We all want to be more productive. But trying to squeeze more work into an already chaotic schedule will not do the trick -- that will not help you push on and make meaningful progress toward your goals.
But science now says that there is a hack that can boost your productivity (and improve your overall health). And it does not even have to cost you anything except a little time -- and maybe a bit of sweat.
A study revealed that people who spent at least two-and-a-half hours a week exercising experienced a bump in productivity. As someone who is active and who does my best to work out six days a week, I know this to be true. Cycling, running, and swimming give me a chance to simply focus on my movement and what is possible. My workouts give me space to work through challenges and provide a powerful boost of endorphins.
But exercise can do more than enhance your productivity. One study found that a moderate cardio workout delivered a two-hour burst of creativity, while another showed a five to 10 percent improvement in cognitive function after strength training.
In addition, scientists studying particular sports are finding that there is an optimal time of day to participate in certain activities -- so you can actually plan your day around your workout if your schedule allows. Depending on your activity of choice, these are the scientifically-recommended times to get the maximum benefit:
An early morning ride is best for cyclists who want to get an hour or more in the saddle. Cyclists consistently training in the morning had better recovery time after their morning sprints compared to evening sprints. Another reason to ride at dawn? The morning is the time when fewer cars are on the road, making your ride more peaceful and enjoyable.
If you can pop out for a lunchtime stroll, you will experience a lift in your mood that can help you be more productive when you return. One study found that participants reported feeling more relaxed and enthusiastic, and were better able to cope on days that they took a 30-minute lunchtime walk at their own pace.
A lunchtime jog can give you more energy for the remainder of the day. But if you're striving to run a personal best, you will be at your peak if you can sneak in a run later in the afternoon. Your body temperature is at its highest, your muscles are most supple, and your lung capacity is greater than at other times of the day.
Want to work out a tough problem on the green? You will have the most muscle strength between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m., making it easier to grip a golf club and swing to your best potential. Plus, you may benefit from cooler temperatures in the latter part of the day.
If a one-on-one game is more your style, you might want to wait to hit the racquetball court until later in the day as well. Your eye-hand coordination will be better in the late afternoon, and your joints and muscles are up to 20% more flexible in the evening, reducing your chance for injury.
Before you start on a late-night work session, try taking a dip first. A study of college swimmers showed that they achieved their best times in the evening (and their worst times at 5 a.m.). If you are ready to call it a day, this solitary, low-impact activity is also a great finisher and can help you prepare for a good night's rest.
Even if you cannot leave your desk for a round of golf or a swim, you can still step out for a brisk walk or skip the elevator and take the stairs. You may even consider riding your bike to work if that is logistically possible.
Whatever you do, do not try to pack more office work into your day in an effort to be more productive. Carving out just a little time for exercise will not only help you get in physical shape, but you will have more energy and more to offer when you return to work.
So give yourself the gift of a productivity-boosting workout, and see how much more you can accomplish and feel better in the process.