• Chris Varano

5 Ways You can be More Productive

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

As a college student, I understand what it means to be overwhelmed. The feeling of worry of not being able to balance my school work with my extracurricular and social life, used to haunt me daily. However, I’ve learned some techniques throughout my college career that now allow me to be more productive and ultimately give me more free time to relax. The following five techniques that I incorporate into my daily life have allowed me to become a more focused student, which in turn has made me become a more efficient learner, ultimately giving myself more time to spend with friends and follow my passions.


1. Cold Showers


Cold showers are an excellent way to shock your system to increase alertness. Although the cold water may be extremely uncomfortable, research has demonstrated that there are health benefits associated with cold showers. Cold showers have been proven to improve circulation within your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is a network of organs and blood vessels that are responsible for removing toxins and waste within in your body. So when you decide to suck it up and take a cold shower, you’re actually expediting the waste removal process in your body. This in turn has long term benefits such as reducing inflammation and risk of disease (Tony 2019). In addition, cold showers increase the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is responsible for delivering more oxygen to the brain, which subsequently increases attention and memory (Keatinge 2019).


Suggestion: If you’re someone who has never taken a cold shower, start by taking a hot shower and towards the end, slowly begin to lower the temperature. Once you get to the point of discomfort, maintain the current temperature and notice your breath. Immerse yourself in this cold water and take 3 long and deep breaths, while beginning to notice how the cold water begins to lose its significance. After these 3 breaths, end your shower. I challenge you with each subsequent shower to increase the amount of deep breaths you take while the water is cold. I can almost promise you in due time, the cold water will no longer phase you.


2. Sleep

I’m sure you’re sick and tired or hearing from your parents and teachers that you need to get quality sleep! I sure was until I actually learned why quality sleep is necessary. You’ve probably heard that sleeping for 7-9 hours is the optimal range for waking up feeling refreshed. However, just because you’re “asleep” for 7-9 hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting quality sleep. One way to increase the quality of sleep is to shut your phone off before going to bed. No, vibration mode doesn’t mean “off”. If your phone is on vibrate during the middle of the night and you receive a notification, the natural rhythm of your sleep cycle can be interrupted by phone vibrations, even if you don’t wake up. Interrupting your sleep rhythm will ultimately have you feeling less refreshed and less energized when you wake up.


3. Exercise


Exercising can be a great way to help you increase focus and productivity. Studies analyzing the benefits of exercise have found that exercise increases activity in the hippocampus region of the brain. More specifically, exercise increases the production of a protein in the brain called BDNF. BDNF promotes the production of new brain cells and strengthens connections involved in learning, memory and emotion regulation. Interestingly enough, research has shown that you don’t need to be working out for extended periods of time to receive the cognitive benefits from exercise. BDNF levels can increase drastically after just 20 minutes of moderate-intense workouts. (Yesterday 2018)


4. Meditation


Meditation is a powerful tool that I believe is under-utilized by college students. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends about meditation and realized that many people are under the impression that they don’t have time to meditate. When in reality, practicing meditation will give you more free time. You may already think that you’re too busy and that you don’t need to add another task to your day, but hear me out.

Practicing meditation for five minutes a day will increase your attention and focus over time. How does this work? Well, when you first begin practicing meditation, the focus of your meditation will be to pay attention to your breath. As time goes by in your meditative state, your mind will naturally wonder and your focus will move away from your breath. However, when you realize and become mindful that you have become distracted, this is where the magic happens. When you consciously realize that you have become distracted and actively shift your attention back to your breath, you begin to strengthen your “focus muscle” in your brain. By strengthening your “focus muscle”, you will naturally become more focused over time and less susceptible to distractions. For a college student, meditation can be a great way to increase your studying effectiveness. By strengthening our “focus muscle” we can become more locked in on our homework and studying, which should give us more free time.


If you’re someone who has never tried meditation but is interested in starting, I highly recommend listening to this short guided meditation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHBnEWJAAOc.


5. Intermittent Fasting


Intermittent fasting has become a hot nutrition trend. To be clear, intermittent fasting is not a diet focused on what you eat, it’s concerned with when you eat. I don’t want to harp on nutrition too much in this article, but I want to focus more on the psychological benefits of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting essentially means that you have a designated time window during the day in which you can take in calories and when you can’t. Most people work with a 16/8 intermittent fasting cycle in which they will fast for 16 hours a day (including sleep) and have an 8-hour window in which they can eat. For example, I usually allow myself to eat from 12:30pm-8:30pm and then during my fasting window from 8:30- 12:30 the next day I will only drink black coffee and water.


Much like exercising, intermittent fasting is a way to increase levels of BDNF in your brain. When your body is finished burning through its carbohydrates, you begin to burn through body fat. When you begin burning body fat, your brain goes into survival mode. In this phase of shock, your BDNF levels in your brain increase, which as we already know, creates new brain cells and strengthens connections for enhancing learning, memory and maintaining a positive mood. In addition, intermittent fasting induces a process called autophagy. Autophagy is the recycling of old and damaged cells within your body. By removing these old and damaged cells, your body is reducing inflammation and toxins that can lead to stress, sickness and disease.


I encourage you to try to incorporate one of these tactics into your own routine and see how it goes! Leave us a comment below on your thoughts about these techniques and let us know if you have any other techniques related to focus and productivity!


References:


Keatinge, W. R. (1964, November 1). Cardiovascular responses to ice-cold showers. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/jappl.1964.19.6.1145.


Tony, T. (2019, October 29). 5 Surprising Benefits of Taking Cold Showers: Tony Robbins. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.tonyrobbins.com/health-vitality/the-power-of-cold-water/.


Yesterday, B. (2018, July 30). Exercise Makes You Smarter. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4UKd1iOUeo&t=509s.

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