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    Self-Optimization — energy

    14 Productivity Hacks to Optimize Your Workflow

    14 Productivity Hacks to Optimize Your Workflow

    At the end of your day, do you feel like you could have gotten more done? Maybe you could have completed more tasks if you cut out distractions or implemented efficiency tactics.

    After a long day’s work, you should feel satisfied; a sense of accomplishment and completion. These feelings can become the norm through a few productivity tools and hacks.

    Most of us are well-trained and skilled in our job duties and tasks, so we normally don’t bother to explore ways to improve our productivity, although some of the things we do could be done better.

    You can use these productivity tools to enhance your ability to get more done throughout the day.

    Focus on One Task at a Time

    This is sometimes known as the Pomodoro System or Pomodoro Technique. It consists of breaking down your tasks into 25-minute intervals and taking short breaks in between tasks. In this way, you concentrate on one task. You abandon the idea of multitasking. You are focused on the singular task at hand and completely in the zone.

    You also have a sense of urgency when you’re on the clock and you forget trying to fine-tune your work. Stress levels are also reduced because you focus on one task at a time instead of trying to get everything done at once.

    Mobile Apps for Increasing Productivity

    There are a variety of apps on the market that can increase your productivity, whether for handling your emails, notes, financials, reading, etc., and many are free to download. For example, there are apps for grocery shopping, writing, notes, banking, and other mundane tasks.

    You can really take advantage of technology to increase productivity whether you’re in the office or somewhere else.

    Here is a list of some free apps to explore, which can increase your productivity:

    • ‘Todoist’ - a great to-do list manager
    • ‘Keeper’ - a password manager
    • ‘Shoeboxed’ - for expense tracking
    • ‘Evernote’ – Evernote is essentially a second brain. You can record ALL of your notes on Evernote, whether it’s a thought you’ve been pondering, or notes on a book you’ve been reading, or perhaps for one you’re thinking about writing.

    The “Two-Minute” Do-It-Now Rule

    There are many tasks that pop-up during your day and they eventually begin to stack up.

    Before you decide whether or not to complete a task, ask yourself, “Can it be completed in two minutes?” If it can be completed in two minutes or less, do it now! If the task will take longer than two minutes, add it to your to-do list but make sure to prioritize it appropriately.

    Write Down Your Most Important Tasks

    Eliminate ambiguity in your workday. Ambiguity can be a productivity killer and a time waster. It has become increasingly important, in an age of perpetual distraction, to prioritize the most important tasks. Take some time in the morning to decide which tasks are the most important ones to your overall vision and address those first.

    This practice will help you overcome procrastination and take things off your mind while taking action on a more consistent basis.

    Create a Schedule to Check Emails

    It’s easy to get sidetracked checking your emails dozens of times a day, especially if you have multiple email addresses. Turn off your email notifications because if you log-in to your email, you’ll end up not only responding to one email but many emails and then you’ll begin organizing them. Instead, choose only a few, specific times each day.

    I recommend checking your email once in the morning, again before lunch, and another toward the end of your workday.

    Eliminate Website Distractions

    There are many websites on the internet that are so, so interesting, but very distracting.

    These sites can ruin your productivity. Block those sites on your work computer to increase your productivity level. You can find an effective website blocker if you simply “google it.”

    Practice Saying “No”

    For many people, it is difficult to say “no” to requests from certain people. Some people want to use or manipulate others. You must practice saying “no” sometimes. Otherwise, these people will kill your productivity.

    You can simply let people know that “you’re too busy now and that you’ll let them know if you can get to it later,” as an example.

    Listen to Music

    You can increase your focus, concentration, and productivity level by listening to certain types of music. It takes some experimentation to figure out what music works best for you since people react differently to different types of music.

    There are apps available that provide music that has been scientifically proven to increase productivity. One such example is Brain.fm.

    Use a Password Manager

    It’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to remember our passwords for the various sites we peruse.

    Download a password manager program like LastPass which will remember but encrypt your passwords to keep them safe. This way you can simply log-in without entering your password each time.

    Yoga or Meditate Each Morning

    Meditation is about concentrating or focusing on one thing and blocking out all distractions.

    Studies have shown that both meditation and yoga can decrease stress, enhance creativity, increase focus, and improve memory.

    You can begin by meditating or doing yoga for a few minutes each morning. As your practice becomes more routine, you can lengthen the duration of each practice.

    Natural Sunlight, Indoors and Outdoors

    Open your blinds first thing in the morning to get started with some healthy natural light.

    Natural light will improve your mood and your outlook throughout the day. You’ll find yourself being more productive while performing everyday tasks. Sunshine has been shown to facilitate better sleep and an overall better quality of life.

    If you live in an area with limited sunlight, remember to take a vitamin-D supplement. Studies show that only about 10 minutes of direct sunlight are needed for your daily dose.

    Read What Inspires You

    A great way to begin your productive day is to read something, or write something about a subject that you are keenly interested in or passionate about.

    You should choose something that you’re curious about and something which can possibly give you talking points with others throughout the day. Inspirational passages can give us the strength we need each and every morning to get through even the most difficult of times and encourage us to push forward when challenges arise.

    But don’t spend the entire day reading or writing. Invest 15-20 minutes and move on to the next task.

    Other Productivity Tools and Hacks

    • Don’t forget to put your laptop away for a few hours a day, if possible.
    • Take time to rest your body and mind.
    • Track your time and tasks with an app.
    • Intentionally plan your day in the morning.
    • Wake up a little earlier to get the most out of your morning between 6-9am.
    • Alter your environment a bit.

    There are many ways to increase productivity. Mold your productivity-enhancing activities according to what works with your body, mind, and schedule. Utilize the above productivity tools and hacks on a regular basis and you’ll see your productivity skyrocket.

    Feed Your Brain With Nootropics

    One of the most powerful and efficient tools for maintaining a high level of productivity is with a nootropic supplement like metaBRAIN.

    metaBRAIN is a three-supplement box designed for peak mental performance. The three supplements are centered around focus, memory, and drive, formulated with a total of 31 powerhouse nootropic ingredients.

    We created metaBRAIN® for the high-achiever like you looking to perform and feel their best each day. Whether you're an entrepreneur, college student, athlete, or professional gamer—metaBRAIN® can be the edge to dominate your competition, excel in your field, and take your life to the next level.

    How to Sleep Better: A Guide for Insomniacs

    How to Sleep Better: A Guide for Insomniacs

    Sleep is a vital component of our daily lives.

    However, most individuals cannot pinpoint the key reason why it is important and thus, tend to engage in poor sleeping habits and patterns that eventually lead to ill health and general inefficiency. This is because sleep functions as the body’s safeguard that protects both our physical and mental well-being.

    Unfortunately, the current harsh economic climate often undermines the quantity and quality of sleep that we get on a daily basis.

    This has been attributed to the fact that most of us have to work particularly hard to meet our financial responsibilities and have to put in vast amounts of time at the workplace, and still keep up with our daily chores at home. 

    As a direct result, recent studies conducted on the impact of inadequate sleep indicate that over 30% of the adult U.S. population suffers from insomnia and 35% of adults don't get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

    The Price of Poor Sleep

    It is worth noting that lack of adequate amounts of quality sleep tends to affect the way our bodies and brains function while we are awake. While one is asleep, both the body and brain both get some rest to prepare for the next day’s activities.

    The quality and quantity of sleep one obtains affects how well you can react, think, learn, and ultimately, interact with others because the act of sleeping works to reduce the hormones and chemicals that are commonly associated with increased stress.

    Sleeping naturally works to increase the human growth hormone, improves performance, and ultimately, enhances the brain’s and body’s recovery rate.

    It is, therefore, vital that individuals understand the importance of sleep in order to further learn how to optimize their sleep schedule to improve their mental and physical capabilities during the day.

    The Science of Optimizing Sleep: Getting Rid of Sleep Debt

    Feeling sleepy during the day is a sign that you are either not getting enough sleep (quantity) or not getting good quality sleep.

    Simply laying on your bed for a couple of hours with your eyes shut cannot fool your body into believing that it is rested. More often than not, most individuals are actually unaware of the fact that they are sleep deprived. 

    If you require an annoyingly loud alarm to ensure that you wake up on time, heavily rely on your alarm’s snooze button, feel sluggish throughout the day, or fall asleep soon after you go to bed (typically 5 minutes), chances are that you are suffering from sleep debt.

    Sleep debt refers to the difference between the length of time (quantity) of sleep your body requires each day and the actual number of hours of sleep that you get each day. Each time you sacrifice your sleeping time to perform any activity, you inadvertently add to the sleep debt you eventually have to pay in order to function at optimum levels. 

    Unfortunately, you cannot repay your sleep debt by sleeping in on your weekend days off, because one or two nights of solid sleep is not enough. Although, your body and brain may temporarily gain a boost of energy after your weekend of sleep, this energy will drop off as your work week progresses.

    Considering the negative impact that sleep deprivation has on both our mental and physical abilities, it is only logical that we learn a few tricks that will work to help us sleep faster in order to obtain longer sleeping hours. However, longer sleeping hours should not be the only element of sleep you should strive to obtain. The quality of sleep also plays a major role in how we tackle day-to-day stress. 

    After all, what is the use of a long, low-quality slumber that does not work to help the body and brain rest and recover from the entire day’s activities?

    Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule

    One of the most destructive misconceptions about sleep involves the amount of sleep time that a person requires to feel rested and refreshed. Although the most recommended length is between 6-8 hours each night, the truth is that you are the only person who can accurately judge how much time you need to spend sleeping in order to keep feeling refreshed, happy, and alert throughout the day.

    That noted, the best way to get rid of sleep debt is by optimizing your sleep schedule. This is a 3-phase process which requires dedication and patience to see results.

    Phase 1: Preparation

    Tips and habits that help you sleep better and longer

    During the preparation phase in optimizing your sleep schedule, you will learn the basic techniques that will help you develop pre-bedtime habits that will help you sleep faster and longer. 

    The Stages of Sleep

    According to sleep.org, there are four stages of sleep as well as a fifth one known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep:

    “Stage One: Within minutes (sometimes even within seconds!) of nodding off, your brain produces what are called alpha and theta waves and your eye movements slow down. This introduction to sleep is relatively brief, lasting up to seven minutes. Here, you are in light stage sleep, which means that you're somewhat alert and can be easily woken. It’s during this stage of sleep that people often indulge in brief “catnaps.”

    Stage Two: During this stage, which is also fairly light, the brain produces sudden increases in brain wave frequency known as sleep spindles. Then brain waves slow down. If you were to schedule a “power nap” you’d want to wake up after this stage of sleep.

    Stages Three & Four: This stage is the beginning of deep sleep, as the brain begins producing slower delta waves. You won't experience any eye movement or muscle activity. At this point, it becomes a little harder for you to be awakened, because your body becomes less responsive to outside stimuli. The brain produces even more delta waves and you move into an even deeper, more restorative stage of sleep next. It's most difficult to wake up during this stage. This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.

    Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep: You generally enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after initially falling asleep, and each REM stage can last up to an hour. An average adult has five to six REM cycles each night. During this final phase of sleep, your brain becomes more active. This is when most dreaming occurs, your eyes jerk quickly in different directions (hence, the name!), heart rate and blood pressure increase, and breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow. REM sleep plays an important role in learning and memory function, since this is when your brain consolidates and processes information from the day before so that it can be stored in your long-term memory.”

    Exercise Regularly

    According to research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, the aim of exercising is not to wear your body out in order to “crash sleep” afterwards. Instead, taking part in regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, will greatly improve one’s sleep in the evening because your brain will have less trouble calming down.

    It is worth mentioning that exercising just before going to bed has the opposite effect because the exercise stimulates both your brain and body. Thus, if you cannot afford to engage in some afternoon exercises, it is advisable that you find time to do so in the morning.

    Reset Your Alarm Tone

    Most individuals who are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation heavily rely on incredibly loud alarm tones because they need a quick jolt to get them out of their slumber. Unfortunately, this only temporarily shocks the brain and body into action, and once this initial shock wears off, you will become groggy and tired. 

    Instead of using an annoying alarm tone, it is best to change your alarm tone to soothing music or sounds.

    This will make it easier for you to naturally and gradually wake up because your body and brain will take the necessary time to slowly adjust to the fact that it’s time to wake up.

    Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine Before Bed

    Although alcohol intake is noted to induce a relaxing feeling and assist in the process of falling asleep, the general consensus among sleep studies is that alcohol consumption before bed eventually wreaks havoc on your overall sleep cycle. As such, you are more likely to have a night full of restless sleep that is characterized by frequent moments of being awake.

    Caffeine lengthens your sleep cycle’s 2nd phase, or stage. This is great for naps, as the brain has adequate time to process the day’s events and reorganize itself. However, whilst the 2nd phase of sleep is lengthened, the 3rd and 4th phases are shortened.

    This has the negative effect of making you wake up feeling physically tired and sleepy.

    Nicotine is also noted to negatively affect one’s sleep cycle because it stimulates the brain’s cells and entirely prevents you from falling asleep.

    Phase 2: Create an Evening Ritual

    Get Rid of Attention-Grabbing Electronic Devices in the Bedroom

    Numerous studies conclude that attention-grabbing devices such as a cell phone, TV set, computer or laptop, work to harm your sleep cycle by negatively affecting the quality of sleep you achieve each night. This is because the light emitted from the device screens confuses the brain and tricks it into believing that it is daytime rather than night-time.

    Even if you are able to fall asleep with these devices on, your sleep quality will be compromised because the brain remains highly active and sensitive to your surroundings.

    Due to this increased activity, the restorative power that sleep has on the brain and body is lost because you can be easily roused from sleep, and your body tends to move around while you are asleep.

    Improve Your Evening Ritual

    The value of creating a calming evening ritual before going to bed must not be underestimated, as it is the key controlling factor that affects both sleep quality and quantity.

    The best evening rituals that are known to assist in the process of falling and staying asleep throughout the night include taking a relaxing bath and meditating when you get to bed.

    The best sleep-oriented meditation technique requires that you actively visualize a dream you would like to have that specific night. This meditation technique is highly effective in eliminating any negative thoughts that may unintentionally keep you awake for long periods of time.

    It helps to mitigate the effects of feelings of anxiety produced from negative thoughts and images that you may have experienced during the day. In addition, meditating using this sleep-oriented technique, reduces the likelihood of experiencing nightmares that abruptly interrupt sound sleep.

    Phase 3: It’s All About Timing

    Timing your sleeping hours is the most recommended method of permanently getting over any sleep debt that you may have accumulated over time. As such, one is advised to ensure that you wake up and fall asleep at the same time, or at least within the same hour, each day.

    Moreover, the entire concept of sleeping in on your weekend days off should be eliminated.

    Rather than continuing to sleep after your scheduled wake-up time, it is recommended that you wake up at the same time as you do on weekends and perform one or two light activities in the morning hours.

    After the activity/activities, you can take a one or two hour nap to get the extra hours of sleep your body craves. This will allow you to pay off some of your sleep debt without compromising the sleep/wake schedule (created in phase 1’s Timing process) that your body needs to slowly get rid of the accumulated effects of sleep deprivation.

    Bonus: Use Natural Sleep Remedies

    Melatonin

    This is a natural hormone which assists in the regulation of one’s sleep/wake cycle. It works by enhancing the quality of sleep you achieve and also assists those suffering from insomnia in the process of falling asleep.

    Chamomile Tea

    Chamomile extract is noted to have a tranquilizing effect on the body and the brain. It assists in the process of falling, and staying, asleep.

    Valerian Root

    This herb is noted to contain sedative properties that work to reduce the amount of time you need to fall asleep.

    L-Tryptophan

    L-Tryptophan has been well studied through the years with regards to its positive effect on mood and relaxation. Your body converts L-Tryptophan to serotonin through a complex process, ultimately improving your mood and positive outlook. L-Tryptophan has also been shown to improve memory, feelings of happiness before bed, and reducing stress, allowing you to get a better rest.

    L-Theanine

    As a natural, active component contained in Green Tea, L-Theanine promotes relaxation by reducing one’s stress and anxiety levels to prompt quick sleep at bedtime.

    Phase 4: Wake Up Refreshed and Alert

    The Benefits of Using Blue Light when Waking Up 

    Spending a lot of time sleeping does not necessarily mean that you will automatically wake up feeling fully rested and refreshed because this particular aspect of the sleep/wake cycle is determined by the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. Simply explained, when we see light in the morning, a signal is sent down the optic nerve to the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus where the ‘body clock’ is synchronized to early morning light to prompt the body to wake up. 

    Thus, waking up in a dark room does not trigger your body clock into acknowledging that it’s time to wake up and makes it hard for you to actually get out of bed.

    Blue Light in the Morning

    Combining a soothing alarm tone with a blue light wake-up lamp has been indicated to have a similar effect as taking a cup of coffee in the morning. This is because blue light triggers the hypothalamus into action and signifies daytime. It functions as a natural alarm that alerts the body that it is time to get out of the sleep state.

    Blue light not only improves alertness and your executive functioning, but it also enhances your cognitive ability throughout the day.