So much has been said about boosting productivity.
Make a to-do list.
Tackle the toughest items first.
Tackle the toughest items last.
Use the Pomodoro Technique.
All of these and the various other well-known methods work to a degree. However, when the brain fog sets in and the words aren’t coming out right, my mind turns to money. After all, the money isn’t coming in if my fingers aren’t moving.
Then, my mind turns to food. Maybe I need more caffeine or sugar? Maybe a glass of cold water? I’m not even really hungry or thirsty, but these seem like logical solutions… At the same time, they could be a distraction that chips away more of my productivity block.
The reality is that your diet and productivity are more closely linked than you may think. Getting a snack in the middle of a bad episode of writer’s block may not be the right move to make, but understanding the relationship between productivity and diet could help you to keep writer’s block stashed away in the closet.
Concentrating on the Right Things
We’ve all been there. You start feeling a bit light-headed. Then you notice a mild headache creeping in. Your stomach lets out a horrendous rumble. The only thing that you seem to be able to think about is food.
When you fail to eat enough to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, thinking a clear thought becomes more challenging.
Yes, a healthy body generally releases insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. However, if you are one of the millions of people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, this natural process does not work right. (Millions of people with these conditions have not yet been diagnosed. You could be one of them.)
The Sugar Dip
When your energy level dips, you understandably reach for the most convenient thing available. (That tastes good.) Sodas, cookies, chips… what’s your pleasure?
Approximately 20 minutes after your last swallow, your blood sugar level will tank. Concentrating on the computer screen is increasingly challenging. This could be accompanied by general sluggishness and even a reduction on cognitive abilities.
The reality is that dopamine and glucose dips are only part of the problem. Everything from your memory to your immune system can be jeopardized when your routine is to reach for sugar.
Munching on a bag of potato chips while you work at your computer affects more than your body chemistry. You could down the whole bag in a few minutes, but you may be one of those people (like me) who like to graze. After all, if you’re going to eat something bad, you might as well stretch it out and enjoy it.
So, you eat a chip. You realize your fingers are greasy, so you get something to wipe then on. A minute later, you grab another chip. Then, you wipe your hands. How many chips are in a small bag? Maybe 20? Your small and rather unhealthy snack just took up at least 20 minutes of time.
This interruption is followed by that blood sugar dip a few minutes later.
What You Can Do
If you’re like me, you are just about fed up with people telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat. Eggs are healthy this week and unhealthy the next week. Eat carbs. Don’t eat carbs. Eat healthy carbs. Find your macro balance.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the foods you eat – and when you eat them – impact your blood sugar levels. They also affect how full or satiated you feel.
First, consider intermittent fasting. There are so many different ways to do intermittent fast. I used to fast every day for 16 hours. Now, I just make sure that I don’t eat anything in the morning until at least 12 hours after my last meal, snack or glass of wine. I’m not sure that 12 hours is actually fasting, but it works for me.
Numerous studies have shown that intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity. It also promotes weight management or loss, promotes the production of human growth hormone and has tons of other benefits. I recommend that you read up on IF if you haven’t already done so.
When you do “break your fast,” it will likely be around lunch time. You’ve had a whole morning to work without getting greasy “chip fingers.” With fasting, your body will adjust to you not eating. So, after a few days, you will not even miss eating first thing in the morning. Your focus may also improve.
Then, simply eat healthy for the rest of the day. Choose fruits, veggies and lean meats. Focus on balance and proper calorie consumption for your needs.
You may still want to try the Pomodoro Technique and make list after list, but I assure you that these changes in your routine will have a profound impact on your workday productivity.
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