Eating well and staying active can have a significant impact on your productivity. But I realise it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are the simplest and most effective healthy living decisions you can make to boost productivity and get more done – so you have extra time to relax.
1 Take sleep seriously
When you’re busy, sleep is the first thing to feel the pinch. It’s natural to work late or get up early when you have loads to do. But 7-9 hours quality sleep per night will actually help you achieve more than if you burn the candle at both ends.
Not to mention the fact that more sleep prevents burn out, keeps your brain sharp, supports heart health, and helps you manage your weight.
2 A healthier breakfast
What do you eat for breakfast? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s either a coffee, or a coffee and a pastry grabbed during your commute. You know that’s not healthy – but it’s a habit you’ve fallen into.
Take 20 minutes this week to set yourself up for success. That’s 10 minutes placing a healthier grocery order (add a bag of oats, a pot of 0% real Greek yoghurt, frozen berries, and bananas), and 10 minutes perfecting the art of making overnight oats. It’s as simple as combining reasonable portions of all those things in a bowl or portable container, adding liquid, stirring and putting in the fridge overnight. Other healthy breakfasts are available – but this is so easy.
3 Snack better
There’s nothing wrong with snacking, it’s all down to the choices you make. If you’re in the habit of reaching for sugary, carb-and-fat combinations like pastries and biscuits, there’s a better way. Snack on fruit or raw veg, low-fat dairy, or even a small portion of leftovers. Not only is it healthier, but it will fill you up and stop you craving more sugar.
4 Take movement breaks
Sitting for too long at your desk, in meeting rooms, and in the car isn’t just bad for your back. It’s also no good for mental energy! Take short movement breaks every hour – I’m talking 2 minutes, not a workout. Roll your shoulders back and forward, move your neck, stretch your arms up, walk about. Even short breaks like this really help you stay sharp.
5 Have a daily step count
Experts recommend 10,000 steps a day, but this isn’t a realistic goal but everyone. I wrote a blog exploring the 10,000 step rule – you might like to read it. My advice is to simply walk more. Even a 20 minute walk or 2 x 15 minutes will do wonders for your mental and physical energy levels. Try to get a short walk in before meetings, deadlines, or other important engagements.
6 Exercise 4-6 times a week
Am I really suggesting you exercise almost every day? Yes. But here’s the catch – the best workouts for productivity are 20 minutes long. Maximum! I love HIIT workouts for busy people like you. This circuit-style approach combines some form of resistance training with cardio. If you need some ideas, head to my YouTube for plenty of HIIT workouts to try.
7 Brain supplements
I don’t recommend loads of supplements (I prefer advocating for a healthier diet) but one thing I would suggest is a good omega-3. Unless you’re a vegan, this should be a fish oil. Omega 3 fatty acids support brain cells and help them communicate for better brain function. Add a good omega 3 supplement to your daily routine and see what difference it makes. (1)
8 More water, please
Almost everyone I meet is dehydrated. Unless you make a conscious healthy decision to drink water all day long, you probably are too. Your body and brain need water to function properly and stay productive. Aim for 2 litres water a day. If this sounds a lot, start by drinking a glass of water before you leave in the morning, and have a bottle of water on your desk and in your car.
9 Relax and have fun
My kids have taught me how important it is to mess about and have fun every day. It’s so easy for us adults to get sucked into the serious and stressful side of life. Set aside just 5 minutes a day to do something that relaxes you and makes you smile. This might be journaling, meditation, playing with your pet, dancing in the kitchen with your other half, or having a laugh at comedy videos. Laughter and relaxation brings down stress and makes everything else in life seem much more manageable.
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