What is the key to ultimate productivity? The truth is that there isn’t one answer to this question. Each person needs different things to be able to function at their best. One thing, however, that has been proven time and time again to help people be productive in their pursuits is routine. With a routine, you have a schedule outlining the things that you need to get done, and you hopefully also things to look forward to every day.
I’m going to take you step by step through a general idea of what you need to be able to have a productive day from start to finish. Be sure to tell us what your specific methods are in the comments section below!
In the Morning
Start Your Day Out With Productive Activity
Whether it’s exercising, reading the news, or writing in a journal, if you start your day out with something energizing, you’ll give yourself even more fuel for the rest of the day. A quick energizing workout may be just what the doctor ordered to get you out of bed and get you moving in the morning.
Start Off With the Most Important Meal of the Day
I’m sure you’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In terms of productivity, the common phrase seems to be true. You can truly start the day off right by having a good breakfast. Here’s what Nutrition @ About.com has to say on the subject:
When you skip breakfast, you are likely to become tired when your brain and body run low on fuel. By mid-morning, you might grab a cup of coffee or wolf down a sugary candy bar to wake up again. This might work for a few minutes, but by lunch time you are hungry, crabby, and perhaps your mood might make you a little more prone to make unhealthy choices at lunch.
A lot of people skip breakfast in an attempt to lose weight, but this isn’t a very good strategy. In fact, people who eat healthy breakfasts are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. According to Elisabetta Politi, RD, MPH, nutrition manager for the Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical School, “When you don’t eat breakfast, you’re actually fasting for 15 to 20 hours, so you’re not producing the enzymes needed to metabolize fat to lose weight.”
But enough about weight loss. Having breakfast in the morning jumpstarts your metabolism, making it easier for you to get your day started. Studies have shown that children who start their days with healthy breakfasts do better in school, so the same principle should also apply to adults. Improve your memory, alertness, and concentration levels by fueling your body first thing in the morning.
Too busy to make healthy breakfasts every day? You could try preparing breakfasts ahead of time and freezing them, creating quick and easy hot breakfasts, or by getting some variety by easily jazzing up simple, everyday recipes.
Also, I find I’m not very productive during my day without at least a cup of coffee. If you’re like me, be sure to prepare your coffee at home to ensure optimal savings.
If Need Be, Prepare for Dinner
Getting dinner on the table isn’t always an easy feat, especially after a long, hard day at work. If you know that you have an especially long day ahead of you, plan ahead by preparing for dinner in the morning. Slow Cookers are my favorite tool for creating delicious meals that are ready for me when I’m done working, but you can also utilize batch cooking or simply taking prepared or unprepared food out of the freezer. Adhering to a meal plan is always helpful in your quest to simplify your life and plan ahead as well.
Getting Started (For a Day at Work or at Home)
Create/Look Over Your Daily Task List
A to-do list is kind of like a map for your day. By creating one, you’ll be able to visualize your tasks and focus on what you need or would like to accomplish during your day. While writing out your tasks, try answering the following questions:
- What tasks have been carried over from the day before?
- What tasks absolutely have to get done today?
- What tasks would you like to get done today?
- What tasks have you been putting off for quite some time?
Take the time to answer these questions and then prioritize your task list in order of importance.
Begin With the Most Important Task
Procrastination is an evil thing that only gains strength as time goes on. The more we put stuff off, the less likely we are able to accomplish said tasks. Start your day off with the task you are dreading most. Getting that out of the way will make the rest of the day seem like a breeze (or at least much easier) and you’ll hopefully be able to complete more tasks.
Nothing is more distracting to the mind than clutter (both mental and physical). To-do lists can help sort through the mental clutter, but physical clutter needs to be eliminated in order to be completely ready for a productive day. If you have the time, straighten up your work area to lessen distractions.
Under-Commit and Over-Deliver
I find this concept to be extremely useful. Some people think that in order to be productive, they need to load up their schedules with a ton of items and tasks and scramble all day to complete every single one. This method, however, will only drive you crazy, and you’ll just be angry with yourself for not hitting every task on your list.
Instead, be realistic. Using previous experience and common sense, figure out realistic achievable goals for yourself for the day. If you complete everything that you have set to complete for the day, you can move on to less urgent things. I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve had a productive day when I’ve finished everything that was pressing and had the ability to move to other less-pressing tasks.
Think of “To-Do’s” As Appointments
Try this trick from EffectiveMeetings.com. Think of your essential to-do’s for the day as appointments rather than tasks. This way, you turn tasks that are time flexible into appointments that are actually time specific.
Remember to Take Breaks
Your brain needs time to rejuvenate throughout the day in order to continue functioning at its best. Don’t forget to take a few breaks here and there. Taking 2-5 minutes every hour to stand and stretch, look away from your work and grab something to drink can actually be key in productivity.
Be sure to put tasks yet to be completed on your to-do list for the next day at a high priority.
Get Dinner on the Table
Hopefully, you’ve done the preparation you needed to do in the morning to make preparing dinner a bit easier. If you didn’t have time in the morning, however, you can get dinner on the table quickly and cheaply by preparing a pantry meal or creating a quick, one-dish meal.
Yes, and in many ways. Hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus, said Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School. “When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy,” she said. In a flow state, you are completely submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration. Research shows strong correlations between flow states and peak performance, said Ms. Kauffman.
Be sure to make time for your hobbies after work. Whether you need to relieve stress or just focus on something you love, hobbies are an important part of a productive week, and most times, a productive day.
Ending a Productive Day
Whether or not you achieved all of your goals, it’s important to reward yourself for the work that you did manage to do. You can reward yourself with whatever you like, but I personally love to end a busy and productive day by winding down with a steaming mug of tea, especially in the winter!
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Though each individual has different sleep needs, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night to be able to function at their best.
What are your methods for achieving productive days? I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks. Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for being a Tip Hero!