Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Weekly Read, Episode 1 (interesting things I read and wanted to share with you)


This week, I read some stuff that I would like to share with you. These are mostly news and productivity related articles that you might find useful, inspiring or helpful when reviewing your methods, tools and attitude.

1. Music at work: productivity help or hindrance?

An article by James Tonn published in Productive! Magazine no. 20. This astonishing and informative piece of writing relates to a question I often asked myself: “does listening to music at work help or hinder productivity?”. I won’t tell you the answer in order not to spoil you the fun of learning it yourself. What’s important though is our limbic system - a complex set of brain structures that lies on both sides of the thalamus, right under the cerebrum and is primarily responsible for our emotional life and memorizing.

“Music is powerful in how it influences us — it is designed to do so — and hearing a person singing, aggressively triggers the limbic system.” - writes James who did the thorough scientific research and the interview with neuroscientist before writing the article.

The science behind the music will blew your mind the same as it did to James Tonn and myself :)

2. How to keep your brain fit and productive

This is a summary of a couple of articles that we published on Productive! Magazine’s Facebook fanpage - I hope you will find it useful:

Don’t multitask

Multitasking can actually reduce productivity by up to 40%. To get the most from your brain, do one thing at a time and give it all of your focus. Once completed to your satisfaction, you can move to the next thing. You can accomplish much more with good quality rather than doing things half-baked but satisfactory.

Sleep well

Even small amounts of sleep debt have a significant impact strength, cardio capacity, mood and overall energy levels. And mental performance all decline steadily as sleep debt increases.

Take naps

Nap is a strategic recovery to catchup with your sleep debt and it helps boost productivity and mental performance. Most of people have a dip in alertness in the mid-afternoon and thus our natural rhythms are then at their lowest which is the best time to take a nap. That’s why in some countries they have siestas at this time.

When taking a nap remember to set your alarm clock to no longer than 25 minutes. Most people can take a nap between 15-25 minutes before they hit the deep sleep phase. It’s important to wake before your hit deep sleep or else you wake up feeling tired.

Speak foreign languages

Intensive study of foreign languages stimulates the growth of the hippocampus in your brain, causes changes in its other structures and helps in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Play word games

Alone or with a group. Such games engage and boost memory, creativity, cognition, and language skills.

Write things down with a pen

The physical act of writing with your hand engages the right (= creative) hemisphere of your brain and allows expression of thoughts that your left brain (the analytical half) may not consider.

Exercise not only your brain but also your body

Increasing blood flow and energy level that come from physical exercises will make you feel better and your brain work better.


3. Stress can be responsible for short-term memory loss later on

A new study from University of Iowa reveals that having high levels of cortisol — a natural hormone in our body whose levels surge when we are stressed — can lead to memory lapses as we age.

In this study, the UI researchers linked elevated amounts of cortisol to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that houses short-term memory. Synapses are the connections that help us process, store, and recall information. And when we get older, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear.

“Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain,” says Jason Radley, assistant professor in psychology at the UI and corresponding author on the paper.

My advice: Start learning to be a cortisol-buster today :) Here are some tips:

For more tips check out the Advanced Life Skills article

4. Are you sure you apply the Pareto’s 80-20 rule at work?

Everyone knows what is the Pareto rule but not many people takes time to apply it in their everyday activities and planning. That’s peculiar since 80-20 rule is one of the keys to productivity.

Try this 5-step sequence to make certain you do:

  1. Start with the end. What is the outcome you want?
  2. When you’re clear about that, break it down into the actions you need to take to get there.
  3. Do the actions in the most accurate order you can. (Learn how to prioritize work).
  4. Keep asking “What’s the next relevant action step to take?”
  5. Repeat until complete.

That’s it for this week. Let me know if this format works for you in the comments below. Thank you!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014 /weeklyread-1/