How To Turn Yourself Into A Lean, Mean, Productivity Machine

by Alexis Rodrigo

in Entrepreneurship

“I’m surprised you’ve been able to function normally,” my family doctor said as she went over the results of my blood work.

Turn Yourself Into a Productivity Machine

I had a nutritional deficiency so bad I should have been spending my entire days in bed, instead of working a full-time job, running my home business, and caring for my husband and three kids.

But in fact, I had been wishing I could stay in bed all day. I wanted it so badly, I began suspecting I had clinical depression. Except I didn’t have other symptoms. I was still vain (cared for my looks) and otherwise happy.

Fortunately, my work didn’t suffer. But household cleaning sure did.

My doctor’s words made me realize it doesn’t matter how much time management skills or productivity hacks we have. Unless we’re in tip-top shape physically and mentally, then we will always be under-productive. Working when you’re tired, stressed out, and malnourished is like chopping a tree with a dull knife. You may eventually succeed, but it will be much harder and take a lot longer than it needs to.

In this post, I’m going to cover the different elements to becoming the sharpest, most productive person you can be.

5 Essential Ingredients to Your Most Productive Self

1. Nutrition

Let’s start with nutrition. We need food to survive and quality food to live optimally. As I have experienced first-hand, some nutritional deficiencies can cause fatigue, confusion, and brain fog — things that make your to-do list more daunting than it has to be. These deficiencies include the lack of iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

Scientists have found that the human brain uses massive amounts of energy. Brain expert and author of Brain Rules, John Medina, calls the brain a “pig” when it comes to energy consumption. The human brain needs plenty of glucose and oxygen. Glucose is a form of sugar from food. The amount the brain needs to perform optimally is roughly equivalent to the amount found in a banana.

You don’t have to have clinical nutritional deficiency to hamper your productivity. Just having a poor diet overall (which will eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies) seriously affects your ability to perform. Eating nutritionally-poor foods, overloading on sugar (which first causes a spike and then a drastic dip, in blood sugar levels), and missing meals altogether can lead to reduced energy, increased stress, cloudy thinking, and chronic tiredness. Not to mention, increased susceptibility to illness. You can’t be your most productive self when you’re sick.

To support your physical and mental performance, your body needs optimum nutrition, which includes plenty of omega 3 fatty acids (after all, the brain is 60% fat) and healthy sources of glucose in the form of complex carbs. The following sources of essential fatty acids and “good” carbs are considered brain foods: nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, fish, avocado, and whole grains.

2. Rest

Adequate rest is another critical element in human productivity. We simply cannot keep going, and going, and going, and going like the Energizer bunny.

Just when you need to be at your most productive, that’s when you need to stop working frequently. Take a nap, even. And most definitely, get enough sleep.

Makes sense that productivity methods like the Pomodoro technique recommend limited periods of work interrupted by short rest periods. Short naps — under 30 minutes — are said to be good for health and well-being.

When I was growing up in the Philippines, the belief was children should take naps to reach their maximum potential height (can you tell I wasn’t a napper as a child?). I don’t know if naps make you tall, but they have been shown to make us more alert, better able to remember and learn, and become more creative. A 20-minute nap has been found to be more effective at reviving a tired person than coffee or exercise.

Naps can improve productivity

Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Salvador Dali are only a few of the world’s famous nappers.

Night-time sleep is also important. Sleep deprivation significantly hampers our ability to think. What suffers? According to Medina, memory, attention, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and motor dexterity, among other things. When I haven’t had enough sleep, I’m cranky and my eyesight gets cloudy — not an ideal state for maximum productivity.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, this can vary for each individual. For example, I tend to wake up after just 6 hours of sleep, unless I’m ill.

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3. Stress Reduction

Stress has a negative impact on productivity. It causes the release of hormones that make it difficult for children to learn. In fact, according to Brain Rules, emotional stability in the home is the single greatest predictor of academic success. This has led Medina to advise parents, “If you want your kid to get into Harvard, go home and love your spouse.”

Stress hurts adults’ brains, too, according to Medina. It impedes our memory, executive function (such as the ability to make decisions and carry them out), and even motor skills. To become more productive, eliminate as many sources of stress as you can. Learn to manage the stress that can’t be avoided. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and positive self talk can help.

4. Exercise

You may think you’re too busy to exercise. In fact, you’re too busy to skip it. Exercising increases the amount of oxygen in all the cells of the body, including the brain. Remember, the brain craves oxygen to perform best. Exercise can also help with stress management and promotes better sleep.

No wonder exercise has a consistent, positive relationship with how well our brains function. Exercise makes the brain work better, period. If you haven’t been exercising, getting started now on a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises, will improve your brain’s performance.

Still think you don’t have time to exercise?

5. Motivation

The final critical ingredient to being your most productive self is not related to physical health. It has more to do with your emotions and psyche: motivation.

According to expert marketer and entrepreneur Dan Kennedy, lack of productivity is not so much a problem of time management, but of motivation. “Most people are just not sufficiently motivated to do everything that’s necessary to be super productive,” says Kennedy in Extreme Productivity Blueprint.

This explains how I was able to function “normally” even when I was in a state of severe nutritional lack. My motivation was so strong that I was able to get out of bed and get stuff done. That’s how powerful motivation is.

It’s also what Steve Jobs meant when he said, “Stay hungry.” Hunger is what motivates us to achieve and excel.

Next time you’re dragging your feet with a certain task, ask yourself, “How can I increase my motivation to get this done?” Alternatively, make a list of all your “reasons why”: Why do you want to have a successful business? Why do you want to achieve your income goal? Why do you want your dream lifestyle? Keep reminding yourself of your big reasons and you’ll stay fired up and motivated.

Those are the five ways you can become the ultimate, lean, mean productivity machine you’ve always wanted to be.

Which area do you need to work on? What do you resolve to do differently after reading this post?

Share your thoughts below.

Powernap photo by Tony Bowden

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Bakari Chavanu March 19, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Alexis, your suggestions are right on the mark. Especially as you get older, getting rest, eating better, and exercising (I try to take at least a mile walk everyday) are key to staying productive. I also discovered that drinking green tea before going to bed helps with getting a better sleep. I actually used to drink coffee and eat a piece of dessert before going to bed, but I realized that they both were making it difficult for me to go to sleep. Drinking a few glasses of water in the morning are also very helpful.

Reply

Alexis Rodrigo March 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm

@Bakari – I never heard of drinking green tea for sounder sleep. I thought the caffeine would keep you awake?

Reply

Jennifer Mattern March 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Wow. I would have thought so too Alexis. I wonder if it’s more because he swapped the green tea for coffee. Maybe it was still a cutback in the caffeine, so it helped.

The only tea I’ve had any luck with is Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer tea. Oddly their blend designed for bedtime doesn’t work for me, nor does the traditional chamomile tea.

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David Masters March 20, 2014 at 9:42 am

Rooibos tea, peppermint tea and camomile tea all calm me down and help me to sleep. They’re all caffeine free. My favourite is rooibos with a drop of milk.

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Alexis Rodrigo March 20, 2014 at 9:45 am

@David – I love rooibos tea, too! I drink it all day long. If you cut my veins open, rooibos tea would flow out, lol!

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Marya Miller March 20, 2014 at 10:02 am

@Lexi, as you know, I struggle with disability and health issues daily, but I think I must have mega-motivation. I enjoyed your post – you’ve really hit the nail on the head – and thank you for reminding me I should get my B12 checked. (I used to have B12 injections, and they helped with a lot of things.)

I recently discovered Coachglue’s “Unstoppable Productivity” too (only I’ve been calling it the Action Enforcer – I think “Unstoppable Productivity” sounds much more friendly ;) ). I absolutely love it! It works well for people who have to combine multi-levels of their lives in order to get a schedule that works – medical appointments, family responsibilities, work deadlines. I even put reminders to eat in mine. ;) The Unstoppable Productivity software is the only reason I *finally* had time, after a couple of years, to set up my new website – and start writing articles. It’s all about getting the right tools – and making sure you do everything you can to be optimally fit, relaxed, and well rested (even when you can’t do as much as others.) ;)

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Alexis Rodrigo March 20, 2014 at 10:12 am

@Marya – I don’t know how you’re able to accomplish so many things in spite of your health issues! You ARE one mean productivity machine! Oh and thank you for the wonderful testimonial on Unstoppable Productivity. I’m sure Nic and Melissa would love to see it :)

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Carolina McLaughlin March 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

Hello Lexi,

I am sorry that you have been so tired but now you know what it is you can get back on track. Try juicing your fruit and vegetables, I have been doing this since January and I really have so much extra energy and the best thing is that it is natural and the effects are almost instant! The next is something I call situational disorder where events such as illness and work have taken priority. This is the time to ask for help or if it is in the budget, pay for it.

Best

?Carolina
Style Organization
519 254 6611
http://www.styleorganization.com
carolina@styleorganization.com

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