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

As I sit down to tackle this piece, a familiar dance unfolds,  a sip of water, a nibble of a snack, a glance at my email inbox, a gaze out the window. The distractions multiply: setting alarms, grabbing a Diet Coke, then another, refreshing my inbox once more, and contemplating yet another round. It’s not that I lack the desire to write; I’ve eagerly anticipated this article for weeks. Rather, it’s my ongoing battle with focus that frustrates me. Despite trying every productivity tip peddled by social media gurus and self-help authors, I remain ensnared by distraction.

My mind resembles the bustling aisles of a busy market, cluttered with thoughts and ideas vying for attention. Finding a catchy opening sentence feels like searching for a tiny needle in a huge pile of hay. Yet amidst the chaos, a realisation dawns: perhaps I fixate too much on the result, the pressure to impress stifling my ability to simply begin. Dr. David Spiegel, a respected psychiatrist, hinted at this during our recent conversation, and it struck a chord. 

The mental gymnastics required to overcome this paralysis took a toll, draining my energy and eroding my confidence. So, where does one turn when conventional productivity hacks fall short? To neuroscientist Nicole Vignola, author of “Rewire: Your Neurotoolkit for Everyday Life.”

6 productivity tips from a neuroscientist

Why do I sometimes struggle to be productive?

Vignola’s insights shed light on the neurological underpinnings of productivity struggles. At the heart of the matter lies dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for reward-motivated behaviour. It’s not just about pleasure; dopamine influences our drive to pursue goals and complete tasks. Picture the surge of motivation as you lace up your running shoes, a rush fueled by the anticipation of the runner’s high. This neurochemical dance shapes our perception of effort versus reward, dictating our willingness to engage in challenging tasks.

In a 2020 study, researchers explored how dopamine levels influence decision-making regarding mental tasks. Participants faced a choice: opt for easier, less demanding tasks or tackle more challenging ones. Those with higher dopamine levels in key brain regions gravitated towards the tougher challenges, driven by the promise of greater rewards. Conversely, lower dopamine levels skewed perception towards the perceived costs of effort, fostering reluctance.

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Productivity tips for every hour

Armed with this, Vignola offers a toolkit for managing dopamine levels throughout the day, fostering sustained productivity.

Morning rituals for focus

    1. Hydration: Kickstart your day with a glass of water. Even mild dehydration can dampen cognitive function, impairing productivity. Prioritise hydration to fuel your brain’s communication network and maintain peak performance.
    2. Limit social media: Resist the urge to dive into social media first. The dopamine spike from scrolling disrupts your brain’s reward system, setting the stage for distraction and diminished motivation. Instead, embrace mindful movement, meditation, or a nourishing breakfast to set a positive tone for the day.
    3. Move your body: Kickstart your morning with movement, even if it’s just a brisk walk or a quick workout. Physical activity boosts dopamine levels, enhancing motivation and focus. Start small and gradually build momentum to harness the power of movement in priming your brain for productivity.
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Evening ritual for serenity

  1. Screen curfew: Unplug from screens at least an hour before bedtime to safeguard your sleep quality. Artificial light, including the glow from smartphones and laptops, disrupts dopamine production, impairing your ability to wind down. Establish a digital curfew to promote relaxation and prepare your brain for restorative sleep.
  2. Phone-free zone: Create designated phone-free spaces in your home, banishing devices from the bedroom and living areas. Physically distancing yourself from your phone curbs the impulse to mindlessly scroll, allowing your dopamine system to reset. Embrace the discomfort of separation to reclaim focus and presence.
  3. Prioritise sleep: Quality sleep is non-negotiable for optimal productivity. Ensure you get sufficient rest to replenish your body and mind. Deep sleep facilitates toxin clearance from the brain, warding off irritability and enhancing cognitive function. Prioritise sleep hygiene to unlock your full potential each day.

Embracing Vignola’s productivity tips has been transformative, infusing my days with newfound clarity and purpose. While the focus remains a work in progress, her strategies have empowered me to navigate distractions with greater resilience. As I continue to integrate these principles into my daily routine, I invite you to embark on your journey towards sustained productivity and well-being.

Embrace the power of neuroscience to unlock your full potential and thrive in every aspect of life.

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


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