In this post I have summarised the 7 hacks that make you more focused, as I love anything that improves my way of working and living. Hope they’ll help you too.
HACK #1 Leave your phone a few meters/several feet away from your bed when sleeping
It’s easy to get into a bad habit of checking emails and social media before going to sleep, and it’s equally tempting to do so when waking up during sleepless hours. Using a phone in those situations may prove to be excellent entertainment, but at least in my life, it has a terrible impact on the quality of my sleep and on the overall rest I’ll get.
The blue screen light suppresses the production of melatonin, that magical hormone that helps to control your sleep-wake cycle and that makes you sleepy/relaxed. You might also be heavily affected by anything too exciting or too stressful that you read or watched (hence, you might want to stick to a mellow book?) just before going to bed.
Why? Because stress increases the production of adrenaline that is connected to our fight or flight mechanism and this powerful hormone will tell your body to be alert.
And an additional helping: Leaving your phone far away from your bed also prevents you from snoozing in the morning. This is literally my best way of getting up when I want to, rather than waking up an hour later stressed, angry and terribly unfocused.
HACK #2 Meditate
Meditation empowers your mind to run more efficiently. A lot of research also suggests that a few minutes of daily mindfulness practices are associated with lower stress levels, more positivity, better focus and a creativity. And all you have to do is sit, how awesome is the payoff?
If you haven’t tried meditation, go easy! Don’t force yourself to start with 10-20 minutes at once, as chances are you’re going to quit quickly.
A few years ago I started with sitting down every morning for one minute, simply closing my eyes and listening to the breath. Then I gradually increased the time spent meditating when I was comfortable with this new habit. You can also try using mediation apps such as Headspace and Calm for guided meditations.
HACK #3 Cook in batches to reduce anxiety
Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to you straight away. Let me elaborate a little.
Your body and your mind function better and allow you to be more productive when you eat warm and nourishing food, to stay grounded. According to the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, light, dry and cold food (and drinks) increase our anxiety levels, which doesn’t help your productivity if you spend your entire day feeling unsettled. Therefore, go for cooked food that is warming, easy to swallow and easy to digest.
You might also feel more in control if you bring your own food to work and if you take the time to cook yourself. That way you can harness all that natural power we get from natural ingredients – and you spend your lunch hour sitting down comfortably and chewing well, instead of standing in line at the local sandwich shop.
I like to cook in large batches, making warm, hearty food. I usually reserve a few hours for this during lazy Sunday afternoons or any other day that you spend at home with a bit of time at your hands. Try my killer Bean Bolognese, this Roasted Quinoa Salad or an overnight Bone Broth for some ideas that can be recycled for many days in a row (or frozen for later!).
HACK #4 Walk or ride a bike to your meetings without YOUR HEADPHONES
We’re always hyper connected. We’re massive multitaskers, and unfortunately most of us aren’t as good at it as we’d like to believe (or maybe you’re really the exception to the rule?!).
Our brains are seriously over-worked after a day of staring at computer screens and smart phones and being surrounded by constant annoying alerts and loud ring tones.
I’ve noticed how liberating it is to put the phone away while walking or cycling to meetings. I find that I come up with great ideas, solve some problems and just enjoy the moment. I feel more connected to myself and to the world around me.
All that by doing less!
And another bonus: According to Harvard Business Review, regular exercise improves concentration, sharpens your memory, makes you learn faster, prolongs your mental stamina, enhances creativity and lowers stress. In addition, any physical activity also elevates your mood – which has a direct impact on your workplace performance. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and stick to it!
HACK #5 Deciding what you want (‘GOAL DIGGING’)
We live in a world where everything is practically possible and your level of freedom can feel a little daunting when it comes to choosing a future.
I believe in the power of careful, intentional choice. Call it manifestation, goal diggin’, anything you like. The point is that you need to choose – and then go for it. You’re probably not going to succeed (in whatever that’s important to you) until you’re fully committed to the result and the ‘why’. The cause or end result needs to be crystal clear and very specific. The question ‘What do you want?” still annoys the hell out of me, because it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and small. Yet, it also forces me to focus and take the time I need to figure out my goals, write down my vision and set the milestones needed to get there.
It ain’t easy – but that’s not why you got yourself into it in the first place, is it?
Maybe the Japanese concept, ikigai, helps you – the idea of connecting with your purpose in life. You start off by answering the four main questions related to what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for and what you’re good at. Those answers will then get you closer to the essence of what’s right for you.
And interestingly enough, ikigai often has nothing to do with work or income in Japan. It’s a slow process that eventually is designed to give you joy and purpose.
HACK #6 One minute of gratitude
The best argument I’ve ever heard in favour of gratitude exercises is this: anger, fear and stress lose their power over you when you express your gratitude.
It’s simple, really. Think about someone/something you love deeply – let’s use your dog as an example. Picture snuggling this happy, warm and friendly fur ball, and try feeling really angry about something that you’re experiencing simultaneously.
See? It doesn’t work. The anger/fear/stress fades. The negative emotions become powerless.
I do one minute of gratitude every morning after meditating and often later during the day when my mind is spinning out of control or when I get stuck in a train of bad thoughts.
My one minute of gratitude is the most effective way of resetting myself, of reminding me living a fabulous life and of allowing me to be more productive doing what really matter to me. I think it’s good to do that as often as possible – as we always run the risk of taking things for granted, which is the perfect recipe for always wanting more and never feeling content.
HACK #7 Take a cold shower
Did I lose you?
I’m from Finland, a notoriously cold and dark country, where we take pride in jumping into snow banks and taking a dip in a cold lake in between long sauna sessions. There’s nothing quite like the feeling after it.
In a larger city, those options are unfortunately not available – but a cold shower is (sometimes also on offer against your own will…) Ned Brophy-Williams, an Australian sports scientist explains how cold water immersion redirects blood flow by limiting inflammation and swelling, as well as improving the amount of blood returning the heart. This highly effective exercise essentially cleans you out. And there is also some clinical evidence showing that cold water can stimulate healthy brown fat (found in the upper neck, shoulders and chest) and can help burn away calorie-loaded lipids that like to pile up on your gut and waistline.
Equally, Tony Robbins, one of the world’s leading life and business strategists, is famous for his cold plunges. He has an ice-cold pool (57F/14C) in his backyard and he claims that cold water improves lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation, reduces muscle inflammation, boosts happiness levels and increases weight loss.
How’s that for improved over all productivity?