Motivation and productivity go hand-in-hand, so how do entrepreneurial greats keep up their energy levels throughout the working day?
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If they have anything in common, the majority of founders, entrepreneurs and company leaders need hours of great, switched-on focus. Unwelcome hunger pangs or a fuzzy head can kill off motivation like nothing else, which is why whispers of productivity hacks circulate wherever busy business people hang out.
Body hacks range from the common-sense tips your grandmother might have passed down - get some sleep, drink enough water - to new, wacky and just plain weird ways to live. Think Steve Jobs’ all-fruit diet, or Dan Brown hanging upside down to cure his writer’s block.
Luckily, scientists have discovered much easier ways to hack your productivity in the workplace. We've been working with Dr Owen Bain to discover how to get the most out of our day.
Time your caffeine intake
Since the great minds of the Renaissance gathered in busy coffee-houses to brainstorm under the influence of the latest blend, creative people have used coffee to improve alertness, focus and brain power.
But not many people know how important timing is when it comes to maximising the effect of your coffee fix. Coffee hits maximum effectiveness about 20 minutes after drinking, worth remembering if you have to be sharp for a big meeting.
When it comes to timing, another important lesson is to resist the temptation to reach for a cup of coffee as soon as you wake up. Cortisol peaks in the morning, helping to wake you up. Caffeine works in the same way, by giving you a bump of cortisol to keep you alert, so instead of doubling up, wait an hour for a coffee fix, and keep riding that cortisol wave.
Strategic coffee drinking can help you deliver a knock-out pitch
Pick a great soundtrack
Combining your coffee intake with the right music could help make you even more productive.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham have found that listening to music helps you complete tasks faster and with more creativity. Meanwhile, colleagues at Stanford discovered that music lights up the brain neurons concerned with focus and making predictions. So whatever kind of task you’re doing, music can help.
The reason for this boost is simple: music cheers people up. Engaging the deepest parts of the limbic system, music is one of the oldest sources of pure pleasure for your brain. People all over the world use it to feel good – and when you feel good, you aim higher and achieve more.
Most research, however, suggests that lyrics can be distracting. So opt for instrumental or classical music for the best brain boost.
Step away from the sugar
Your brain needs plenty of glucose – while making up just 2% of your body weight, it consumes 25% of all energy you take in.
That means you might feel a pull towards sugary biscuits or sweet treats while you’re working hard. But if you want to get things done, it’s better not to give in.
Just say no kids...
Sugar will hit your bloodstream quickly, giving your brain that easily-processed insulin it craves. But the buzz doesn’t last: what comes up must come down, and when you come down after eating something sweet, your focus crashes.
Better snacking choices are nuts and fruits that release energy slowly These dole out energy to your brain at a constant low level, providing the energy you need without giving you a spike and the inevitable crash.
Switch up your environment
Today’s workers are always on: from early-morning Skype calls to late night drinks with a new investor, your brain gets little chance to relax.
With a lifestyle like this, your brain might interpret things like sitting down or settling into a familiar environment as times to switch off. Blood flow to the brain is reduced when you sit, and inside environments stop the sun delivering its message of “work time”.
So to boost productivity, get up at least every two hours, even if it’s just to grab a coffee or do a lap of the office. If you can, take your caffeine fix outside or arrange meetings in cafes with outdoor seating, to stock up on Vitamin D and let your brain know it’s not time to sleep.