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My wife and I just had our firstborn child, so figuring out how to maintain high performance while on limited sleep makes a ton of sense for me right now (there isn’t enough coffee in Starbucks to keep me caffeinated). And while we all want to walk around like Bradley Cooper in Limitless, operating at stunningly efficient levels in a state of total human optimization, the reality is, well, we’re human.
Everybody knows that great habits lead to better results if you’re looking to change your habits. That means getting a good night’s rest, eating healthy and having a positive attitude. Habits are important, given that 69 percent of American adults say that health care is a significant source of stress, according to a November 2019 survey by the American Psychological Association. Moreover, 56 percent reporting being stressed over the nation’s political climate. Americans also don’t get enough sleep. A 2018 survey by National Sleep Foundation found that only 10 percent of U.S. adults prioritize sleep over other daily activities. For people who have excellent sleep health, 90 percent said they are very effective each day.
A nutritious diet, ample rest and a positive outlook are what remind us that we can determine our quality of life more than external stimuli or events beyond our influence. Here are ways to boost your performance at work and life in general.
1. Be open to “smart drugs”
Speaking of Limitless, increasing numbers of people are taking supplements to ensure their mind and body can accomplish more. “Smart drugs,” or nootropics, are particularly popular among individuals who seek an edge in daily performance. The global dietary supplements market will grow 7.8 percent annually to $195 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research, and North America leads the way as the largest market for these products. “The market is driven by the hectic work schedules among working individuals coupled with fluctuations in diet intervals,” according to the firm’s May 2019 report.
As we all know, a full day requires concentration, dedication and nutrition. As Mau Pan, co-founder of Nuoptimal, explains, “Nootropics can be the catalyst to achieving greater productivity and happiness in your daily life. When taking the right combination of ingredients, they can boost work output and even promote long-term brain health.” I agree.
2. Use the Pomodoro Technique or other time-management tricks
Planning how you spend time leads to better results. More importantly, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed by a chorus of tasks. Peak performance isn’t possible when you’re interrupted by emails, texts and social-media notifications. I like the Pomodoro Technique for staying on track. It’s a time-management strategy created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks of five-to-10 minutes. My preferred cycle is 40 minutes of work followed by 10 minutes of rest.
Everyone has 24 hours a day, but planning actually increases your productive time. By focusing on important tasks, you’re able to reject less impactful and less meaningful activities. Think of it this way: You’re constantly saying “no” to alternative actions. If you choose unproductive activities, then you’re saying “no” to working, to parenting, to running errands.
A January 2018 study by the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (UMM) found that workers lose efficiency when they constantly switch from one task to another. Planning your day helps you to focus on the key task at hand until it’s finished. “Our brains process tasks better one at a time,” says the study’s co-author, Sophie Leroy, a former faculty member at UMM. “Our brain truly tries to keep the interrupted work on our mind so that we don’t forget about it.”
3. Stay off the smartphone
Interruptions lead to a downward spiral of frustrations, stress and ineffectiveness. Multitasking is destroying your ability for long, deep, cognitive thinking. Most of your distractions probably come from your phone and mobile apps, which steal an enormous amount of time, attention and productivity. I’ve definitely felt, at times, an addictive tendency towards my phone, and I’m not alone. The average U.S. adult now spends three hours on their mobile devive each day. This study from Behavioral Health compares smartphone distractions to cocaine, suggesting startlingly similar side effects. Let that sink in.
This sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but I do enjoy a handful of mobile apps that help me focus and stay productive. Brain.FM is a cool one that gives you music that helps you focus, stay productive or sleep. Freedom is another one I like that lets you block any app or site that is a distraction.
The more time you spend on distractions, the less time you’re spending on constructive acts. Don’t let your smartphone make you dumb. Remove unnecessary apps so you can declutter your day and streamline your life, and delete all notifications. And when working, set your phone to airplane mode.
I’d love to hear your tips. Give me a shout on Twitter @andrewmedal.