As a freelancer, you know how hard it is to stay productive. Whether you’re a game developer, writer, graphic designer, or digital marketer; to not have a boss and the structure of a a 9-to-5 job can be a liability for getting things done.
Here are a few science backed tips to keep you at optimum productivity.
Minimize the Coffee
“I myself eschew all stimulants.” Nikola Tesla
Caffeine has become synonymous with writer’s productivity. Many productivity gurus now recommend various kinds of caffeine drinks, like Bulletproof coffee.
Caffeine does not make you more productive. What it does in your brain is that it fits into the same receptors as Adenosine, which helps your brain relieve dopamine.
Since caffeine isn’t Adenosine, your brain gets a dopamine kick, which also results in an adrenaline surge. What happens after some time is that you become desensitized (i.e. you need more dopamine to get focused and motivated) and grow extra receptors for the caffeine excess.
“Dopamine is a key element in motivation – in getting clear in our minds what we want, and setting out to get it.” Ian Robertson, Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College
So basically, you need coffee to function normally. Except you limit your ability to function at your full potential. Caffeine also raises Cortisol. Cortisol makes it harder to focus and decreases your testosterone. Low testosterone leads to fatigue and lack of drive.
Yeah, there are alleged cardiovascular benefits. But if you want a healthy heart, do cardio. The benefits coffee may provide are really a joke compared to a healthy lifestyle.
It takes a few days for your brain to get back to normal. Try it out. Cut out all caffeine. In one or two weeks, I guarantee you’ll feel better, more motivated, and energized without coffee.
Another BS line from the productivity industry. If you could sleep less, you’d achieve more, right? Well, it’s not necessarily true.
People now experiment with polyphasic sleep in hopes of hacking their way to extreme output. But one thing to realize is that sleep is absolutely critical for you to get stuff done.
During sleep, you flush toxins out of your brain, you produce biochemicals, and put your heart and your brain in balance. Those biochemicals are absolutely critical to your success.
Lack of sleep leads to low testosterone and high cortisol. The direct relationship between high testosterone and low cortisol, and business success, both among men and women, is an established fact.
A Harvard study found that subjects with with testosterone and low cortisol had the most employees and most profitable businesses. Subjects with low testosterone and cortisol had the least employees and least profitable businesses.
If you do not get enough sleep, you will have low testosterone and low cortisol
Another interesting study on human performance confirmed that sleep is the major factor that separates elite performers from everyone else. Elite performers across all fields (sport, arts, business) sleep on average eight hours and 36 minutes per night.
Try to get more sleep and you may be surprised. You’ll feel much better and get more done in a shorter timeframe.
Put Your Body First
Another popular concept in productivity articles is that your mind rules your body. There’s no doubt that human willpower has few limits.
However, it’s the other way around. First, your body rules your mind and then the mind comes into play. Here’s why.
One of the top metrics for cognitive performance, decision making, delivering under pressure, and generally getting “into the zone” is heart rate variability (HRV).
HRV predicts death, determines your energy, and alters brain function. This is because our brain collects and responds to a stream of signals from our entire body. Our heart is basically a massive electrical signal generator.
HRV is the beat to beat interval. When it changes, it basically confuses your brain, affecting your focus and cognitive output. Top athletes measure HRV to maintain peak performance.
There’s a great video by Dr. Alan Watkins that explains how it all works. But to get to the point, to achieve peak performance, you need to maintain a good HRV especially during stressful projects.
The way to control it is by breathing. Breathing frequency and smoothness have the highest impact. The tip here is, whenever you feel stressed, less focused, or non-motivated, start with a breathing exercise or breathing meditation.
This will get you through the day and help you deliver results.