What is one thing all productive people have in common? It might not be what you think it is: they all exercise on a regular basis. Besides the health benefits of regular exercise, it also helps your personal productivity in many ways.
There are many benefits of regular exercise that directly affect your productivity:
- You will need less sleep – that means you have more time to do productive things.
- Better quality of sleep – a good night of rest is crucial for setting yourself up for a productive day.
- You can focus and concentrate longer – you make better decision when you are fully engaged.
- You will experience less mood swings – this will make you less likely to procrastinate.
- Stronger immune system – less days sick means more time for getting things done.
- Less fatigue – you are less likely to procrastinate and you have more opportunities to get focused work done when you are energized.
In the book The Power of Full Engagement, the author talks about how we shouldn’t worry about time management. Rather, we should focus on managing our energy levels because that is the key to productivity and getting things done. To put it in another words, if you are tired or not in the right mood, it can be very hard to get things done.
There are four different types of energy forms, as shown in the illustration below.
Its pyramid shape shows that physical energy forms the foundation of all energy forms, and physical energy can be broken down in three parts:
We have already written how getting enough sleep is mandatory for being productive (our product Better Sleep helps you with that). Exercise is another key cornerstone of physical energy.
It sounds contradictory, right? We are discussing managing your energy, but doesn’t exercise expend energy? In theory, yes. In reality, regular exercise gets you more hours in a week where you can be focused, alert, and productive. The better shape you are in, the more time you can focus.
You shouldn’t see exercise as something you are expending a couple hours a week. Instead, see it as investing in getting more focused work done over time. The hours you spend working out will equal in amount of time of focused work, or in most cases you can get more hours worth of work. To explain this, let’s first discuss your energy capacity.
Every single person has a certain amount of energy that he or she can use for productive work. Some people have it more than others. We call this your energy capacity. You can compare it to a car’s fuel tank. It’s the storage place of fuel that you can use. The bigger the capacity, the more energy you can burn. In return, that can be channeled into productive work. Everyone’s fuel tank size is different, but the bigger it is, the more energy you have.
What regular exercise allows you to do is to increase your fuel tank size. In other words, you can increase your energy capacity by exercising your body on a regular basis. This concept is really important to time management because your energy level is really the foundation that determines how much work you can get done.
If you feel at times that you’re too tired to do the things you need to do, it is time to increase your energy capacity. This is done through regular exercise. It is very similar to growing muscles. You need to stress the muscle a little more than it can handle, and then you let is rest. The next time, you go again beyond what your normal capacity is and then rest again. It is about pushing your muscle’s comfort zone and then letting it recover. Over time, your muscle will grow and it can handle more load.
This is exactly how you grow your energy capacity. You go beyond your physical limit for a little bit and then recover from it. Each time you go beyond what you are capable of, you increase your energy capacity. If you don’t exercise at all at the moment, the first step is to start incorporating ways to exercise your body. Perhaps that means walking to work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Joining the local health club or gym is also a good idea. If you want to improve your productivity, exercising is a must. Don’t take it just from me. When Richard Branson was asked what his secret to productivity was, he had one clear answer: exercise. Here is a short video of him explaining why exercise is so important to your personal productivity.
Feed the intelligent monster
As a reader of this blog, what do you think is your biggest asset?
Most likely, it’s your brain. As knowledge workers, your biggest asset is your brain. Therefore, you should look after it as much as possible. The better you take care of your brain, the more productive you will be.
The brain needs two types of fuel to function: glucose and oxygen. The brain also needs a steady flow of both to operate at full capacity and this is where exercise comes into play. Exercise enhances your body’s ability to transfer glucose and oxygen throughout the body and brain. This is important that you understand this because it’s one of the core principles behind why exercise is key to productivity. Your brain controls almost everything in your body. When it is getting what it needs, you don’t experience any mood swings, you’ll be more energized, and so on. Basically anything that is conducive to being productive and it fights everything that is unfavorable for procrastination. Studies have shown that people who are physically active score better on cognitive tests than people living sedentary lifestyles (see Brain Rules).
According to Brain Rules, we are hardwired to walk 12 miles a day. It’s a law of nature that organisms and animals who were inflexible in movement where more likely to get killed. Our body is made for using our feet, arms, and other body parts every day to survive. We needed it for hunting and gathering, harvesting, growing food, and finding shelter. In today’s sedentary world, that of course doesn’t apply anymore, but now we’re lucky if we get thirty minutes of exercise a day. To have our bodies function optimally, we need to exercise it. Not sit still eight hours a day. So let’s get started with some example workout routines.
By no means are we fitness experts. We are just a bunch of efficient Asians who happen to know a little bit about time management and productivity, but we always advice people to start exercising if they are serious about their personal productivity. If you are totally clueless on what you can do, here are three of our recommendations.
Walking is a great way to oxygenate your brain. At the most fundamental level, it will help you increase blood circulation and glucose to the brain. According to MD Andrew Weil, author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, 45 minutes of walking a day is optimal. This might seem like a lot, but with some creativity you can accumulate this easily.
Interval training is truly an efficient way of exercising. It consists of alternating high intensity exercises followed by low intensity exercises. Here are some examples of interval training workouts.
You don’t need to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was in his prime to increase your energy capacity. Regular strength training, especially based on your body weight, is all you need. Stronglifts’ 5×5 workout routines are great for this.
- If you don’t exercise already, see where you can walk more in your days.
- Join a gym near you and start going there at least twice a week.
If you are having trouble getting the sleep you need to be productive, check out our product Better Sleep.
Photo by jerryonlife.