Be More Productive - Dial of a clock showing five minutes to twelve

24 hours.

How you spend them can make the difference between having the life you have, and having the life you want.

Since success looks different to each of us, I’ll break down ways to be more productive into several different areas: general ways to be more productive, more productive at work, more productive in school, and more productive at home.

Here’s to making the most of this trip around the sun.

GENERAL WAYS TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE

1. Plan your day the night before.

Every night before you go to bed, write a list of the things you need to accomplish tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

I take a legal pad (old school, but I like writing with a pen) and divide it down the middle vertically and horizontally. Each square is an area of my life that has it’s own “to-do” list. My sections are Work, Home, Errands/Shopping, Calls/Emails. I’m also a big fan of bullet journals.

Put a star next to the most important goal in each section to get done that day. Now. Get some sleep.

2. Do something relaxing for at least 30 minutes before bed.

Sleep is critical to cellular repair and quality performance. Turn off the TV. Especially the news. Set you alarm and put your phone on silent. Today is over and it’s time to get ready for tomorrow.

Turn down the thermostat. Pull on the blankets. Sweet dreams.

3. Wake up at least 30 minutes before everyone else.

If you want to be more productive, you have to do more than the other guy. Start by getting up early.

Take time to get your mind right. Today is going to be a killer day. You’ve got deals to land, kids to raise, and stuff to learn.

Read something inspirational (post to come soon on book recc’s), take an early morning walk, spend an extra 5-10 in the shower. Whatever does it for you….do it.

4. Make your bed.

Super easy. It’s the first thing you can accomplish to get your day off on the right foot. If nothing else, and your day goes to hell, you’ll have nicely made place to come home to rest in.

be more productive - woman making the bed

5. Drink water.

Can you imagine going 8 hours without a drink of water? You did it last night.

Our cells depend on water in order to make ATP, the energy that our bodies need to function. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and depression among other things.

Drink up.

6. Move your body.

Getting your heart pumping for even 15-20 minutes will not only elicit a flood of endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals), but it’s great for your metabolism, brain and heart health.

You don’t have to go to a gym or “go hard” for it to be effective. One of the most beneficial, evidence-based methods of exercise is Tai Chi.

Simply doing 5-10 minutes of Tai Chi every day is an evidence-based method of improving a myriad of health issues such as circulation, balance, flexibility, strength, and more!

Be More Productive - Multiethnic woman performing Tai Chi

Exercise can also be a social activity that is good for your mood. Try walking with a friend, going to a local YMCA, etc.

7. Fill up your cup.

Whether your prefer coffee or tea, that liquid get-up-and-go is must for me. Don’t overdo it though. It can take 8 hours or more to clear your body, and you don’t want to deal with insomnia when you’re ready for bed.

8. Eat the frog first.

Author Brian Tracy has a great theory to prevent procrastination. The theory is that you have a long list of items to do, and one of those items is something you’re not looking forward to….do it first.

With the worst task out of the way, it’s downhill the rest of the day. Put it off, and you’ll be dreading it all day…and guess what, you’ll still have to do it.

9. Pick some tunes to match the mood you want to have.

When I would study in nursing school, I listened to smooth jazz with no lyrics. I could go for hours and hours and it kept me chill and focused. When I clean the house, I throw on some classic rock.

If you find yourself getting fatigued throughout the day, take your 10-minute pomodoro break and have a mini-dance party!!

10. Work in chunks of time.

Time-Chunking is becoming ever more popular as people begin to feel more and more distracted by the constant dinging of inbox messages, text, calls, etc.

Basically, time-chunking involves setting aside a few hours at a time and devoting them to one specific activity. Remember the sectioned-off list that I mentioned in #1? This is how time-chunking would work with that list:

Spend 1-2 hours just on emails. Then 1-2 just on phone calls. Spend 3 hours on writing, and so on. This distraction-free approach will help you feel more productive and more accomplished at the end of the day.

11. Take small breaks.

When I was in nursing school and there was only time for studying and studying and studying (and a few hours of sleeping). I used the Pomodoro Technique to keep me sharp and to make sure I took regular breaks.

This is a technique in which you focus/work distraction-free for 50 minutes, and then take a 10-minute break. I simply set my phone’s timer and it worked fabulously for me! Give it a try.

12. Learn to say “no.”

be more productive - man with papers everyone looking stressed holding up his hand as if to say "no"

It’s necessary and altruistic to help others, but you have to have a healthy limit. Take care of you, first. Remember that you can’t be everything to everyone.

HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE AT WORK

be more productive - team of men and women at work

13. Use your commute wisely (if you don’t get to work from home).

First, I DO NOT believe you should do anything that distracts you while driving. I’ve seen way too much carnage that results from that very bad habit. That being said….

Listening to a podcast on your commute can offer you some additional knowledge, training, insight, inspiration, etc. on a number of topics. I do this often, but I’ll admit, sometimes I need to just listen to some music…which brings me to number 11.

14. If you don’t have to commute, do the above when you’re running errands, walking, running, in the shower, etc.

15. Delegate. Often.

What do you do that someone else can do? Done in the right way, you can not only free up time for your other tasks, but you can empower someone else.

Using project management or team software can provide a vehicle where others can contribute in a way that you can also follow up on. Something as simple as setting up a task spreadsheet in Google Docs with deadlines and sharing works just fine!

If you want to be more productive, this is a skill you need to master.

16. Use software and apps to help you stay organized.

(Post coming soon on the options available).

17. Zoom to your meeting, instead of driving.

I enjoy meeting with people, but those in-person meetings take So. Much. Longer. There is just something about scheduling a Zoom call that keeps everyone on task.

18. Do tasks that take the most energy during your peak hours. The 80/20 rule.

We spend 20% of our time doing 80% of our work. That’s true for me.

My peak hours are from 9:00am to 1:00pm, and then I get another burst from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. Knowing this, I will handle more mundane tasks in the early morning like cleaning up my emails, copying, etc.

Once I’ve had my protein shake and latte, then I’m off to the races. I try not to schedule any meetings before 9:00am either. What are your most productive hours?

19. Make sure you’re working in a clutter-free environment.

color photo of white desk with minimalist keyboard, clipboard, cup of coffee and stem of greenery

If you don’t have a filing system set up, a place where your office tools are properly stowed and organized, take the time to do that ASAP (that also goes for your email inbox and the files on your computer.

If you’re spending time searching for things, that’s time that you’re wasting on something more productive.

20. Inbox Zero.

This is a philosophy that helps you be more productive in terms of your email inbox. With every email you do one of the following.

  1. Do it now. These are for tasks that only take a couple of minutes to do.
  2. Do it later. These are for tasks that will take considerably more time.
  3. Don’t do it –> delete it. This goes for all spam, etc. (I highly recommend blocking these so they don’t keep coming.
  4. Make somebody else do it. Delegate. Forward it.

Clean up your inbox right now. Delete 1237 of you 1253 emails and take a deep breath. Now, isn’t that better?

21. Clean up your saved emails.

If you don’t have multiple folders for your saved emails, you should.

You can 1 per department, or 1 per client, whatever makes sense in your case. Don’t waste time digging for past emails.

22. Clean up your desktop (computer, that is).

I have very little on my desktop screen. I have a few folders that I use daily. Within those folders are more folders.

Like my mom used to say about keeping my room clean, “everything has a proper place, put it there.”

Think of your desktop screen as a file cabinet. Keep the “file drawers” on the desktop, keep the “file dividers” in those, and keep the “actual files” inside of those.

MUCH more organized. MUCH more efficient.

23. Clean up your hard drive.

It’s like a garage….if you haven’t needed it in the last 3 years, and you don’t need it for an audit, part with it. At least put it on an external hard drive.

HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE IN COLLEGE

Be More Productive - Male student looking at laptop

24. STOP pulling all-nighters!

I get it. You HAVE to get an “A.” You HAVE to study more. (actually….you don’t.)

Did you know that studies (like this one) show that students who studied less, but slept at least 8 hours, actually performed better than sleepy classmates.

I can attest to this myself. I not only performed better after stopping all-nighters, but my mood was much improved!

25. Skip the booze.

Not a popular one, I know, but it does kill brain cells…

26. Limit social media use.

I know. Another unpopular one. But, hear me out.

Social media apps were designed to addict you. They are designed to distract you. They are glorified marketing apps that feed on FOMO and our desire to be liked/approved of.

Don’t give them that power. Set a timer and give yourself just 10 minutes and when the timer goes off, so does the phone.

27. If you have a project due, set your deadline a week early.

This will do several things for you.

  1. Remove last minute stress.
  2. Give you some extra time to put it away and then come back a few days later for last-minute polishing.
  3. Give you extra time in the event of a problem arises (illness, last-minute concert, those things)

28. Use a planner!

I can not stress this enough. Plan it alllll out. Even your free time.

You can color-code, use stickers, whatever works for you. This is your life-line to time management and is as important as your backpack.

29. Make use of school resources.

Schools need to you to succeed. Even public K-12 schools. Without your success, they don’t receive funding to stay open.

That’s why they have entire departments and/or buildings devoted to student success. Use your professors’ office hours to get one-on-one instruction, etc.

Take advantage of the library, the software support and study aids, quiet rooms for studying, etc. Trust me, you’re paying for them, so you might as well use them!

30. Find a good tutor.

Nothing can slow you down as much as banging your head against a wall trying to understand a concept. Just stop. Find help.

31. Take Naps.

When your brain just can’t take any more information, take a rest and give it a chance to process everything that you’ve just studied. Staying refreshed is key to being more productive in college.

32. Sit in the front row. Every time.

Sitting in the front row forces you to pay attention and limits distractions.

It can also get you “bonus points” with your prof when she/he sees you on a regular basis (especially since you’ll be visiting their office during office hours!

33. Ask questions.

While we’re talking about “bonus points,” ask questions during class. Engage. Make sure that prof knows who you are. When you need to go negotiate an 89.4 to an “A,” you’ll thank me.

34. Record your lectures. Listen to them on the bus, on a walk, etc.

I sometimes felt like I was cheating during exams. I could literally hear my professor going over an exact point on my commute to campus. I could tell you where I was when she said that exact answer too!

35. Before and after.

Get to class a few minutes early and review your notes from the day before. After class, review the notes from the day. Repetition, repetition, repetition….

36. Study to music that helps learning.

I recommend instrumental music. If you listen to music with lyrics, there’s a chance the lyrics will distract you from what you’re reading.

Most music apps have “chill radio” or “study beats radio,” etc.

37. Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb.”

To be a purely focused machine, silence your phone. At a minimum, mute messages from people who are likely to hit you up at a moment’s notice.

HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE AT HOME

Be more productive - parents holding their toddler son in the kitchen

38. Meal Prep

First, take input from the fam (or don’t) on their requests/suggestions for meals for the week. Make a rough menu for each day.

Then, make a list of groceries based on your menus (of course, include your staples, too). I visualize the store, knowing that I start in produce and end in the beauty section.

I make my list in order of the store so that I don’t accidentally pass something up and waste time going across the store to get it. (The HEB’s in Texas are the size of football stadiums)!

Then come home, prep, store, and relax. One weekly chore done.

39. Order your groceries online.

If grocery curbside service is a thing in your town, and you like to shop online, this could save you some time. Heck, get ’em delivered if you can afford to!

40. Group your errands.

I only run errands a couple of days a week. When I do, I make a list in order of closet to my house to furthest. (Again, I write this on a Post-it note or in my Notes app….not a big deal).

This prevents me from wasting time driving all around in different directions.

41. Group your chores.

I have one day a week assigned to laundry. Another day is assigned to grocery shopping. Another to running errands.

Grouping activities is a great way to keep you focused and from bouncing around from one task to the next.

42. Keep a dry-erase family calendar on the fridge.

I found this to be the easiest way to keep it all in order. Never once forgot a kid at school.

43. Do babysitting swaps or try a mothers-day-out program.

Just giving yourself 1/2 – 1 day a week (if you’re a stay-at-home-parent) of “me-time” will do wonders for the soul. Take this time for you.

44. Routines. Routines. Routines.

Routines are super important for kiddos (and us older kiddos as well)! Meltdowns can be reduced when your family knows what to expect.

45. Set early bedtimes.

My mother-in-law once told me that an early bedtime was the best thing you could give your children (and your marriage)! She was right!

As a working mother, I used to feel guilty about not having as much time to spend my little one in the evenings, so we let her stay up late with us. Mistake.

Each week, we moved her bedtime up 15 minutes until we were at our ideal time. My husband and I enjoyed the quiet time together to reconnect, and she was a much happier little one the next day.

46. Delegate.

If your partner (and children) are capable, assign them tasks that will take some stress off of you. Can’t set the table? Wipe it off. Can’t fold the laundry? Carry to your room.

Don’t expect it to be done the way you would do it. Just be grateful for the help. Lower your expectations.

Sure, if you want to trade your sanity for perfection, be my guest. However for me, keeping a home is a team sport. Everyone has their position to play.

Also, to limit your frustrations, think about how much they are learning by doing it themselves. It might make them appreciate you more. Ok, well. You get my drift.

47. Use auto bill-pay.

Stop writing checks. Stop paying late fees. Use the auto bill-pay feature from your bank and you’ll never pay another late fee. Plus you’ll save on checks, envelopes, and stamps. AND, you’ll save time!

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