My name is Danny Donchev. I’ve been running my own business since 2004. I can choose my working hours and days which looks very sweet to people which have 5-9 jobs but in reality there are times when I wish to have somebody to urge me to get my job done and to stop procrastinating.
I’ve found that being just motivated is not enough to stay focused, goal oriented and productive. I have been digging scientific facts about how to increase my productivity and I built a system that I would like to share with you.
1. Have your day planned a night before
Planning ahead of time has been proven to work in your favour. For instance, if you take a minute to plan, you will save 10 minutes when executing. The best way to go about this is having a piece of paper to write down your schedule for the next day. If you find it hard to write this a day before, make sure you do it early in the morning. The benefits of having this list include:
- It clarifies your thoughts and goals for the day
- Forces you to think at a much higher level
- You can increase your output by 25% each day you have a list
- Most millionaires work with a list
2. Have a morning walk
If you are used to taking a cup of coffee in the morning to activate your day, why don’t you consider having a 30-minute walk early in the morning? You just get a Godlike feeling when you are outside while everybody else is still asleep. The brain will start releasing serotonin and dopamine after the 15th minute of your walk. These are the two chemicals produced in the brain that improve your moods throughout the day and protect you against mental health disorders.
Your body produces Serotonin especially when you engage in long-term cardio exercise. This in turn decreases depression and hostility so that you can have an agreeable social behaviour. Dopamine on the other hand improves your long-term memory and mood. With high pleasurable feelings in your brain, you will find yourself being productive in your business more than ever.
3. Take a deep breath
Being a small organ in our body that represents only 2% of our body weight, the brain uses an astonishing 20% of the body’s oxygen supply. This tells you something—the brain needs oxygen to perform even the most basic functions. The neurons that control every action in the brain from conscious actions like thoughts and planning to automatic unconscious processes like digestion and heart rate need glucose.
So, for the brain’s cells to metabolize glucose and convert it into energy, oxygen must be present. This is why you will not think straight when there is insufficient oxygen in the body. What normally happens when the brain lacks oxygen is that the cells become weak.
What makes a person procrastinate important duties is due to the excess anxiety levels in the brain. This can only be remedied when your brain is oxygenated. You should thus pay attention to your breathing. When you feel like your productivity has been hindered at some point, relax then breathe slowly, deeply and purposefully into your body. When you notice places that are tight, make sure you breathe into them. After this exercise, you will notice some change in how you think, the clarity and insights will improve.
How to breathe better
When you do your research on the internet, you will see the different ways you can breathe more deeply. However, Dr Andrew Weil, a holistic health specialist and sleep expert has developed a popular approach called the 4-7-8 method. Here is a look at how you should do it to calm your mind and relax the muscles.
- Breath in through your nose for a count of four. Your belly should expand.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven
- Release it out through your mouth for a slow count of eight. As you exhale, you can put your tongue behind your bottom teeth to make a whooshing sound.
According to Weil, this method is effective since it fully charges your lungs with air. So more oxygen gets into your body so that you can be in a state of mental and physical calmness.
4. Don’t open your email by 1pm
One mistake most people in business make is making sure they reply emails from clients as soon as possible. This means that you will have to spend a better part of your day replying to emails. You should understand that you are a business person and not a customer support. You can always answer your emails latter and attend to other important matters. It is advisable that you answer your emails twice a day or less.
If your business doesn’t really rely on emails, you can as well leave the emails off on the weekends and spend some quality time with your family and friends or do your personal activities.
When you report to work, you can check it once in the morning, but after you have been at work for some time. If there are any new emails, that is the time to answer. Your morning will now be free and you will have time to do other important things within the half part of the day.
You can then check it in the afternoon, probably after you have had your lunch. You can then leave it until the following day. So this means you will be replying your emails within 24 hours which is healthy for a business.
When you decide to emulate some of the most productive people in any business setting, you will notice that they have an automatic response to their email that goes like “My busy schedule only allows me to answer my email twice a day. I will get back to your email as soon as possible. Otherwise, if it is an emergency, kindly call this number and someone will attend to you. Thank you.” At first, you will find it hard not to check your inbox more than twice, but with time, you will adapt and find the new trend productive.
5. Use little tricks to boost your dopamine
The moment your dopamine spikes, that’s when you start feeling motivated. That’s when your body starts to anticipate something important. So how does this affect your productivity? Let’s have a look.
Did you know that rewarding experiences spark the production of dopamine and your brain can be trained to feed off it? All you have to do is create that dopamine environment and your brain will do the rest. Setting incremental goals is the best way you can achieve those rewarding experiences. There will be a positive reinforcement form your brain each time you complete a step and meet a challenge and this is what causes dopamine to flow naturally.
You can get your dopamine flowing by doing the following:
- Take notice of the small accomplishments and record them. Having a to-do list will help you review your progress. You will then feel greater effects of dopamine as you chip away your goals.
- Communicate your results with the team you work with whether positive or negative. This is the only way you can get other people to recognize your work and give you the positive feedback you so much need. You can also increase your dopamine if you praise and recognise the work of your team members.
- Keep up with micro-deadlines. You will only get your work done and within the stipulated time if you stay entirely focused on one task at a time. So the more you sit down to do some work, the more you will see positive feedback. This is a great way to increase your dopamine.
- You should think of how good your project will look when it’s complete and feel good about your achievement. According to a study done by professors from the University of Michigan, results-driven focus motivated people to complete their work and enjoy their success.
- Eat dopamine-filled foods to boost your diet. Foods like yogurt and sauerkraut are full of natural probiotics and you should eat them to have that extra kick.
There is a biological connection Dopamine has with our motivation that enables record achievements. Positive feedback can help you increase your dopamine levels. This normally happens when you have a full track of your incremental progress.
There are plenty of spicy foods you can eat which will stimulate your body to produce endorphins. According to a research done by the University of Buffalo, stimulation normally occurs when the “spicy” part of the food like capsaicin, comes into contact with the taste buds on your tongue. A signal from receptors at sites, similar to that of pain, is sent to the brain. The pain signal triggers. This signal is what triggers the release of feel-good endorphins. This is why such foods can be so addictive.
But one thing you should always keep in mind is that the biggest part of staying productive is effort driven. So when you feel like your motivation is low, you can opt for the old-school techniques; perseverance, determination and being consistent even when things don’t seem to work in your favour.
So, dopamine can take you as far as you want. But it is also important to understand that motivation can’t just be about increasing dopamine. You must be diligent and dig even deeper. Nothing comes easy, you just have to push it to get it done.
6. Have some short breaks for exercises
When you are working, you should take some short breaks. If for instance you decide to take a 60-minute break, don’t use it to Facebook or play computer games. You can do one series of push ups (20 to 30 push ups). Doing such an exercise will urge you to take deep breaths so that you can release endorphins. This may seem like a very small task but trust me, it completely changes how you carry out your businesses. This is actually the only way to keep your body active throughout the day.
7. Make use of the natural light from the sun
This is one of the most effective hack successful business people use; working near natural light. According to several studies done in the past, you can improve your sleep and therefore improve your well-being and productivity by simply exposing yourself to the sunlight. So when you are in your office or working from home, make sure you sit next to an open window to improve your sleep and eventually become more productive than before.
8. Don’t be a perfectionist
Being a perfectionist actually deters your productivity and makes you lose the little that you had gained. This is actually a very dangerous trait that can waste much of your time. For instance, it is possible to make something simple look better, but there is no sense in spending more time and labouring over a slight improvement. Set aside some reasonable time to work on that particular thing and when the time elapses, stop and focus on something else. There is nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, however, make sure you keep yourself in check all the time.
9. Keep your desk clean
Did you know that your productivity and creativity can be influenced by how clean your working environment is? Well this has been the centre of studies in the recent past. This is why most organizations today pay close attention to the layout of their offices.
Those people who think that working in a disorganized office helps them become more creative are actually mislead. Scraps of magazines, books and papers all over the place will foster a more creative environment and distract you. If for instance you have folders, books or papers clutter your desk, you will spend more time trying to search through the clutter for something important. If you had an idea then you will give up before you even find what you were looking for. But you can now imagine how much time you will save if you have all your papers in order, all the books arranged in the shelf and the clutter cleared off your desk and shelf.
A recent study was conducted and proved that organized people are 35% more productive during the day than those who are careless. You will spend more time getting your project done rather than searching for an important document in the clutter. So take a moment in your office and organize your working area. Make sure you know where everything for easy retrieval. As much as this may seem easy, most people still find it hard to spare some time to get organised. So here is a look at some tips to organise your life and have a clutter-free, neat and clean office.
- Take a break for a few hours and sort through all the papers on your desk. Those old and useless papers should be thrown away. Have organised piles with the remaining papers.
- Place all your papers in folders and have an organized folder/filing system
- Have a bookcase or a shelf where you can place all magazines and books neatly
- Too many sticky notes can get messy and make your working area look untidy. So avoid them or alternatively, keep a small memo pad close by.
- Only have the useful everyday items on the desk. Such include a tape, stapler, small calendar and pens/markers.
10. Finish up with “brain dead” tasks
In all the businesses, you have done, you may have noticed one thing—clients only pay for high value strategic tasks like coming up with new product ideas, ways to reduce cost and other improvements. But delivering creative insights all day long can be a hard task.
There are “brain dead” tasks you can do during the last hour of the day when you are completely tired. These tasks include tossing out old papers, installing security updates, pulling data, sending emails with canned responses and finishing up other small tasks.
11. The Pomodoro technique should deal with your procrastination
This is a technique that demands you work in short twenty-five minutes sprints then leave 5 minutes of break. These minutes can be used to do other non-productive activities.
When you break down your time, you will find it easier to be productive than working for long hours. Working in shorter bursts allows your mind to rest and keeps you active throughout the day. You will work more efficiently if you are able to limit those activities that add no value to your short breaks.
12. Eat less, eat fresh, eat before 8 pm
Eating has everything to do with your sleep. Most people don’t know that eating has an effect on their sleep. Studies have shown that those people who eat late find it hard to go into deep sleep. This is true because when you eat close to your bedtime, your stomach will be working hard to digest the food. During digestion, your stomach is supposed to rest and recuperate. When you deprive your body off sleep, you will slow down your metabolism and hence gain weight. This is a recipe for low productivity.