Here’s a thrice-told tale you’ve heard for sure:
Twentysomethings rule the world today.
Oh, those sweet stories about creative and self-expressive Gen Z who are ambitious, responsible, and — what’s more freaking out — inexcusably productive to launch billion-dollar startups in a garage… Don’t they sound demotivating for older entrepreneurs and employees?
Fifty somethings often feel useless and unable to compete with younger fellows for business raises or promotions at work. But the truth is, they can be more reliable than youngsters. More than that, it’s a myth that older workers are less productive!
They need to learn their physical peculiarities and turn them to their own benefit on the way to happy work and life.
And that’s how:
1) Plan the night before and write down the plan
Researchers from UCLA and Brandeis claim that memory begins to decline in your 50s, especially if you are a woman. It’s annoying, it’s sad, it makes you anxious and unable to focus, but you can do nothing with it.
Well… not really.
Healthy habits and lifestyle sharp memory regardless of age, but there’s one trick to make your day more productive: plan it the night before and make sure to write down several to-do lists. It helps to downplay the fear and stress of forgetting something urgent.
Lists are more psychologically comfortable for the brain: they order thoughts and make all deeds clear. Write plans for a day, a week, or even a month so you could focus on a particular task and know how much is left to do.
Keep a pen and a notebook nearby to write down names, time, and mini-tasks during a workday. By doing so, you won’t have to concentrate on remembering, and nothing will distract your attention from work.
2) Use the right tools and environment
A case in point from Arnoud de Meyer, president of Singapore Management University:
“Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organized himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologizing for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.”
In the given persuasive writing, he tried to prove that older adults can be more productive than youngsters “with the right tools and in the right environment.” And he was right. Creative people pay much attention to the environment for more productive work.
Take Bob Dylan by way of example:
He insists that people need “peaceful, invigorating, and stimulating environments” where they can accept “all the unconscious stuff that comes from inner workings of their mind.”
Given that Dylan had won the Nobel Prize at 75, his words are worth heeding.
How to create the right environment for more productive work?
First, put away distractions, including your smartphone and wi-fi whenever possible. Organize a workplace accordingly, considering your physical and psychological peculiarities: light, desks, walls color, clutter – everything matters here.
Second, do your best to “eat that frog” in the mornings. “Frogs” are the most challenging and time-consuming tasks you have on to-do lists; complete them – and you’ll get more things done by the end of a working day.
It happens because our brain works best after waking up. Spending this precious time on minor or non-urgent tasks, you’ll lose energy and motivation to deal with “frogs.” Also, the consciousness of having a “frog” in the pocket won’t let you focus and do your work to good quality.
Third, delegate tasks restraining your productivity and automate whatever possible. Remember about your state of flow and optimal peaks of performance.
According to an article published by mensgroup.com, the benefit of regular physical activity is hard to overestimate: better health and mood, energy boost, and fun after all. But when it comes to older adults, exercising takes on new significance.
It boosts blood circulation within your brain so it could get all the necessary nutrients for your health and memory. Physical exercises improve your cognitive abilities, making it easier for you to learn new subjects, schedule tasks, and deal with them.
Attend an office gym, if available. Or, ask a manager to buy a leverage pull-up bar as a minimum. The study by the American College of Sports Medicine proves that employees who spend 30-60 minutes exercising boost their performance by 15%.
Did you know that more than 18 million Americans practice meditation every day? It’s not a mere ritual to heal your spirit but a technique to influence cognitive flexibility, working memory, focus, and overall wellness.
Back in 2013, Scientific American nailed it:
“Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.”
In your 50s, when you physically need more time to recharge energy, spending 20 minutes of lunchtime on meditation doesn’t seem like mission impossible, agree? It helps deal with information and communication overloads, put problems into perspective, and take a fresher look at projects.
To be sure, you can’t master meditation once you decide to try it. Practice every day, consider different tactics, download corresponding apps that will assist you, start concentrating – and you’ll enjoy the process by all means.
5) Listen to the right music
For some people, music at work sounds distractive. But that’s because they listen to wrong melodies.
Music is a powerful tool to use for better productivity: it enhances your mood, improving the capacity for creative problem-solving; it can be a great immersion into work, blocking out all distracting noises around; and it’s a part of therapy used to reduce stress and anxiety for your emotional balance.
To increase efficiency, know what music does a power of good. For instance, if you work with numbers – classical music is the best choice. Pop music will help to meet deadlines, and dance music – solve problems.
The ideal variant is the music with no lyrics so that they couldn’t distract you from the process. Steady rhythms will give the most substantial positive effects.
After fifty, we become more vulnerable to the world around us. Nothing personal, just physiology and human nature. For work-life balance, don’t struggle with your body and mind, crying for the moon. Instead, use them to suit yourself: stay productive and live life to the full.
Lesley is a seasoned web writer and content strategist, with 7+ years of experience in data research, copywriting, and content promotion. She writes for publications on business, job search and career, marketing, and self-growth.
Also published on Medium.