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A behavioural neuroscientist’s tip to increase productivity

This is a behavioural neuroscientist's tips to increasing brain power at work. Source: Getty

Have you ever felt completely brain-drained at work?

Whether it be a lack of concentration, fatigue, or you’re just distracted, you’ve probably been a little unproductive at some point throughout the day.

But that’s totally normal, and according to University of New South Wales’ postdoctoral research associate in behavioural neuroscience, Justine Fam, there’s plenty you can do to fix it.

“The first thing you need to do is identify what’s causing you to not be productive,” Fam says.

“And depending on what that is, you might try different things.”

I have trouble concentrating. What can I do?

If concentration is your issue, Fam says you should change up your diet and exercise more.

The best foods to improve focus, according to A Life of Productivity, are:

  1. Blueberries

  2. Green tea

  3. Avocados

  4. Leafy green vegetables

  5. Fatty fish

  6. Water

  7. Dark chocolate

  8. Flax seeds

  9. Nuts

It’s been proven that exercise improves your brain in the short-term by raising your focus for two to three hours afterwards. That means heading to the gym before work for a workout can make your morning that much more valuable.

I get tired easily. What can I do?

If fatigue is your issue, Fam says you can try scheduling regular breaks at work.

“That doesn’t mean sitting at your computer and scrolling Facebook,” she says.

“Your break needs to be quite different to what you do at work. So, if you’re at the computer all day, your break means moving away from the computer.”

I find it hard to be productive with so many distractions at work. What can I do?

Fam admits open-plan offices make it tough to concentrate.

“Don’t underestimate the effect of environmental factors on your productivity, and don’t overestimate your ability to overcome those factors on your own,” Fam says.

The best thing to do? “Plan for future you.”

If you know at a certain time everyday something happens that distracts you, do something to prevent that. That could mean booking a room to do some work quietly, or putting on headphones to avoid the distraction.

If the distraction is your colleagues asking for help, or your boss giving you tasks, set boundaries in your day.

“Set aside dedicated time for your boss and you colleagues, and outside of those hours, be disciplined in not engaging in that.”

“Have time for your own work,” Fam says.

Don’t underestimate the power of to-do lists

Fam says to-do lists are key.

“Instead of letting the day flow, plan what you want to achieve for the day, and the sequence you’ll do it in as well.”

A good way to prioritise your tasks is by urgency, importance and size.

“And if it’s a big task, don’t just write it down whole. Break it down into achievable steps and tick them off as you go,” Fam says.

One way to make sure you adhere to your to-do list is to put time limits on it, and try do the task in that time. Otherwise, you can use a productivity app: Fam suggests Forest, or Flora.

After you’ve met your time requirement, it could be a good idea to get up and go for a walk to reset.

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