#1: NET (no extra time)
We do hundreds of things every day on auto-pilot.
Walking, driving, shaving, making the bed, running, cooking dinner – to name just a few.
We’re unconsciously competent at these tasks; we change gear without thinking and boil pasta without reading the instructions.
Since our brain isn’t engaged while we take part in these tasks, it gives us an opportunity to engage our thoughts elsewhere, hence ‘no extra time’ is added to your day – and what better place to use this untapped time than for learning?
Audio books are ideal for this, what’s more, you can adjust the playback rate on most apps so that you can take them in at 1.5/2.0x the speed they’re read at. The average commute is 25 minutes, cooking dinner probably takes another 20. Turn this into learning time and you’ll consume 20 or more books and the knowledge within every year – choose those books wisely and your entrepreneurial skillset will expand rapidly…
#2: Get your sleep right
GET YOUR SLEEP RIGHT
Everyone’s sleep requirements are slightly different, but generally 7-8 hours each night sees us at our peak mental performance the following day.
The perfect combination of sleep and productivity comes when you understand exactly what’s right for you. Evenings can be enormous blackholes for time – with a little TV and some social media interaction it’s 11pm before you know it - and 12am before you’re asleep.
If you can, there’s a huge amount of productivity to be had if you adjust your bedtime backwards and start the next day earlier.
Try to avoid screens for 2 hours before you sleep. Our phone’s apps are designed to stimulate your brain and keep you engaged – not ideal for winding down. Reading, prepping tomorrow’s food, tidying and planning are all good alternatives that come with their own benefits.
Waking up early is no mean feat though, so I recommend the following:
Understand your natural sleep pattern.
Using an app like Sleep Cycle can help you to understand what’s happening when you’re in asleep and has an extremely effective alarm function that will wake you when your sleep is at its lightest point – helping you to feel switched on and alert right through the day.
#3: Harness the morning
If you can master your sleep and get up 2 hours earlier than you ordinarily would every working day you effectively give yourself an extra day each week.
What’s more, because you’re making that ‘extra day’ anywhere between 5am-9am (depending on your sleep requirements and chosen bedtime) that becomes one of those magical days where no one calls and interrupts, no one urgently emails and there are fewer notifications stealing your attention.
The maths is actually jaw dropping:
Add 2 productive hours to every working day and you add 520 hours to your year. Even with a hefty 50 hour work week that’s the equivalent of over 10 extra weeks of productivity every year – a sure fire way to get a lot more done, or at least feel a lot less guilty about taking a week or two absorbing some sunshine on a foreign beach.
#4: Make your own energy
It’s no coincidence that extremely high levels of productivity in military personal follows physical training each morning.
The good news is – science tells us this doesn’t have to mean running a marathon every day, in fact, a minimum of 12 minutes at an elevated heart rate is enough to produce hormones that increase awareness and mental agility for the rest of the day.
The great news is, it’s not just how switched on we are that’s bolstered when we exercise in the morning; our body’s ‘feel good’ hormones are kick-started too, leading to a more positive mood through the day.
Not only will exercise help tweak your brain’s performance every morning – it’ll also keep you healthy too, supporting your immune system to fight off illness. Want to turbo-charge your results? Get a double hit of those awareness and feel good hormones by jumping in a cold shower after you’re done, boosting circulation even further.
As productivity hacks go, engaging in some physical exercise is one that will have the greatest impact most quickly – there really is no downside.
#5: Take regular breaks
Our brains aren’t designed for being focused on just one task permanently – so if you want to maximise the time you’re spending with your mind at full throttle it makes a lot of sense to rest it frequently.
If you’re at your desk all day, get up, go and get some fresh air, stimulate the visual parts of your brain in different ways.
If possible, find somewhere you can be completely free of thought, even just for a few minutes.
Some people refer to this as ‘meditation’ – other call it ‘mindfulness’, whereas some prefer just ‘clearing your head’. Whatever you choose to call it, thinking of nothing, or focusing just on your breathing can help to slow your thoughts and internal monologue – and a slower thought process general leads to more rational and considered decisions.
#6: Use the right fuel
We can all occasionally lose sight of the fact that our bodies are biological machines, with the right fuel required to see a positive energy output.
Our brain is very much part of that machine – and it’s extremely sensitive to the conditions food creates in our body. Heavy lunches that comprise of sugar and simple carbohydrates require a lot of energy to digest – and can also cause our blood sugar levels to spike, leading to drowsiness and lack of focus in the mid-afternoon.
Just as making use of hidden hours can add up in our favour, losing hours to drowsiness and low energy can see that time disappear again.
If possible, try to avoid the following lunch time usual suspects:
Refined sugar (chocolate, sweets, hidden sugar in sauces/dressings, etc)
Instead, try to create lunches around:
Lean protein (beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, mackerel, etc)
Pulses and beans
Salad leaves and vegetables
Good fats (olive oil, avocados, unsalted nuts and nut butters)
These things might need a little prep the night before – and might not have the same immediate appeal as something sugary or salty, but let me assure you, your workload will thank you for it while others around you are yawning at 2:30pm…