Many people—myself included, exercise regularly in order to improve their overall health. What I never realized, however, is that regular exercise increases productivity because our level of willpower works similarly to other muscles according to research. Here are four ways to work-out your willpower and ultimately, maximize productivity.
Start with your stomach. Kick your energy into high gear by eating a healthy breakfast because lower glucose levels are directly correlated with weaker willpower. One study concluded that participants who did not eat prior to starting a project gave up completing it much more quickly than their fully-fed counterparts. Eating meals packed with lean protein and healthy carbohydrates is one surefire way to keep your willpower level high.
Own the outcome before you begin. One way to ensure you’ll follow through is to apply Dale Carnegie’s 21st Human Relations principle, ‘Throw down a challenge.’ Before you begin an important task or major project, commit to the reasons you must complete it. For example, if you’re assigned a project because the previous project manager has left your organization, you may feel overwhelmed because you lack the time, knowledge and/or stamina to take it over. In this scenario, outline the reasons and benefits for completing it, e.g. you will gain new skills, demonstrate that you are a team player with a can-do attitude and are a leader willing to learn.
Practice mindfulness every morning. An eight-week U.S. study revealed that employees who meditated experienced improved willpower and focus, and had lower stress levels. Simply spending ten minutes each day will enable you to reap its benefits. Instead of reaching for your smartphone each morning, sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Spend ten minutes focusing solely on your inhaling and exhaling. When thoughts pop up, try to be a witness and let them pass instead of allowing them to take your attention away from breathing. You’ll feel relaxed and refreshed, and should feel an increase your daily dose of willpower.
It’s worth noting that long before meditation was been adopted by many western cultures, Dale Carnegie said, “By talking to yourself every hour of the day, you can direct yourself to think thoughts of courage and happiness, thoughts of power and peace. By talking to yourself about the things you have to be grateful for, you can fill your mind with thoughts that soar and sing.”
Simply smile. Dale Carnegie’s 5th Human Relations principle is to simply, ‘Smile.’ Truth be told, the act of smiling is a superpower brain charge according to various studies and as cited in Psychology Today. This is because the body’s levels of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin increase when we smile. Even a forced smile can cause a mood boost. Moreover, in his book, Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, author Ron Gutman states, “British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate!”