We can also learn a trick or two from the world’s most successful business icons that will help short-cut our way to a better brain, and better outcomes during the day.
While I could flood you with useless hacks that serve no benefit, here are three that stand out for overcoming common obstacles we face in our busy work lives, plus an additional six to give you near X-Men-like superpowers.
Arianna Huffington: Turn off all your devices before bedtime.
Huffington writes in her new book, The Sleep Revolution, that a big part of the sleep problem so many people have centers on and around the increased use of brightly-lit screens at night — smartphones, tablets, and laptops — that keep our eyes and brains on high alert. Huffington says this makes it difficult to unwind and transition into a peaceful state of rest and slumber we need to be productive during the day.
As a sleep activist ever since collapsing from sleep deprivation and exhaustion nearly a decade ago, she says that it’s critical to use the bedtime routine to gradually unplug from all your devices, which you can do in 60 seconds or less. “Learning to disconnect in time to wind down is absolutely key,” said Huffington, who powers down all her electronics during her nighttime ritual.
Huffington isn’t the only high-profile exec sold on the idea. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the acclaimed Lean In and Option B author, knows the value of a good night’s sleep. She also unplugs from her devices completely in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Science seems to agree with the premise. Studies show that using electronic devices, or even watching television in or before bed can disrupt sleep. And sleep is really good for an overactive brain.
Dr. Robert Rosenberg, a sleep medicine specialist and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, told Yahoo News, “The blue light given off by computers, smartphones, tablets, and TV prevents the production of melatonin which helps the body become sleepy.”
Dr. Rosenberg recommends avoiding any light-emitting technology for at least one hour before bedtime. He adds, “If you don’t want to give up reading your Kindle Fire or using your iPad in bed, follow this advice from a 2013 Mayo Clinic study: Keep the device at least 14 inches from your face and turn down your screen’s brightness to reduce your risk of light-related sleep problems.”
Oprah Winfrey: Face your fears head on by asking this 1 question.
Do you procrastinate? We all do. And if it makes you feel any better, so does media mogul and billionaire Oprah Winfrey.
She told Fast Company, “I procrastinate with confrontational things and uncomfortable conversations. I’ll give myself a deadline. And then I’ll change that deadline when that deadline shows up.
If that sounds familiar in your life, Oprah forces herself to face her own reality with this question: “What’s the worst that’s going to happen here, and why do I fear the confrontation?'”
Like Oprah, there’s always a root cause to our procrastination. So take a mindful minute every morning in quiet solitude to process what may be holding you back at the core of your humanity. By identifying, confronting, and conquering what you fear the most (which is a feeling, and we have the power to change it), the fear will disappear and you’ll be able to move on to your next goal.
Mark Zuckerberg: Simplify by reducing your choices.
This daily mind-hack, courtesy of the billionaire head of Facebook, will help to keep you from decision-making overload, which is not good for the brain.
Zuckerberg is known for eliminating unnecessary choices from his daily routine to help reduce “decision fatigue,” which is linked to impulsiveness and indecisiveness. A classic example of how he simplifies decision-making is wearing his trademark “uniform” consisting of jeans, sneakers, and a gray t-shirt. Yes, he does this every morning.
When asked about his wardrobe in 2014, he told the audience: “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
Actually, it makes sense. If you’re bogged down by too many unnecessary choices in a day, reducing them helps you to unclutter your mind and focus on the bigger decisions that are truly important.
A related useful hack to avoid decision-fatigue comes from Stephen Covey’s classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: In 60 seconds or less, preferably early in the morning with your coffee, think of everything you’re doing today and decide:
- What am I going to continue to DO? (The goal is to only DO what only you can DO)
- What am I going to DELEGATE? (Somebody has to do it. Just not you. So what could you DELEGATE immediately that would free you up to only DO what only you can DO?)
- What am I going to DUMP? (Things I neither want to do nor have to do. And nobody’s going to do it either. So DUMP it)
6 More 1-Minute Mind Hacks
As I scanned the web for more unique and innovative self-improvement tips, I found several hacks that one can apply with relative ease. Many of these may result in increasing personal productivity, making you more resilient, or improving relationships and leadership.
Think of 3 things you’re grateful for.
Harvard-trained happiness researcher and best-selling author, Shawn Achor, recommends writing down in a gratitude journal three new things you grateful for each day. For long-term effect, Achor says do this simple, 1 to 2-minute exercise for 21 straight days. He says the reason it’s so powerful is that you’re training your mind to scan for positives instead of negatives. Plain and simple, this activity is the fastest way to teach optimism, says Achor. It is scientifically proven to boost self esteem and increase happiness levels. To really get you going every morning, Achor has outlined a simple, 23-minute routine that practically anyone can do while sitting down over breakfast.
Immediately detect if someone is lying to you.
Body language can give you plenty of clues to know if someone is lying to you. Look for these facial expressions and reactions to give them away:
- Eyes darting back and forth
- Rapid blinking
- Closing eyes for more than one second at a time
- Looking to the right (if they’re right handed)
- Look for fake smiling — if it doesn’t cause the skin around the eyes to wrinkle, that’s a huge red flag. (false smiles don’t affect the eyes)
- Excessive face touching
- Head shaking
Do this rubber band trick to overcome negative thoughts.
As posted on Thought Catalog, if you’re plagued by negative thinking patterns, take the unusual advice of Robin Sharma in Megaliving!: Place a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever the negative thought comes to your mind, snap that band as hard as you can. The pain will be conditioned to your subconscious, linking it with the negative thought. Gradually, your subconscious mind will be alerted and alarmed before stepping into negativity.
Ask this 1 question to instantly tap into someone’s personality.
If you’re not sure if you can trust that new co-worker or manager, science has got your back. Asking someone you’re not sure about what he or she thinks about someone else reveals much about his or her own personality. The reason? People tend to see more of their own qualities in others. Your question should sound something like this: “So tell me, how are you liking your new job so far?” Followed by, “How do you like working with [co-worker/boss name]?” You’ll find the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010.
Do an activity that energizes you.
While that sounds simple enough, chances are you’re not thinking about it during your busy schedule. Think of what gives you energy and makes you come alive. Is it being around someone positive or creative that motivates the heck out of you? If so, take 60 seconds to schedule a lunch with that person right now. Are there certain activities that give you tons of energy, which you’ve been neglecting for a while? Schedule time for that too, then follow through.
Make this a morning ritual to get a fast start to your day.
Most people can’t get into the flow of things because they haven’t mastered a predictable morning routine to keep them focused. You know the drill — emails and distractions start to pile up the minute you sit at your desk, fires need to be put out, customer complaints come in, and needy co-workers buzz around your desk asking for (demanding?) things. When you walk in your office in the morning, take 60 seconds to map out the first 30 to 60 minutes of your day. Seriously consider asking yourself, what do I need to do to start the day well and how much time should I allocate to each task?
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.