A while ago, I’ve placed productivity on top of my agenda. There was a heap of reasons - from earning more to having more time to do things I love (mostly).

I’ve already written about my attempts to improve cognitive performance and mentioned some words of productivity wisdom I’ve gotten from some kick-ass entrepreneurs and executives.

A couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided to focus more on my health. There’s a direct correlation between how happy and healthy we feel and our productivity levels. Luckily, I got a few of my friends to join and test various concept with me. Here are top 5 findings.

1. Exercise during your breaks

The most productive folks are not those who work the longest hours, but those who work smarter and take more frequent breaks. The Muse published a research which states that you need to work for 52 min and than take a 17 min break to stay on top of your productivity.

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Doing exercise is another great way to boost your productivity levels the scientists suggest. In short, they stimulate the development of new mitochondria within your cells which, in turn, produce more ATP chemicals - tiny power plants that give our brains and bodies enough energy to perform all sort of tasks.

Besides, activity begets even more activity and propels us to succeed more and get even more things done!

Takeaway: After filling my work breaks with 10 min of short stretching exercise, I’ve noticed that spent less time on doing certain tasks and could stay focused for longer. Here are some easy office workouts you can literary do in your chair.

2. Choose water over caffeine

If you require caffeine in order to be productive on a regular basis, most probably, you are doing something wrong. Our bodies tend to adept to the amount of coffee we regularly consume. So if you have a habit of drinking a cup each morning, your body gets used to it and if you need to energize yourself more than usual - you’ll have to drink 2 cups. And more than 3 cups coffee a day makes me feel weird.

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A while ago I’ve replaced my morning coffee with glass of hot lemon water and drank more plain water during the day. I kept coffee only for special occasions when I really need to shape up.

What makes water more awesome?

  • Water skyrockets metabolism. If you drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, it fires up your metabolism by 24%.
  • Water helps thinking. Our brains consist of 75% of water. More water - more fuel to think. While coffee on the contrary, dehydrates your organism.
  • Water helps eating less as it acts as an appetite suppressant and helps us resist eating a pack of donuts.
  • Lemon water provides you with extra energy as lemons are great sources of potassium which is great for your brains and nerves. Lemon scent also reduces anxiety and is thought to prevent depression.

Takeaway: Drink coffee strategically, not habitually to get a bigger productivity bang out of caffeine and drink plenty of water.

3. Meditate for 30 min during the day

Our short term memory works just like RAM. Once in a while it becomes too clustered and we need to clean it up. Having a singular focus while meditating, not only trains your “attention muscle”, but clears your mind of various thoughts, reduces stress and helps you stay more concentrated during the day.

There are two ways to get more things done - spend more time and efforts on it or identify the highest leverage activities to tackle first and reach better results faster. Meditation allows you to step out of things you do and look on them from a broader perspective, identify main points you are struggling with and think of a smarter solution to fix it.

When I have a problem I can’t solve, I try to stop mingling it inside my head. Clear out all thoughts, do something else and afterwards start thinking about it from a blank page.

Takeaway: meditating during your breaks, in the evening or morning can help you improve your focus, boost creativity and problem-solving skills and get more things done while spending less time on it.

4. Eat well

Crappy eating habits influence our productivity the most. You can’t stay productive while you are hungry, feel sleepy when you have over-eaten or experience discomfort (and slight guilt) when you’ve again trashed with some fast food instead of a good lunch.

The UCLA Health System reports that poor eating habits can lead to:

  • Higher fatigue
  • Lower mental effectiveness
  • Lower energy levels
  • Lower ability to think clearly
  • Higher stress levels

All of which result into lower productivity and terrible mood.

Solution: eat good foods, don’t skip meals and pack a healthy lunch from home.

Nutrition Secrets suggests to munch the next super-foods:

  • blueberries: improve your memory and eyes sight, full of antioxidants and vitamin C that boost your energy levels.
  • potato: boosts brain and nerve system health
  • whole grains supplement your brains with enough energy during the day
  • bananas have the daily amount of glucose your brain needs
  • salmon contains plenty of omega-3s, iron and B-vitamins, which support memory, recall, reasoning and focus.
  • raw carrots stabilize sugar levels in the organism to the optimal levels your brain needs

Takeaway: When you stop eating at your desk, eat your lunch slowly and mindfully, stop snacking with chips and donuts and skip meals, you indeed feel more energized and focus to crack more tasks. The worse you eat - the faster you’ll burn out.

5. Taking a nap at the middle of the day

Having siestas seems incomparable with westernized cultures, sadly. However, more and more companies these days allow and encourage employees to take a short nap during the day. If you work from home - that shouldn’t be a problem either.

Why napping is awesome?

  • It beats sluggishness
  • Improves cognitive performance
  • Cures chronic sleep deprivation
  • Helps your brain reboot
  • Naps are more effective than caffeine
  • Increases the brain’s learning capacity and memory capacity
  • Makes you more creative

Check out this post to identify how long you should nap to achieve better results and avoid grogginess afterwards.

Takeaway: take power naps for 10-20 min to stay more productive and creative afterwards and don’t forget to set the time right to avoid oversleeping.

What other health experiments are worth testing to boost productivity?