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A Neuroscientist Shares 5 Ways to Hack Productivity

Find your internal rhythms

To improve your mental ability, you have to understand its natural peaks and drops throughout the day. It can be different for every person, so pay attention to what time of the day your mind is functioning at its best.

If you find it difficult to see what time of day your mind is functioning best, keep a productivity log. At two-hour intervals, write down your physical and mental status. You'll find a pattern of peak performance or sluggishness.

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A Neuroscientist Shares 5 Ways to Hack Productivity

A Neuroscientist Shares 5 Ways to Hack Productivity

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/64788/neuroscientist-sahar-yousef-hack-productivity-multitasking-myth

99u.adobe.com

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Key Ideas

Higher cognitive performance

Our brain can change throughout our lifetime, in relation to factors like behavior, process, and environment. It means we can still improve ourselves with strategic and incremental changes to our daily routines.

For example, you can increase your ability to focus for more extended periods of time by training your attention.

Multitasking is a myth

Most people have little pockets of time throughout the day, between meetings and calls and emails, with 15 minutes here, and 30 minutes there. To perform at your best depends on simple time management hacks.

  • Set aside one or two times a day to check and respond to all your messages and emails, then close your inbox.
  • Try and structure your day in one-to two-hour chunks of focused work.
  • Introduce a clear protocol for colleagues to contact one another in case of an actual emergency.

Build new associations

Our brains are continually changing and learning, making it possible to change and manipulate depending on what we're exposed to.

Think strategically about what environment you work best in and protect yourself from any other distractions that could decrease your performance. Intentionally create an environment to do specific types of activities. That way, your mind has a preset expectation associated with each situation.

Feed your mind

Self-care is vital for proper mental function. 

  • Get plenty of rehydration, a healthy diet, and regular exercise to keep blood flowing to your brain.
  • Eat healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your energy levels consistent.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Work hard and play hard. Work hard at work, but then have intentional off-periods where you're relaxing and rejuvenating.

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The new normal

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Clear communication

The key to working from home is clear communication with your boss. Your manager might not be used to managing people virtually or may not have a ready-to-go suite of tools for remote workers.

To prevent a breakdown in communication, you need to know exactly what's expected of you from day-to-day. Ask your boss for a 10-minute video call to start and end the day. Reach out to coworkers and managers regularly so that you won't get forgotten.

Treat it like a real job
  • Don't lounge around in your pajamas. Treat it like a real job.
  • Create a space exclusively for work that is removed from distractions, just like you would at your office desk.
  • Create boundaries within your home that your family members understand when you're 'at work.'
  • Bookend your day. If you can't enter and leave a physical office that creates more precise boundaries, use psychological transitions like a 20-minute coffee in the morning, then exercise right after work.

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Time blocking
Time blocking

It's the practice of planning out every moment of your day in advance and dedicating specific time “blocks” for certain tasks and responsibilities.

When you fill your c...

Time blocking and focus

By scheduling every minute of your day you not only guard against distraction but also multiply your focus.

Also, focusing on one task at a time can make you up to 80% more productive than splitting your attention across multiple tasks.

Cons of the time blocking practice
  • It takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Few of us (if any) have the same schedule every day.
  • We’re bad at estimating how long tasks will take to do.
  • Constant interruptions and “urgent” tasks can destroy your system.
  • Flexibility is key in most workplaces.
  • You can lose sight of the bigger picture if you focus just on each day.

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Get an early start on the day

Early hours are important because they tend to be free of most distractions and give you an opportunity to get focused

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Breakfast is a crucial part of getting a strong start each day, especially if your morning routine includes exercise. Add a balanced, protein-rich breakfast to your routine and reap the health benefits, such as:
  • Balanced blood sugar levels, which helps maintain your energy throughout the day
  • Improved short-term memory and mood
  • Faster recovery and renewed energy after workouts
Better use of the commute to work

Some of the ways you can be productive during your commute include:

  • Catching up on podcasts or listening to business-related audio books
  • Hands-free calling to get a head start on critical or time-sensitive issues
  • Reading and responding to emails (for those who use public transit)
  • Researching and preparing for presentations

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