I tried a neuroscientist’s top productivity tips – and I’ve been blown away

While attempting to write this feature I have, in no particular order: refilled my water glass, eaten a snack, refreshed my email, gazed out of the window, set five separate alarms to time-block my afternoon, retrieved a Diet Coke from the fridge, guzzled said can of DC, refreshed my email a second (perhaps third) time, taken a toilet break, gazed out of the window some more, spent at least a minute considering a second Diet Coke.

It’s not that I don’t want to write this article–I’ve been excited about it for weeks. It’s that I have a real issue with focus, and despite trying all the productivity tips I’ve been fed by social media “experts” and book authors who have bound and published their hacks promising turbocharged productivity pre-8 am, I’m yet to overcome it.

Despite my excitement for tasks at hand, maintaining focus has remained an elusive challenge. It’s frustrating to feel like my mind resembles a cluttered store floor, burying valuable thoughts beneath the chaos.

Discussing this struggle with experts like Dr. David Spiegel and delving into insights from neuroscientist Nicole Vignola has shed light on the underlying dynamics. It seems my issue often lies in fixating on the end result, creating a paralysing pressure that hampers starting the task itself.

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So, how do we navigate these challenges and enhance productivity? Vignola’s insights offer practical strategies tailored for different times of the day, aimed at managing dopamine levels—the neurotransmitter closely linked to motivation and reward.

Understanding dopamine’s role

Dopamine, beyond its association with pleasure, serves as a crucial catalyst for productive behaviour. It’s the fuel driving us toward anticipated rewards and enjoyable activities, influencing our inclination to engage in tasks. For instance, research suggests that individuals with higher dopamine levels are more likely to tackle challenging tasks, focusing on the potential benefits rather than the perceived effort.

Morning Boosts: Setting the Tone for the day

  1. Hydration: Kick-starting your day with hydration is key. Even slight dehydration can dent productivity by affecting cognitive functions. Making sure you adequately fuel your brain with water and electrolytes lays a solid foundation for the day’s tasks.
  2. Minimise social media: Resist the urge to dive into social media first thing in the morning. The dopamine spike followed by a dip can derail your focus and motivation for the day ahead. Prioritise health-boosting habits like mindful movement and breakfast instead.
  3. Movement matters: Jumpstart your day with physical activity, even if it’s just ten minutes. Exercise not only elevates dopamine levels but also sets a sustainable tone for the day’s productivity, making subsequent tasks feel more manageable.
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Evening Strategies: Winding down for tomorrow’s success

  1. Screen-Free Time: Steer clear of screens, especially after 11 pm. Artificial light exposure interferes with dopamine production, potentially leaving you feeling demotivated the next day. Opt for screen-free activities to promote restful sleep and rejuvenation.
  2. Distance from devices: Physically separating yourself from your phone, especially during downtime, can reset your dopamine system. Embrace the initial discomfort as your brain recalibrates, ultimately leading to improved focus and relaxation.
  3. Prioritise sleep: Quality sleep is non-negotiable for sustained productivity. Adequate rest not only replenishes vital hormones but also facilitates brain detoxification, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

Putting insights into practice

Implementing Vignola’s tips has been transformative, albeit challenging, to sustain consistently. Yet, each time I prioritise health and mindful engagement over mindless scrolling, I witness tangible improvements in mood and focus. These strategies, though simple, offer profound benefits for both mental and physical well-being.

As I continue integrating these practices into my routine, I invite you to embark on a similar journey toward heightened productivity. With actionable steps and a newfound understanding of our brain’s mechanisms, we can unlock our full potential and thrive in both work and life.

This article was syndicated from Marie Claire UK
Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer


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