The Ultimate Checklist for Being More Productive Throughout Your Day
Are you overwhelmed with the amount of things you have to do, or the various hats you wear throughout the day? Do you find yourself spending more time planning and shifting gears than actually doing work?
Follow these tips to get more out of your day with less stress
Consistent Wake Up Time
Consistently waking up the same time ensures you don’t have days where there “just isn’t enough time”. This way, you know exactly what you are able to accomplish in the time allotted to you.
(To make the most out of your morning and to get in the right frame of mind for an stress-free, productive day check out my blog post on creating a morning routine)
Set an Intention
I say this all the time but it is because it is such an important habit to adopt both productivity-wise and for mental happiness. Setting an intention for the day (similar to setting an intention for your meditation session) provides you with a specific area to focus your energy (both mental and physical) on.
If you ever played tennis (or any other ball related sport) you will remember your coach telling you to point your non-dominant hand where you want your serve to land. (The idea being that your brain would get the memo this is where you're aiming for the ball to go). If you don't direct the ball, it could land anywhere - this is the same with your productivity!
The key to this is making sure your intention truly meaningful and important, but also feasible. Don’t set an intention that you know is not possible, this is not a stretch goal, it is a tool to help us stay on track and and feeling productive.
Some examples are:
Today’s intention is to
• Not let anything bother me
• File my taxes
• Post a blog and share to social accounts
Write your intention on a sticky note or at the top of your list for the day. No matter what you set your intention to, know that if you get NOTHING else done, the day will not be a waste because you accomplished X.
Clean Your Space
Being surrounded by clutter has an affect on us whether we realize it or not. Taking some time every day to tidy your desk will do wonders for your productivity.
When I was a Project Manager at a website agency, I was never able to get any work done. At any given time I would be juggling 7 - 21 different clients projects, jumping on and off phone calls, answering developer and copy writers questions, explaining to the account team for the millionth time why we could not promise customers a feature that does not exist.
As soon as I would try to focus on one task I would be ripped away to something entirely different.
As an entrepreneur I face a similar issue, except instead of my clients or coworkers side-tracking me, its my own brain that is the culprit! As someone who “wears all the hats” anything I sit down to do generates a whole slew of thoughts and further tasks that need attention.
Instead of letting myself go down the rabbit hole I grab a notebook or open up my Trello board (sometimes I’ll create a voice memo for myself... use whatever tool helps you manage your thoughts) and jot down anything important that comes to mind or may SEEM urgent at the time, but is not.
This way, instead of your attention being torn away from your current task, you can take a quick sidebar and then get back to the task at hand. Having a brain dump is extremely helpful because it guarantees those thoughts are not lost but also doesn’t derail you from what you have designated your time to.
Cutting down on context switching is going to be a game changer for you, I guarantee.
BONUS - this is also useful for people who have difficulty shutting off their brain at night when they go to bed. If I am trying to sleep and I think of an idea that is going to keep me up, I grab my phone and write myself a quick email so that I can put my mind at ease.
Unless I plan on getting out of bed and actually actioning on that thing that is keeping me up, its doing me more harm than good to obsess over it.
Leverage Your Natural Energy and Brain-Power Levels Throughout the Day
People always talk about their “most productive time of day” but the entire day can be productive if you know how to schedule your work and errands around your personal daily levels.
There is no sense trying to do an activity when you are not going to be able to do your best. If you know you can only write in the morning, block off your mornings to make sure you get any writing done that needs to be completed.
Personally, I write best at night so I get other work and errands done during the day and after the sun goes down I sit at my computer to draft out whatever I need to write. Then I review it the next morning and make any necessary edits with a fresh head.
Exercise: Not sure when you are at your “best” for various tasks throughout the day? Set some alarms to go off at various times for the next week and keep a log of how you are feeling when the alarms go off. What types of activities do you think would be most productive at this time? You should start to see a pattern emerge and can use this to schedule your time in the future.
Block Your Day
Once you have a clear idea of what types of tasks you can tackle when, block off your calendar and schedule these activities during the appropriate blocks (when possible). Better at sales calls in the morning? Block off your mornings for sales.
Each day, be clear on what you will be accomplishing in each block of time. Have a goal to accomplish by the end of the block such as “edit photos for this week’s social posts” or “review and finalize investor report”. Knowing what you are working towards will also help keep you on track and will motivate you to finish that goal vs just working on “whatever”.
It’s important when creating your blocks to know your attention span. Do you need breaks in order to stay alert? Will a quick walk outside or a 20 minute afternoon nap give you that boost of energy you need for the second half of your day?
Know yourself and what you need, if you are most productive working in 45 minute chunks and taking 15 minutes to watch adorable puppy videos - DO IT! If you are being honest with yourself and taking that 15 minute break (or whatever it is you need) actually allows you to recharge and get back to work with a refreshed brain this is absolutely better than trying to work for 2 hours straight and not get anything done after the first 45 minutes.
Personally, I am most productive when I lose myself in work for a few hours straight and then take 2-3 hours to recuperate. I generally work for 4 hours straight through and then take a break to take a long walk and eat some lunch while I watch amazingly horrible reality TV. Between the walk, food and a good laugh at reality stars I am rejuvenated and ready to get back to work for another chunk of time.
Priorities are always shifting. At the beginning of your day, assess what are the priorities for the day (not what you thought it would be yesterday but what it is in actuality today). If you want to take this to the next level, follow the Eisenhower Matrix method to help determine priority (read about this method in my stress-free decision making post)
Do you need complete silence to work? Then don’t go to the coffee shop or have Spotify on in the background while you are trying to get things done. It may sound like common-sense but I hear from clients all the time that they are working in environments that are not optimal for their productivity. (Companies with open floor plans are notorious for having productivity issues due to employees being distracted by constant conversation and movement around them.)
Whatever your productivity preference is, create an environment that works with you, not against you.
If you have been struggling to stay productive, print out this checklist and make sure you are implementing the above suggestions. This will not only help you stay focused but also make sure you are taking full advantage of your day while eliminating stress in the process!