Most people will experience some form of “brain aging” in their life, ranging from fuzzy thinking to Alzheimer’s disease. Although some causes of memory loss are genetic, you can still improve your brain’s sharpness. The earlier you start, the better—just like losing weight, it is easier to prevent brain aging than reverse it. Here are
Sports have always been a big part of life, beginning when I was a kid. My father’s way of teaching me how to swim was by throwing me in the water and telling me to fight and try every possible way to get to the surface. This approach has actually helped me overcome any potential fears I may have had, and ever since, I have used sports to get through long study nights and long working hours.
For entrepreneurs who are working hard to build startups, and their employees, exercise is crucial for keeping you in good health. According to many studies, it also improves your mood and reduces depression. The road to building a company is rocky enough; an even mood will help.
Here are 10 reasons why exercising will make you a better performer at work:
It makes you determined. If you play a sport on a regular basis, then you probably have a coach who is always pushing you and shouting at you to help you get the best out of yourself. If you don’t have one, then you probably have your own ways to keep yourself motivated. Athletes always strive to push their limits; any obstacle in front of them is just another challenge. The same thing applies at work. If you stumble upon a difficulty and have too much work to do at the office, if you can’t get any investment or if your startup idea needs some adaptation, you will learn not to give up. You will work it out, because, it’s just another challenge for you.
It reduces stress. Stress is an undesired companion, especially if you are an entrepreneur. “I do exercise in the gym before work, then I do some cardio, like taking a long walk or jogging after work,” says Lebanese entrepreneur Mark Malkoun, the co-founder of ReachFast, an application that helps iPhone users call and message their recent contacts more easily. “Entrepreneurs endure a lot of stress due to the nature of their work, and exercising can help a lot to reduce this stress and offset the harm that it’s causing to our bodies and minds.”
It makes you a better team player. Whether in the gym, in the pool or outdoors, workout buddies always encourage each other to perform better. If you’re involved in a team sport, like basketball or football, this increases your team work ethic. Team players are also a great addition to any startup. By team players, I mean those co-workers who help each other and collaborate to get a specific task done efficiently, and who work hand in hand to take their startups to a whole new level.
It makes you more accepting of failure. Team sports not only make you a better team player, but also help you accept failure. When playing against another team, one of the two teams will fail. Acknowledging that you failed is good, as it helps you reconcile with yourself. In the workplace, accepting that you failed when accomplishing a task or when launching an idea or making an important decision, will first, help you understand the mistake you made and learn from it, and second, work even harder to avoid it in the future.
It makes you more responsible. George Washington Carver who once said, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” In team sports, just as at work, admitting that you broke the rules lets your colleagues, your teammates and your boss realize that you are a straightforward person who takes mistakes seriously and doesn’t cover them up. This will make them trust you more and maybe rely on you more often.
It gets your creative juices flowing. A study has shown that aerobics are more likely to boost your creativity. Exercising doesn’t train your muscles only, but also your brain. That is why sometimes when you are out of ideas and go out for a jog, you feel much better afterwards and the ideas start coming.
It replaces your morning coffee. Have you tried working out super early before coming to work? If not, try it. It fuels your body with energy and jump starts your metabolism, to get you ready for a long day at work. And if you’re bootstrapping, it’ll be a good way to cut down on your coffee expenses.
It makes you a good listener and teaches you self-discipline. Hind Hobeika, a competitive swimmer and the brain behind Instabeat, acknowledges that swimming has taught her self-discipline, “which is SUPER important as an entrepreneur”, she wrote in an email. It has also made her a good listener. “Swimming has taught me to listen to a coach and train with a team, which is the similar to listening to mentors and working with a team,” she says.
It gives you time to reflect. I personally enjoy swimming a lot, and I try to do it four times a week. During that time, I’m able to stop thinking about the outside world and focus on my technique, endurance and pace. It’s also a good time to collect my thoughts and reflect. Hobeika agrees: “Swimming is my alone time, the only time I’m not connected to anything but myself, so I’m obliged to listen to my thoughts and do a lot of reflection.”
It lets you meet potential partners or customers. Last but not least, exercising is a social activity. It allows you to meet new people or to get to know your colleagues, employees or co-founders better. “Sports give employees an opportunity to meet both colleagues and friends through a healthy medium,” said Derv Rao, co-founder of Duplays, a Dubai-based platform that connects players to sports in their local city. “Relationships are built above and beyond those formed by conducting business together.” (Disclosure: Wamda Capital has invested in Duplays).
Companies should offer sports to their employees, he says, because these companies “have demonstrated a direct impact on the bottom line through lower sick days, better employee performance at work and a healthier social life, leading to increased employee happiness and retention.”
Sometimes it is good to just throw your laptop away, get out there and enjoy a well-deserved workout. Not only will it make you feel better, it might help you come up with the next best idea. And just like kids fight their way in the pool to reach the top, entrepreneurs and employees should do the same too, but not only in the pool.
Reine is the Arabic Editor at Wamda. You can reach her at Reine[at]wamda.com, on Twitter @farhatreine or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Many of us live in a culture, where working long hours has become an expectation. We are made to believe that if we’re not working long enough, then we’re not working hard enough.
In this tough economic climate, a lot of us feel under pressure to work long hours just to keep our jobs. And even worse, there are some people, who are actually proud that they work 60 hours or more every week.
But whether you work long hours out of pressure or out of choice, you should consider some of potential negative effects on your life.
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who work more than 11 hours a day, have a 67 percent higher risk of heart disease. Another study of about 2000 British civil servants found that working more than 11 hours a day doubled your chances of developing depression. Aside from your health, working long hours can also have a negative effect on our relationships and personal life.
And does working longer hours actually improve our productivity?
According to The Economist, the most productive country is France where the average person works less than 40 hours per week. And yet, the typical worker in France creates almost as much wealth per hour, as the leading economies in other countries.
Business leaders are also acknowledging that working long hours doesn’t necessarily make us more productive. Steven Sinofsky, a former president of the Windows division at Microsoft, once wrote in a blog post that “to be blunt, there is no way you can do quality work if you do not give your brain a break. If a company is driving you to work crazy hours like this, either because you want to or they want you to, it is just uncool”.
So is it possible to work less and still be productive? The short answer is yes. And it’s not about having an intricate ‘productivity system’ that lets you manage your to-do lists and get more done.
The key to being more productive to do less and focus on what really matters. It’s also about finding a better balance between your work and personal life.
Here are some of my favorite tips to help you get started:
1. Focus On Your Top 3 Daily Priorities
Having a to-do list can be great for remembering that you need to buy milk, but it doesn’t help much when it comes to being more productive. Start each day, by taking a few minutes to think about and write down your top 3 priorities for the day. Then focus your efforts on getting those 3 things done before anything else. This simple, but powerful habit will significantly boost your productivity.
2. Exercise for 30 Minutes Every Day
We all know that exercise is good for our health. But did you know that exercise is also good for our brain? According to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, John Ratey MD and author of the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain”, exercise will not only make you healthier, but it will also help to reduce stress, improve your learning and think more clearly.
3. Start Work Early & Leave On Time
Ask any ‘successful’ person and the chances are that they start work early. You are less likely to have distractions earlier in the morning and can focus better on your top 3 daily priorities. But in order to be productive, you also need to give your brain a rest, so strive to leave the office on time every day. You’ll not only feel better, but will be more energized and productive the next day.
4. Stop Checking Your Email
We all know that constantly checking our email is a bad idea, but many of us still continue to do it. According to a study conducted by the University of California Irvine and the U.S. Army, taking a break from email can reduce your stress levels and help you to concentrate more. So schedule 2 or 3 times in the day when you will deal with your email. And the rest of the time, turn it off and forget about it.
5. Set Limits for Everything
According to Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Give yourself too much time to complete a given task and there is a good chance you’ll find a way to use up all that time. So try giving yourself less time to complete tasks e.g. give yourself an hour to write that report instead of 2 hours or give yourself 15 minutes to check your mail instead of 30 minutes.
6. Apply the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule simply states that in many situations, about 20% of the effort will drive 80% of the results e.g. 20% of your customers drive 80% of your business. We can apply this rule to improve our productivity by focusing on the 20% of tasks, projects, emails, meetings etc. that drive 80% of the results. So focus on the activities that really matter and spend less time on everything else.
7. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking does not make us more productive. In fact, splitting our attention has an impact on our productivity, concentration and energy. “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes”, says David Meyer, a cognitive scientist that the University of Michigan. So if you want to be more productive, then focus on doing one thing at a time.
8. Attend Fewer Meetings
Most of us would agree that business meetings are one the biggest time wasters. So if you want to more productive, attend fewer meetings. Firstly, check to see if the meeting is actually needed. Could you resolve the matter over email or with a quick 5-minute chat? If you do need to attend, ensure that there is a clear goal and agenda for the meeting e.g. make a decision, brainstorm a problem etc. And then ensure the meeting starts on time and finishes on time (or ideally earlier).
By Joy Bing Fleming, MBA
The “Hour of Power” consists of 20 minutes of meditating or just relaxing, 20 minutes of exercising, and 20 minutes of reading. If you don’t have an hour in your day, then you can shorten it to 30 minutes.
Mind Relaxation. You can use the relaxation time to simply clear your mind, calm down, and get rid of any stresses that you may be feeling. Sometimes, you may become so calm that you fall asleep. That’s okay. Right before you start the “hour of power,” just remember to set your alarm for 20 minutes, so you’ll wake back up. You can also use the relaxation time to figure out what you’re passionate about and to clarify your purpose. You can ask yourself:
– If I absolutely knew that I would not fail, what would I really like to do?
– If money was not an issue at all, what would I like to achieve?
– What do I desire most?
– What really makes me happy?
– What does success mean to me?
– When do I feel the happiest and the most alive?
– What are the top 10 things that I really want in my life?
Exercise. Everyone needs some form of exercise in their lives. You can walk or run in the neighborhood, watch a workout video, walk the dog, etc.
Reading. Reading everyday is very important. You should read for 20 minutes. If you don’t have 20 minutes, simply reading 5 or 10 minutes a day will begin to change your life. Reading positive and inspirational books will improve your self-confidence and help you become an even better person. Building up your self-confidence will help you overcome your fears. Your thoughts will change. You will become a positive thinker. Once you’re focused on positive events, thoughts, and occurrences, you’ll begin to notice all of the wonderful small things that you missed before (like how amazing it is to see the sunshine outside, getting all green traffic lights on your way to work, getting an up front parking space, etc).
Books concerning your life’s purpose are helpful to read. Books about whatever suits you and whatever brings joy and happiness into your life are also important to read. Reading improves self-esteem, creates awareness, as well as empowers one with unlimited knowledge. The “Hour of Power” has helped me a great deal.
In school, I had to read many books, and I didn’t find reading enjoyable. So, when I finished college, I decided that I didn’t want to read anymore books. Therefore, reading everyday was a challenge for me. However, when I became interested in learning more about how to figure out my purpose, that made it more enjoyable. Also, today you can purchase many books on CD. Once I focused on reading or listening to a CD just 20 minutes a day, it became alot easier.