Here’s a question to ponder for a minute: What do you think about when you see the word “productivity?”
Perhaps you visualize a complete list of tasks that have already been crossed off. When you think about productivity, you think about getting into a steady state of focus, and work flows smoothly. Time seems to pass you by because you’re “in the zone” as you work through one task after the next without breaking momentum.
No matter what productivity means to you, it is something you can achieve. You see, productivity is not a course of action. It is a state of mind.
If something is a state of mind, then it can be changed if you push your brain and train it properly. Lazy people can one day become some of the most hardworking people you will ever meet because they train their brains to mimic the proper habits. In short, they rewire their brains to become more productive. Unfortunately, you were not lacking in productivity because you were lazy or incompetent. No, you were not practical because you didn’t start with tweaking your brain and training it to become your desired productive version of yourself.
Before you work on the strategies to become more productive, you must train your brain to become receptive to these habits. How do you do that? This brain-tweaking framework will get you started:
· Train Your Brain to Be an Early Riser - Sunlight tells our brains when it is time to get up and rise in the morning and when it is time to wind down and call it a day. To become more productive, you need to train your brain to mimic this rhythm. Set your alarm to wake up when the sun rises in the morning or earlier if you think you need a little bit more time to get things done. When we sleep at night, our body goes through different cycles. Waking up during the proper cycles could mean the difference between feeling groggy and irritable and feeling refreshed, ready to seize the day.
· Train Your Brain to Delay Gratification - The ability to delay instant gratification is the key that separates successful people from those who tried and failed. Most people find it hard to resist temptation and succumb to instant gratification in the short term. Believe it or not, your inability to resist instant gratification contributes to why you procrastinate so much. Procrastination is an irrational decision to delay doing something. We call it a foolish decision because even though we know what we should be doing, we purposely choose to postpone or delay it. We may even decide to do something else, thereby procrastinating. If we look at most forms of procrastination closely, we will realize that it is a choice for instant gratification over future reward or suffering. You need to train your brain to become comfortable with the idea of overlooking short-term pleasure because the long-term dividends will be worth the wait. This is a choice that needs to be made every single day, and it is not going to be easy; that is the truth. You will struggle to try to get your brain to cooperate, but eventually, it will become a habit once you observe how your productivity and focus will change for the better.
· Do Something You Don’t Want to Do - Another exercise in training your brain to become more receptive to productivity is to do something you don’t want to do. The moment you feel like you don’t want to do something is the precise moment you should force yourself to do it. By moving your brain to become comfortable with the idea of discomfort, you’re indirectly training it to avoid procrastination in the future. If you have a task that you’ve been sitting on for a while and are still reluctant to start, get up and force yourself to do it anyway. Forget how you feel and focus instead of getting the task done and out of the way. You don’t have to feel happy about it, and you don’t have to enjoy the entire process at all. The whole point is that you do it anyway, regardless of how you feel. That is how you break your brain out of the bad habit it has been clinging to for far too long. By forcing yourself to persevere with this exercise, you are sending a signal to your body and your brain a powerful message. It is a message that you are going to focus on what you want steadfastly, and nothing is going to stop you from reaching that goal.
· Do Even More Work During Your Peak Energy Moments - Before you map out your day based on your to-do list, think about when you are at your most productive. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Different people are productive at different times. Productivity does not mean that you must get everything was done in the morning and during the day; no “ifs” and “buts” about it. That’s not the way it works, and it is common misconceptions like those that keep you trapped in the same cycle of bad habits that hold you back. Not everyone will have the same preference for the time of day when they feel the most productive. Some might feel a lot more productive first thing in the morning, while others do their best work at night. To make the most out of your productive streak, the key is to tap into the time of day when you feel the most energetic. When you’re feeling energized, you’re naturally more productive, and this is where you should attempt to finish most of the tasks on your list before that streak dwindles. During your peak energy levels are also right about the same time, you should attempt to tackle all the essential tasks on your list. Your mind is sharp, your focus is spot-on, and this is where you will produce your best work.
· Train Your Brain for Mindful Awareness - We function on autopilot so often during the day that it has become second nature. Making a conscious effort to stop, pause, and tune in to your surroundings is new. It is something your brain is not used to before, and this will be a refreshing change of pace. Stop and force your brain to tune in to your surroundings at random moments. What do you see? What do you hear? What are you doing right now? What sensations do you feel all over your body? How do the clothes you’re wearing feel against your skin? If you were working on a task, have you been reading the words in front of you? Or were you distracted by other thoughts? Mindfulness is an exercise that will train your brain to stay in control and on top of your thoughts all day long. When you’re not functioning on autopilot all the time, you’re less likely to succumb to distractions and procrastination because you’re paying attention to what you do. When we procrastinate, we often don’t realize how much time has slipped away from us. Suddenly, a couple of hours have passed, and you panic because you don’t understand what time it is. Mindfulness is one way to start training your brain to pay attention to what you do all day. When you’re paying attention, procrastination levels dip, and productivity levels soar.