1. Actually try to get enough sleep
How are you supposed to find more time in your day when you’re sleeping? Well, 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.
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 shit done
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. Do basic human things 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 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. I have been using this trick lately, and I have found I am so much more productive when I can sit down and really focus before taking time to answer emails.
7. Declutter and organize
Regardless of whether you are a super neat freak like myself (hello, OCPD), 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. Don’t let yourself get pushed around
I mean this in terms of the “time bullies” that you meet at the office and at home. When you are on the clock or supposed to be working, your time is for your work. But when it is your lunch hour, you are off for the day or it’s the weekend (or whatever days you have off in your job), hold firm that that time is YOURS. If you let someone push you into working through your lunch, or answering emails at all hours of the night, then they will do it again. You have to push back and say (politely) that your time outside of the office is your own. The same also goes for when you are at home. Don’t get suckered into chores that you don’t have time for.
9. Use a time tracker
If you are really wondering where your time is going, using a time tracker like Toggl 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 app 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?!).
10. 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.
11. Don’t get sucked down the phone call rabbit hole
This has more to do with personal phone calls than work ones. Obviously, if your boss calls, you should probably pick up! But setting aside specific times when you tell your family and friends that you are free for calls makes it easier to schedule your time more productively. I love chatting with my mom or my best friend, but I know that whenever I do, those won’t be 10 minute calls. So I purposely text them and set aside a specific time. That way, the call doesn’t interrupt the flow of my work, and I still get the pick me up from gabbing with someone special to me.
12. Surround yourself with inspiration
This depends on where you work, but having motivational prints or desk cards can really help keep you focused and on track. I have framed pieces on my desk saying things like, “She believed she could, so she did”, “We’re all a little bit stronger than we think we are” [quoted from the amazing Robin Roberts], “Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset” and “Don’t quit your day dream” just to name a few. Whenever I want to give up or give in to checking Facebook, or get tired or bored, I look at these and they motivate me to keep going. Sometimes, all we need is that little reminder that the hustle is worth it.
13. Understand that shit happens
Seriously, sometimes something comes up or shit hits the fan. All of your best laid plans can sometimes not be enough and something may happen that skews your entire schedule for the day. Instead of freaking out (like me) or feeling like a failure for not getting everything done (me, again), you just have to remember that sometimes life gets in the way and that is ok. It doesn’t mean you failed. It’s not the end of the world. You just have to dust yourself off and start fresh the next day.
14. 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 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.
15. Actually wind down at the end of the day
Instead of just pouring yourself into bed, physically and mentally exhausted, because you can’t function anymore — try instead to take even 15 minutes and read a book, flip through a magazine, or even just sit there and relax for a bit. Doing each of these will give you a small moment to actually decompress, so you don’t spend your night tossing and turning, trying to deal with your subconscious while you sleep.
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