Self-care as the secret ingredient to becoming a productivity beast

Written by
Markéta Horáková
Published on
June 24, 2021

Taking care of ourselves as the way to improve our own productivity and effectiveness? Yes!

Everyone knows those days when you can’t finish anything. Rather watching another Youtube video about “how to deal with procrastination” to feel inspired or scrolling endlessly on Facebook to get to know the newest information about friends. Small tasks can take days and weeks to finish or even start. You feel a lack of motivation and your mind is constantly wandering around.

Every evening you repeat to yourself “tomorrow I’ll start” and in the morning you find yourself on Instagram giving a like to a motivational quote.

Self-care can help

Have you ever thought that the receipt of how to overcome the lack of motivation could be in doing less instead of more? Have you ever thought that you don’t need to watch another motivational video or procrastination course? So what to do? It may sound counterintuitive but give your brain a break. Clear your head to be able to focus. When you are recharged physically, mentally and emotionally you are more focused and less distracted by your thoughts.

It’s possible to become more motivated and want to do harder tasks by eliminating unnecessary activities from your life that only drain your energy.

“Reset” your brain

Recently a new wellness trend appeared in Silicon Valley. It is called “Dopamin fasting” and followers claim that by cutting back things like food, sex, social media or talking they are more effective and complete the tasks more easily.

Let’s start with dopamine. It is a neurotransmitter, it transmits information in your brain. You may have heard about dopamine in the context of pleasure. Evolutionarily our body is set up to survive and our brain rewards us for the activities that support surviving like sugary food or winning in a competition. But there is more about dopamine. And it is getting interesting here. Dopamine is connected to motivation, learning, planning and prioritization. Actually more dopamine is released when we anticipate the reward. Thus dopamine influences if you take action or not.

Companies spend millions to work with dopamine in their products and services. To hold us on their boat. Imagine a reward system in games or red color of notifications. All of these give you instant gratification. We get a like on Facebook and dopamine is released. We naturally like to be rewarded and come back to get more. It is also natural for us that when there is an option to get dopamine now or later we always prefer now. But by all of these activities we run out of dopamine and then we have no energy to do any harder tasks. Imagine can you finish your project after binge watching Youtube or Netflix?

Abstinence from these “pleasure experiences” is the key. It gives you space to use your dopamine meaningfully. And also it teaches you not to be dependent on instant gratification and be excited to get delayed gratification.

Let’s start

Start with a hard reset. Take a break and remove all activities that negatively influence your life (binge eating, social media, gaming, phone, tv, porn) for 24 hours. It is a mental reset to give your brain a space to calm down. I promise you that only after one day you will feel refreshed and motivated to do postponed tasks.

I usually do it on Sunday. At first it was kind of weird. Because I was left alone with my thoughts and it could be overwhelming sometimes. But after overcoming the urge to check the media you will find out that you feel somehow freer. Because you create a space for yourself to do what is important for you and can bring you rewards in the future. I found myself doing tasks that I postponed for a long time and felt satisfaction after completing them. I cook chutney, read books, visit nature or just spend afternoons with friends.

You can also take a more strict version including no talking, no food, no exercising, no drinks except water. But in my opinion it is not necessary unless you want to experience a “monk-like state”.

Stick to it

After reset it is time to continue and build a healthy habit. Set up rules for yourself how much time you spend online or which time you will reply to all messages and e-mails. Turn off notifications. Delete social media apps from your phone. It may sound impossible now but after a few days you will see that it is not hard at all. You will feel more focused, you will be more effective and more over less stressed.

What else can you do to boost your dopamine and productivity?

Move more

Exercise can improve mood and may boost dopamine levels when performed regularly. For now there is only limited research on how exercise affects dopamine levels in the human brain, but multiple animal studies indicate a dopamine boost following a workout. Not to forget that you will get “dopamine reward” after finishing your exercise. So choose any activity you like. Do it often and enjoy it.

Learn to meditate

Many studies have shown that meditation increases dopamine leading to improved focus and concentration. Even if you are a newbie to meditation, there are many helpful guided meditations for beginners. So exchange the time on social media for time with yourself.

Eat foods rich in Tyrosine

Tyrosine is an amino acid and plays a critical role in the production of dopamine. Nourish your body with protein-rich foods like eggs, almonds, bananas, beef and beans where tyrosine is naturally found.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine”. (John Maxwell)

You have the power to decide how you spend your day. Try to mindfully remove unhealthy habits and you will see how fruitful a day can be. And what satisfaction you will get from completing your tasks.

Take care.

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