choosing.
Play concentration-boosting games
Studies have demonstrated that strategy games increase people’s productivity. When you are required to solve a complex issue to win a game, you completely immerse yourself and your brain focuses only on the game. Because it also involves a problem, you learn to think quickly and come up with effective strategies.
TIP: Beginners will find it easier to start playing strategy card games, like Crazy Eights, Blackjack, and Poker, or board games that can increase your concentration and memory like Scrabble. In this classic board game, it’s best to train and retrain the good letters in order to get the best results.
Focus on the present moment
Some mornings, you may find difficult to concentrate because you can’t stop thinking about all the things you need to do that day. Instead of focusing on finishing one task and moving to the next one, your mind goes into “anxiety-mode” and constantly reminds you of deadlines. One way to be more present – and focused on finishing your first project – is to take a five minute break to re-focus your mind to the present moment. It’s about reminding yourself that you need to concentrate on that particular task to get to the next one, instead of thinking about all of them while working on your first project.
TIP: Take five minutes: close your eyes and breathe deeply. First focus on the noise and movements around you. They are external. Then, the constant flow of thoughts that keeps distracting your mind. Like noise and movement, they are external. Be present: you’re sitting in front of your computer working on your first project. Breathe. Open your eyes and work on your first project. The rest is just external noise (including your thoughts).
Including one or two of these points in your day will contribute to increasing your concentration. Being active and eating healthy will take care of the physiological aspect of your brain while meditation and online games will work on the more neurological side of the brain. Like any muscle, your brain needs to be trained to focus on one specific task in the present moment.