The world of technology has created an interesting dichotomy of time. You might find yourself busier than ever, but are also bombarded with distractions. These distractions are tempting to indulge in when you’re tired, or only have half an hour between meetings or appointments. But if you find ways to fill your downtime with activities to improve your productivity, you’ll find that you end up with more time, not less.
Improve A Skill
Everyone has something they’re interested in. You might have always had a knack for writing. Or a love for decorating rooms or designing houses. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit or learn woodworking. No matter what you’re interested in, or what level you’re currently at, you can always improve your current skill set.
You can take classes or use technology as a productivity tool. YouTube is an incredible resource and likely has entire channels dedicated to the hobby or skill you’re interested in. There are countless apps and programs that can help you learn from anywhere in the world. If you’re not technologically savvy, there are community centers and many local colleges and universities offer a variety of classes on a multitude of subjects.
By continuing to learn, you’re transforming your free time into productivity blocks. Your brain stays engaged and you build confidence. The more confidence you build, the more momentum you gain in multiple areas of your life, which then leads to getting more done in other areas of your life. You can increase the level of productivity by learning a skill related to your job, but no matter what skill you choose, getting better at doing something you love is one of the best ways to exercise your brain.
Learn A New Language
It might seem like learning a new language would fall under learning a new skill, but language has myriad brain benefits that make it especially effective when it comes to productivity. It improves overall brain function, but specifically it increases memory, focus, attention, and concentration.
When you learn a new language, you also improve your communication skills, in addition to vocabulary and grammar, which helps you express yourself more concisely. This leads to less miscommunication throughout all areas of your life. Being able to communicate increases your efficiency at work, which leads to getting more done throughout your day. You’ll also develop better business and personal relationships.
Learning a new language has never been easier, either. You can download an app, take an online class, or sign up for in-person classes. Being multilingual can lead to business opportunities or job promotions, or lead to personal advancement by building your confidence and desire to travel around the world.
It requires that you practice every day to maintain your knowledge and grow your skills. You follow a structured curriculum which helps you stay focused and the schedule helps you maintain a routine. It can also help you feel motivated to reach out and get involved with other native speakers so you can practice your new skills.
Throughout history and even in modern times, one of the activities successful individuals engaged in is journaling. While in the past, journaling was an elite activity due to the expense of ink and paper, it’s far more accessible today.
Journaling helps you process emotions, reduces stress, helps you gauge momentum and success over time, and works to improve your memory. It can boost creativity, increase focus, and improve overall cognitive function. The best part is, there is no wrong way to journal. You can do bullet journals, daily meditations, focused writing exercises, or simply capturing your thoughts throughout the day. And with technology, you can move beyond paper journals to capture your thoughts in documents or apps, whatever works best for you.
It’s also a fantastic way to capture and track your goals. Journal every morning with your daily tasks and follow up in the evening with your results. It focuses you on thinking about what you want out of your day, your week, and your year. While it’s important to have goals you can reach, your brain also likes having stretch goals—things far out or that require a lot of focus and effort to achieve. These types of goals actually change the structure of your brain, altering the way you think. Once you set a goal, your brain pushes itself to reach it, helping you grow and improve along the way.
Having purpose and direction gives your brain something to work on, even in your downtime. And when you vary the length and importance of your goals, it means you’re constantly activating your reward system, which reinforces your productivity. This is a powerful process and it is vital in cementing behaviors into habits.
When your body moves, your brain grooves, which is why exercise is an excellent way to improve brain health. But moving your body also improves your productivity.
Exercise releases happy hormones in your brain. These work to not only improve your mood, but reduce your stress. It helps stimulate new growth in your brain, increases focus, and improves memory. The more your heart rate increases, the more blood it pumps, bringing higher levels of oxygen and nutrients to your brain. This means you can think clearer, make better decisions, and solve more problems, all of which increase your productivity in multiple areas of your life.
It also increases your energy levels and helps you sleep better at night. The better your brain works, the more you can get done without losing focus and concentration on important tasks. And the best part is you can find exercises that fit into your schedules, including right at your desk. The rise of apps means you don’t need to go to the gym or spend dedicated time engaging in complicated routines. By finding the right exercise regime, you can add movement to your day in small increments that lead to big results.
It’s often said that leaders are readers. No matter if you read fiction or nonfiction, the brain benefits are enormous. Reading improves brain connectivity, increases vocabulary, raises comprehension levels, strengthens concentration, and sharpens focus, all of which work to improve productivity.
Reading for as little as six minutes has been shown to lower your heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and reduce stress levels by up to 68%. Studies show reading only twenty pages a day can keep your brain flexible and agile, warding off premature aging and improving overall cognition.
While you’re reading, you’re engaging your sensory cortex and tracking plot lines. You have to remember what you read, but your brain also tries to figure out what comes next, which improves your problem-solving skills and creativity. Reading also increases your empathy, leading to better relationships and improved performance. When you focus on books written by experts in your field, you increase your performance at work, building confidence and momentum.
It doesn’t matter if you read to learn or read to relax, simply reading works your whole brain. And it’s more accessible than ever. You can download an ebook to your phones or tablets, listen to audiobooks, or sit back with your favorite copy in print.
The secret to a productive lifestyle is being able to identify the periods of time you have available throughout your day and using them to your advantage. Ten-minute breaks can be instrumental in breaking through a project, by simply knowing how to use that time to come back refreshed and ready to work. By utilizing your downtime in focused ways, you can do more in less time with more brain energy, working smarter, not harder to achieve your limitless potential.