Ever wonder how you can double the amount of work you can get done in the same amount of time with just a few simple steps?
The problem is, we are conditioned against productivity. We are designed to not be able to focus.
So it’s not entirely your fault if you have been struggling to get things done, it’s evolutions.
But, there is hope. What if in just 5 steps you could build your focus and productivity muscles to be bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps, well, his old biceps from back in his Mr. Olympia days?
What if in one hour you could finish what used to take you a day?
The promise is that, if you repeatedly follow these 5 steps, you will win the battle over your evolutionary conditioning and double your productivity.
First I want to tell you a little about the enemy: the natural state of your mind.
Your mind is chaos
In the bestselling book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, after decades of research Mihaly Csikszentmihaly found that “contrary to what we tend to assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos.”
In the time that it took you to read this post so far, the region of your brain associated with consciousness and focus has radically shifted from what it was before you found your way to this page.
Brain researchers Dr. Cunningham and Zelazo discovered that this region of the brain is updated five to eight times a second. Neuroscientist, Dr. Hanson says that “this neurological instability underlies all states of mind.”
What this means is that we are conditioned not to focus on one thing at at time.
How to defeat evolution in 5 steps
Like anything in life though, all it takes is practice and repetition to achieve mastery over your evolutionary flaws.
Researchers have shown that until the very end of our lives, our brain is malleable. It can be molded to suit our desired lifestyle. Like any other muscle, it gets stronger when worked out. But it’s up to us to make the effort and hit the gym.
These 5 steps are the dumbbells you need to strengthen your brain.
1. Practice Awareness
Throughout your day, whether you are watching TV, walking to the train or working on your computer, simply become aware of what your body is doing. Notice whether your legs are crossed, become aware of your feet hitting the pavement as you walk, without changing what your body is doing, just train your mind to become aware of your body and your environment.
This exercise makes your conscious mind a more active part of your life as opposed to you going about your day on autopilot.
2. Focus your mind
As you start building your awareness muscles, the next step is to direct your brain to go where you want it to go.
In his research. Dr. Andrew Newberg scanned the brains of praying nuns, chanting Sikhs and meditating Buddhists and noticed that they had greater activity in the areas of the brain associated with focus than those that do not practice any kind of meditation. He also found that after just 8 weeks, practicing some form of meditation improved focus and memory for a group of elderly people experiencing problems with their memory.
Starting today, spend at least 10 minutes every day in silence with no distractions and focus your mind on your breathing. Close your eyes, breathe in for four seconds and breathe out for four seconds. If your mind wanders, it’s okay. That is natural at first. When that happens, notice where your mind goes and bring it back to your breathing.
The four breaths in and four breaths out acts like an anchor for you to direct your brain toward.
3. Assign labels to your states of mind
Dr Lieberman, a researcher at UCLA, found that the act of labeling emotions increases activity in the conscious parts of the brain related to focus and awareness, while decreasing activity in the emotional brain.
Throughout the day, at least once every hour, assign a label to your emotion. Simply give a name to your state of being. This separates you from your emotional brain and gives more power to your conscious brain.
4. Set preemptive strikes
Psychologists Peter Gollwitzer and Veronika Brand-statter took a group of elderly patients recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery and split them into two groups with separate instructions. One group was told to write down exactly when and where they would take a bath or go for a walk. The other group was just encouraged to do the same at their leisure.
The patients that used preemptive strikes were taking a bath by themselves in 3 weeks, while the other group took 7 weeks. The preemptive strike group was standing up in 3.5 weeks, while the other group took 7.7.
Whatever you want to get done, write down and plan exactly when you will do it and how long you will take to do it. Setting these preemptive strikes will give your mind clear directions and prevent the chaotic mind from sabotaging your success.
5. Chunk your time using a trigger
I am sure you know by now that multitasking is not an efficient method for getting things done. It only contributes to the already chaotic mind.
To double your productivity, chunk your time into one hour blocks and do only one thing in that hour. What I like to do to is hit start on a timer at the beginning of each hour shift. Hitting the start button acts like a trigger that tells my brain it’s time to work. This puts me in a focused state and I find that I get a lot more done when I hit a start button than when I don’t.
After every hour take a short 10 minute break. This will give your brain the recovery time it needs and ensure that when you are in “getting things done mode,” you actually get things done.
That’s it. Five steps practiced over time and you will double your productivity.
In the comments below, share one challenge you are experiencing with productivity and one tip that others can benefit from.
Akshay Nanavati is a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Iraq, an adventurer and a business productivity coach that reads over a book a week on the psychology of mastery to help his clients start and grow a business in the shortest amount of time.
Download the “Life Mastery Blueprint” if you would like to learn more about how to develop an unstoppable mindset, master the psychology of success and grow a business so that you can live life on your terms.