Every entrepreneur and small business owner is constantly on the lookout for ways to increase their productivity. They invest in the latest gadgets, hoping they can clear out their daily emails a little bit faster, they look at the management apps they use and cycle through new options periodically, and even turn a critical eye toward their employees and teammates, hoping to iron out the productivity wrinkles that can keep them from doing their best.
None of these strategies are inherently bad, but one of the best strategies for improving your productivity often goes overlooked: improving your physical and mental health. Starting the morning with healthier habits, and investing more time and energy into staying healthier can give you a massive productivity boost—far more than upgrading your smartphone or one of the apps on it.
But why is this the case? And what are the best habits to adopt?
Why Health Impacts Productivity
There are several distinct reasons why health has such a massive impact on your productivity:
- Focus. When you’re sick, it’s hard to focus on anything, let alone a complex project or a tedious meeting agenda. The same is true if you’re tired, lethargic, or otherwise feeling unwell. Focus is a major factor in your ability to get things done, and you’ll be much more focused if nothing’s wrong with your body or mind.
- Energy. Energy is your (somewhat) subjective feeling of enthusiasm or stamina, and it can increase or decrease depending on how healthy you are. Health practices like exercise can give you both a short-term energy boost and set you up for higher long-term energy levels, both of which are important for your work performance.
- Absences. Absences due to illness are dropping, but are still worth considering. Letting your health get so bad that you have to take a half day to go see a doctor, or take a few days off to let your body recover can negatively impact your overall productivity—especially when those absences are unexpected.
Best Health Habits
Now let’s focus on some of the best healthy habits you can adopt. These practices don’t require much time or money, but they can cumulate to have a significant positive impact on your health:
- Sleep consistently (and wake up naturally). Sleep gives your body and mind a chance to recover from various ailments, and can reduce your chances of developing an illness. Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, so you can develop a natural rhythm, and wake up as naturally as possible. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night by scheduling time for your sleep, and by employing tactics like avoiding caffeine many hours before bedtime and limiting screen time at night.
- Meditate daily. Mindfulness and other forms of meditation are designed to give you more control over your thoughts and emotions, which over time can help you drastically improve your mental health. You don’t need any special equipment or even any special training to do it, though you will have to practice it several times before you feel a big difference in how you think. Simply relax, focus on the present moment, and pay attention to each time your attention or thoughts are distracted from that moment.
- Exercise daily (and/or throughout the day). Physical exercise is one of the healthiest habits you can adopt, since it keeps your weight down, reduces your risk for many diseases and conditions, and can even stave off mental health issues. Consider putting in a good session at the gym every day, or use exercise as a way to take a break from work, walking around the block or stretching by your desk every hour or two while working.
- Watch what you eat. Your diet also plays a massive role in your overall health. Try to eat a substantial, healthy breakfast, and avoid major spikes or drops in your blood sugar throughout the day. Focus on small snacks and nutritive foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid too much sugar, fast foods, and other junk foods.
- Take time off proactively. Taking a day off may seem like a missed opportunity to tackle an important project, but occasional vacation time can help you avoid burnout and keep your mind and body healthy. Spend time doing things that make you happy, and don’t make work your singular obsession.
Taking care of your health should be your biggest priority, not just because it’s more important than your work, but also because it can have a direct, positive impact on your work performance anyway. Commit to even these basic healthy habits and you’ll take fewer sick days, feel more alert, and accomplish your tasks with a renewed vigor.