I am a highly productive person. Every morning when I wake up, I examine my to-do list, prioritize each item, block off the time necessary to complete each task, and hack away at them one by one. The feeling of crossing an item off the list is akin to peeling an orange by keeping the rind in one continuous piece: pure satisfaction.
Every employer and every company seeks to hire and retain the brightest, most productive employees. Presumably, highly productive employees are more valuable, generating more revenue in a shorter period of time. There are dozens and dozens of articles out there that cover tips and tricks for increasing productivity; there are hundreds of apps targeted at achieving the same goal. I'd like to talk about natural productivity though; those little things that you do for your body and your mind to make yourself the most centered and productive person you can be. Three of my go-to tricks that often get discussed are:
1. Fresh air: whether it's ten minutes to sit outside and soak up some sunlight, or a few laps around the block to get your blood flowing, a few minutes outside is bound to help you return to work recharged and refocused.
2. Naps: sometimes it's just inevitable. You've been up late working or traveled home late the night before. When you're truly exhausted, trying to get any work done is nearly impossible. It would be far more productive to take a quick 20 minute nap and actually get some work done for the rest of the day.
3. Breaks from the computer screen: the human brain just isn't meant to focus that long on a screen. Plus, it's terrible for your eyes. At just 22 years old, I've lost my 20/20 vision and had to get glasses for distant presentations. A quick break from staring at your screen can help protect your vision, prevent headaches, and help you complete tasks more efficiently.
Why is it, though, that doing any of these things inherently makes me feel guilty? Why is it socially unacceptable to take a much-needed nap, and why are we berated or asked what we are doing when we aren't click-clacking away on the keyboard?
I'm trying to train myself to accept that these behaviors are allowed, and that they should actually be encouraged. There is a larger culture shift that has needed to occur ever since we developed this 24-hour workday mentality. It's not healthy, and at the end of the day, happy and healthy employees are the productive ones who generate the most return. All employers should take a cue from Google, and understand that "happier workers use their time more effectively."
When I was 15, I tore out a beginner’s triathlon training guide from one of my mom’s fitness magazines, signed up for a race in Luray, VA, bought a bike, and jumped in the pool. It was the summer before my junior year of high school, and my friends had all left for the summer to study marine biology in Florida. I was lonely, bored, and didn’t really like my job as a research assistant in a lab. I still didn’t really know what entrepreneurship was, although I had dabbled in child-level businesses for a few years. For one reason or another, though, I was drawn to the idea of accomplishing a race that required such diverse skills and such a high level of commitment and intensity. It was a challenge I couldn’t pass up. My first race was incredibly satisfying – I took 1st in my age group and felt very accomplished when I crossed the finish line. The feeling was addictive. Over the next few years I continued to keep up my training and to compete about once a year.
During my senior year of college, I competed in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, which occurs in conjunction with a conference for regional entrepreneurs. I had the opportunity to attend several seminars and lectures given by successful entrepreneurs. I got to hear their stories, listen to their advice, and absorb their management style. Through their talks, they would always share a portion of their personal journey that accompanied their professional success. It was shocking to me how many of these successful, busy entrepreneurs were also Ironmen, or some type of endurance athlete.
But it was through this experience that I realized that at our core, all entrepreneurs are the same type of people operating on the same values; that we prime ourselves to be these durable, enduring beings – not for the sake of vanity but for the sake of success. To some degree, I believe that we all believe the fitter we are, the more productive we are. And the stronger we are, the more confident we become in our ability to lead, and the closer to success our team becomes with us to look up to.