This self-help book was originally written for people with ADHD, however, as the author states, the techniques shared within the pages could be applied to anyone looking to increase their productivity and live a healthier lifestyle.
The author suggests that our lack of productivity and motivation can come from an insufficient amount of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. If we can get these vital chemicals free flowing naturally, we will then be able to hyper-focus on our daily tasks, and thus increase our productivity.
The most important of the three, dopamine, is secreted whenever we participate in reward-motivated behavior. Most of us partake in unhealthy reward-motivated behavior, such as eating, drinking, drugs, gambling, etc. However, the author suggest that we forgo these unhealthy behaviors and find other ways of increasing our dopamine levels. Some of the activities he does to increase his own levels are skydiving, running several miles, and speaking in front of an audience. After dopamine is released, he then believes he can hyper-focus on his work. Hyper-focus is a term he coined to describe a level of intense focus, in which he gains the ability to block out all other distractions and work at an accelerated pace for long periods of time. Other people in the past have called this state being in “the zone”. In Faster Than Normal, author Peter Shankman, gives us several tips and tricks to help us get and stay in “the zone” or as he would put it, in “hyper-focus.” But more importantly, this book reveals habits we need to adopt so that we can not only be more productive, but also lead healthier and more joyful lives.
“Because I know myself, I know how to make sure that I do the right things, make the right choices, and more often than not, I don’t even allow myself to have those choices in the first place.”
This quote, taken from the book, is one of my favorite. It’s about eliminating choices to help you stay on track with your goals. I wrote about this previously in, World of Elimination; how eliminating things can be a gateway to leading happier lives. For instance, intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting means that you have selected a window of time for which you allow yourself to eat, but for the rest of the day, you choose not to eat. For example, someone might choose to eat between 12-6 PM daily. This is called their feeding window. Hours outside of this window, are called the fasting window, and you simply don’t eat. It’s a rule to help guide your daily life. Firstly, not eating in the morning will allow you more time to work, possibly exercise, and get into hyper-focus. By not wasting time, deciding what to eat and then taking time to prepare or purchase the food item, you are increasing your time for productivity, saving money, and eliminating unnecessary calories. And what I have found personally, is that when you are fasting for a long number of hours, your productivity and focus are much higher. If you eat a large meal full of carbohydrates and sugars, what happens as your body attempts to digest and break down these toxins? You start to slow down. You may even get sleepy. You’re not as alert and may become tired and sluggish. This wreaks havoc on your efficiency and production output. Fasting in the evening, will allow your body to burn unwanted calories which would turn into fat during the night.
The author also suggests eliminating choices when it comes to wardrobe options as well. Having a closet full of different clothes may be fun, but leads to indecisiveness in the morning when trying to get dressed. Spending too much time trying to decide what to wear can cause you to be late for meetings, lose valuable working hours, and set you up for indecisiveness and discontentment for the remainder of the day. Instead, our closet should consist of clothes that are similar in nature and can be interchanged easily with other pieces.
“Clutter is a distraction waiting to happen”
Besides choices, another area discussed briefly is about clutter. Many of us don’t realize that the clutter in our home or work space is keeping us from being productive. While attempting to work, we may peer over our computer screen and get an eyeful of mess. Stacks of papers that need to be filed, mail that needs to be opened, water bottles that need to be thrown away; and just when we try to get to work, this mess begins to haunt us, and we begin cleaning up instead of focusing on the task at hand. Our priorities get misplaced, and our productivity suffers. Removing clutter just makes us feel more focused and less distracted. When our spaces are neat and organized, it keeps us from spending money on things we already have but simply can’t find, it alleviates the stress of having to look for important things that we have misplaced among the chaos, and it helps us to stay focused on the things that mean the most to us daily. Clutter, on the other hand, can be draining and distracting, and keep us from enjoying our space.
“Eat when your hungry, and eat real food.”
Shankman suggests that we stay away from fast foods and processed foods, and instead eat a clean diet. Years ago, I worked with a kind older gentleman named Mr. Perry. I loved Mr. Perry. He had the best advice and had clearly learned from the experience of life. I was always complaining about needing to lose weight at this time, and he said to me, “Shan, if you really want to lose weight, there’s a simple way to do it. If you get hungry, eat an apple. If you don’t want the apple, then you weren’t really hungry to begin with.” So, being that I can be somewhat extreme at times, I tried his theory for 2 weeks. In 2 weeks I ate nothing but apples, every time I got hungry. The result? I lost 14 pounds and my energy was through the roof. I had never felt so amazing.
Similarly, Shankman introduces us to the “apple test,” which is the same thing told to be by my dear friend Mr. Perry. But Shankman adds some science to his explanation by saying, that if we don’t, in-fact want an apple, but instead would like to satisfy our hunger with a burger for example, then perhaps our brain was seeking out a dopamine hit. And right now, the burger is the fastest way to accomplish this. We must become skilled at noticing the difference between hunger and low dopamine levels. Instead of eating, quick high intensity exercises are great for revving up the dopamine in our brain. A minute or two of jumping jacks, running stairs, and push-ups are a few ways to get your dopamine levels amped up. Another method, taught to me by an elderly woman who looked half her age, said that if you feel like rummaging through the cabinets for unhealthy treats to eat, get up, put on some comfortable walking shoes, and take a nice long walk. By the time you’re finished, you may no longer be hungry, and you’ll feel like you accomplished something. You could also get to work on a project that you possibly started and never finished. Anything to turn your focus away from food and on to something that will make you feel more energized, more accomplished, and more productive. Tried and true methods that have worked for several years for several people. Before there was burger King, McDonalds, and Taco Bell, there was an apple and lots of work to be done.
Shankman goes into detail about each of his tips and tricks for greater focus and productivity and gives examples of real people who have overcome the negative stigma of ADHD and made their gift of having a faster than normal brain work wonders for their life. Even if you don’t ADHD, this book is a great read.
Until next time…