Time is precious, and when you engage in your activities, whether work or other, productivity is increased and stress is reduced if you have the capatility of completely immersing yourself in whatever you’re doing.
This state of happy productivity was termed “Flow” by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (pronounced “JONES”). Flow is “a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation.”
It’s a beautiful thing, flow, if you can achieve it. Blocking out the stressors in your life in exchange for total immersion in your activities, whether researching, writing, conversing, exercising, or playing with kids makes you feel, well, just good.
But concentration is not easy to achieve without planning, because much of your mental state depends on how you treat your body. Without proper rest, nutrition, and blood sugar levels, it’s hard to enter into flow-like states. Your mind cannot focus, you’re grumpy, easily distracted, and have trouble remembering important details.
The key to a highly productive and satisfactory day start the night before, with a consistent bedtime routine and schedule. Cornell University professor James Maas writes in his book Power Sleep that in order to maintain peak performance the next day, a bedtime routine is fundamental.
Avoiding alcohol before bedtime, reading in bed, taking a bath, and gettin’ funky between the sheets (say no more!) are all great ways to induce a healthy nightime sleep ritual.
Cut to the A.M. For busy individuals, the early morning is often the only sure-fire way to get exercise, critical for stress reduction, general health, and easier sleeping.
Likewise, since your diet is such a key part or your mental alertness, your morning routine is important to a) ensure that you’re eating a healthy breakfast and b) pack healthy snacks with you that can sustain you all day long. A few minutes of planning in the morning, figuring out what fruits, vegetables, or other healthy options you’re going to eat throughout the day do wonders for your productivity at the traditional slump times during the workday.
Suggestions of things to throw into your briefcase, or if you’re an IT guy, your Darth Vader lunchbox: apples, baby carrots, yogurt, individual cottage cheese containers, bananas, and a handful of almonds. None of these are messy or nasty, they pack well, and will keep your mind sharp.
How do you maintain your mental alertness during the day? Vast amounts of caffeine don’t count… 😉