1. Eat breakfast every single day. Eating the right foods each morning can lead to improved concentration, better endurance, and even easier weight control.
2. Be extremely specific about your goals for the month. Simply aiming to get more sleep or be better about email is too vague to ever warrant any action. But with goals that can be clearly measured, such as go to bed and turn off all screens off by 10:30 every work night, or spend the first hour of work every day cleaning out my inbox, you’ll be much more driven to achieve the quantifiable results.
3. If a task takes a minute or less, do it right now instead of adding it to an already-long to-do list.
4. Take a walk outside (or, if it’s cold: around the office) when you’re feeling sleepy.
5. Set timers on your phone during which you minimize all distractions (social media, email, etc) and aim to get as much done as possible in ten, twenty, or thirty minute increments. This activity often ignites the competitive side of you and helps you to zero in on specific to-do items. It can work particularly well for creative endeavors. Plus, the short time periods seem less daunting.
6. You can also provide yourself with little rewards after each productivity burst – such as another cup of coffee, five or ten guilt-free minutes on social media, a stroll over to your favorite co-worker’s desk for a quick chat, etc.
7. Put your clothes away and your dishes in the dishwasher immediately instead of letting an hour’s worth of work pile up for later in the week.
8. When you really need a nap, time it for thirty minutes or less to prevent your body from falling into a REM cycle. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and energized instead of tired and groggy.
9. Make individual goals for the following day before you go to bed at night, or do it in the morning before you truly start your day. Even if the tasks are as simple as “schedule a physical,” you’ll get a boost of energy and motivation from being able to cross off multiple little things that have been on your mind for a while.
10. If your budget allows for it, try working at a standing desk. It forces your body to remain upright and alert, and it will keep you from feeling lethargic, particularly during the dreaded three o’clock slump. There are some fairly affordable standing desks you can order off Amazon.
11. Find playlists, or curate your own, that are aimed at boosting focus. Personally, I need music with no words in order to truly concentrate. But to each his own.
12. Or, if that doesn’t work for you, try listening to music for ten or fifteen minutes before you start working. Apparently the release of dopamine and serotonin in your brain will elevate your mood and make it easier to focus.
13. Keep your workspace clean and organized. The more peaceful and at ease you feel in your work area, the less distracted and anxious you’ll feel.
14. Keep an ongoing file of some sort on your phone, tablet, or desktop that will allow you to keep track of your stream of consciousness and remember things you’ve thought about throughout the day that you don’t want to slip away. The file can contain various article links, books you want to order, gift ideas for friends or family, songs to download, project ideas, names that you like, ideas for your future novel, etc. I use Evernote (you can sync it on your phone and laptop) but I know people who use an going Word document, the “Notes” application on their iPhone, a mini notepad, index cards. Whatever makes you feel like you can write your thoughts down and know they’ll be secure until they’re needed later on.
15. Find a calendar app (or a physical planner) that lets you keep track of each week, so you’re not wasting any brain energy trying to juggle all your appointment reminders in your head.
16. Don’t hit ‘snooze.’ It’s only going to make you feel worse. I’m still not all the way there – I still hit it once or twice a morning. But I swear to Oprah, before I started working on increasing my productivity, I would hit that damn button four or five times before I got up and it would ruin my whole morning. I’ve had a much easier time feeling awake after only hitting it once or twice, and my goal is to get to zero. Baby steps, eh.