4 Easy Steps to Boost Your Productivity
with Chris Wyllie
with guest Chris Wyllie #MakingBank S4E51
In March, the US shut down and suddenly, many of us had a lot more time on our hands. In the first few weeks and now months, social media pages flooded with sour dough pictures, homemade cocktails, and new furry friends. Whether we liked it or not, quarantine ignited a creativity competition.
But how can you be productive when you feel like you’re floating in limbo? When some days it’s easier to watch TV on the couch than to bake more bread? Below are four easy steps to becoming more productive.
- Visualize your desired future
Brain and mental health expert, Chris Wyllie believes the key to unlocking your productivity lies in your perspective. While having long-term goals is never a bad thing, the path to achieve them sometimes feels too inflexible. Especially in these uncertain times, it is now more important than ever to adapt our approaches to fit our capacities.
Wyllie puts forth the method of visualizing your desired future. What does this look like? Well, this idea encourages those mental images of yourself in the place you want to be—whether you are an artist, an entrepreneur, or simply want to learn a second language. Picture yourself in that position already and use your optimism as fuel for your motivation.
If you believe you can reach your goals, your brain will open up to more creative ways of thinking, as opposed to shutting down when faced with obstacles. Visualizing your future allows you to determine the direction in which you want to move.
Formulating a direction to move in as opposed to a specific goal can allow you keep moving forward. If you can’t complete certain tasks because of COVID, you can still identify smaller goals to complete that will ultimately help your larger ones.
2. Make manageable lists
Organization is a key feature to productivity—so what can you do if you’re not naturally organized? Good news! There are no “naturals” when it comes to organization. It’s a skill that anyone can teach themselves.
Start small. You don’t need to buy a labeler and attack every bin in your closet, or color code an hourly schedule. Determine what is manageable for you.
An easy way to stay organized is to write down a to-do list right before bed. As you settle in for the night, think about the tasks you want to complete the next day. Only write 3-5 items. If you write a giant list, you may feel overwhelmed and not tackle any of it. There is nothing scarier than a wall of text telling you all the jobs you need to do! Instead, determine what must be done tomorrow and save the rest for later.
By writing down 3-5 tasks the night before, you will save time. With each item crossed off, you will feel more accomplished. This sense of success will only incentivize your brain to keep making lists, and to keep crossing off items. Little by little, you can manage your productivity.
3. Take small breaks
Taking a break from work can improve your mental well-being—but when does that break slip into one, two or more days off? When does “taking a break” become an excuse instead of a benefit?
Wyllie discusses how to utilize time off to relax your mind but still optimize the moment in season 4, episode 51 of the Making Bank podcast. He pinpoints how certain activities such as meditation help calm and clear the mind.
Sometimes when you feel stressed, it cramps your brain’s ability to think critically and creatively. You try to work through the block but grinding away ca waste more time than it saves. An engine running dangerously hot is an engine about to shut down. Sometimes it’s best to turn off the car and let the gears cool.
Although watching TV can help you wind down, it usually delays your stress instead of reducing it. Your brain becomes crammed with irrelevant information instead of decluttered. However, a quick ten-minute meditation opens up your mind to new levels of thinking—thinking that can help solve the problem you face. Other activities besides meditation can spur this ability to take a step back, but not a step away. A 5-minute yoga routine, a quick walk, or writing in a journal are all easy ways to reflect and relax.
Whether you alternate in the Cat-Cow positions or you jot down your thoughts, any activity that allows for contemplation alleviates stress on the mind. When you open up new states of thinking, your mind can think in more creative ways to solve a problem.
4. Train your brain for success
Wyllie recommends an exercise for the mind that will allow you to better tap into your flow state. While putting in long hours can feel productive, any artist or entrepreneur will tell you their best work comes when they are in flow state. Wyllie has spent ten years studying how best to reach that state and has crafted an exercise that will help you enter it more often.
First, think about an aha! moment in your life, when you had a brilliant idea that worked out well. He encourages you to step inside that moment fully. What did you feel like in that instance? What did you hear? What did you see? What did you smell? What did you taste?
Recreate that instance for yourself. If you do it enough times—even just once a day—you are exercising the muscles in your brain that allow you to reach that altered state. Like going to the gym, the more you use those muscles, the stronger they become. The stronger they become, the more likely your mind will be able to enter flow state in the future.
Anyone can learn to incorporate these activities with a little practice. Whether you adopt one or all four, these steps are simple ways to help generate a more productive lifestyle.