I know, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles out there telling you how to be more productive, this is not that. I am not going to sit here and tell you if you do these 5, 7, or 9 steps that CEOs do that you will become more productive. All of those are ineffective and do get to the root of the issue.
Our bodies and minds have evolved over millions of years to get where we are today. We, as humans, are meant to be productive, move, and create things. I mean look around and see everything man has built, for better or worse — even right now you reading this on a phone or tablet or computer.
How amazing is all of this crazy stuff? None of this used to exist, but humans created it from nothing.
The humans that can put a man on the moon, create the computer, advancement in electric vehicle and everyday technology are arguably the most productive human-beings on the planet. These people are just regular people like me and you. Their brains and minds work the same as ours.
You are probably saying to yourself right now, these people are smarter than me, have more money than me, and have more opportunities than me. That might be true to some extent, but let’s take a look at the why.
Why are other people more productive than others? How can I become more productive?
You have to be a doer
Listen, being productive comes to getting things done. You have to create habits and do them every single day. The more frequently you complete certain tasks or do things in a certain will create stronger synaptic connections — the communication between neurons in your brain.
“The average human brain has about 68 Billion neurons”, according to an article on human-memory, and “each neuron is connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connects.”
Think about the greatest firework finale you have seen. Now multiply that by a trillion.
That’s what your brain is doing as you are reading this. It is firing off trillions of connections — processing everything around you and trying to determine if you are safe or in danger, hungry or full, happy or sad. Quite simply, the brain is extraordinary.
To become a doer and be more productive you have to train these connections. The brain is well equipped to adapt and learn. Choose to feed it the right stuff and you will become more productive.
Let’s look at a few things you should focus on to build a healthy, chemically balanced brain — no drugs needed with this process — that will help you become more productive.
Food is the beginning of everything we do. It is our energy supply, it is a way for us to connect, but it also can change the chemicals in our body — for better or worse.
Do you remember the old saying? You are what you eat.
Well, it’s true. The food we consume impacts not just our physical health, but our mental health as well.
Food is the fuel we need to continue to be productive, but not all food is created equal. Some food will make you groggy, some will give you a spike of energy followed by a crash in an hour, and some will give you sustained energy for hours.
In What You Eat Affects Your Productivity in the Harvard Business Review, author Ron Friedman, discusses how nutrition impacts our productivity. Friedman states, “Some foods, like pasta, bread, cereal, and soda, release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high-fat meals (think cheeseburgers and BLTs) provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy.”
One study published in The British Psychological Society showed that young adults who consumed more fruit and vegetables had “greater eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, and creativity a the between-and within-person levels.”
In short, being productive starts with consuming foods that are going to feed your brain what it needs. With proper nutrition, you will initiate the first thing you need to be productive — Fuel.
The dreaded “E” word. Everyone knows about it and knows they should be doing it and many do it regularly. Exercise impacts every aspect of our lives, both mentally and physically and as a result will make you more productive.
Exercise activates a variety of activity in the brain from releasing endorphins and serotonin to increasing BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which in turn boosts your cognitive abilities and reduces stress. All three of these will help to decrease stress and improve your mental well-being — important factors for being productive.
Endorphins are the body’s pain killers, according to this article by Lorne Opler. Blocking the pain brought on by running long distances or lifting heavy weights is an important function adapted over millennia to prevent our bodies from giving up when, let’s say, being chased by a lion.
Serotonin is well-known, especially to anyone suffering through depression, do be that “feel good” chemical in the brain. This paper by Simon N. Young in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience explains how exercise can boost serotonin levels and therefore fight off depression.
BDNF is a protein — a workhouse of protein — in the brain whose main role is, according to Opler, “to promote the survival and growth of neurons and to ensure the proper transmission of chemical messages between brain cells”. BDNF is proven to be most noticeably enhanced by exercise, as was seen in this study by Eadaoin W. Griffin, RAnya G. Bechara, Amy M. Birch, and Aine M. Kelly.
For us, as humans, to be our most productive selves we need to be in the best mental and physical shape possible. Exercise has been proven time and time again to reduce stress, increase happiness and cognitive abilities. The backbone to being productive.
Take a look at your phone right now, go to your screen time usage and look at where and how much time you are spending on your device. Here is a glance into my life of spending way to much time on my phone — albeit some of this is to read and write.
Being that some of the hours were spent reading and writing on Medium we will subtract those — I count that as being productive. However, look at all of that social media usage! I spent 12 hours this last week doing what? Scrolling through Twitter and Facebook?
What a waste of time!
A half a day of my life gone and never coming back. Sure some of that was done while work was extremely slow this past week, but think about that for a minute. How much could you have gotten done in 12 hours? Probably write 3 articles or read a book or spent quality time with loved ones or completed several more tasks at work.
Social media sites are good at trapping you and trying to get as much attention as possible. Why else would they purposefully attack your brain chemicals in an attempt to create a stronger synaptic relationship with them?
All of those “likes” and “retweets” and “mentions” create a dopamine release leaving you a sense of pleasure and make you want to come back for more.
If you, truly, want to become more productive in life you need to reduce your social media and screen time. Even if this just means one day a week you do a cleanse or set time limits per day or certain hours of the day you are not allowed to be on your device.
No matter what you chose to do, your brain will thank you. You will become more productive. You will see a drastic reduction in stress in your life.