Three Tips to Free Your Mind and Ensure Better Performance
The most powerful learnings from my life, why you need to treat social media like a drug, how Eisenhower won the war by prioritizing his tasks, and a FREE Eisenhower Matrix tool that you can download.
1️⃣ Your Bed
One of the most powerful lessons for me was about the sanctity of my bed. I learned it the hard way that my bed is only for sleeping. For a while during my university days, I used my bed while I did a range of activities, such as working, studying, and reading books. I used to sit or lie on my bed while I used my laptop or phone or read books while lying down. This proved to be a disaster since it was harmful in two ways.
It’s easy to feel lazy and sleepy when working or studying while sitting on the bed, and it isn’t easy to maintain focus for long durations. It’s not long before you slip into unplanned naps. Two, and more harmfully, when you’re doing anything on your bed that’s mentally stimulating, you’re training your brain that the bed is meant for other things apart from sleeping. This means that when you finally lie down to sleep at night, your brain finds it very difficult to shut off since it begins to expect mentally stimulating activities while on the bed. This destroys your sleep cycle, and in a vicious cycle, you’ll fall asleep at random times during the next day. Once your sleep cycle is affected this way, it is tough to get it back in control.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way, but I’m glad I learned it early in life:
Your bed is sacred. Don’t defile it using electronics, books, or other things that stimulate your mind while you’re on the bed.
Don’t use your bed at all when you’re not sleeping.
Protect your sleep cycle and preserve your productivity.
2️⃣ Social Media
There’s no simple way of saying this: Social media wrecks with your brain. Stimuli are cues in our environment that trigger certain behaviors in us. Evolution has genetically programmed us to respond to stimuli because, usually, they help us survive. When stimuli are exaggerated, they are called Supernormal Stimuli.
Stimuli cause us to respond by activating reward systems in our brain. These neurochemical changes in our brain push us to act when we are faced with the cues. Supernormal Stimuli cause us to respond much more strongly compared to normal stimuli. Why does this happen? Supernormal stimuli can hijack our usual tendency to react to stimuli and amplify the response in proportion to the exaggerated stimulus. Research has shown that Supernormal Stimuli also activate the reward-centers in our brain that are associated with addiction. And because they are tied to our pre-programming, we find it incredibly difficult to resist Supernormal Stimuli consistently, and they compel us to pursue them.
Maintaining strong relationships within our tribe and communicating with others are two instincts that have a survival value. When we were still hunter-gatherers, strong relationships ensured that we had someone to protect us and help us find food when we were hungry. Communication ensured that we maintained these ties to the primitive community. Therefore, those who were good at cultivating relationships outlasted the others, and genes began to favor relationship-building and social-behavior as critical survival instincts.
But when social media entered the scene, we were grossly unprepared to deal with near-perpetual connection to our friends. Social media is a supernormal stimulus that hijacks our instinctive need to maintain relationships and pursue communication. It is an exaggerated stimulus that also, unfortunately, commands an exaggerated response. This is why we are unable to let go of our phones and screens. We find it incredibly difficult to resist this supernormal stimulus that uses our biological need to foster relationships against us.
Social media is dangerous because it manipulates a biological impulse, and like any supernormal stimulus, causes addiction. Our primitive brains crave mental stimulation, but we need to be conscious and offer it in moderation. Social media companies know exactly what they’re doing to our brains. Being aware of what is being done to us is step one of taking back control of our lives.
3️⃣ Eisenhower Matrix
As a war-time President during World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower had to make decisions about the numerous tasks he had to focus on and perform each day. This led him to invent the famous Eisenhower Principle, which prioritizes tasks based on their urgency and importance.
Tasks fall in four buckets based on whether they are important or urgent or a combination of them.
🔹If the task were important and also urgent, he would do it immediately. But if it were not urgent, he would schedule it for later.
🔹If the task were not important but were urgent, he would delegate it to someone who would do it. If it were also not urgent, he would delete it from his task list.
This ruthless prioritization of tasks and time management earned him the honor of being one of the greatest world leaders.
While you might already know about the Eisenhower Matrix, here are four tips to help you implement it in your own life:
Always maintain a To-do list inbox, where all your tasks can be captured quickly.
Please limit each quadrant to eight tasks. Finish them before you begin adding any new ones.
Don’t maintain separate lists for personal and professional tasks. To achieve balance, you need to treat them both as equally important.
Ruthlessly follow your matrix and do not make any exceptions. The moment you make an exception, you’re only making way for more.
Not sure how to begin using this matrix in your life?
These have been my three highlights from the productivity and personal growth space this week. If you liked what you read, connect with me on Twitter and let me know. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, subscribe to GrowPro Labs here to receive it in your inbox every Monday.
I'm on a mission to make Mondays great, and this newsletter is a part of my efforts in helping you achieve mindful productivity, personal growth, and living your Ikigai.