While I have written quite a bit about productivity and working smart, I feel that the fundamentals of productivity really narrow down to three key aspects. That means, if you are able to nail these things down, you are more productive than the majority of people out there.
In the article below I will talk about the three fundamentals of productivity and give tips for achieving these three fundamentals. Let’s get started.
1. Take Care of Your Back (including your neck and shoulders)
Famed author Margaret Atwood famously offered a sage piece of advice to people who want to become stellar writers.
Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
Back problems affect 80 percent of adults at one point or another. Don’t underestimate what pain can do for your productivity. Pain is extremely distracting. So take care of your back.
When I say take care of your back, I mean take care of your lower back, middle back, upper back, your neck, and your shoulders.
I’ve been in 3 car accidents and it has done a number on my neck and spine. So for a number of years, my neck and back would hurt whenever I sat in front of the computer for more than an hour or so.
I went to the chiropractor to try to fix the problem but the fixes were short-term. So before you pay for a chiropractor or a physical therapist for your back pain, try doing lifting weights first.
I started doing exercises that targeted the muscles that support my back/shoulders/neck with medium weights. The exercises I did have enabled me to be in front of the computer for hours on end without being bothered by pain.
But don’t wait until you have back problems to start doing back exercises. Back exercises are as much a preventive measure as they are for treatment.
I have three main exercises I do to treat and prevent back/neck/shoulder pain:
- barbell shoulder press (helps build supporting muscles around the shoulders and neck)
- dumbbell reverse fly (helps build supporting muscles around the upper back muscles)
- deadlift (helps build supporting muscles that support the lower back)
I do three sets, each set is 12-15 reps. That’s what I try to do every other day. I sometimes try to mix in pull ups too when I’m bored.
Keep the weights light enough to do three sets. We aren’t trying to be bodybuilders here.
2. Get Good Sleep
You know that a bad night’s sleep feels like. It feels like crap. You can’t be productive if you feel like crap.
Eight hours of sleep is too long. Five hours of sleep is too short. Aim for between 6-7 hours of sleep.
Science has shown that we do not need 8 hours of sleep. Rather, the people that sleep 6-7 hours generally live longer than people who sleep 8 hours a day.
If you find it difficult to sleep at night, try exercising early in the morning. Those who exercise in the morning get better sleep than those who exercise at night, according to recent studies.
It is also extremely important to avoid using your phone or laptop 1-2 hours before going to bed. Blue light emitted from electronic devices have been the culprit of many people’s sleep woes, including mine. Light in the blue spectrum emulates light coming from our sun and mess with our sleep-wake cycle by suppressing the production of melatonin (the chemical which makes you sleepy).
If you absolutely need to use your electronic devices before bed, try dimming your devices down or using apps like F.lux or Twilight that filters blue light from your devices.
Another great way to get quality sleep is to get blackout blinds/shades. Blackout blinds essentially block light from coming into the room. Blackout blinds are the reason why we sleep so well in hotels. You can find some on Amazon for dirt cheap.
You don’t need exercise to be productive in the short-term. But you do need it to avoid burnout from stress.
Exercise does a great job of relieving stress and sending feel-good chemicals like dopamine to boost your mood. A stressed, angry, sad brain is nowhere near as productive as a happy and motivated brain.
Many studies have also shown that you are much more focused after a bout of intense aerobic exercise. A large study conducted with the Napersville School District showed that students who ran a mile in the morning perform much better in school. Reading grades doubled and math scores increased by a factor of 20.
Aerobic exercise has also been shown to effective in treating ADHD. Those with ADHD can effectively replace medication with exercise because exercise does such a good job of focusing the brain.
If you aren’t able to do any aerobic exercise, at least try going for walks. Walks, especially outside walks, are also effective in boosting mood, creativity, and attention.
I’ve talked a lot about productivity on this site because I’m such a huge fan of figuring out ways to increase productivity. However, all other productivity tips come after these three mentioned above. If you don’t do these three things, doing anything else will essentially be fruitless.