Maximizing your productivity takes an all-out effort. It requires experimenting with proven productivity hacks, mastering your email, and leveraging productivity enhancers like music, working a four day week, or working from home.
With such far-flung efforts at our disposal, it seems crazy to skip over one dead-simple productivity boosting thing we can do every day:
Not skipping breakfast.
You've heard the adage about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, for many reasons. Set aside the fact that a new study shows skipping breakfast increases the risk of heart-related death by 87 percent, it's also a productivity killer. Research shows skipping breakfast negatively affects short term memory and foregoes a boost in cognitive performance, pre-cursors to productivity.
It should be noted, by the way, that skipping breakfast shouldn't be confused with intermittent fasting, ie. going long periods of time without eating to help restrict calorie intake. (Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of biological sciences at USC, clarified with CNN that these are two very different concepts.)
So no skipping breakfast--but how do you get breakfast right ?
What you eat for breakfast can have just as big of an effect on your productivity throughout the day as choosing not to eat breakfast at all.
Dr. Brady Salcido, a personal health expert, reminds us that breakfast kick starts our metabolism. When we wake up, our cortisol (stress hormone) is at its highest level, raising our blood sugar levels to get you up and going in your day. So carefully adding fuel to that is important-- and un-skippable.
But what fuel you add at this time is equally critical. If it's too high in carbohydrates, the body converts it into sugar, spiking your already highest sugar level of the day.
Research from the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine shows that having high and continually fluctuating blood sugar levels creates what's known as inflammation-- which creates resistance in your brain, making it harder for you to do your job.
As Salcido says in more laymen's terms: "The higher the spike in blood sugar, the deeper the crash later, which you may experience as brain fog, fatigue, lethargy, headaches, or the midday slump." In other words, your productivity crashes too.
So how to make breakfast work for your productivity (outside of just not skipping it)? Salcido offers three simple tips:
1. Avoid refined carbohydrates.
Sorry, but bagels, toast, muffins, and cereal are big-time blood sugar-spikers that can lead directly to zombie-time.
2. Opt instead for healthy fat and protein.
Eggs and bacon may be one of the best breakfasts you can have. Dr. Salcido: "Getting healthy fat and protein can create a positive and sustainable boost in energy without giving you a spike in blood sugar and crash."
3. Avoid sweeteners.
Any added sugar (including artificial or sweeteners) are "like inflammation rocket fuel." Admittedly, giving up sugar altogether (not just at breakfast) was the hardest of these three tips for me to implement. But doing so has directly led to me shedding 15 pounds.
So make your morning fuel also fuel your day's productivity.