Five Ways to Increase Productivity

December 3, 2018

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You KNOW that I'm a stickler when it comes to being "busy!" I hate when people say they're sooo busy... are you also productive? Or just busy? I think some people don't even know the difference! Going into my *actual* busiest month of the year, and rounding the corner into 2019, I'm all about productivity hacks and making the most of my precious hours in the day. I'm tempted by the same distractions as everyone else (Instagram, anyone?) but I love hearing reminders about how to stay productive in my daily life, and can always use a refresher. I recently told a girlfriend that I feel like I crush one day and get so much done, but then the next day I'm exhausted and feel like I get nothing accomplished! It's all about balance and pacing yourself! Here are the five ways I stay motivated and productive from day to day:

1. Make a List

My type A self is all about lists, so I can definitely get behind this productivity tool! I have lists of my lists. No, really. Ok, start with a brain dump and write down everything that needs to get done. Everything. THEN comes the important part: prioritization! You can't do it all. Physically cannot. (we'll have to talk more about hiring help later) Rank your top 5 items, 1 through 5, and I always recommend starting on the hardest task first. However, sometimes the hardest task is actually a huge project that contains 10 smaller tasks just waiting to hold up your to do list progress and keep you from getting those precious check marks! Break down that huge task into smaller, manageable tasks that don't make you want to give up and go take a nap. (real life. If it's too hard, I bail and go take a nap! Not helpful!) Once you get through items 1-5, you'll be on such an achievement high, that you'll be able to knock out even more. Take it five at a time, and make a new 1-5 list! I like to keep it 1-5 and not go beyond that so I don't get overwhelmed with a to-do list with 45 tasks on it.

*Pro Tip: DON'T multitask! One thing at a time. Slow and steady wins the race. This might mean that you need to close out browser windows, programs, or mute a group text while you focus on ONE task and knock it out. FOCUS!

2. Plan the Night Before

Plan as many things as possible the night before! Lay out your outfit, pack your duffle bag for the gym, pack your lunch, set your coffee pot timer (am I the only one who still uses a normal coffee pot?). Anything that can be done in advance should be done. I usually workout first thing in the morning; I lay out my workout outfit, so I'm not wasting time looking for shoes or a specific sports bra that I want to wear the next day. If the workout studio has a nice bathroom, I'll pack a duffle bag and shower there; I've discovered that I get ready wayyy faster at the gym compared to getting ready at home where there are so many things to distract me! (Oh hello, new eye shadow palette!) If I'm planning to work from a coffee shop the next morning, I'll go ahead and pack my computer bag; I'm always shocked at how long it can take me to pack my computer and fill my disco ball up with water when I'm trying to leave the house in the morning.

*Pro Tip: Don't forget to look over your calendar of events for the next day. Do you have a lunch meeting that you forgot about or a pilates class after work that requires you to pack your grip socks? With a little preplanning, you'll save yourself so many headaches the next day.

3. Sprint Sessions

I love and hate "sprint sessions." What's a sprint session? It's not an interval workout on a track! It's a chunk of time (usually 20-30 minutes) of intense focus on one task. No phone calls, no texts, no Instagram, no emails, no bathroom breaks, no distractions. Set a timer and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in 20 minutes. Last week, I had a list of emails that I needed to send and I knew I needed to focus to knock them out. I set a timer and got to work. I gave myself 5 minutes per email and I ended up finishing them within the hour! After one sprint session, take a break to regroup; I set a timer for 5 minutes to get some water or do whatever I need to do before refocusing for my next sprint.

I literally just reached for my phone while writing this! NO.

*Pro Tip: Turn your phone on airplane mode during sprint sessions to avoid chimes and alerts from distracting you from your task at hand! (Mine is staying on airplane mode until I finish this post!)

4. Schedule Breaks

This goes hand in hand with sprint sessions. Mental and physical breaks are important when focusing all of your energy on one task at a time. I'll often plan to stop working for a few minutes midday and go for a quick walk, or even just walk a few laps around my house. Yes, I really do walk laps around my house (haha). Stretching, a quick yoga flow, or doing a household chore are all great brain breaks and allow your brain to rest for a few minutes before beginning the next task. Lunch break, coffee break, all the breaks! No answering email while eating your lunch. Stepping away from work, even just for a few minutes, will help you come back refreshed and ready to refocus.

*Pro Tip: During busy work seasons, it can be hard to keep up with friends and make it to every social actitivy that you want to; I love schedule a phone call with a friend as one of my breaks to let my brain rest, talk about something other than work, and catch up with a friend!

5. Fuel Your Body//Sleep//Exercise

I know, three tips in one, but you get the idea. Take care of your body and give yourself grace when you don't get everything done! I've definitely had days where I don't make it very far down my to do list, but have to call it a night, regroup, and start again in the morning. During busy seasons, it's even more important to make sure you're getting a decent amount of sleep each night, eating nutritious meals, and moving your body! Note: I didn't say that you need to be on a diet. No no. I said that you need to be fueling your body with nutrients- protein, veggies, vitamins....aka not eating Chick-fil-a everyday because you didn't make time to cook that week! Find a few easy recipes that you can handle making or look into a food prep service to utilize during your busiest times.

The snooze button is not your friend, and trust me: I still struggle with snoozing, but I'm trying to cut it out of my life completely so I'm not wasting that extra 9 minutes of "sleep" and then starting my day in a rush.

*Pro Tip: Staying motivated to exercise after it gets dark at night is always tough for me, so I schedule my workouts first thing in the morning! That also makes sure that I start my day on the right foot because I can't miss a workout, or else I'll get charged a $15 no show fee! Whenever you do it, move your body, and notice the extra energy that comes with your workout!

Bonus tip: SAVE YOUR WORK OFTEN! I had to rewrite the last few tips because my site kicked me out and I hadn't saved my work recently. Somebody out there needed that reminder, so you're welcome.

Photo by Kaylynn Krieg Photo for The Skinny Arm.

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