Focusing for more than two hours each day is a superpower. According to a study by vouchercloud.com, the average office worker in the U.K. is productive for just two hours and 53 minutes. They spend the rest of the day checking social media, reading the news, chatting, eating snacks and, ironically, looking for a new job.
Two hours isn’t long enough for a busy entrepreneur. For the self-employed, work can extend beyond the eight-hour mark. So if something is slowing them down—a lack of sleep or an unbalanced diet, perhaps—it impedes their success more than 9-to-5 employees.
In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, SUCCESS People Editor Tristan Ahumada talks to Jim Kwik, author of Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life, about how to conquer each day as an entrepreneur. Kwik is a brain coach, and he always hears the same question about improving their mind.
“Everyone wants to know, ‘what’s the one thing I could do to improve my memory or my focus,’ and there’s not just one thing,” Kwik says. “This is all about whole brain learning, whole brain living.”
Let’s go back to the basics. Here are three holistic ways to keep yourself sharp the entire day.
1. Be intentional about creating habits.
You probably know the four biggest habits for a healthy life: getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising and managing stress. We hear it all the time from doctors and dietitians. Still, it takes some serious habit-building to master those four areas of our wellness. The information is there, tucked away in our minds, but we need a way to make it stick.
Here’s a different approach: When you learn something new and want to make it a part of your life, answer these three questions:
- How can I apply this information?
- Why must I use this information?
- When will I use this information?
Every habit needs a practical application, so that’s the first step. If you plan to eat more veggies, you might identify meals you can add leafy greens to, such as scrambled eggs, pasta and sandwiches. Then you must know your why. What are you hoping to accomplish by eating leafy greens? Is it your goal to lose 10 pounds or have more energy to play with your kids? Finally, create a schedule for your habit. We have personal calendars to track vacations, outings and work-related tasks; don’t forget to add habit-building routines to the list.
2. Win the first hour of the day with a morning routine.
How you start your day sets the tone for everything else. Before you check emails or get lost in the 24-hour news cycle, cater to yourself. Get in touch with your brain and body so you have enough energy to conquer the day. You’ll be happy you did when the day is over.
“Imagine you’re finishing your day and someone asks you how your day was,” Kwik says. “And you’re like, ‘It was amazing. Today was incredible. I really crushed it.’ Ask yourself what had to happen in order for you to say those words, and then work backward from that.”
You can start by creating a morning routine. Kwik recommends eight activities to energize your day:
- Try to remember your dreams. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a world-renowned classic, was inspired by a dream. Is a good idea hiding deep in your mind?
- Make your bed to encourage daily discipline.
- Hydrate. Your brain is mostly water, so replenish the fluids you lost while sleeping.
- Take your probiotics for optimal gut health.
- Do a quick workout. According to a study by Appalachian State University, a 7 a.m. workout promotes deep sleep.
- Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. This is a challenge that forces you to be present in the morning. Plus, a University of Oxford study suggests that complex motor skills (like juggling) can improve the brain’s wiring in white matter regions.
- Meditate for 20 minutes. Some people meditate for enlightenment, but it’s a good way to stretch your focus too. That skill resurfaces when you’re reading, conversing or doing something that requires concentration.
- Don’t touch your phone for the first 30 minutes of the day. When you wake up, your body is very relaxed and susceptible to distractions.
3. Understand what leads to burnout.
Are you really experiencing burnout? Or is there another reason you’re tired and unmotivated? Sometimes we think there’s too much work to handle, when in reality, we haven’t prioritized the right kind of work.
“Maybe you’re not burnt out because you’re doing too much,” Kwik says. “Maybe you’re burnt out and exhausted because you’re doing too little of the things that light you up.”
Having a hobby or two outside of your job is healthy. When you make time for those activities, it’s easier to recharge after a long day. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with learning to say no when your schedule is packed. Sometimes it helps to set boundaries with other people and create more time for yourself.
If you’re doing all those things and still feel tired, Kwik says the usual suspects are probably to blame: minimal sleep, an unbalanced diet and not enough exercise.