Optimized productivity is a kind of ‘Holy Grail’ for many people.
There are many podcasts, blogs and so many other things out there solely dedicated to productivity. And then there are a million different systems, tools, apps and products available as well. All focused on, in simple terms, getting more done in less time.
But I don’t want to focus on those. Yes, it’s great to get organized, have a system that works for you and to utilize apps and new technologies.
There’s a ‘brain element’, however, that tends to get left out when it comes to productivity. And that is the power of neuro-association.
What are ‘Neuro-Associations’?
Neuro-associations are sort of self-explanatory in a way. They are the deep-rooted associations that our brains form between two things.
So our brain learns to take certain things, objects, thoughts, emotions, signs and anything else and associate these with other thoughts, emotions, feelings and things. Effectively, the brain learns through our past experiences to draw links between two things.
A very basic example of this is how we label colors. When you’re born, we don’t have any idea of what ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ is. The colors are still there, but we learn to associate something of a certain color with the word ‘red’ or ‘yellow’. At some point along the line we then have this rooted to a point where it’s just automatic and we don’t have to think about it.
And it’s the same with how we associate meanings from different colors too. Red means ‘danger’ or ‘stop’ at a traffic light. Green means ‘go’ or ‘safe’.
As we go through life and experience more and more, we do this on a continuous basis. Always looking for how we can build associations and links in order to make meaning and form beliefs about the world around us.
Why is This Useful?
If you’ve never heard anything about neuro-associations before, you may be thinking it’s kind of interesting (or not). But how does it all apply to something like being more productive?
It all comes down to how we read our environment and the links or associations we form from it to certain thoughts and feelings. If we change or improve the way we think or feel, then our output and performance will change or improve accordingly.
So if we are in an environment that we associate with thinking, feeling or doing a certain thing, then we are much more likely to be aligned with performing at our best.
For example, a boxer associates the ringing of the bell with being switched on for fighting. A footballer associates the crossing of the white line onto the field with immediately being ‘in the zone’. And we can take this principle and apply it to being productive and getting more out of our brain when working on a business, doing homework or even doing housework or getting better sleep.
Applying Neuro-Association to Productivity
Let’s take the classic example of someone who works at the kitchen table. This, of course, is where you could have spent much of your life with family and friends relaxing over a meal.
So it’s these relaxed and ‘family time’ feelings and thoughts that are subconsciously evoked when your brain comes into contact with this familiar environment. That’s what your brain associates with ‘the kitchen table’ and not work or productivity.
Of course, this could also work in the opposite direction. Maybe you work so much and so hard at the kitchen table that you end up ruining family dinner time because your brain has started to associate this place with work and focus.
It’s the same when it comes to other environments too. Attempting to work in the bedroom, for example, can result in low productivity because you’re in a place you associate with sleep. Or, again, it could work against you in the opposite direction by ruining your sleep quality because you’ve began to associate that place with where you need to be alert and working.
Analyzing Your Workspace
These are very obvious and explicit examples I’ve used here to illustrate my point. There is, of course, a lot more that can be done than simply going to a different room or having a dedicated workspace.
So going a little deeper and analyzing the environment that you’re trying to be productive and perform well in – whether that be work, sleep, sport, working out or anything – is a hugely powerful weapon.
Let’s just stay focused on ‘work productivity’ for now. Take a look at your typical work area and just take stock of whether that could be in a ‘conflicting environment’ as I mentioned earlier, such as the kitchen or bedroom. If it is, consider where you might be able to set up a more productive ‘dedicated workspace’.
The ideal situation would obviously be a separate room for an office. But I understand that’s not possible for everyone. So set up a dedicated area of a particular room, or even a dedicated area of the kitchen table, which has a sole purpose of being the place where you get your ‘work’ done and nothing else.
But we can take this even further and set up associations with all kinds of things. Having a separate work computer, for example, means you don’t have conflicting associations between whether you’re opening your laptop for work or watching Netflix. If you can’t get two separate computers, why not create separate login profiles with different desktop backgrounds, etc.?
I highly recommend investing some time going through the process of analyzing your current environment and picking out the potential negative neuro-associations. Where are the conflictions? What items are around, even if they’re seemingly small and insignificant, that make you think or feel in a way you don’t want to within that environment?
Once you’ve identified and removed these, it’s simple to start building an environment for yourself that is solely and directly dedicated to creating the thoughts and feelings you do want to have. And as a result, your performance, productivity, and output can increase dramatically in all areas of life.