Basic Lifestyle Strategies and Tools to Boost Your Productivity

January 21, 2016 | 

By Dr. Mercola

Is your to-do list filled to the brim, leaving important tasks undone at the end of each day? If so, you're not alone. It's an all-too-common problem these days, as distractions of all sorts suck up valuable time.

Making matters worse, many mistakenly believe that multi-tasking is the way to wring maximum efficiency out of every minute, when in fact the converse is true.

Focusing on one task at a time is actually far more efficient than multi-tasking, and the proof of this has even been scientifically established.

In the video above, Dr. Theo Compernolle, a Belgian physician with experience in clinical psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, and neurology discusses how multitasking efficiently is neurologically impossible for your thinking brain, and how understanding the inner workings of your brain can dramatically improve your productivity.

To Get More Done, Quit MultiTasking

Multitasking is the primary enemy if you want to get more done, because it requires your brain to go through a number of different maneuvers that sabotages productivity.

To switch between tasks, your brain must take the complex creative ideas you were thinking about and put them into temporal memory. Then, it must clean out your working memory, and go to long-term memory to retrieve the information you need to address the new task.

When you switch back to the first task you were working on, your brain has to go through the entire sequence again. With each switch, you end up losing time and efficiency.

Multitasking is also a major cause of errors and mistakes — due to the way your brain works — so you can also make great gains in work quality by learning to focus on one thing at a time.

Your Email Habits Can Make or Break Your Efficiency

Keeping vigil over your email inbox is one way to sabotage your productivity and end up with piles of unfinished work at the end of each day. Dr. Compernolle offers a number of excellent recommendations to improve your efficiency regarding emails, including the following:

Laying the Groundwork for Optimal Brain Function

When it comes to productivity, it's great to have tools and guidelines such as those above. But optimizing your general brain health should not be overlooked.

After all, if your brain doesn't work properly to begin with, or is "sluggish" from lack of nutrition and sleep, no amount of productivity tricks is going to save the day.

Normalizing your blood sugar and insulin level is one important factor. Alzheimer's disease is sometimes referred to as "type 3 diabetes" or "brain diabetes," highlighting the link between insulin resistance and declining brain function.

Insulin is actually a "master multitasker" that helps with neuron glucose-uptake, and the regulation of neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning.

In addition to reducing your fructose/sugar and non-fiber carb consumption, also be sure to consume plenty of healthy fats, including animal-based omega-3, found in fish, fish oil, and krill oil.

Research shows that a Mediterranean diet, rich in fish and olive oil — both sources of healthy fats — helps protect brain function. In one recent study,1participants who consumed several tablespoons of olive oil each day did better on tests evaluating thinking speed.

Exercise and Sleep Help Your Brain Work More Efficiently

Exercise is another critical component that can have a significant impact on your concentration and mental performance.

Those who are physically active typically have better brain oxygenation and better patterns of brain activity, particularly in the hippocampus and in connecting different brain regions together.

Such patterns are associated with improved cognitive function. Exercise also triggers the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which preserves brain cells and activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, effectively making your brain grow larger.

Other research2 has shown that exercise boosts mitochondria biogenesis, the tiny intracellular organelles that produce most of the energy for your body, which suggests exercise may help your brain work faster and more efficiently.

Sleep is also imperative if you want to reach new mental insights and be able to find creative solutions to the problems you encounter on any given day. Sleep enhances your memory formation, and helps improve your performance of challenging skills.

Midday napping can also be beneficial, dramatically boosting and restoring brainpower.3 It's not an alternative to getting enough high-quality nighttime sleep though, as important waste elimination occurs only during deep sleep cycles.

Nurture and Nourish Your Second Brain

Your gut is your "second brain," and gut bacteria transmits information to your brain via the vagus nerve, the 10th cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract).

There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain function. Quite simply, your gut health can impact your brain function, psyche, and behavior, as they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways.

Your gut bacteria are an active and integrated part of your body, and as such are heavily dependent on your diet and vulnerable to your lifestyle. If you consume a lot of processed foods and sweetened drinks, for instance, your gut bacteria are likely going to be severely compromised because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora and sugars feed bad bacteria and yeast.

Limiting sugar and processed foods and eating traditionally fermented foods (rich in naturally occurring good bacteria) are among the best ways to optimize your gut flora and subsequently support your brain health.

Other Tips and Tricks to Boost Productivity and Mental Performance

The Epoch Times4 and Today Health5 recently published articles listing various tips and tricks that can help boost your brain performance and efficiency.  Some of them were already detailed above. Here are a few more suggestions:

To Get More Done, Master Some Basic Life Skills

Improving your productivity involves more than just figuring out how to get a certain number of tasks done within a specific timeframe. Making sure you give your brain proper rest and nourishment are foundational aspects for any kind of mental performance.

Ditto for physical exercise, which greatly benefits your brain and can go a long way toward boosting cognition and clarity of thought. Once your brain is working optimally, productivity tools such as batch processing emails and creating a work environment that is most conducive to focus can be put to greatest use.