Healthy habits to increase productivity
As we reach the end of the first month of the year, it’s common to look back on the goals you wrote down with vigor at the start of the year with some disappointment. It certainly isn’t easy to always stay motivated, and the stresses of everyday life can certainly get in the way of our dreams if we let them. We all would like to be more productive, but why do we feel such a disconnect in our ability to do so?
Below are a few ideas to build the habits that will help make you more productive in the long run:
Set screen time limits
Whether you are a student who has an exam to study for, an entrepreneur who needs to meet an urgent deadline, or someone trying to accomplish a goal, the most important thing you can do is set limits on your screen time. We're so accustomed to being distracted by the internet and social media that we often need to remember how much time we spend on it. Not only that, but our brains have become so used to the instant gratification of clicking a link or opening an app and getting a quick dopamine hit that we can't focus on the task without constantly being distracted.
Social media can be a great way to connect with friends and family and even help your business. But if you're sitting on your couch nightly for hours scrolling while procrastinating your other tasks, you are not doing yourself any favors by remaining trapped in this pattern. Setting yourself a screen time limit is one way to do this. Set a rule that doesn't allow you to use your laptop or phone for entertainment purposes (i.e., Facebook, YouTube, etc.) for longer than 30 minutes a day. Having one time limit for all your screen time (at work or home) will make the boundary clear in your mind.
You can only expect to accomplish something worthwhile if you have given yourself the rest and nourishment you need. It's like trying to pour out of an empty cup—the more you take before replenishing, the less you have left to give.
Most people think of their needs as something other people do for them—that is, someone else in their lives who might be able to help them out if they were ever in a situation where they needed something from others. The problem with seeing yourself as someone who doesn't have needs is that it makes whatever wants you do have seem like demands instead. It also makes it hard for you to understand your own actual needs—it's much easier to get away with needing nothing when there aren't many things that come into question. But if we could all go back to the basics of what we need to be healthy and happy—even if we're healthy and happy right now—we'd find those basic things are necessary and easy enough to provide for ourselves.
When it comes to productivity, a few things happen when you're well-fed and on top of your game. You feel better about yourself and your life in general. Your mood improves, which has a domino effect on how well you tackle the tasks. You can concentrate better and for longer without getting distracted or forgetting what you are doing. You can tap into your creativity because the brain is a muscle and needs nourishment to function properly.
Get outside at least once per day
Spending regular time outside will help boost productivity because it is suitable for your mental health and will help you to recharge. It doesn't take much effort to get outside for 10 minutes or so each day—take a walk around your office building or even just outside your building, or step out into the common area on the ground floor of your apartment complex. You could even schedule this as part of your morning routine. Make it something you look forward to every day, whether you go alone or bring a friend. The benefits are great, and they're all yours!
Fresh air and sunlight make a massive difference in how we feel and approach our tasks. The connection between productivity and natural light is strong enough that many workplaces have taken steps to schedule time for employees to step outside for a break during the day. This practice has been linked with increased well-being, reduced stress levels, increased creativity—even lower employee turnover rates! It's not just humans who benefit from the outdoors: research shows that plants grow faster in natural light than in artificial light.
Do what you need before what you want
In the information age, we are constantly bombarded with new ideas and ways to experience life. There is so much going on that it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of what is most important to you.
For instance, say you know that you need to work on a project at home today, but instead of getting down to business, you decide to take a walk, check social media, or watch YouTube videos first. The only problem is that before long, your mind starts wandering. Before long, you find yourself completely absorbed in the other activities and distracted from what needs doing. You don't get back on track until much later, and now you've lost a lot of time and momentum. If only there were a simple way to remind yourself what needs doing without having to think about it...
Do what you need to do before you want to do. It might sound counterintuitive, but it has helped me immensely in my career and personal life. Doing this allows the most important things to get done first, allowing more time for the things you enjoy. It also gives you a feeling of accomplishment; by working through your list of items, you feel like you can handle anything that comes your way.
Decide how you want to feel
Decide how you want to feel at the end of the day or the week, and work backward towards that goal in order to be more productive. Do you want to feel accomplished? Happy? Stress-free? Do you want to have completed everything on your to-do list, or are you okay with leaving some unfinished? This will guide your actions throughout the week so that no matter what happens, you are constantly progressing in a way that feels good. If regular mindset work is not a part of your routine, or thinking in this way feels foreign to you, get some tools like an affirmation cards deck to help you start to shift your thinking.
If feeling relaxed keeps you motivated, then make sure you take breaks throughout your week to recharge and reenergize yourself. If it feels like you have accomplished something, then make sure you break down all of your tasks into manageable pieces so that you can still achieve something even if something goes wrong. You owe it to yourself to achieve what makes you happy and fulfilled.
By working backward from what you want to feel, you're setting yourself up for success because motivation is built into the equation - rather than being something you have to force yourself to feel. If you can't imagine feeling motivated, figuring out how to get there will be more challenging.
It can be easy to look back and beat ourselves up for the ways we have not lived up to how we wanted to start the year, but by making just a few small changes, we can achieve our greatest dreams one day at a time.