Many of us struggle with optimizing productivity, especially if you are an entrepreneur. We usually complain of lack of focus, but Martina Johansson explained at the Biohacker Summit in Stockholm that it is more than that. If you want to optimize your productivity, don’t miss this article including specific tips and a video recording of her talk.
See Martina Johansson’s presentation here from the Biohacker Summit 2018 Stockholm video recording series:
Having struggled with lack of productivity in the past herself, the now award-winner for being the most productive author in Sweden, Martina Johansson, shared her secrets for success:
This is particularly relevant for those working from home, remotely and/or entrepreneurs. Staying at home, in your sweatpants, with your cup of coffee sends the wrong signals to your brain.
While many people complain about having to go to the office every day and stick to a schedule, this is actually an advantage. Mimicking a work routine preserves the executive functions of your brain, which are located in the prefrontal cortex.
Our brain has a limited amount of willpower to spend throughout the day. To preserve your executive functions, you should avoid wasting brain power early in the day.
For example, well-known successful entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elizabeth Holmes preserve their executive functions by not even choosing a different outfit every day. (The results speak for themselves!)
3. Time management
Francesco Cirillo, the developer of the Pomodoro Technique said: “One day we will be more creative, more productive and yet more relaxed.”
The Pomodoro Technique is a well-known strategy to optimize your time on a particular task.
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the Pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
- After four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
If for you, as for Martina, this structure does not fit your creative process, you might want to simply use a timer.
While to-do lists seem smart and checking boxes might feel rewarding, we usually focus on tasks that are not aligned with our goals (e.g., taking the trash, writing an email, or posting on Instagram).
The Eisenhower matrix depicts this idea perfectly. You wanna spend your time focused on the important tasks (upper square) and avoid the tasks that fall in the lower part of the matrix. The urgent and important tasks should be done, now! For the not urgent but important tasks, plan and decide when you will do them. These are usually the high-impact tasks. The urgent but not important should be delegated. And finally, the not urgent and not important tasks should be just eliminated!
Here is the Eisenhower Matrix, as presented in the excellent Biohacker’s Handbook on Work, which you can find more information about at the Biohacker’s Handbook website.
Most people believe that their lack of productivity is due to a lack of focus.
We usually deceive ourselves with thoughts like “I need a bit more energy and then I’ll be super productive.” However, this creates an artificial state of flow, which doesn’t guarantee that you’ll create anything of value. “We just do stupid things faster with more energy,” says Martina.
Here, we find a dopamine issue. We fill our day with dopamine wasting activities such as excessive eating, sugar and sweets, excessive caffeine and stimulants, sex and porn, social media, gaming, shopping, product review, product research, and anything else that you can think of. A simple morning coffee and social media will increase stress (norepinephrine and cortisol) instead of producing a dopamine response, triggering a negative downward spiral.
To improve your focus, suspend your rewards. Design your day in a smarter way, start working first for at least 30 min to an hour, leave emails and meetings until the afternoon, create a morning stress-free zone, which will be productive and creative.
Finally, keep your rewards work-related, resisting the urge to reward yourself with food or sweets.
1. Routine and structure – Get up, get dressed, etc
2. Goals and purpose – Decide on the urgent and important things, and start the day with a high impact task
3. Focus and time management – Work with a timer, control your dopamine, and suspend your rewards
Watch the rest of Biohacker Summit 2018 Stockholm recordings here.
This article was written by Evguenia Alechine, PhD.