How to Plan Your Day to be More Productive
By Meredith Summers Posted October 24, 2017
Improved productivity doesn't just happen overnight. It's a detailed, sometimes painstaking process to lead a better life. However, the more diligently you incorporate these tips, the more likely it is you'll start to see the results you want.
Most people want to figure out ways to get more done in a day, but this type of generic goal will never spur anyone to action. Couple the vagueness with the mixed results everyone gets when they attempt self-improvement, and it makes sense that we all revert to our old habits because at least they're comfortable. Several tips in a blog post, even one as eloquent and masterful as this one, won't fix your productivity problems, but maybe it'll give you a jumping off point.
Don't Wait to Plan
The key to starting your day off right is to begin the night before — and this is especially true on Sundays. Weekends may have been invented to rest, but they're equally likely to leave us feeling more exhausted than before they began. When you go to sleep with the next day hanging over your head like a black cloud, it can make your whole work week that much harder. Get into the habit of taking at least 15 minutes to prepare for the next day. Lay out your clothes, ready the coffee maker, clean and pack your bag, make breakfast, tidy up: do whatever you need to do so you don't wake up in pure panic mode.
Start Your Day with Gratitude
It may sound like new-age hippie mumbo-jumbo, but starting your day off with gratefulness can improve your mental fortitude and increase your productivity in noticeable ways. There are a number of ways to keep a gratitude journal, but it doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple writing down one thing you're grateful a day. The more you focus on the positive in your life, the more likely you are to feel as though you have some control over what happens to you. The more confidence you have, the more likely you are to up your productivity. Nothing kills faith in yourself like stress does.
Exercising releases a neurotransmitter called GABA, which stands for Get A Better Attitude (actually, it may stand for something more science-y than that.) GABA not only makes you feel happier, it can soothe you enough so you feel more in control. Most people don't exercise in the morning because it feels like a tremendous chore — especially when you consider just how uncoordinated non-morning people can be. But exercising doesn't have to be taxing. It could be as simple as just a few minutes of jumping jacks in the morning to get your heart racing before you jump in the shower. Setting small goals and reaching them doesn't just lead you to better productivity, it can actually lead you to happiness. If you reminded yourself of this fact 100 times a day, it still wouldn't be overkill.
Fight Off Indecision Fatigue
All of us have different work styles, and it doesn't help to take to work against your natural body clock. Night owls can learn to be morning people, but there's no point in doing so unless a nighttime schedule is making the owl unhappy or unproductive. As a general rule though, most of us are freshest in the morning. All the decisions we make throughout the day wear us down — even when they seem trivial. Your brain is taxed with each and every new problem it has to solve. From what tie to wear to how much sugar to put in a coffee cup, it all adds up. It's why we all rely on our routines, and why you shouldn't overload your to-do list. The more you add to your day, the more likely it is you'll either make mistakes or shut down completely.
Tackling It All
Unluckily for us, routines only go so far. It's why it's important to do the toughest things in the morning, and then to take breaks throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes the consequences are rather severe when we push ourselves to keep going. Studies have shown that judges have a tendency to put a lot of effort into deciding their morning cases and practically none at the end. Their productivity at the beginning of the day is focused on justice for those before them, but their productivity at the end is focused on when they'll get to take a nap. Taking a break, eating a snack, or mixing things up is one way to keep yourself on task, but it doesn't necessarily reset our brains 100%. Knowing this can help you restructure your day so you're taking advantage of your brain when it's at its most capable.
When you're at work, ensure you have all the right tools to facilitate your workflow. If you notice you spend ten minutes searching for files or you have to run through 20 different steps to contact the right person, then it may be time to tighten up your technology. For example, Trello is a company that makes project management software. It ensures everyone is on the same page when it comes to what needs to be done and when. Integrify gives you a way to track your numbers, verify your ROI, and speed up your operations through the power of automation. When you start clearing off full chunks of time you used to devote to busy work, you'll be able to give your time to more important matters.
Start with one of these tips, and then go from there. Also, don't expect instant results. This is the most important thing to remember when you're trying to improve your productivity: it takes time. It's not necessarily going to happen after a month, six months, or even six years. This is a lifetime commitment that involves being flexible (oh and forgiving yourself.)
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