Health / Expert Advice

Here’s How to Get a Jump on Those Productive Fall Feelings

As seasons change, so do our habits. Here’s how to develop healthy ones.

As the seasons shift from the hot, humid days of summer to the crisp afternoons of autumn, you might find yourself struggling to get back into a routine. This is normal, and to be expected. Life Coach and Shaman John Moore explains that humans work best in harmony with the natural rhythms of life. Much like we have sleep cycles, diurnal cycles, and monthly cycles, we also have seasonal ones. “Since human societies [were] organized, we have had to work with the seasons. Fall harvest has always been a time of great organizational activity. Reaping crops, organizing them, and storing them for the winter season,” he says. “In the modern world, kids go back to school in fall [and] summer vacations end. It’s the perfect time to get productive before the winter holiday season.”

From regulating your workout schedule to shaping up your diet after months of celebrations and vacations, here’s how to boost your productivity this fall.

Break your work time up into productivity cycles.

It’s a common misconception that to work hard means that you must remain head-down from the time that you walk into the office until the moment you leave. Moore explains that human energy isn’t constant. Chugging along for hours on end (sans break) actually has the opposite impact, as it reduces productivity. Instead, he suggests giving yourself time away from your desk to give your mind a breather and to stretch your legs.

One way to approach this style is to work for 90-minute intervals, with 20 to 30 minutes breaks in between. “Anyone who has taught adults or children can tell you that attention and energy drop off after about a half an hour; the brain needs breaks. This may seem like a lot of breaks. But if you increase your productivity, you’ll get more done in less time and prevent burnout,” he says.

Build constant movement into your day.

Get up—whether you want to or not! Transformation Coach and Mentor Ellyn Schinke says that movement is among the most effective ways to keep our mind focused, on task, and functioning at its highest level. Because exercise—no matter how big or small—invigorates our spirit, remaining stagnant has a major impact on our energy levels. In addition to staying physically active with workouts, Schinke also encourages micro and mini-movements filtered in throughout your day. “These are things like changing your sitting position at your desk, standing up, walking around every 45 to 60 minutes, stretching, doing a sun-salutation, and more,” she explains. “They’re smaller, more subtle movements that are just as important as exercise and good nutrition to keep your energy levels up and, in turn, maximize your productivity.”

Pay attention to your diet.

The next time you load up on a sugary-sweet snack or down a cocktail (or two), consider how your mood is the next day. Or, when you’ve gone too long between meals and your hunger is setting in. What’s running through your mind? Likely nothing, according to Moore, since a poor diet or eating too little has a way of making us feel fuzzy and off-center. That’s why giving a more critical eye to your diet as autumn rolls around can do wonders for your health and your performance—in office, at the gym, anywhere.

“Individual dietary needs vary. So, pay attention to what you eat and how it affects your energy throughout the day. Most people perform better when they add lean protein to each meal or snack and focus carb intake on less processed complex carbohydrates. This will keep your fuel supplies up and keep you productive,” he explains.

Know your energy flows.

Think about yesterday: when did you feel your very best? For some, it might have been as soon as they woke up in the morning. But, others reap creativity in the afternoon. Schinke explains that everyone has a different energy flow, and it’s important to capitalize on it for productivity. “Knowing what these times of day are for you is incredibly beneficial to your productivity. You can adapt how you spend your time to your level of energy,” she explains. “Monitor the times of day when you feel high energy, high focus, and ‘dialed in.’ [Then] start adjusting your activities to fit with your natural energy flows,” she says.

Destress with meditation.

Your boxing addiction helps you feel less anxious, sure. To blow off steam, a venting session with your bestie is effective, too. But if you aren’t giving your mind-body connection a little TLC, Moore says that you may lack balance. Creating a daily meditation habit gives you more control over your mind, which in turn, keeps you productive. Moore calls meditation the ‘Swiss army knife of life hacks.’ Practicing meditation decreases stress, and improves your focus, memory, and concentration. “The best thing about meditation is that it’s free and there are many different ways to meditate. So you can find one that suits you,” he says.

Optimize your sleep.

Schinke explains that when we don’t get enough sleep, we’re effectively, well, drunk. How so? She explains that studies have shown that not only is sleep debt (that’s less than seven hours a night, for reference) cumulative, meaning that each successive night of sleep debut builds on the last, but that it can also cause defects in memory, performance, effectiveness, and, yes, productivity, she explains. Apart from any other aspect of your day-to-day health hygiene, prioritizing a solid, restful night of shut-eye will benefit you the most. Schinke says that you can improve your sleep quality by sleeping in complete darkness with blackout curtains or with a face mask and ear plugs in a cool room.

As the season’s shift, get back into the swing of things gradually. Set yourself up for success with these easy tips for amping up productivity starting now.

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