1. Actually try to get enough sleep
A moderately sleep deprived person is similar to someone who is intoxicated. If you start of the day sluggish and a complete mess because you barely slept the night before – that won’t help anything. Plus, not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of other problems. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get the right amount of sleep because it will make you utilize the hours you have in a better way.
I personally have made it a goal of mine to start waking up at 5am Monday through Saturday and I cannot begin to tell you how this ONE habit has completely changed my life. Here is an article I wrote on 10 Immediate Benefits of Waking Up at 5am.
2. Get up earlier
First, I know this sounds counterproductive after the first tip, but the key to that is to go to bed earlier (don’t shoot the messenger— you can DVR those shows you love). Everyone HATES this piece of advice. However, I have honestly found it helps. I used to consider myself a night owl and I loved working late into the night, watching a tv show and then curling into bed. And while I felt great in the evening, my mornings were a bumpy ride on the struggle bus. There’s a reason that some of the top CEOs get up bright and early and the next tip explains why.
3. While you’re up before everyone, get your biggest task done
An exercise I want you to try is to write down the top 3 things you want to accomplish the next day. When you wake in the morning before you do anything (this includes checking your emails, social media, etc.) try and complete the 3 top tasks. You will not believe what a difference this will make to your day.
When you get up before the morning news, or your roommates/family/spouse, etc., you not only get that extra time to yourself, you also get peace and quiet. Furthermore, you get time when you aren’t already worn down by the rest of the day. If you tackle the biggest and hardest things first, you will do so when you are alert and at your best. This also helps you spend the rest of the day feeling accomplished and opens you up to having more time later in the day for smaller tasks (without the pressure of the big project/idea looming over your head). Plus, it allows you to find time in your afternoon and evening to take care of yourself.
4. Schedule general chunks of your day
I used to be the person that scheduled practically down to each and every minute of the day. And while, from the outside, it may have looked great, on the inside, I was freaking out if things didn’t get accomplished in that order or if something had to be pushed back. Obviously something like an appointment or a meeting, you absolutely should schedule to the hour (at least, I hope you will!). But for something like a side project or blog, setting aside a chunk of time allows you to focus on being productive instead of worrying about accomplishing that exact item on your schedule.
5. Take care of yourself during the day
Again, this may sound like a time waster, but it is very helpful to take a second and go get a glass of water, or take a quick walk around the office, just to give yourself a moment to step away and clear your head. Don’t work during your lunch break. Never taking a moment to yourself will cause you to reach 5 p.m. and feel like you just can’t go on anymore. At that point, you are so burned out, you can barely function. So instead, take time to just breathe. (And consider using that time to meditate.)
6. Turn off email notifications
I personally only check my emails 3 times a day (12pm, 4pm, and 9pm). *GASPS* I know I know... what if something urgent comes up that requires your immediate attention? Truth is, email is the biggest time waster in our modern day age. Of course it is important, but it will NEVER be your top priority.
How many times have you opened your inbox at 8am only to find out that by the time you are finished cleaning out your inbox, it is already 1pm and you feel that you haven't accomplished anything on your To Do List and feel completely unproductive. It's okay, everyone has.
I know that it is important to be on top of your emails and to respond to them in a reasonable manner. However, that does not mean you have to respond RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Most of us feel compelled to respond to an email right away when we see that little box pop up or that little number on our phone. This breaks your focus on your task at hand and keeps you from devoting your full concentration to it. It also causes your mind to ping from one thing to something (potentially) completely different. This makes it harder to jump back into whatever it was you were doing before you responded to the email. If you do need to regularly check your email for work – you can do so. But to do it efficiently, you need to set aside a time each hour to do it, and then focus on your other tasks for the rest of the time.
7. Declutter and organize
Regardless of whether you are a super neat freak or you feel like you couldn’t care less, studies have shown that surrounding yourself with clutter actually adds stress to your life. And seriously, who needs stress? Finding what works best for you to declutter can be a learning process, but it is worth it.
I have found that I need everything in plain sight. If it goes in a drawer, or in something unlabeled, then I am liable to forget that it’s there or that I even have it (looking at you, massive amounts of staples). Everything needs to either be in a clear container, stacked on a shelf, or in a box with a label. Then, whenever I need something, I can just turn and see where things are and quickly access them.
8. Use a time tracker
If you are really wondering where your time is going, using a time tracker like is an excellent solution. It is super easy to use, and I have it set up on the side of my screen so I can enter in each item I’m doing as I do it. Even if something happens and I’m not near my computer, I can just write it down and enter it later. An added benefit (at least to me) is that this FORCES me to singletask. I am the queen of trying to multitask (which #6 shows is bad for the brain) and I hate to sit still and focus on one thing at a time (I know, what a huge shock, right?!).
9. Plan an afternoon pick-me-up
Everyone needs a break around that 2-4 p.m. time frame. So make sure you take one! Even if it’s just having a yummy snack you brought from home or making yourself a cup of coffee, having a little something to look forward to during that afternoon slump makes you able to focus more, both before and after your mini-break. If you worked straight through the whole afternoon, it would drag on and seem never ending. This is why many of us sometimes fall down the time warp of social media around 3pm. You can stave that impulse off by getting outside to clear your head, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
10. Make a list at the end of each workday
At the end each work day, make a list of the top few things you need to accomplish right off the bat when you get in the next day. This helps keep you to become uber efficient, because instead of wasting time the next morning thinking about what all you need to get done that day, you can spend that time diving right in and getting the important things handled. This sets you up to feel accomplished and on top of things, which allows for further productivity throughout the rest of the day.
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