5 Productivity Tips from a Neurologist

“How do I make my brain work BETTER?” is, by far, the number one question my clients ask. It may come as a surprise to you, but it’s not that difficult. Most of us, if we’re honest, have said: “There is never enough time in the day.”  Great days see us satisfied with how much we accomplished, and on harder days, we go to bed feeling utterly frustrated with our productivity.

You may not be able to add hours to the day, but you can make the hours you have more productive. To do this, you have to change your concept of what productivity means AND how to achieve it.

Real productivity is about efficiency, not volume.  The same holds true for brain function.

  • ef·fi·cien·cy (əˈfiSHənsē)
    • noun
    • The ratio of the useful work performed by a machine or in a process to the total energy expended or heat taken in.

Simply put, “How much did it cost you to be productive?”

Start by asking a different question. “How much do you have to spend?”

Your capacity to make even a SINGLE decision (both subconsciously and consciously) is wholly dependent on the resources within your body.  Resources like oxygen, glucose, hormones, neurotransmitters and more.  “So, how do you increase the quality and quantity of resources in your brain and your body?”

What A Neurologist Can Teach You About Productivity

Here are five scientifically and clinically proven ways to do it:

1. Take Deeper Breaths

  • How: Breathe in deeply through your nose for 2 seconds and out through your mouth for 4.  Do this as you work, or take a 3-minute break and try it in a comfortable, seated position with your eyes closed.
  • Why: The average brain comprises 2% of a person’s total body weight, yet it requires 25% of all oxygen used by the body.

2. Drink More Water

  • How: Take your body weight and divide that number by two. Drink that many ounces of water per day. (Ex: 200 lbs = 100 oz)s
  • Why: Up to 60% of the human body is water. A 1% drop in overall hydration can lead to as much as a 12% drop in your productivity.

3. Decrease Screen Brightness on ALL Devices

  • How: Use browser extensions like f.lux and iOS features like Night Shiftto help you automatically adjust your settings on your devices.
  • Why: 70% of the body’s glucose (energy) is burned up by the brain.  Your visual system uses the lion’s share of that energy to function. The higher the brightness, the more power your brain needs.  Keep that energy bill low.

4. Time Block Your Day with Pomodoro

  • How: Use an app like Focus Booster or Pomodoro Keeper to divide your work into focused time blocks (usually 25 minutes) separated by a 5-minute break. After four consecutive working time blocks, take a longer break, around 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Why: You can’t run marathons at sprint speed. Period. Variable speed workouts for the brain are no different than exercising at the gym.  Take breaks.

5. Go to Bed Earlier

  • How: Use apps like Sleep Cycle to help you monitor and achieve the quality 7-9 hours of sleep you need each night. Yes, 7 hours is the minimum.
  • Why: Getting less sleep than the recommended amount can cause an apparent IQ loss of five to eight points the next day.

Give these five recommendations a try for a few weeks, and I am willing to bet (and so is the science) that you will see measurable improvements.

Remember, a well-resourced brain naturally breeds productivity.

Which of these would help you the most in your work and life? Would you add any?

- Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe, Thrive Neuro Health