When you think about productivity, do you normally focus on topics like goal setting, scheduling, time management, and organization? These are all important topics to focus on, but consider this. What if:
– you wake up in the morning in a foul mood and you can’t seem to shake the feeling?
– in the middle of your busy and productive morning, you’re stomach starts rumbling and you can’t seem to concentrate on your work anymore?
– it’s been a little while since you’ve eaten lunch and all you want to do is put your head down on your desk and take a nap?
– it’s late in the afternoon, you’ve crashed from low blood sugar and all you can think about is a cup of coffee or a sugary, fatty dessert?
– you’ve suddenly developed brain fog and you can’t seem to focus on anything?
Are you beginning to see the connection between your physical state and your performance? In fact, before you can event think about your schedule or getting organized or managing your time, you need to be physically and mentally capable of carrying out these tasks. Wouldn’t it be great if you could:
– have consistently high energy throughout the day?
– keep your hunger satisfied so that you can devote more time to your work?
– maintain a clear and alert mind that will enable you to focus?
– generate a positive mood so that you have the motivation and drive to be successful at work?
With regard to diet, here are some tips that when put into practice, will have a direct and immediate impact on productivity:
1. Drink water
You hear this all the time, but don’t underestimate the power of water. Since our bodies are meant to be 70% water, being low will affect every cell, including those in the brain. Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger, it will zap the energy, and affect your brain’s ability to focus. To get you on the right foot early, begin your day with a glass of room temperature water (with fresh lemon juice if you’d like) and sip it throughout the day. This will help keep hunger at bay, keep your energy levels up, and allow you to think better on your feet.
2. Begin your day with a balanced breakfast
This is the most important meal and it sets the stage for how you’ll feel throughout the day. A balanced breakfast that includes protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and healthy fats will provide consistent energy to help you make it through the morning and will ensure that you won’t be running for the nearest “carb fest” by noon. It will also help to balance your mood by providing the building blocks necessary to make neurotransmitters like serotonin (a feel-good brain chemical), so that even if you have to deal with putting out fires all morning, you’re more likely to handle them with grace.
3. Focus on vegetables
This goes for anytime of the day, but especially for lunch when you don’t want to come to a halt from an overly heavy meal, try to fill up on raw or cooked vegetables with a serving of protein like fish, chicken, legumes, or grains like quinoa.
For example, a quinoa pilaf with onions, celery, carrots, and spinach, a green salad with 3 ounces of fish, chicken, or black bean salad, or a lentil and vegetable soup. The vegetables will provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and a wealth of phytonutrients to keep your cells happy and energized. Include some healthy fats like olive oil or avocado on the salad, slivered almonds in the pilaf, or a side of sunflower seeds and walnuts with the soup.
4. Be prepared with healthy snacks
In the event that hunger strikes in between meals, it’s always better to have some healthy snacks on hand rather than resort to the nearest vending machine or café. Cut up veggies and hummus, apples, a handful of trail mix or a few nuts can fill a void quickly. I emphasize small servings here because the calories can add up. The idea is to eat just enough to eliminate hunger and to top off your energy without disrupting your momentum, so less is more here. Did I mention water too?
5. Watch what you eat before bed
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen people face is not so much what they eat during the day, but what they eat at night. They leave work, they decompress a bit, and they lose control with respect to healthy eating habits. If you want to begin your day on the right foot with energy and a positive mood, in addition to a healthy breakfast, it’s important to limit what you eat (and drink) before bed so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
A heavy meal before bed will not only inhibit a sound night’s sleep, it will promote weight gain and make it less likely that you’ll want to begin your day the next morning with a healthy breakfast. And so goes a vicious cycle of skipping breakfast and getting most of your calories later in the day, often from fast release carbohydrates. Dinner should be the smallest meal of the day and should be eaten at least three hours before bed.
If you make time in your schedule for healthy meals, the results will be invaluable for your productivity because when you’re feeling your best, you can perform at your best.
Linda DiBella, Ph.D., is a Holistic Health Coach who helps clients gradually change their diet and lifestyle habits so that they can lose weight, eliminate their dependency on stimulants, have more energy, and improve their moods. She works with clients in person, over the phone, through Skype, or email. For more information, visit her website at www.getreal4health.com or email her at getreal4health at gmail.com.