The Experience
Teach at Jolt

The One Productivity Tip Everyone Should Hear

Nina Gordon
September 26, 2018

There's a lot of productivity talk out there.

But do you want to know the best productivity tip I ever heard?

Well, it's based on a little something called cognitive fuel.

To get your best work done WITHOUT burning out, you need to view your energy as a finite reserve.

Because you can do everything, but not at once.

“That means if you have a goal or task you want to complete, say, tomorrow, you need to wake up and get it done FIRST. Because that’s when you have a full tank of cognitive fuel. ”

And every single time you make a decision, or complete a little task, you start to drain your cognitive fuel.

Think of your own energy like your iPhone battery.

Checking your email first thing?, There goes 5% of your energy. Deciding where to go for dinner tonight? 5%. Chatting to your friend on WhatsApp? 5%. Deciding what to wear that particular day? 5%. Browsing Pinterest for inspiration to get started? 5%! You get the idea.

Leave the energy-burning decisions to when you feel your most depleted (aka the end of the day). And spend your cognitive fuel on something important and amazing.

You start each day with 100%. Use yours wisely, y'all.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.


"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Taken by over 18,500 people; Calibrated by 100s of tech employees

By taking this 10-min test I can set myself up for success

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