Healthy Lifestyle Habits that Improve Productivity
Plus the 4 Most Common Pitfalls You Need to Avoid
In this day and age, we are constant targets for breaking news, marketing campaigns, and hot entertainment trends. This overstimulation has made it more challenging than ever to stay focused and productive on a daily basis. Attempts to compensate for a lack of productivity often lead to some unhealthy habits. Avoiding the following pitfalls and keeping these healthy tips in mind will help you quickly overcome these challenges so you can increase your productivity without sacrificing your health.
Pitfall #1 Distracting Environment
An addiction to distraction will be the death of your productivity. Phones going off, news in the background, people talking, messy workspaces, social media notifications – all of these distractions will significantly impact your productivity. Like it or not, we are products of our environment and our minds are easily swayed by external forces. A few examples of this phenomenon from Melissa Chu at Inc.com:
- Your workspace is scattered and unorganized, causing you to procrastinate on getting started.
- The plates you use to eat dinner have a wide area, so you tend to fill them up with more food than you need.
- You browse a website and see a suggested article or video, which you become curious about and click on, leading you down what people like to call an “internet rabbit hole”.
Our environment determines how we act, which means that even when we have the best of intentions to complete a task, it won’t matter if your environment is telling you otherwise.
Unhealthy Solutions: Over-caffeinating to stay focused, which can end up making you feel anxious or agitated (read more on this from Mount Sinai). Giving in to your environment and letting it be out of your control.
Healthy Solution: Create your own unique bubble of focus. Start with identifying the environments you are most productive in and then build that for yourself.
A few tips to consider when building your environment:
- Find a music playlist that is good for studying like lo-fi or classical.
- Display motivational quotes, thought-provoking wall art, and pictures of individuals who inspire you to give you that extra push if you hit a productivity roadblock during your workday.
- Equip your workspace with everything you need to be productive and get tasks done. Keep it organized and close to hand.
- Let in the natural light! In a 2013 study from Northwestern University, researchers concluded that there is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.
Pitfall #2 – Struggling to Make Deadlines
Starting your day right is key to time management and without proper time management, you will always struggle to meet deadlines. We’ve all heard the saying: if you can win the morning, you can win the day.
Unhealthy Solution: Pulling all-nighters and sacrificing sleep. “Studies have shown sufficient sleep improves your short- and long-term memory improves emotional regulation, and helps weight regulation. ” as noted by Lara Trevino, AGNP-C, MSN, our nurse practitioner, in 5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep.
Healthy Solution: Build and commit to a solid morning routine that includes a consistent wake-up time, self-care, and a vision for your day. It’s all about starting a positive, forward momentum as soon as you wake up, instead of being reactive like most people tend to be. We asked psychologist Molly Sherb here at The Health Center to weigh in. She said, “I always tell my patients to try and commit to waking up mindfully, letting those first few minutes of the morning be just for them, allowing time to open your eyes, check-in with yourself and how you’re feeling, and challenging them to get up and brush their teeth BEFORE checking their phones. If we can give ourselves the first 5 minutes of the morning to ground ourselves and get centered for the day, it can allow us to feel more prepared for when the day takes us away from ourselves.”
Pitfall #3 – Getting Overwhelmed by your To-Do List
We can all relate to the feeling of having so much to get done that we don’t even know where to start. This oftentimes leads to loss of focus and procrastination. It may surprise you but in our society, success is more often a product of dedicated focus than raw intelligence.
Unhealthy Solution: Multitasking. Trying to get it all done at once stretches your energy causing you to accomplish less.
Healthy Solution: Keep it simple. Minimize your list to the most important priorities, then choose your top 3 priorities for the day and work one at a time. The key is to hyper focus on less, accomplish more. Also, developing a habit of saying no to things that interfere with your goals will give you more time to focus on the tasks that are important to you.
Dr. Sherb’s top tip is to do a self-assessment check throughout the day to monitor potential burnouts. She says, “We are all tasked with many different responsibilities in any given day/week/month. Getting more overwhelmed than usual can be a sign of burnout. In order to keep the engine running, it’s important to take pauses and refill the tank when necessary. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking an entire hour of your day to engage in self-care, but you can work to create micro-moments throughout the day where you pause to take a few deep breaths, watch a few minutes of your favorite stand up comedian, listen to your favorite song, walk to get a cup of coffee for some fuel and social interaction, etc. If we don’t refuel our tanks intentionally and purposefully, we will run out of gas eventually and it won’t be on our terms.”
Pitfall #4 – Daytime Sleepiness
The midday slump is a very real phenomenon that many people find themselves fighting during the workday. Whether it be lack of sleep, a heavy lunch, or overworking – conquering this is key to keeping your productivity flowing for the second half of the day.
Unhealthy Solution: Again, over-caffeinating and sugary snacks.
Healthy Solution: Prioritize sleep and identify your ideal sleep routine. From our article on the relationship between sleep and wellness, we know that “A good night’s sleep starts with understanding your chronotype. Your chronotype aka your underlying circadian rhythm is what determines your ideal sleep times. Everyone has a genetically determined chronotype that is hard-wired into the genes. You can push and pull for 30-45 minutes, but if you try to change it, you’ll likely feel jet-lagged. Challenge yourself to identify your sleep chronotype and then follow that rhythm for the week and see if you feel any more rested or productive.
Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as reducing arousal an hour or two prior to bedtime, is another healthy way to improve your sleep. Dr. Sherb says, “Many people think it necessary to avoid all screens before bedtime, and while this is ideal, the blue light from phones is not as detrimental as is the content you are watching/reading on your phone. If you are reading the news or watching a scary movie before bed, it will increase your physical and emotional arousal which then makes it hard for your system to wind down and fall asleep. Similarly, if you are working on something stressful and then getting into bed 20 minutes later, arousal levels will be high. To increase chances of falling asleep, engage in low stimulating activities to reduce arousal levels and facilitate a sense of calm.”
Some tips to keep in mind if you feel a midday slump approaching:
- Get up and move your body in any way you can.
- Meditate in your work area.
- Listen to music that gets you excited and engaged.
Need a productivity reset?
Use a journal or a note on your phone to track and record how much time you’re spending on daily tasks. Commit to it for a week and you will find insightful results on what might be sucking up your time. If the task isn’t worth your time, cut back or cut it completely.
Interested in a doctor-led proactive approach to a healthy lifestyle?
The Health Center at Hudson Yards is a membership-based multi-specialty practice located at 55 Hudson Yards or available virtually. For more information or to register as a member, visit our Membership FAQ.
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