Jumpstart Your Productivity
Use These These Three Brain-Friendly Tips to Jumpstart Your Productivity
You know that feeling when you’re in the middle of a project, working away on something that you are super focused on or passionate about, and time just seems to melt away? That feeling of being totally enmeshed with what you’re working on, and you feel confident, energized, and inspired? That is what is called Flow, and it is the end result of the perfect combination of Fun, Fear, and Focus!
Not only does getting into Flow make us feel more alive and connected to what we are doing, but it actually directly benefits how productive we are. When we are in Flow, we are FIVE TIMES more productive than we would otherwise be (source: McKinsey & Company). What this means is that you can do less work in less time and complete the tasks that may take a person one work week in ONE day!
The best part about Flow? We can harness it! It isn’t a fleeting experience, like a rainbow that we appreciate when it arrives but that we need to wait around for it to show up again. We are in control – and that’s so empowering!
Using my straightforward, simple, and neuroscience-supported formula of Fun + Fear + Focus, you can learn to get into Flow wherever and whenever you need it! These 3 F’s form the foundation from where Flow can … Flow!!
At the center of all Fun is the neurochemical dopamine. Most of us are familiar with dopamine. We know that it helps influence our moods and has a direct relationship with the reward centers in our brains. One of the coolest things that dopamine does is helps increase the function of our prefrontal cortex (think of it as the lubrication that helps keep the cogs running smoothly). This is the area of the brain that we use for decision-making, rational thinking, and creativity! The more dopamine that we have, the better our problem-solving skills will be, we will be more flexible and curious, and creative in our thinking, and we will have increased comprehension and perseverance. How cool is that?
There are many ways that we can stimulate our brains to release dopamine, and they aren’t too difficult to do. Not everyone is always going to find dopamine in the exact same way, but these neuroscience-based tips are sure to work for all of us!
💪 Play to your strengths:
It may be almost too simple to be true but seeking out a work environment that allows you to do something you love is a sure way to get more dopamine. A vast majority of us are going to spend over 50% of our waking hours at work – so we better make sure we love what we do!
😃 Surround yourself with dopamine enablers:
The term psychic vampire may sound a bit far-fetched – but we have all been in the presence of those people who just drain us. By surrounding ourselves with
optimistic, positive, and, yes, funny people (in work and in our personal lives), it will be so much easier to get into Flow and realize our goals.
⭐ And speaking of goals:
When we have a clear sense of purpose, our “happiness trifecta” is triggered, and it truly lights up our brain! Oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine (our super friend!) cause a positive feedback loop in our brains – leading to more fulfillment and more motivation!
🏋️ Move your body:
Access to strenuous activity is not always within reach for everyone, depending on their physical limitations, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make time for conscious and consistent movement every day! Something as simple as standing up from your desk to stretch and walk around the office once every 45 minutes will improve the blood flow to your brain and work to increase the release of dopamine. Make sure to move your body to the best of your abilities every day – hit the gym and sweat it out, take a walk for lunch, or even get some squats in at your desk – all of these are ways to get your body up, moving, and producing dopamine!
Now, I’m not talking about horror movie, suspense-filled, cold-sweat-inducing fear. I’m talking about the feeling that you get when you know that what you are doing is truly important and really matters – that there is something at stake and that you are invested. This kind of Fear happens when you feel challenged (in a good way), and it causes your brain to release norepinephrine. This is the neurochemical that tells our brains (and our bodies) to “Stay alert and pay attention! We are in the middle of something GREAT!”
We all have our own optimal stress point, and this is what dictates just how much “fear” we need in order to get that perfect release of norepinephrine. Too little fear and we don’t have that push that we are looking for that tells us we need to stay invested and focused – we may even start to feel like a robot, just going through the motions. Too much? Well, that’s edging into horror movie territory – and if this is where you’re working, it is time to take a step back and reevaluate the environment you are in!
The best way to harness the benefits of Fear is by working juuuuust outside of our comfort zone or current skill level. Being “slightly over-challenged” keeps your brain engaged, your norepinephrine flowing, and ensures that you are always learning and growing! As your skills improve, your comfort zone will widen, and you will be able to take on new challenges without feeling overwhelmed.
You can be having Fun at work and be working with the right amount of Fear, but without Focus, you won’t be able to reach Flow.
The key element when it comes to Focus is the neurochemical acetylcholine. Think of it as a spotlight on a stage, helping our brain know exactly what is important and leaving everything else (the distractions) in the dark. Thank you, acetylcholine!!
Two of my favorite ways to improve (or rather, ensure) focus are by holding what I call a “Meeting of One” and by tapping into the power of “when-then” plans.
Most people would never consider barging into the middle of a meeting and interrupting it. That would be rude and a disruption. However, we don’t often give the same consideration to interrupting people when they are at their desks. I am certain that we have all been in the middle of something, trying hard to concentrate, and have had someone come through asking a question which we would have rather they waited until we were not busy to do! There is where scheduling a Meeting of One comes in. Set aside time on your calendar to be present with yourself and your tasks and let others know that during these times you are just as unavailable as you would be if you were in a meeting with others.
When I step on stage to present, I’m instantly hyper-focused. It’s like a switch has been flipped, and everything becomes automatic, unconscious, and familiar. This is because over the years I have developed a habit of focus, and you can do it too by using a “when-then” plan.
By deliberately tying your need to focus to a specific time or situation, you can develop a trigger where your body (and brain) know EXACTLY what to do at that moment. Start by telling yourself something similar to “When it’s 3 pm on Thursday, then I will shift into focus mode,” or, “When I move from my desk to my table, then it’s time to get some focused work done.” Because “when-then” plans are processed in the areas of our brain that don’t require willpower, there is a higher likelihood that they will be easier to stick to. Do this often enough, and it will become a habit – and your focus will come naturally!
Focus is an essential part of this equation, but the great thing is that if you have Fun and Fear, Focus is bound to follow naturally! And where Focus is found, Flow is just around the corner!