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How To Be More Productive, According To Neuroscience

In the digital world we live in distractions surround us 24/7. If there is nothing on TV, you can tune into Netflix and binge on reality TV for hours, or get lost down a rabbit warren of YouTube videos of a cat falling into water. With push notifications littering your phone screen and email notifications sprouting like wildfire on your desktop, how on earth are we meant to keep our brain focused on one task let alone be productive?

According to Alison Lalieu, the CEO of UBalancer – a network of trained leadership coaches specialising in neuroscience – it is easier than you think. That is not to say that the science of the brain isn’t totally complicated, it is, but there are some simple tips and tricks you can do to ensure that engine room inside your head is well oiled for a smooth ride and maximised for productivity.

Treat yo self!

Your brain absolutely loves to be rewarded. And no, this doesn’t mean going out and buying a Lamborghini on your credit card. Alison suggests simple tasks to ensure that your brain is getting the love and care it craves, which comes in the form of a natural chemical called dopamine.

“Make sure you have a reward set for yourself at the end of every task you need to do. That could be a cup of tea after completing the report or a five minute walk outside after a presentation,” she explains. “The brain responses incredibly positively to the anticipation and receiving of a reward, and each time it happens your body released a boosting fix of dopamine which lowers stress and helps increase your productivity.”

Keep a list

There are incredible benefits to writing a list, especially when you put it somewhere you will actually see it. Your brain can only hold so much information at a time, so if you’re trying to focus on the task at hand while also having a million to-dos swilling around your noggin, you’re not going to be productive.

Write everything you need to do – be it big or small – down. Once your brain knows it has been accounted for elsewhere, it can throw it out the window and be less distracted, in turn giving you more brain power and productivity.

Prioritise

At the end of the day or before leaving the office, make a list of the things you need to do the following day so your downtime isn’t distracted with worries about forgetting what you need to do. Alison also says that it’s important to prioritise that list too.

“Figure out which is the most important task to do each day and do that task when your mind is feeling the freshest and most productive. For most people that time is in the morning, but you have to find what works for you and try not to schedule meetings at that time. Try and do the task before you check your email so you’re not cluttering your brain with other tasks and information.”

Don’t multitask

Comments such as “women are good at multitasking” are completely unfounded. Don’t get excited either men, it turns out nobody is. Multitasking is like a ninja course for your brain, switching from activity to activity totally tires it out and as a result it gets fatigued and starts to make silly mistakes.

“People might think that they’re being productive while focusing on lots of things at once, but it works in reverse. Your brain will have longer-lasting energy if you give it the space to zero in on one thing at a time,” explains Alison.

Delete your distractions

Beeping phones, email notifications, Apple watches. They might be great for connecting you and keeping you up-to-date with every single event, every second of the day, but they are crippling for productivity. Alison has some pretty simple tips on how to do this.

“If you need to do focused work, the best way to be productive is to turn your phone on silent, delete or minimise all your emails and browsers and have a single focus on the task at hand,” she said.

Even if you’re making an effort to not multitask and trying your best to pay attention to one thing at a time you will struggle if you have Snapchat screaming at you or Facebook poking you for attention.

So without wasting another minute of your could-be productive time, run along and start that list of yours.


Hannah is a corporate manager by day and freelance writer by night. Her work has appeared on websites like Virgin Australia, AWOL and Broadsheet as well as her own travel blog, Tales and Trails. You can follow her adventures and admire cute photos of her dog Marvin at @talesandtrails_