How to maximize your productivity

How to maximize your productivity

How was your productivity today? Was it one of those days? Did you start the day with good intentions? Let’s say it began with a reasonable to-do list. The trouble is, you ended up completing lots of nonessential tasks — things that didn’t actually appear on your list.

And now the day is over, and you didn’t get around to the priorities that really mattered — and still matter. Tomorrow’s a new day: so how can you maximize and optimize your productivity?

Mental Fitness can improve productivity

In the book ‘Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential, and How You Can Achieve Yours’, Shirzad Chamine reveals the impact of mental fitness: our ability to deal with life challenges with a positive mindset. For Shirzad, productivity is about how we maximize and optimize our mental and emotional energy to achieve our desired outcomes.

Make a daily productivity plan

Planning and prioritizing your daily activities in a calendar, either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, is nothing new. It just takes 5 min. What if you started to also plan in 20 minutes of mental fitness during the day? Begin with a reset of at least 15 minutes in the morning, then reset for 2 minutes every 2 hours.

The result is that you are mentally fit, and able to recover much faster to setbacks by reverting to a positive mindset from a negative mindset, which in turn makes you more productive. Mentally fit people train their brain to reset. It works by intercepting a negative mindset (saboteur), and activating a positive mindset (sage). Being mentally fit keeps the brain’s attention system healthy and stress-protected.

I like to start my day with yoga or running and plan in 2 minute resets every 2 hours. You can do a reset (or PQ reps, as Shirzad Chamine calls them) by simply focusing on one of your 5 senses and letting go of all your other thoughts. Some people feel that they’re too busy and simply don’t have time for this. If that someone is you, ask yourself this question: how much time do you spend correcting errors, adding missing information, or getting caught up in rumination due to being in a negative mindset? The answer? Probably more than 20 minutes per day!

Mono-tasking versus multitasking

Multitaskers think that they get a lot of things done, obtain optimal productivity, and that they are good at multitasking, but it’s simply not true. Research by Dr. Jha in her book ‘Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day’ shows that the brain is wired for ‘mono-tasking’.

Our attention span does not, and cannot, engage in multiple attentionally demanding activities at once. Think of it this way— we only have one flashlight, not multiple. What we end up doing is task switching, and the switching back and forth leads to attentional fatigue. This makes us exhausted and more error-prone. Multitasking actually makes us feel restless, to the point that we are unable to be present and focused.

To combat this and work more efficiently, make it a goal to shine that flashlight on one thing at a time. When you feel restless, do Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ) repetitions (reps). PQ reps are all about mono-tasking — you focus on one thing, let go of your restless thoughts, and become more productive.

So if you’re feeling the fatigue of multitasking, why not make a change and switch to mono-tasking?

Keep practicing

If you’re new or struggling to creating a productivity plan, try using the WOOP prioritization technique developed and tested by Prof Gabrielle Oettingen at NYC: Wish, Outcome, Obstacles, Plan.

And if you have a hard time staying motivated, keep at it, acknowledge the positive changes you’ve made so far and remind yourself that even small steps are meaningful.

Mono-tasking, planning, and mental fitness are about progress, not perfection. The goal is to recover faster to a positive mindset, so you can maximize and optimize your productivity.

Further Reading

  • ‘Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential, and How You Can Achieve Yours’ by Shirzad Chamine
  • ‘Peak Mind: Find your focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day’ by Dr Amishi Jha