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A Neuroscientist Shares 5 Ways to Hack Productivity

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.

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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.

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.

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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Find places that inspire you

You might not be in a position to choose your workspace, but there are quick fixes: look for a spot with natural light from a window or skylight, take a walk outside when you feel stuck, or simply explore a new location. 

A new environment can quite literally lead to new ideas.

Task association

It's when your brain knows that when you’re in a certain place, you’re taking a certain action.

Take advantage of the way different locations affect you. Our brains love habits, and if we can associate certain qualities with different places, it can help us get into a better working flow. 

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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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Routines reduce mental fatigue

They tell your brain what’s expected of it:

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Building routines for the non-work parts of the day

When you have a pre-existing routine, it’s easier to fit work into it when it arises.

If you’re working from home on a regular basis, it’s good to get into a habit of showering and getting dressed, because it provides some parameters that say, ‘Work day has begun!’

Work structure

Develop a reserve of cues that tell your brain it’s time for work and outline a structure you can tap into whenever you need to get down to business.

For example, work from the same place (and do nothing but work there) or listen to the same music or background noise.

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