By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

What does productivity have to do with health? A lot, actually—feeling chronically underproductive and overwhelmed triggers the stress response.

Chronic psychological stress is associated with harmful inflammation, which in turn negatively affects our health. Inflammation has been linked to the common cold, weight gain, arthritis, high cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, and some cancers, among other diseases.

So as 2017 approaches—and we gear up for new beginnings by breaking bad habits and cultivating new constructive ones—it seems appropriate to share some tips on how to be more productive in order to reduce stress, prevent inflammation and stay healthy.

In November, the Art of Manliness podcast aired an interview with Chris Bailey about his new book “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy.”

I’d like to offer you some of the key takeaways from the interview that you can apply to your own life today.

For starters, Bailey says the most productive people have a strong “Why” (i.e., we want to be more productive so we can start our own business, build a dream home or retire by age 50). He claims that a meaningful and powerful “Why” keeps us motivated in spite of the roadblocks and setbacks that life will invariably put in our way.

Here are some questions to help you discover your “Why”: What are you passionate about? What are your greatest strengths? If money weren’t an object, what would you do? What do people come to you for help with? What do you want to be known for? Writing your answers down will create greater impact by helping you clarity your “Why.”

Secondly, Bailey suggests that we get clear about our “What.” He says filtering out important tasks that we do throughout the day from those that aren’t important goes a long way in helping us become more productive.

He explains that we often operate on autopilot and while we can have very “busy” days filled with meetings, messaging and social media, we might be sabotaging actual productivity. For example, a study from Rescue Time (a time-saving assistant app) says that professionals check their email an average of 41 times per day. These constant distractions create time-sucks throughout the day.

Try “batching” similar tasks in order to streamline your work and prevent distractions. For example, instead of responding to emails as they randomly pop up, batch them into one session each day from 3-4 p.m. You can let people know via auto-responder that is when you’ll get back to them.

And lastly, Bailey says his favorite productivity tool is the “Rule of Three.” This simple ritual is performed each morning before you start your day. Think forward to the end of the day and get clear on the three most important tasks that need to be accomplished, and are in alignment with your “Why.”

The Rule of Three allows us to work with intention and can increase our productivity exponentially. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll earn that time back 100-fold using this method.

Bailey emphasizes that it’s in each moment that we actually practice productivity. While we might want a six-pack stomach by July, a juicy après burger and nachos are very appealing. The choices we make moment-to-moment, day-by-day, are what keep us from, or get us to, our goals.

Tailor your productivity rituals to meet your unique lifestyle and if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
May your New Year be filled with awe inspiring productivity and amazing accomplishments.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach and Consultant, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@corehealthmt.com.