In the hunt for increased productivity we almost instinctively seek out simple hacks by definition. The amount of time it takes to learn and implement a complex method for enhancing productivity fights the very idea of productivity. So when I come across a powerful, and powerfully simple hack, I feel compelled to share it with my readers.
The productivity hack that Richard Branson says doubles his productivity is the fact that he takes time for exercise — at least 60 minutes a day, every day. Everyone knows they should exercise, but the link to productivity is a bit counterintuitive (given the time it takes to do the exercising itself). Branson’s logic is dead simple though (as he shares on his blog) — if you feel your best, you’ll be at your best. He exercises to give him energy, to fight feeling lethargic and to boost his mood.
And he makes it an absolute priority. Says Branson:
“Many people say they don’t have the time for exercise, and you’re right, you don’t have the time unless you make the time. You set your priorities, and unless your health is one of them, it can be easy to find something else to do that seems more important. The reality is, there is nothing more important than looking after yourself.”
Branson is not alone in placing exercise on such a pedestal and thinking of it as a productivity enhancer, versus detractor. Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, and Mark Zuckerberg are all known to prioritize exercise despite the myriad of other empire building things they could be spending their time doing.
Science conspires with these billionaires to further the case, as Harvard studies show that exercise improves memory, concentration, and mental sharpness — all needed for productivity and overall increased professional success.
What happened when I finally linked my health to my productivity.
When I worked in the corporate world, I exercised, but I always viewed it as something that took away from my productivity. It was time during the day I’d have to invest to stay healthy, but that would mean time away from all the things I had to do. I still exercised two to three times a week, but not more because I felt that’s what I could invest while still being able to effectively do my job.
But something amazing happened when I left corporate to become an entrepreneur. I got the opportunity to reset and re-prioritize everything in my life, including exercise. I set exercise as the foundation and then built on top of it (as opposed to setting my work life as the foundation and trying to squeeze in exercise where I could). I doubled the number of times I exercise from two to three to six times a week (and lengthened my workouts).
To do this, I set a schedule where I get up and am fully working by 8AM at the latest (good riddance commute!) to take advantage of my best thinking time. I work for a solid seven hours, breaking only briefly for lunch and bathroom breaks. Then I hit the gym, shower, and return to work until 6:30PM.
Here’s the magic for me when it comes to exercise in my life now: Exercise doesn’t take productive time away, it creates it.
I’m far more energized for the second round of work in the day, and I leave behind the unproductive stretch for me, which was always from 3PM to 5PM when I’d be dragging. I exercise in that window now.
So think about making time for exercise as literally making time. Your productivity and corresponding success is sure to get healthier too.