I just got back from my morning workout. A run, actually.
It was awesome and now I’m ready for anything.
I’m focused, energetic and ready to absolutely burn my way through my work, instead of feeling distracted by the seductive call of social media, checking my emails, endless housework chores and the latest episode of my favourite Netflix series.
I’m a girl on a mission!
If you’re a regular exerciser, or if you’ve ever dragged yourself out of bed to head to the gym before work, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say there’s nothing like exercise to help you feel focused and productive.
That’s why highly successful types like Hal Elrod, author of bestselling book ‘The Miracle Morning’, and Lewis Howes, lifestyle entrepreneur and author of ‘The Millionaire Morning’, include workouts in their daily routine and credit exercise for helping them to stay on top of their game.
And that’s why I recommend that you prioritise it too.
Find time to exercise (even if it’s just for a few minutes per day) and you’ll enjoy a ton of benefits that can really help you take your freelancing career to a whole new level.
You’ll be better focused, get those creative juices flowing, feel more positive about your business, make better business decisions and even enjoy a boost in your brain power.
Let me tell you more.
What’s the science behind exercise and focus?
Just google the words ‘exercise’ and ‘focus’ and you’ll find a mind-boggling number of research studies and articles that explain exactly why we feel so awesomely focused and productive when we’ve exercised.
Here are some of the top facts:
You get a great boost of endorphins
Exercise gets those stress-fighting chemicals called endorphins flowing, which give you that natural ‘high’ that runners always talk about.
All it takes is 20 minutes of physical activity and you’ll be feeling stress-free, motivated and focused.
Exercise increases blood flow in your brain
As your heart rate increases, you’ll flood your brain with extra oxygen, plus a whole host of neurotrophic factors, which help you to grow new brain cells and nourish the ones that are already there.
Your hippocampus gets fired up
Aerobic exercise encourages this area of your brain associated with memory to work harder and grow stronger and, according to some studies, you can actually increase its size through exercise.
A better memory at work means more attention to detail, better focus and a larger number of very satisfied clients.
You’ll ramp up your production of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor)
Exercise is a great way to increase the amount of BDNF in your brain, helping you to feel less stressed and overwhelmed, learn more easily and enjoy a better memory, too.
This is because the protein can boost brain cell production and encourage the growth of new connections between different parts of the brain.
You’ll stimulate your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
According to a study published in the NeuroImage journal (Dec 2009), exercise will also help stimulate your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This part of your brain is associated with better focus, concentration, organisation and planning.
This is fab news if you’re struggling with ADHD or the constant distraction of social media.
You’ll feel more productive
Let’s be honest here. The more energised and focused you feel after you exercise, the more energised and focused you’ll feel as the day goes on.
As you keep getting stuff ticked off your ‘to do’ list, you feel better still and the feeling snowballs for the rest of the day.
Besides, if you can get yourself off your chair and into the gym, then you’re ready for anything!
As you can see, there’s a ton of scientific reasons why exercise helps you to focus better at work.
I should also mention here the fact that exercise is one of the best ways that you can lift your mood and beat depression, which in itself works miracles on your creativity and your focus at work.
How to fit more exercise into your day
So, you know that exercise is pretty important when it comes to getting the best from yourself at work, and you’ve seen the science behind why it works so well.
But how do you actually do it when you’re completely out of shape, have a busy schedule or you’re just not in the mood?
Here are a few tips that will help get you motivated and active.
Exercise before work
Get moving early in your day and your brain won’t have much chance to fight back and persuade you not to go and workout. You’ll also get those endorphins flowing, make the most of your natural morning cortisol high and boost your blood flow so you can kick-start the day the right way.
It doesn’t matter whether this means hitting the gym at 5am, like my brother, or a quick vinyasa yoga session or a run outside, like me. A morning workout beats coffee hands down.
Schedule breaks into your day
Just because you’re definitely not an early riser, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on that exercise fix.
Give yourself regular breaks and try to include short session of exercise as often as you can. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll likely find a lunchtime workout class taking place somewhere close to you.
Otherwise, you could just lace up your shoes and go for a run, head for a walk around the block, or fire up YouTube and find an awesome workout online.
Not only will you get all those focus-boosting benefits, you’ll also give yourself thinking space, offload your stress and shake away those cobwebs.
Track your exercise
Keep yourself motivated and stick to your workout plans by keeping track of those times when you’re getting active.
You could choose just to use paper and pen to record your efforts, or download an app to your phone to do all the hard work for you.
No one is asking you to run a marathon. So don’t feel like you have to become a complete gym rat overnight.
Start small. Even if you’re really out of shape and can barely manage five minutes at a time, go ahead and start there.
Why not download a Couchto5k app for your phone? Or take part in a 30 day push-up challenge? Or even just promise yourself you’ll take a 10 minute walk around the block every day, to get you started? It all counts.
Involve your friends
Instead of trying to rely on willpower to get you motivated to show up every day, get your friends onboard and exercise together.
It’s a great way to beat that sense of freelancer isolation, whilst also getting you back on top of your game. You’ll find it much harder to make excuses to not exercise when they’re ringing your doorbell and waiting for you!
So, if you want to gain mastery over that urge to check Facebook when you’re supposed to be working and you’d like to enjoy greater focus, motivation, positivity and even a better memory, get off that chair and get exercising.