Imagine that you have a beautiful brand new Ferrari. The car is tuned to perfection. Every little detail is optimized for maximum performance. It’s the best piece of engineering that you’ve ever seen.
And then also imagine that the tires are worn out. There’s not enough oil in the engine. You’re using cheap fuel and you have an old battery that dies every day. How well do you think that Ferrari is going to serve you?
There are not a lot of people that treat their cars like that. Yet we treat our own bodies in a similar way and expect them to perform well. We don’t take care of our body’s basic needs and wonder why we’re not focused or motivated every day.
If you really want to improve your productivity you have to stop focusing only on productivity tips and tricks. Organization, time management, and apps are only going to take you so far.
If you instead focus on improving the fundamentals of how your body works, you will get a much bigger return on investment. After all, no matter how good you are at managing your time and staying organized, you won’t get much done if you’re physically sick or an emotional wreck.
So let’s explore what the fundamentals are. What are the basic things that your body needs so that in return it can give you focus, energy, and motivation?
Most diets are optimized for losing weight but what about energy and focus? Are the foods that you eat every day making you more or less energetic? Do you feel clear minded after a meal or sluggish and sleepy?
I’ve noticed a huge change in productivity when I eat clean and healthy food instead of fast food junk. If you haven’t noticed it yourself, do a simple experiment. Try to do a few hours of productive work after having a huge McDonalds lunch. And then try the same thing after a well-balanced, organic meal. The difference in focus and energy is huge.
That is just the short term effect of course. But in the long term, the food tends to also have a cumulative effect, just as it does with gaining unhealthy weight. After a week of eating healthy organic meals, you will expand your capacity for focus and energy.
The food that you eat is the fuel that your body uses for energy. Just like the Ferrari, your body isn’t going to perform well using low-quality fuel. So instead of only focusing on foods that don’t make you fat, what about making sure that they’re good for maximum performance too?
A well-hydrated body is like a well-oiled machine. It makes sure all your body systems are working well.
It’s such an easy and simple fix too. It only takes a few minutes per day to drink enough water. Yet many people are having trouble maintaining that habit. Here are a few tips that will help you get your much-needed H2O every day.
How much is enough?
The popular advice is 8 glasses/day, but I think that’s a BS answer. There are so many variables when it comes to how much water we need that a fixed amount isn’t going to cut it.
For example, on days that you eat a lot of junk and dry foods, you’ll naturally need more water than when you’re eating juicy fruits and vegetables. And what if it’s a hot day outside and you’ve been sweating all day?
Instead of having a fixed amount every day, a great way to find out if you’re drinking enough is to check your urine (eww, I know.) If most of the time it’s crystal clear and doesn’t have an odor it means you’ve been a good boy/girl! On the other hand, if it’s yellowy and it stinks, it means you need more juice in the tank.
Always have a bottle with you
- In the living room
- In the bedroom
- In the car
- In the office
Don’t rely on your willpower to make the right decision in the moment. Even if you’re thirsty you’re likely to ignore the instinct if there is no easy source of water.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty and I was too lazy to go to the kitchen. And the result is always the same, in the morning I wake up feeling groggy and dehydrated.
So be prepared. Just a few minutes of prep time and having a full bottle nearby will help a lot to make the right decision.
If you’ve been dehydrated pretty much all your life, it’s going to be hard to start drinking a lot of water. Forcing yourself to drink a lot is only going to make it harder. Pretty soon you’ll feel like you want to puke.
So take it easy. Ramp it up one sip at a time. Even if you don’t feel like drinking force yourself to drink just one little sip.
Also, don’t start by trying to get to 3 liters on day 1 just with little sips. Start with an easier daily goal and step it up every day.
That’s a tricky one. If you’ve been exercising regularly and skip a day, it will feel like any other day, except that seemingly you will have more time to do more stuff. Which logically makes you more productive because you don’t “waste time” with exercise.
That’s a big trap that most people (including myself) fall into. It’s a tricky one because we don’t notice the decline of productivity right away. It’s gradual.
When we stop exercising our bodies start to perform more and more poorly with each passing day. After two weeks you might wake up wondering why you’re not feeling like doing anything today and you don’t have any energy at all.
A good analogy here is the Ferrari’s battery. If you want your battery to work well you have to use the car so it can get charged often. Also, if you want your body to have energy use it often to make sure all your systems work well.
All of the fundamentals above are critical to staying productive, but if I had to pick one that has the most impact, it is sleep. It’s by far the most common challenge that I run into when I work with people to increase their productivity. It’s the amount of sleep that they need.
It’s the same misconception as with exercise. We don’t want to “waste” our precious time sleeping when we can get a something productive done. And in a similar way, it becomes a tricky situation because we soon get used to the sleep deprived state. Our performance is reduced but we don’t even notice it anymore because it’s the same every day. It becomes our base experience.
A good way to think about sleep instead is like your maintenance time. Just like you have to set aside some time and effort to maintain the Ferrari, you have to also give your body the time it needs for maintenance.
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So if you feel like your productivity sucks even though you’ve done a lot of work on time management and optimization, check your fundamentals. Make sure you take care of the basics first and then work on using the best apps.
If there is more than one fundamental that isn’t up to par, start with the worst one. That’s probably the bottleneck to your productivity.