At first I was going to call this article, “10 Tips for a Productive Work Day.” But the more I thought about it the more I felt like productivity isn’t just about work. I like having a productive weekend or night at home too. (But, of course, I love a good vacation day spent doing NOTHING as well!) I would really like to have a productive life, but it’s sometimes a bit of a struggle. Here are ten tips that help me stay on track.
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1. Make a to-do list. I am absolutely lost without a to-do list! I (try) to write out a list every morning just before I begin the day. I’ve also found that if I’m feeling overly anxious about a big project at work or looming deadline I sometimes make my to-do list the night before. This makes me feel like I’m getting a jump start on the day.
2. Give yourself small rewards for completing big tasks. I don’t know about you, but I am all about rewards. It might be something as little as, “Once I finish getting through all my emails I’ll go make my afternoon cup of coffee.” Little rewards don’t have to be about money or things, get creative and find small ways to motivate yourself to hustle. 🙂
3. Find ways to break up your workday (or night). I feel like I have a pretty decent attention span, but I’m not super human or anything. It’s good to break up tasks that take a long time or that are physically demanding in any way. For example, let’s say you’re a photographer and you have about five hours of editing to do one night. Work for three hours then give yourself a snack or paint your nails. Then finish up that work. Also, if you sit a lot in order to work make sure to build in a few stretch breaks into your day. You’ll feel better!
4. Avoid addictive time wasting activities. I recently confessed my love for Candy Crush Saga. I’m no stranger to time wasting activities. Facebook can be a trap. Smartphone or internet games can also get super addictive. Avoid these when you’re trying to get something done. Check your FB during the last five minutes of your work day (maybe as your reward?). Also set limits for mini “time wasting” sessions. It’s ok to need a mental break, but don’t get sucked in. For example, next time you go to check Instagram while you’re suppose to be working look at the clock first. Give yourself only 2-3 to scroll through your feed then stop.
5. Get as much done as early in the day as you can. It’s a ripple effect thing. Personally, I’m sort of morning, sort of not a morning person. You know? I have a hard time getting up in the morning! But I’ve noticed that when I do get up and get rolling on my to-do list for the day I already feel so accomplished by nine or ten in the morning that I feel confident about the rest of the day. Start your day with a bang! The momentum will keep you rolling. Then you have the evening hours to relax and unwind.
6. Tackle that really tough to-do first. I know. You don’t want to. Me neither. But once it’s done it’s done! I find that I’ll often leave a really tough or bummer to-do at the bottom of my list for days and days longer than it should have been there. And it’s just looming over me the whole time. Just do it. You’ll feel better. And then you’ll only have the easy stuff left to do.
7. Showcase your success. This is motivation fuel for the future. It’s ok to feel super pumped and proud when you complete a tough goal or finish a super long to-do list. Tell your significant other. Instagram that finished project. Call your mom. Pump your fists in the air. Celebrate—you did it!
8. Tell someone your goals. Now they are your accountability partner(s). Boom. I don’t know about you, but I am WAY more likely to finish a goal if I’ve told someone else about it. This can be as public as you like. You could tell your sister a personal goal. Or you can start a monthly blog series where you share your goals for the month (like 4 Simple Goals) and then you share progress. You decide who you want to tell, just tell someone.
9. Be realistic. We all need breaks. Plan to come back to difficult or frustrating tasks later. Sometimes things don’t come together like we’d hoped. Sometimes a task turns out to be way more physically demanding than we thought. Be honest with yourself. Take a break if you need. Just be sure to make a specific plan to come back to the project, maybe seek out some help if you need.
10. Make goal setting a habit. Maybe the whole to-do list sounds annoying, or cheesy, or overwhelming to you. Find what works for you. And don’t worry if it feels weird or even scares you a little at first. It will start to feel like a normal part of your daily life. And you’ll start to feel weird/off if you miss it. It’ll become habit, like brushing your teeth. It’s not overwhelming or annoying to remember to do this simple task twice every day. But it wasn’t always a habit, probably your parents had to remind you a lot at first. Let goal setting become a routine and positive part of your everyday life.
We believe in you! Make your life full of successes! And if you have any additional tips or specific examples of things you do to stay on track please share them with us. xo. Emma