Want a formula for listless, unproductive work? Go into work right after getting up in the morning.
Get up at the last possible moment, jump in the shower, slam down some coffee and a bagel, and rush out the door.
Here’s a better way: prime your brain for focus, learning, and energized thinking.
How can you do that?
Two things: running and meditation.
“Every day is a good day when you run.”
Intense cardiovascular exercise has been shown to increase the amount of neurochemicals in your brain that contribute to learning by 10x. This means that a quick 3-miler in the morning can massively increase the amount of learning you accomplish in the next 4 to 8 hours.
In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John J. Ratey, M.D. discusses this powerful mind-body connection; and how a breakthrough exercise program, which had kids in Naperville, Illinois performing intense exercise before school, put their school district first in the WORLD in science and test scores.
Think of what results like that could do for you in your daily work. You’ll improve faster, become more intelligent, and perform better. And by improving faster, you’ll be able to get more done in less time and get home to the things that truly enrich your life.
And running is one of the best possible actions you can take to create this effect.
Running clears your head – perfect for getting rid of cobwebs, working through your most recent problem, or just focusing on something physical outside of the daily grind.
I find that my mind is fresh after running in the morning. I’ll more readily tackle difficult problems and am much more open to making decisions and asking questions. On days where I don’t run, I find myself struggling to do the important things. I end up filling my day with small, unimportant tasks that don’t take as much mental effort, but accomplish nothing.
Exercise has also been shown to be a potent anti-depressant ““ and a much more sustainable one than medication. If your mood is better and you are happy at work, you’ll perform better and be more productive . So start exercising, get yourself happy, and smile as you experience the benefit.
And don’t underestimate how much an increase in physical endurance improves your ability to maintain focus for extended periods of time.
How to do it: Run a minimal amount (20-30 minutes), run every day (to keep up the habit), and reward yourself for doing it. More here.
“If we know the divine art of concentration, if we know the divine art of meditation, if we know the divine art of contemplation, easily and consciously we can unite the inner world and the outer world.”
Meditation is actually somewhat similar to running in that it provides a benefit to your brain by utilizing specific neural pathways that improve mood. And it’s been shown that intensive meditation practice dramatically improves focus.
A 10 to 15 minute session of meditation can take you a long way towards increasing your focus and mood during the day. It can also increase your willpower reserves so that you can make more difficult decisions, and is one of the absolute best ways to decrease stress and slow down your over-stimulated mind (afflictions that are all too common in today’s fast-paced complex world).
How to do it: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Find a comfortable spot to sit on either a chair or the floor. Breathe in and out evenly and count to eight for each breath. Practice focusing only on the sensation of the breath entering your mouth and flowing into your lungs. Don’t worry if you get distracted, just allow thoughts to come and go without becoming attached to them.
The one-two punch.
The effect is multiplied when the two are combined ““ running primes your brain for learning, and meditation relaxes your body and focuses your mind, allowing you to approach any problem with clear thinking and a fresh perspective.
This means that you’re coming into work not only prepared to make difficult decisions and learn, but also that you’re focusing on the most important things and approaching them in new creative ways.
This double-effect is huge.
How to do it: Sit down to meditate right after your shower following your run. You’ll immediately feel more relaxed, powerful, and ready to attack the day than you ever have before.
So don’t waste another day allowing yourself to be unfocused, unproductive, and unable to accomplish the important tasks. Make this one-two punch part of your daily routine and watch your success skyrocket.
P.S. – If you’re interested in other ways to unlock your effectiveness and create sustainable excellence, check us out Effective Efforts for more.