Hack Your Brain To Increase Your Productivity

The neediest thing in my life isn’t a person – it’s my phone. It constantly demands my attention through push notifications and little red numbers on the top right corner of apps. My rude awakening came when I tracked how much time I spend on my phone. At my most distracted day I spent 7 hours on my phone. Which means that after factoring in 8 hours of sleep, I spent 50% of my day on my phone. And I don’t even remember what I was doing.

Things needed to change.

Being on the phone is so addicting because social media apps are literally only showing you articles, videos and memes that you like. It’s tough to put down the phone when a cute cat meme pops up on your newsfeed. But the distraction is costly. More time on my phone means less time to create & focus on more important and meaningful tasks.

Creating and contributing to projects makes people happy. So why do we sabotage ourselves by giving in to distractions? The reason is time-inconsistency – a behavioural economics principle that describes our lack of foresightedness. We do things in the present moment that we will regret in the future. So how do we overcome this insanely natural tendency? By taking a moment to notice and be present. The next time you’re on your phone and you realise that you’re almost falling down a spiral of mindless content consumption — take a deep breath and note how you’re feeling in that moment. If reading that article, watching that video isn’t giving you joy or adding value to your day put your phone down.

It’s hard and the first time is the hardest. What helps is thinking about the second & third order consequences of staying on your phone for any longer. Don’t let your natural tendencies sabotage your future happiness.

An easy way to start is by putting your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode for a few hours every day. Add all the important people in your life to your ‘Favourites’ list so that the phone will ring any time the call or text. All else is not important.

Next, divide your day into focus & rest periods. Numerous studies have shown that people are most productive when they focus in bursts and then fully rest in between focus periods. However, keeping track of the time is counterproductive so the best way to do this is to download a desktop app.

Ultimately, noticing distractions and slowly minimizing them to avoid temptations can vastly increase your productivity and even make you happier.

All you need to do is change the settings.

The Power of Single Tasking

So I was in yoga class yesterday struggling in a balancing pose after an especially challenging day. It was one of those recovery days after a really horrible day. A lot was on my mind when I was trying this particularly challenging balance pose. My mind was everywhere, jumping from one thought to another and like it usually happens at these times, I was also looking all over the ceiling while in the pose. So unnecessarily stressful and challenging. And that was when my yoga teacher suggested that we keep our vision fixed on one point. That changed everything. I found a spot on the wall, focused on it, and suddenly gained all the balance that I was so desperately looking for.

Focus on one thing at a time. It’s just that easy.

At work just like in life, we have so many thoughts rushing through our minds. Mostly everyone I know thinks right now about what they’re going to do 5 minutes later. That 5 minutes later never comes.

In this world where people are always hustlin’ and doing so many things, there’s real power in doing just 1-2 things at a time and doing them well. This jack of all trades mentality to life isn’t making anyone better at what they do. In fact, I have found that it stresses people out. All. The. Time.

Just like we need to focus on the moment, we should also focus on specialising in one thing at a time. Work on something, get really good at it, shine.

Make your life less complicated:

  1. Work intensely on something you love for 3-4 hours everyday.
  2. Listen to music that makes you happy.
  3. Organise your room – clutter can have a serious negative emotional impact on your mood.
  4. Make a list about what you want to achieve in the next week.
  5. Eat well – my doctor recommends 2 fruits and 1 green vegetable a day. And lots of fibre.
  6. Develop a hobby – it can be reading 1 page in a book or building a coffee table for your living room. The goal is to work at it regularly. Self achievement is the best kind of achievement.
  7. Make your heart pump for at least 30 minutes every day – go for a walk, a jog or take it all the way to HIIT.
  8. Don’t fight your feelings. Let them happen. Go through them, accept them and then release them.
  9. Talk to a friend, family member or anyone else who brings out the best in you.
  10. Buy some flowers and put them on your desk or anywhere else that you spend a lot of time.
  11. Every night, before you sleep, write down 5 things that you’re grateful for.

It’s difficult to focus sometimes. Your job might demand that you work on a zillion tasks and complete them today. For you, the best way to begin is to set realistic deadlines. If the number of tasks for the day stays the same, focus on one task at a time. Accept that other thoughts might cloud your mind while you’re working but every time that happens bring your focus back to the current job. Without reprimanding yourself for getting slightly distracted.

Your day is made up of minutes. Make every one of them count towards creating a day full of happiness.