Productivity often comes in waves, with days or weeks of focus and progress, but then there are the times when no matter what you do, you feel stuck. You can change this pattern, by setting yourself up for success.
Want to have a more productive, focused day, consistently? Try these tried-and-true tips.
1. Prepare for your day the night before.
Pull together your workout gear, work clothes, shoes, lunch, books, packages to mail, etc. before you go to bed. Pack your bags as much as you can and program the coffeemaker to turn on when you get up. When you get everything ready to go for the next day before you go to bed, you’ll have a much calmer morning because you can get up and go. You’ll have less to think about, you won’t run around looking for things, and you won’t waste precious time trying to remember what you need to take with you for the day. Preparing ahead of time will help you start your day in a calmer place, one of control.
It’s always a good idea to look at your upcoming calendar, too. Knowing what appointments and calls you have scheduled tomorrow will help you be mentally prepared for them. I like to make a list of the most important things I need to do the next day and compare that to what’s on my calendar so I can work around whatever I have going on that day.
2. Get enough sleep
It’s been proven that people who don’t get enough sleep suffer from health problems, lack of focus, irritability, and mid-day slumps. The ideal amount of sleep is 7-8 hours, but it varies for everyone. Still, it’s not recommended to go with less than 6 hours for more than a day or two. So don’t stay up late, turn off the electronics an hour before bed to calm your brain, and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. (That means no TV watching, unnecessary lights, phone alerts, etc.)
I use an app called Flux on my computer that automatically dims my computer screen in the evening and reminds me that it’s time to start winding down for bed. Otherwise it’s easy to lose track of time and stay up too late.
3. Move your body when you get up
Exercise is a fantastic way to start the day. You start off in a place of power, your blood is flowing, and you feel unstoppable. An added bonus is that once you’re done, you’ve already checked something off your to-do list. Nothing like starting the day with a celebration!
You don’t have to do a marathon, either. Try a 30-minute walk, or a yoga class, a few pushups, or even just get outside and walk around the block. You’ll be amazed at how great you feel, and soon you won’t be able to start your day without it.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Meditation can do wonders to put you in a calm frame of mind before you run off to work. When you establish a daily practice, you’ll find that you feel calmer, more focused, and more patient. If you need a little help to get started, you can look for a local meditation class, or download the Headspace app to your phone. Headspace is a subscription-based service that provides guided meditations customized to your needs.
5. Eat breakfast before you jump into your work
After 8 or more hours without eating, your brain and your body need fuel. It’s tempting to jump into work with just a cup of coffee in your belly but caffeine alone isn’t enough. When you’re preparing for your day the night before, try whipping up some overnight oats, or put some protein powder in a shaker bottle, ready and waiting — just add water.
Ideally, taking time to make a simple breakfast is best. I usually have choose from things like oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, or avocado toast. It doesn’t have to be a big meal and it doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes to prepare.
Stay away from sugary pastries or convenience foods, because the sugar will just cause your blood sugar (and energy) to crash mid-morning. And if you can limit (or eliminate) caffeine, you will be naturally awake when you get up and won’t need it to get you going in the morning!
6. Eat frequently and drink lots of water throughout your day
Breakfast is important, but so is lunch, healthy snacks, and hydration.
Fuel your body throughout the day by keeping healthy snacks like fruit and nuts handy. This keeps your blood sugar levels stable, which keeps you going in the afternoon when everyone else is heading for the coffee maker.
Keep a water bottle at your desk so it’s close by. The easier you make it to access the things that are good for you, the more likely you’ll be to follow through with your intentions.
7. Batch your time.
Time batching is an efficient way to get a lot done in a short amount of time. Think of it as productivity on steroids. Block out a few hours, turn off distractions, and let your productive self take over. Use this time to brainstorm, do some planning and creative problem solving, write, etc. Spend focused, uninterrupted time on your creative work and you’ll be amazed at what you can get done.
8. Be present and unplug.
This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, with mobile devices at our fingertips 24/7. Work demands will always be there, and if you always have your nose in your phone, you’re missing out on life. Give your friends and family your full attention. Look around you. Look up once in awhile. Real-life experiences and connections are better than any picture on Instagram.
9. Get organized and have time-saving systems
Having efficient systems for everything you do will save you time, energy, attention, and money. There are tons of online task and project management apps to help with this, like Asana, Trello, ToDoist, Evernote, Teamwork, and Basecamp, to name a few.
If you prefer pen and paper, consider trying one of the many paper planners out there — Planner Pad, Get To Work Book, Ink + Volt Planner, or even make your own Bullet Journal. You may need to try a few different things before you find one that works for you, but once you find it, it will make a huge difference in your daily workflow.
10. Take breaks when you need them.
Whether you use something like the Pomodoro Technique, practice time blocking, or just follow your own energy rhythms, it’s important to take breaks throughout the day. Your brain needs a break, as does your body. Grab some water, step outside for a few minutes and get some fresh air. If getting outside isn’t an option, even a short walk down the hallway to get your blood moving and change your scenery can help a lot.
Which of these productivity tips do you practice as part of your daily routine? Are there some that you could be better at committing to?