3 Mental Exercises That Increase Productivity

2015-02-19-ryanshank.jpgAuthor Ryan Shank is the COO of Mhelpdesk, a field service software company that helps small businesses manage their jobs, scheduling and invoices.

The cliché, "The mind is more powerful than the body," has proven to be a successful strategy. However, determining specific mental exercises that actually increase productivity is subject to the individual. As the COO of mHelpDesk, these are three strategies I have found useful.

Start With a Mental Warm Up

A lot of successful people talk about utilizing a daily routine before they start their work day. Some work out, grab a cup of coffee or just clean their desk. It's not the specific task that matters as much as the mental preparation behind it.

Most entrepreneurs have a plate that is constantly full, meaning there is an onslaught of items on their to-do list. In my experience, having a routine to mentally prepare for the day always allows me to prioritize that list. If you're like me, you have a long-term goal, and the moment your feet hit the floor you're doing everything in your power to reach it. I found that preparing for each day allows me to stay focused and knock out the items I know need to get done. It's like a professional athlete stretching before a game.

Visualize the Goal

Whatever your goal is, put a visual representation of it somewhere inescapable. If you want to bench 300 lbs., write the number on your wall. If you want to live in a big house, put a picture of it on the background of your computer. These are often called "Vision Boards." If you can see an outcome clearly, you are much more likely to achieve it.

A study done by Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California tracked student goal attainment by comparing groups of students who wrote down their goals to those who didn't. Those who wrote down their goals had a 42 percent increase in goal achievement. If you have the ability to avoid losing sight of your goal, then maybe a vision board isn't necessary. For me, having a constant reminder of my goal always keeps my purpose in front of me.

Show Gratitude

This is extremely applicable to anyone who leads a team. In any setting, showing gratitude to those contributing to the mutual goal has proven to increase success. Not only does it affect the person giving thanks, but the positivity ripples throughout the organization. It ultimately increases a person's well-being. From a business perspective, that means a happier and more productive team.

Two psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study split several hundred people into three different groups. All of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The results indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. In addition, the group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

There are many strategies involving mental exercise. Different tactics work for different people, so choose one backed by research that works best for you.