No matter whether you’re programming AI brains or tuning guitars, productivity is that elusive, but all-important measure of how much you can get done in a day.
Everyone wants more productivity, but getting there can be a challenge. A few tweaks to your daily routine will get you on the way to better productivity habits.
Remember: Your Day Starts the Previous Night
If you want consistent success making the most of your day, it all starts with the night before. Ending the night with good habits helps you beat back the doldrums and get started on the right foot with clear goals in mind.
1. Get Plenty of Sleep.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of insomnia, and one of the biggest causes of stress is feeling like you’re behind and overwhelmed. Set a reminder on your phone an hour before your intended bedtime – and use that reminder as a cue that it’s time to turn off your screens.
- f.lux is a free app that dims displays as you near bedtime so light won’t keep you alert.
- Many people beat intermittent insomnia with melatonin, available at your pharmacy.
- If you have sleep issues on a weekly basis, talk to your doctor about a treatment.
2. Make Your To-Do List the Night Before.
If you wake up in the morning and write a to-do list, you’ll be tempted to rush the process since you’ll be in the time crunch for the day already. Each night, review your priorities for the next day and choose one or two things you’ll focus on when you get to work.
- Todoist is a terrific cloud-based to-do app that can help keep you on track.
- Remember, things that are urgent and important should be your top priority.
- Things that are urgent but not important are the leading time-killers in a day.
Build Up Momentum As Your Day Starts
The first hour of your day – before and after work – will set the tone for everything that follows.
3. Start the Day With Breakfast.
A healthy breakfast provides you with the fuel you'll need to excel. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grain are used slowly by the body, empowering you with more sustained energy throughout the day. Veggies are also high in fiber, helping you feel full.
4. Review That To-Do List.
You didn’t forget, did you? Spend your first five minutes reviewing your priorities for the day. Spend the next five minutes looking over your email, but only click on things that look urgent and important – that is, items that might change your immediate plans.
5. Shut Down Notifications.
Mute any notifications you have at your workstation, especially new email notifications. Try to get into the habit of shutting down non-essential browser tabs and other windows each time you switch to a new task: This will help you stay laser-focused on top-value tasks.
Power Through the Rest of Your Day
6. Track Your Time.
An app like TimeDoctor or RescueTime can help you identify your personal time sinks so you can craft new, more efficient habits and avoid your biggest hang-ups. Some of these will even integrate with to-do lists so that you can move seamlessly from one task to the next.
7. Alternate Laser-Focus and Quick Breaks.
The more focused you are, the more you can get done: But it’s easiest to stay focused for short bursts of time. Try the Pomodoro Technique: It alternates 25-minute bursts of work with five-minute breaks. You can slip in a slightly longer break after three or four pomodoros.
8. Don’t Skip Those Breaks!
A break of even five minutes can be enough to recharge if you do it right:
- Take 10 long, deep breaths while looking at an image that you find calming.
- Get up, stretch, and walk around for a few steps if you have the room for it.
- Think of three examples of things that have gone right during the day so far.
What about lunch? A short lunch where you truly get away from work is more refreshing than a longer one where you try to do three things at once. It’s even better if you have a little time to be social. As a general rule, remember: Multi-tasking doesn’t work.
9. Tune Out Distractions.
Loud co-workers are a problem in some workspaces. And even if you try to be considerate (and everyone around you does, too) you can still find your mind wandering from time to time. Several solutions can work – adapt them to your own office.
- A simple set of noise-cancelling headphones can block out office chatter.
- An app like Focus@Will offers specialized soundtracks for concentration.
- Some offices have had great success with subtle white noise generators.
Have any favorite productivity habits we missed? Tell us about them below!