8 Ways to Increase Productivity
How can I be more productive?
Most people could be more productive with their time. Repetitive jobs often lead to a stagnant feeling or a sense that we're only cogs in some kind of societal machine. There is often a chasm between what we ARE doing and what we WANT to be doing.
The following list includes 8 practices that increase personal and professional productivity, comfort and general peace of mind, when implemented properly in our lives.
1. Wake Up Early
A lot can be accomplished in the morning.
For a growing number of people, these are the hours before the time when you have to be at your day job. Whether or not that's what you really want to be doing with your life, waking up early often allows for more productive time before the grind.
Many famously successful and productive people have been known to get up and start working early in the morning. Not that it's an easy habit to begin, especially in our modern world where lots of the events on the calendar don't start until after 9 or 10 PM. I've only recently insisted of myself that I go to bed at a reasonable hour or take a nap when I need to, in order to naturally wake up around the time I want to begin my day.
I continue to struggle with this.
If you really want to get into this habit, there are probably things you will have to distance yourself from or at least limit yourself to an every-once-in-a-while outing or determine that it's okay to have some only-on-the-weekends activities and that you only occasionally diverge from your professional discipline.
2. Drink Water
Hydration is important, especially first thing in the morning.
There is a practice commonly referred to as "Japanese Water Healing" (among other names) which involves drinking 21oz. Of water, 45 minutes before each meal, to prepare the body for digestion and lubricate the system. A tablespoon of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar added to a glass of water once or twice each day gives the body an additional immune system boost.
I often chew small pieces of ginger root along with my morning water, just before going for a jog. Ginger is good for the digestive system and reinforces the immune system. It also has a very strong taste and pungent aroma, so taking very small pieces and drinking water before/after can ease the intensity of the experience.
Drinking water has long been lauded as highly important and beneficial to the human body and mind. If you feel groggy, sluggish, fatigued or otherwise incapable of functioning properly, increasing your daily water consumption is often a good first step toward recovery.
If you already drink plenty of water and you still feel this way, keep reading.
3. Go Outside
Fresh air & sunlight are revitalizing to the mind, body & soul. If possible, spend at least 30 minutes outside, before you have to leave for your daily responsibilities. This is one of those things you can accomplish during the hours before work, if you can make yourself wake up early enough in the morning (see #1.)
Going outside may seem pretty obvious, but in a world with increasing technological dependence, a lot of people spend a lot of time immersed in their computers, televisions, video games, movies and other devices.
I've been involved in a job that requires me to be outside and active for the past several years (as a bicycle courier), but many people don't have the same daily motivation toward physical exertion.
It can be amazing how much one may benefit from something as simple as walking around the neighborhood, breathing deeply. Along with the physical benefits of fresh air, this practice often helps an individual psychologically work through problematic issues they've been trying to deal with or neglecting to address. Movement of the body inspires movement of the mind.
When you have the opportunity (if you live in a city) get out of the city. There's a whole world in the rural areas and wild countryside of EVERYWHERE that many people rarely experience. If you're happy with your current routine and location, of course you should do what you like, but it can be easy to reach a feeling of stagnancy in one's regular routine, and I recommend that most people don't confine themselves to constantly remaining in the same place all the time (Humans were nomadic until the relatively recent past. Get out when you can!)
4. Stretch HOURLY
Whether you're inside or outside, a great way to stay active is to take a few minutes, every hour, to stretch & keep your body limber. General productivity has been shown to improve through this habit. If you regularly feel muscle tightness or discomfort and you don't have the willpower or self-discipline to get yourself into a regular routine of stretching every day (or at the very least when you feel pain, tension or discomfort in your body) it may be worth researching some local yoga or fitness centers.
Many exercise facilities have introductory periods ranging between a week and multiple months, during which a greatly reduced price is offered for unlimited use of their space or equipment, leaving the individual to determine afterward if it might be something they are interested in continuing to pursue. These places offer the benefit of a group atmosphere, which can be positively motivating, and professional instruction from a teacher who has taken the time to become certified in the discipline the class addresses. Often there are several different varieties of classes available depending on the day and time and who is teaching the class. Most reputable centers in many cities now offer a class schedule online or through an app, which can be downloaded to a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Unfortunately, after the introductory period, the prices generally go up quite a bit for an unlimited monthly membership (which may be discounted when purchased as an annual membership or through a corporate group discount) but it's up to the individual to determine how often they can feasibly attend each month and if it might be worth it to pay a discounted lump sum for unlimited monthly access or $10-20 per visit if they are unlikely to go more than a few times per month.
5. Eat Good Food
I know, food can be expensive and budgeting for good food is often difficult. That being said, there's no denying that regularly ingesting good, organically grown, pesticide free, healthy foods will allow the body & mind to flourish. The wrong foods destroy motivation, cloud the mind and weaken the body.
(This article is not designed to convince you of the benefits of eating well. I will write articles that delve into this area more deeply.)
There are a lot of dietary options available in the modern world and varying schools of thought around each. This contributes to the difficulty of determining which might be the best, most beneficial choice for each individual. If you have the desire, the means and you feel that you sincerely want or need the professional guidance, seek out a nutritionist for advice.
For those of you who are uninterested, unwilling or financially unable to seek professional dietary assistance, look at what healthy, active people, professional athletes and those successful in the fields you'd like to pursue are eating. Many will post publicly about what works for them and what they avoid to keep their bodies and minds on an even keel (I follow Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on Instagram, for instance.)
Personally, I regularly eat apples, oranges, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, garlic, onions, kale & other leafy greens, mushrooms, pickles, green olives, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almond butter, peanut butter, black/pinto/garbanzo beans, falafel, tofu, tempeh, seitan and probably a bunch more things I'm not thinking of at the moment!
As Oscar Wilde famously stated:
"Everything in moderation, including moderation."
Sometimes, for a snack I have corn chips and salsa. When I'm out and about and I feel like I need to ingest some protein and carbohydrates, I may have a burrito bowl (lately minus the tortilla) and once in a while I treat myself to something a bit less healthy.
It isn't always easy, but it is undeniable that the better I eat, the better I feel.
6. Record Your Thoughts
Whether using paper & pen, keyboard & monitor, audio or video, it's a good habit to record daily thoughts, epiphanies and moments of inspiration. Style will develop with time and repetition.
Writing down what is on your mind on a regular basis is therapeutic for many and often allows extended insight into one's own psychology and philosophies of life.
A combination of regular meditation and deep breathing has been shown to increase the efficacy of this practice.
Getting out what's been circling around the brain also allows new, adapted, combined and consolidated thoughts to form and develop complexity. Mind-mapping and other brainstorming techniques can also be very beneficial planning methods for many creative and productive individuals.
Some people are less inclined to writing things down, but nonetheless need to release pent up feelings, emotions, ideas and stress. In these cases I suggest finding a friend or hiring a professional who is willing to listen to, write down or record these thoughts. (Might be a good time to start a Blog!)
7. Consistency Is Crap
It's a great idea to get on a regular schedule of productive creation & development.
If and when you fail to live up to your responsibilities, it's important to acknowledge that every person on earth has days they feel the same way and moving forward is much more productive than focusing energy on the failures of the past.
Sometimes, looking at a longer timeline than you're used to thinking within can offer additional perspective into the consistency of our patterns. On a yearly basis, many experiences & events are determined by weather patterns, national holidays, birthdays & recurring fees or investments.
One practice I do my best to remain consistent with is keeping a monthly record of all of my financial transactions from the previous year, to look at on the first of each month in the next year. This way, I can prepare for outgoing expenses that will repeat and allocate funds accordingly.
8. Take Naps
If and when you have the opportunity to sleep for 30 to 90 minutes in the afternoon, I highly recommend taking naps! It can be a meditative time and goes well paired with a shower or a bath just prior to a nap and after returning from the physical exertion of work or exercise. Sometimes it helps to listen to music, white noise, mantra, chants or bi-neural beats during this time.
From what I've read, it takes approximately 90 minutes (1.5 hours) for a person to go through all of the stages of sleep. If one wakes up in the middle of that period of time, they're more likely to wake up groggy and wishing they had more time to nap. Multiples of 1.5 also work, of course, so 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5 or 9 hours should (by this logic) also leave a feeling of being rested and ready to spring into the action of the day or the productivity of the morning.
Some people, in attempts to maximize their usable hours transition from a traditional (in the US) 8 hours of sleep per night to a poly-phasic sleep schedule, including a longer period of sleep during the night, often 3-4.5 hours, and supplemental naps of 30-90 minutes multiple times throughout the day.
One downside of this sort of sleep cycle involves a difficult initial transition time of two weeks or more, in which sleep deprivation sets in until the point when the body adjusts to the new system. However, once adjusted one could potentially plan days of spending time meeting with a variety people who are on vastly differing schedules (and still expect plenty of time for proper rest.)
None of my attempts, as yet, have been successfull in transitioning to the poly-physic sleep cycle, though I have missed quite a bit of sleep over the years.
(Disclaimer: I do NOT have enough experience with the poly-phasic sleep cycle to suggest it's use to anyone, but it is interesting to research.)
Do What You Can
These 8 practices can be beneficial for many who take the time to incorporate them into their daily lives (Though I understand that not everyone has the luxury of eating the best foods or sleeping during the day.)
I haven't described here the time a person may spend involved in the things that they love the most, and that was intentional, as this list should be thought of as a framework, within which other things become easier to accomplish.
If it needs to be said, make sure you take time to engage in those things that make you happy.
Thank you very much to everyone who has commented, shared, liked or otherwise supported the creative endeavors of Maplex Monk & friends. Send me a message to get involved, ask questions, request advice or make suggestions. Don't forget to share this post & spread the word!