There is no doubt there are many great applications out there to help you boost your productivity. And, in most cases, less time in your email inbox is a good thing. But the most productive thing I do each day has nothing to do with traditional productivity.
Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is by far the most productive thing I do.
Over time, I’ve found the healthy habits that work for me. Now I’m 32, physically fit, and a father of two. I like to go to bed and wake up early. I’m no night owl (and proud of it).
I know this because I have taken the time to experiment. This is the only way to figure out how you can be the most healthy and productive. In the same way that you may prefer using a desktop to cloud email or pen and paper to Evernote, you can figure out a healthy life the same way.
Here are some places to begin your experiments.
Working instead of sleeping is often the default move to get more work done; this may do more harm than good. Sleep is important and the amount needed varies on an individual level. Bill Clinton claims he only needs five hours per night. Winston Churchill napped as often as a cat. Each of us is different; take some time to see what works best for you.
The good news is you can figure this out easily. Try an app like Sleep Cycle to see how much sleep you need. Not only that, but you can enable Sleep Notes on the app to keep track of what affects your sleep.
I sleep better on days I walk around a lot. I sleep longer, but not better, after two or more alcoholic drinks. I sleep more on the weekends. The right amount of sleep allows me to be more productive while I’m work.
This could be a bit harder to track; feel free to use any necessary tools available to help keep you informed. A Fitbit can be a good tool to help you see how active you are. Maybe you need to start tracking your time as well with an app like Toggl. However you do it, you should have some idea about how active you are in a day and what that means.
In many cases, you should start with a walk. Charles Dickens and Beethoven both took long afternoon walks. Not only were they active, but it also helped them brew ideas. Dickens passed the countryside for ideas. Beethoven would scribble notes with a pen and paper he carried with him.
Other people praise more physically demanding exercises. Good for them. The real question is, what works for you? Take some time and see. I need to walk every day if I don’t run, swim, or bike. I use this time to catch up on podcasts or books or brew some ideas. Even when you’re not doing work, you can still be productive.
There has been more and more news stating that it is unhealthy to sit down too much. Who knew?
The good news is there’s an easy way to stand more, create a standing desk. I have two. One is a bookshelf with the top cleared off. The other is a stack of boxes.
Try something like the Pomodoro method, sit for one work period of 25 minutes. Stand for the next. Repeat. How often and how long you stand will depend on you. If I sit for more than two hours, my thoughts become as sedentary as my body. So when I work, I sit for the first hour. Then I stand until lunch or my knees begin to hurt, and sit until my kids return home from school.
I love to eat. It’s one of my favorite things. When I work from home though, it becomes a temptation. My favorite meal is a giant bowl of carbohydrates topped with refined carbohydrates. But instead I have a salad.
It may not taste as good – though my salads have gotten quite good – but it is a definite gain in productivity. I think more clearly. I have more energy. I am more awake. I am a much better version of myself.
I notice this most directly with my writing. When I eat healthy foods, I can write for longer periods of time and also make fewer mistakes. My sentences are more crisp. There’s less desire to take a nap or get coffee and the desire to get things done burns inside me.
I’ve had success with a diet of mostly plants, meat, and fats. Add in the occasional (but not until after work) bowl of ice cream, and this is how I am most productive.
Try something new to see if it works for you.
Whatever it is you do, do something.
You may plan your day perfectly. You might have all the right email filters. You could turn off the alerts on your phone. But, if you don’t have the energy to follow through, what have you really done?
So what is one healthy habit you will choose to do?
Start tracking your sleep. Exercise during your lunch hour. Have a salad for lunch every other day.
I’m always up for a new experiment, so hop into the comments – or on Twitter @MikeDariano – and tell me what your “experiment” is. If you’d like, we can do it together.