For the past year, I’ve made it my personal mission to find a work flow that will increase my productivity. As a mama-to-be, I know that I will have more responsibility on my plate than ever in a few months, so I’ve been attempting to prepare for my upcoming life changes by establishing good habits in my personal and professional life. While I started this personal project as a goal to prepare for motherhood, it’s completely changed my life. With a few small changes to my everyday routine, I’m waking up with inspiration and energy for the work day instead of lethargy and dread. My stress levels have decreased, and the migraines that used to plague my afternoons have all but disappeared. And most importantly? I am excited to work each day, and my new routine helps me maintain a healthy level of productivity. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had my fair share of failures along the way, but I finally feel like I’m owning my work days instead of merely surviving them.
Today I’m sharing seven easy productivity tips that will vastly improve your work day. Whether you’re finding yourself distracted, uninspired, or simply tired at work, these simple tips will help you take charge of your day and find a schedule that works for you. If you’re ready to let go of distractions, irritability, and low energy at work, I truly believe that these productivity tips will help you take charge or your work day and own your career!
7 Easy Productivity Tips to Improve Your Work Day
1. Prioritize Wellness
Ok, here’s where I go into Mom mode. You can’t start your workday exhausted, underfed, and uninspired and expect to have a productive day. Unless you’re 21 and have boundless energy, you really need to start prioritizing your health and well-being. I could give you all of the productivity tips in the world, but nothing’s going to change your work day more than getting on a healthy sleep schedule. I promise you that even though it may feel like torture to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier for the first few weeks, your body will eventually adjust. Once your sleep starts to lock into a healthy cycle, waking up early just isn’t as big of a deal, and you’ll feel ready to go each morning instead of hitting the snooze alarm a dozen times.
In addition to getting an appropriate and consistent amount of sleep each night, it couldn’t be more important to start your day with a healthy breakfast. My mom is laughing at me from heaven because I literally refused to eat breakfast for most of my teenage years, but now that I’m a boring adult, I understand her persistence. I’ve noticed that when I begin my day with whole grains, protein, fruit or vegetables, and a tall glass of water, I feel better and work more efficiently. When you give your body the right fuel, you’ll have the energy to stay awake throughout the morning and the focus to stay alert and concentrated through hours of work. My current breakfast of choice is a bowl of Special K Red Berries with skim milk, a small cup of yogurt with fresh berries, and a huge glass of water with lemon or sparkling water. I take about fifteen minutes to eat my healthy (and delicious) breakfast while I catch up on news, podcasts, or Facebook memes (gotta stay honest with you), and it helps me start my workday focused and energized.
Devoting the time and energy to sleep and eat properly may not seem like a big factor in productivity, but when you prioritize your health, you’re making the first step toward living a purposeful life. You’re making the decision to choose success and productivity over laziness, and I guarantee that this small investment will help you reap huge rewards in your personal and professional life. And by the way, if you have the time and energy, fitting in a quick workout, stretching session, or even a few minutes of meditation are a few amazing items to add to your pre-work morning routine.
2. Simplify Your Schedule
I used to think that a full agenda was an organized agenda. I’d plan every minute of every day with the idea that if I had my day planned out on paper, I would magically be able to stay on schedule and race through my to-do list. So what actually ended up happening? I didn’t get anything done at all. I would complete a bunch of small tasks and feel like I was being productive, but I was actually distracting myself from accomplishing the most important goals of the day. No matter how smart, organized, or focused you are, it is physically impossible to finish more than a few big projects in one work day. I completely understand that your to-do list with 100 tasks makes you feel ambitious and organized, but I promise you that it’s hurting you far more than it’s helping you.
Ok, so now that I’ve told you that your current planning strategy is basically useless, you’re probably wondering what actually works. Simplicity is what works. Pick one major goal for the day and maybe 1-2 sub goals too if you think you might have the time. Now start thinking about your goal. How much time do you think it will take to finish that project? Take your estimated time frame and double it (or in my case, triple it) and block a chunk(s) of time in your schedule for the day. If possible, start working on your goal as soon as you step into the office and do not move onto a different project until it’s completed. I know what you’re thinking. I have important emails coming in. I work better when I switch from one task to the next. I’m fabulous at multi-tasking. I believe you, and I also think you’re smart and capable and fabulous. But here’s the thing, I also know that you will be 100% more productive and effective if you stick to one task at a time. Once you’re finished with your major project, you can start working on your subgoals.
I know what you’re thinking. If I only accomplish one to three things a day, how will I ever go through my entire to-do list of 1,000 items? Spoiler alert: you probably won’t, and that’s ok. If you’re anything like me, most of the items only your to-do list aren’t really mandatory tasks that have to be completed. They’re mainly things that would be nice if you got to eventually. And guess what? If you actually complete one to three major tasks each and every day, you will feel like an incredibly productive superhero. Once you get in the habit of focusing on the tasks that are actually necessary, you’ll gradually improve at creating better and more purposeful goals.
What I Do: In case you’re curious, here is my current planning routine. Each Sunday, I take out my weekly planning pad, my agenda, and my laptop. On my weekly planning pad, I create a master to-do list for the week with four categories: work, home, family, and personal. I allow myself up to five tasks per category per week. After my master to-do list is completed, I split up the goals between each day of the week. I keep this simple and focused outline of my week on my desk, so that I can keep track of my major goals for each day without getting distracted by too many items on my agenda.
Once my weekly schedule is set, I open my daily agenda along with Google Calendar on my computer. I write in my major goal(s) for the day along with any appointments or social arrangements and block off the necessary time required in my schedule. Then I transfer each day’s schedule into Google Calendar, which is synced on my computer and phone. I also schedule alarms for important deadlines and appointments, so that I’ll receive an alert on my phone to keep me on schedule. Each day, I’ll take about 5 minutes at the start of my workday to add in last-minute changes to my schedule and jot a few notes about the tasks I need to complete. As the day goes on, I’ll put a check mark next to completed items and gradually move through my list.
This system isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s what works for me. If I spend too much time scheduling, I over complicate things and add extraneous nonsense to my agenda. No matter what your scheduling preferences may be, I’d like to challenge you to simplify your schedule for a week or two and monitor your results. After all, five major goals finished at the end of the week will make you feel so much more productive than starting 100 goals that never get finished.
3. Optimize Your Work Space
One of the most important productivity tips is to optimize your work space for your particular needs and work flow. Note: optimizing your work space doesn’t mean having extravagant decorating or fresh flowers every day. It simply means creating a work environment that optimizes your productivity by reducing unnecessary distractions.
Here are some easy tips:
- If you’re easily distracted by noises, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and create your ideal background noise with a sound machine website.
- Reduce the risk of wasting time on social media by blocking social media websites for specific time periods during your work day.
- Keep the top of your desk minimally decorated with only the essential items you’ll need throughout the day and a handful of inspiring decorative items.
- Keep your desk drawers stocked with duplicates of important work essentials. For example, I always keep an extra package of my favorite pens, notebooks, SD cards, camera remotes, and camera batteries to eliminate the possibility of having to stop my workday to refresh my supply or find a lost item.
- Invest in a high-quality work chair that will keep your body comfortable throughout the day.
- Eliminate the distraction of your cell phone by keeping it tucked away in your purse or desk drawer until you need to use it.
These are just a few simple ways that I like to optimize my work space, but the possibilities are endless. The key is to attempt to reduce or eliminate the distractions that bother you the most. Taking the time to anticipate and prevent future problems will allow you to stay focused and productive throughout your work day.
4. Release Distracting Thoughts
While optimizing your work space will help you make your workflow more productive, it won’t eliminate every distracting thought that pops into your head. I’ve found that the more I try to block out certain thoughts, the more they bother me. Instead of wasting time stewing through unimportant ideas that aren’t time-sensitive, try quickly writing them down in organized lists. Whether you prefer to use a traditional paper notebook, apps on your phone, or Google Docs, take a minute or two to jot down the distracting thought – whether it’s a brilliant idea for the future or a reminder to finish something after work – in the appropriate list. In my experience, the simple act of releasing the thought helps me get back to a focused mindset quickly and easily.
5. Keep Your “Why” Close By
We all have important reasons to work diligently at our job. We’re providing for our families who deserve the best, accomplishing goals that our parents sacrificed so much for, or fulfilling dreams that we’ve held since our childhood; however, the day-to-day strains of work and life can make us forget what we’re actually working toward and why we’re doing it in the first place. I like to keep small tokens on or near my desk at work that remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. As I’m moving around my office each day, I catch a glance of these items and quickly regain my inspiration. No matter what your “why” may be, I encourage you to find a small memento that will remind you of this special purpose.
For example, I have a small angel on my desk that used to be mother’s to remind me of the love my family has given me and the sacrifices they’ve made to help me accomplish my dreams. I have a few family photos hanging throughout my office along with inspiring quotes, and they quickly snap me back into focus when I’m trapped in a pity party at work. Take a few minutes to think about your “why” and find an item or two that will help you remember that purpose quickly and easily. It can be as simple as a photo or as thought-out as list of your personal and professional goals.
6. Stop Working And Re-fuel Your Body and Mind
Yes, you’re reading this productivity tip correctly. Sometimes you have to stop working temporarily to continue working productively throughout the work day. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start to lose focus after a few hours of work. I usually know it’s time for a break when I feel like I find myself staring at my computer screen with absolutely no ideas for the project in front of me. Instead of getting upset or wasting time, I embrace my writer’s block and give my brain a short break to reset. I’ll usually step away from my current work environment, throw on a podcast, Youtube video, TV show, or music, and spend 15-30 minutes enjoying a snack.
Lately I’ve been munching on a cheese stick, sparkling water, and a small cup of dry Special K Red Berries Cereal. In addition to being incredibly delicious, I love that Special K is made with crunchy whole grain flakes and real strawberries that provide a healthy dose of fiber, folic acid, and vitamin D. I have had an intense sweet tooth throughout my entire pregnancy, and Special K Red Berries Cereal is one of the only snacks that satisfies my craving for sweets without making me feel guilty about what I’m eating. It may seem like a small thing to add to your day, but taking the time to give your body the nutrients it needs and allowing your mind to rest will help you return to work re-energized and re-focused. I find that I’m at least twice as productive after taking one of these mini-breaks throughout the day.
If you need to take additional breaks throughout the day, consider incorporating a small workout, gentle stretching, or a guided meditation to help you release unnecessary stress and reset your thought process. And of course, always keep a few healthy snacks at your desk in case you start to feel sluggish and need a quick boost of energy!
7. Remember That Done is Better Than Perfect
When I’m not on a tight deadline, I have a horrible habit of overcomplicating tasks by attempting to create a perfect product. I will spend hours – days even – planning out every single detail of a project and then starting all over again because it’s not perfect. I am fully aware that this perfectionist process is unproductive and to be honest, a complete waste of time. In the past few months, I have adopted the mantra “done is better than perfect.” Instead of wasting precious time and energy scrutinizing every word in a blog post or obsessing over slight photo editing changes, I give myself strict-ish rules on how much time I can spend on each task.
Creating work boundaries for myself keeps me on schedule and helps me create a better product in the end. To keep me focused, I imagine that I’m creating a rough draft for a project instead of a final draft. By reframing my work process in my mind, I can eliminate the time that I used to waste obsessing over unimportant details and devote my full energy to the project at hand. I’ve found that this simple mindset changes allows me to finish projects ahead of schedule, and if I do need to go back and make small tweaks and changes, I have the time and energy to do so.
Whatever your goals may be, I encourage you to go do them instead of thinking about how you should do them. After all, it doesn’t matter how perfect a project may be in your mind if you don’t have a product to display. If you have an idea, act on it, and put your work out there for others to see. If it isn’t perfect, oh well. You can always make updates and improvements tomorrow.
These seven tips may not be revolutionary, but as you may have noticed, I’m all about simplicity these days. I’ve learned that sometimes getting back to basics and stripping away all of the unnecessary mental clutter in our work day frees up our energy to accomplish incredible things. Instead of wasting time running in circle, these productivity tips help me stay focused, motivated, and energized throughout the day, so that I can finish meaningful work each day. I may be starting less projects, but I am consistently crossing off major items on my to-do list each and every day. And honestly? It feels amazing to know that I am taking charge of my personal and professional life one goal at a time instead of drowning in perfectionism and procrastination.
No matter where you are in your personal life or professional career, I challenge to make one small change to your lifestyle this week to prioritize your goals. Instead of making excuses or waiting for the perfect moment, act now and own your success. After all, done is better than perfect! I am constantly trying to optimize my work flow, so I’d love to know what things help you stay productive at work each day. Please leave your best productivity tips and tricks in the comment section below!