To-do lists, productivity apps, meditation, morning routines, evening routines -- there are countless ways you could boost your productivity. But, according Richard Branson, the most important one is this:


"The only reason I'm able to do all the things I do and to keep on top of a busy schedule without getting too stressed is because I stay fit," he shared with CNBC.

There are plenty of good reasons for it: Exercise helps with blood circulation (which improves focus), boosts energy and metabolism, improves sleep quality, and gives you a rush of endorphins, which gives you a natural "high."

But there's another good reason exercise should be tops in your productivity routine: it helps reduce anxiety and depression.

Weighed down by pressures of business, we often fall into anxious fits and states of depression. Even if they don't last a particularly long time, they can hamper momentary workflow. Our output decreases and we have to work that much harder to catch up. To-do lists and the like don't conquer this -- they add to it.

Exercise, just 30 minutes a day, can help regulate the body's "fight or flight" response, triggered during anxiety attacks. Endorphins released during exercise are incredible analgesics (or natural sedatives), countering the body's stressors.

Which isn't to say to-do lists won't help you organize your many tasks and morning routines won't help put you in the right frame of mind, but when stress hits, your mind needs a way to pull itself out of the frenzy of the moment and provide some natural chemical comforts. The best formula for that is exercise.

It's also important to note that exercise doesn't mean running a marathon. Below are a few ideas for activities that will give you the benefits you need to counter day-to-day work pressure. I recommend doing them without distractions, but if needed, can be paired with critical to-dos (as noted in parentheses below):

  • A 30-minute walk at lunch (paired with a work call)
  • A light jog in the evening (paired with a solo brainstorm session on work strategy)
  • A bike ride in the morning (paired with the playback of a recent meeting)
  • Yoga (paired with rehearsal for the day's all-hands)

The key, of course, is prioritizing exercise. Given the many benefits noted above, it just doesn't make sense to back-burner it. Make it priority #1 or #2 and slot it in every single day. Your mind, body, and productivity will thank you.