We’ve all had those days when 24 hours just isn’t nearly enough. Trust me—I get it. It’s especially frustrating when my to-do list has spilled onto a second page, I haven’t had time to pour a cup of coffee, and it isn’t even 9:30 a.m. yet. We’ve all been there. You feel like no matter how much you actually are able to get done, there are those days that end with you having more to do than you actually started with (I believe this is called life, my friends).
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I am the productivity queen (because I’m not), but I can say that I have learned a few tips and tricks over the years (all 23 of them) that have helped me to get more done in a day than complete mad levels in Candy Crush (which I have removed from my life and highly suggest you do the same, because this is an article about productivity). While yes, sometimes—OK, a lot of the time—life does tend to happen, whether train delays make you two hours late for work, or your dog just happens to escape from your house and get lost for the worst 36 hours of your life (true story), these things are out of our control. But, there are things you can do each day that will generally help you accomplish more than you thought you could.
There are a million suggestions out there to help you conquer your to-do list, but I will start in saying this: how you greet the day has a lot to do with how productive you’ll be. Sure, you can drown yourself in Americanos and Doppio Espressos (pro tip: I highly suggest ordering with whipped cream on top) and swear to yourself that you’re not going to check your personal Facebook once throughout the day, but that’s not totally realistic (or healthy). Instead, get out of bed and say, “Yeah I have a shit-ton to do today, but I’m going to feel like the friggin’ man (or woman, if you prefer to say it that way) once I get it all done!” That’s a little better. And besides, if your start the day with a negative attitude, you can bet that your work will surely be a reflection of that, which is no bueno. So, let’s plan to meet our challenges with optimism, and aside from just trying to do the best we can every day, we can always refer to these tips when we’re in a slump or just need that extra push.
1. Make a To-Do List
I swear by this. Either make one for the week and add to it, or make one every day. I prefer the latter, but that may just be because I’m an Assistant Editor, not running a company. I like to write mine right before I leave work, that way when I come in the next day the second I sit down I know exactly what I need to do—which means there’s a better chance of me staying on track, rather than wasting time mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest.
2. Get an Early Start
All of you anti-morning people probably hate hearing this, but listen: No one (except for those crazy overachievers, usually) is a morning person. You just have to become one if want to get things done. So, get over your obsession with the snooze button, and just do it. Go to sleep earlier. Can’t go to sleep earlier? GO TO SLEEP EARLIER. On that note, I am understanding to the fact that people who are not me do have kids, which means a sleep schedule is sometimes nonexistent, and for that I do apologize. Refer to all other tips besides this one.
3. Create a Morning Ritual
This goes hand-in-hand with the whole early-to-bed, early-to-rise tip. Waking up early allows you to really settle into your day, instead of the day creeping up on you and sending you running out of the house without a shower and last night’s makeup on. The best thing you can do is to create a routine that you feel comfortable with—whether it’s French pressing a bold cup of java, reading a newspaper, going for a 30-minute walk or run, just simply do something that brings you a little bit of joy before the rest of your day is all work and no play. Beginning your day with small accomplishments (I get real excited when I give myself enough time to run a brush through my hair) will only set the precedent for the rest of your day—with positivity!
4. Stay Organized
This is one thing I personally struggle with because I either always have so many things that I’m trying to do all at once, or because I’m trying to get as much done as I possibly can in one day. Too many moving parts. I suggest you use your planner, your Google Calendar, folders, alerts, alarms—anything/everything you possibly can that’s going to help you stay on top of things. Forgetting to do something or be somewhere sucks, as does letting people down. There are so many organizational tools at our disposal that can only benefit you, so use them!
5. Take Notes
This coincides with staying organized, but be sure to take notes throughout the day. I spend at least three hours a day on a train, so I tend to have a lot of work-related revelations while riding the LIRR. When this happens, I simply make a memo on my phone so I don’t forget it. A lot of the time we’re so focused on what we have to do that we don’t always have the extra time to expand on our creative ideas. That’s why taking notes is important, so when there is time to pursue new ideas you can easily pick up where you left off.
6. Don’t Procrastinate
This one’s easier said than done, because why do now what you can do tomorrow, right? But don’t get into that habit! And, if that’s already a habit of yours, reread this post and try to figure out a way to snap out of it. Procrastination is the enemy. You will be so much more efficient if you get tasks done earlier and don’t leave things that are seemingly less pressing to the last minute, because then they will become extremely pressing—trust.
7. Refuel and Recharge
I have fallen victim to the afternoon slump, as I’m sure a lot of you have, too. It comes out of nowhere, and then it’s like 2:00 p.m., and you’re like I.just.can’t.anymore. Well, instead of reevaluating your life choices, doing some “quick” online shopping, and applying for a Working Visa in Australia (I haven’t actually done that, I just thinking about doing it sometimes because I dig the Aussies), indulge in an energizing snack, or just take a quick 10-minute break. Go for a walk to get the blood pumping again, and/or eat a handful of almonds (a fresh banana, some apple slices, or a Greek yogurt can also do the trick). Maybe knock out a couple of squats at your desk, or if you work from home add in some push-ups and sit-ups. This way, when you do get back to work you’ll feel more energized and there’s just a better chance you’ll suck it up and finish whatever you need to get done.
8. Exercise in the Morning
Living a healthy lifestyle is great for your well being and your productivity. I highly suggest getting in a short workout in the morning. While I personally cannot commit to this every morning, the mornings I am able to exercise I feel infinitely better throughout the day. And, when I do get my workout over with early, I’m not worrying about when I’m going to workout throughout the day, and I’m therefore not flying out of the office at 5 p.m. to make sure I get one in. I can leave the office without feeling rushed, and make sure I’m confident with the amount of work I’ve done. And, on days that I do an a.m. workout, I find that I’m more prepared for the day and get a lot more accomplished earlier.
No matter how prepared you are for each day, you have to accept that things out of our control come up, and there’s sometimes nothing we can do about that. But, if you start the day with a plan and a positive attitude, there’s a better chance that you’ll be able to handle and accommodate more when you have to.
Please share what you do to be more productive throughout the day in the comments section below!