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It’s not always easy to stay motivated, regardless of whether you’re working from home or in an office setting.
I’ve been working from home full-time because of the pandemic. When I transitioned from an office to a remote work environment, I had to become more disciplined and intentional with my time.
Productivity looks different for everyone. There’s no “one size fits all” formula for a productive lifestyle. You can figure out which strategies work best for you through research and trial-and-error.
I enjoy testing new productivity hacks to improve my workflow. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Get enough sleep
If I don’t get at least eight hours of sleep, I have a hard time focusing the next day. Getting adequate rest is crucial for overall health, but it also impacts productivity.
Sure, caffeine might improve focus and performance temporarily, but it’s no substitute for quality rest. If you aren’t getting the sleep you need, go to bed an hour or two earlier so you feel well rested in the morning.
2. Prioritize your health
In addition to getting quality sleep, you can improve your productivity by forming healthy habits, like eating well and exercising regularly.
Since I entered the workforce, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that I can’t cheat my body. I didn’t seriously prioritize health and wellness until after I graduated from college, but I saw an increase in performance when I adopted healthy habits.
Nutrition and regular exercise are part of my lifestyle now. I make smoothies and freeze them so they last longer. I always try to make sure I have nutritious snacks on hand so I’m not as likely to open a bag of chips or candy.
I like to start my day with a workout. The early morning is the only uninterrupted time I have in my day, so I dedicate an hour to exercise after I wake up.
When I maintain my health, I have more natural energy throughout the day. As a result, my overall work performance improves.
3. Don’t overdo the caffeine
A little bit of caffeine goes a long way.
A couple of years ago, I used to consume way too much caffeine. I drank energy drinks often, and I eventually became dependent on them.
Most energy drinks have between 200 and 300 mg of caffeine in them, which is too much to consume in one sitting, in my opinion. A typical cup of coffee has 100 mg in it.
Now, I try to limit my caffeine intake to 200 mg for the whole day. That’s equivalent to one cup of coffee in the morning, and then a half a cup of coffee two more times throughout the day. For me, that’s enough to keep me awake and focused all day long.
Of course, everyone’s body is different. You should do what works best for you. But from my experience, too much caffeine sabotages my ability to be productive.
4. Clarify your purpose.
Motivation and productivity go hand in hand. If you don’t feel motivated to do something, you’ll find it harder to be productive.
For example, if you have a boring or unfulfilling job, you’ll naturally lack the motivation to do it. Ideally, your work should align with your goals and life purpose.
It might not be possible to quit your job immediately. However, if you don’t like your current job, you should consider changing your career to something that is more fulfilling for you.
If you want to maximize your productivity and potential in life, it’s important to pursue a career that aligns with your purpose. When you love what you do, it won’t feel like work to you at all. Keep that in mind.
5. Plan your day out the night before
You’re more likely to remember things if you write them down. When I started planning my to-do lists in advance, my life changed.
Before I go to bed every night, I write my to-do list for the next day. I organize it by priority levels. I write the most important items at the top of the list, and I put the least important items at the bottom. That way, I can complete the most time-sensitive or difficult tasks first.
By having my daily to-do list ready when I wake up, I can get straight to work. I won’t worry about forgetting something important.
6. Create consistent morning and night routines
Routines are powerful. They help you maintain balance in your life, which improves productivity.
Without my morning and night routines, I would have a much harder time taking care of myself and meeting my basic needs.
Before I implemented a morning routine, I could not keep a consistent workout schedule. Now, I take an hour every morning to exercise. Because that hour is dedicated to my workout, I always have time to do it.
Work-related tasks can also be part of your morning or evening routines. For example, I spend 30 minutes checking my emails every morning. That’s the first thing I do after I open my laptop.
Because I have several different email addresses to check, my “email time” is a crucial part of my morning routine. By dedicating a specific time of day to answering emails, I ensure that I don’t miss anything important.
Learn how to establish a routine and stick to it!
7. Be proactive, Don’t procrastinate
Procrastination is the enemy of productivity.
When I was in college, I used to procrastinate all the time. But as soon as I started working, I realized that lazy habits wouldn’t cut it.
I work for a marketing agency, and my job is very fast-paced. Because we’re dealing with many different clients at once, it’s important to be proactive and take care of problems before they arise.
We must be proactive and organized. Otherwise, we risk falling behind and missing a deadline. Nobody wants to get angry calls from clients!
I stopped procrastinating by improving my overall project management skills. I learned to divide large projects into manageable chunks. I take frequent short breaks throughout the day.
If you’re dreading working on a large project, it might be tempting to procrastinate. However, I can guarantee that it’s not worth the stress. Just break the project down into smaller tasks and get started. You’ll thank yourself later.
8. Make lists for everything
A disorganized workflow makes productivity more challenging.
I’m an “ideas person.” I have a million ideas running through my head every day. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, and many of them are outright crazy.
If I didn’t write my thoughts down, my brain would be a cluttered mess. That’s why I love lists so much.
I make lists for everything. Grocery lists, to-do lists, list-like outlines for blog posts, and more. I love being able to organize my thoughts visually in a list format.
I also have a list of random ideas I think of throughout the day. I usually come up with my best ideas at the most inconvenient times. (Like at 3 AM, or when I’m working on an important task for my job.)
Whenever I think of a new idea for a project, I write it down immediately so I don’t forget it. That way, I don’t have to stop what I’m doing, and I can return to the idea later.
9. Set realistic goals for each day
I’m guilty of being a workaholic. Sometimes, I create to-do lists that are insanely long and impossible to complete.
It’s important to set realistic goals for each day, and that’s something I need to work on myself. Try to focus on one big task in a day, and then add several smaller tasks to the list.
Don’t overload yourself with too many big tasks. If you get overwhelmed, it will be more difficult to be productive.
10. Don’t allow perfectionism to stifle your productivity
I’m a recovering perfectionist. I still struggle with perfectionism to an extent, but I’ve gotten better about it in recent months.
If you’re an overachiever, I understand why you might want everything to be perfect. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do your job well.
However, it’s important to realize that you can only do your best. Your best effort is enough.
If you’re overly critical of yourself, I encourage you to work on converting negative self-talk into positive self-talk. Here’s how you can silence your “inner critic.”
No one is perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and move forward. As long as you continuously assess your progress and strive to improve, you can’t go wrong!
11. Time block your whole day, including free time
Time blocking is a productivity strategy that helps me use my time intentionally.
To time block your day, divide it into 30-minute or 60-minute intervals. Dedicate each interval to a specific task.
In addition to your work related tasks, you should also time block your lunch breaks, self-care breaks, etc. With a balanced time blocking strategy, you’ll boost your productivity and also find more time for yourself.
Time blocking works because it creates structure in your day. Instead of spending time mindlessly, you’ll use every minute with intention.
I use Trello for time blocking, but you can time block your day on paper if you prefer. I like Trello because I can move things around in a few clicks if I need to. Sometimes, I have to attend last-minute Zoom meetings for my job, so the paper method wouldn’t be as convenient for me.
12. Schedule the most difficult tasks for when you have the most energy
Like I mentioned earlier, I schedule my most important tasks in the morning. I do that because I have the most energy right after I wake up.
However, you should plan your day based on energy levels. So, if you have the most energy in the afternoon, you should schedule the most difficult tasks for that time of day.
13. Batch your work
Batching means grouping similar tasks together. It’s a common productivity hack, and I think it really works!
If you work on similar tasks at the same time, your brain won’t have to switch back and forth between two totally different workflows. For example, if you’re planning social media content, it would be more efficient to plan the whole month at once instead of taking 15 minutes every day to create the individual posts.
If you haven’t tried batching yet, I encourage you to! It’s a great way to free up more time in your week.
14. Make an “accomplishments” list for each day
Every accomplishment is worth celebrating, no matter how big or small it is. Next to your to-do list, why not create an accomplishments list?
An accomplishments list will help you visualize your productivity, and it will motivate you to keep going, even when you’re tired. It will help you celebrate your little wins throughout the day.
15. Keep your workspace organized
Few things stress me out more than a disorganized desk.
Try to keep your workspace free of clutter. Keep essential items, like pens and paper clips, within reach. It’s best to keep nonessential items, like snacks, somewhere else so you can focus on your work.
16. Organize and declutter the files on your computer
If you have to use the search bar to find every file you’re looking for, you need a better organization system for your computer!
Take some time to delete files you don’t need. This will declutter your desktop and free up disk space. (When you run out of disk space, you won’t be able to open the applications you need to use!)
Before you start organizing your files, create a hierarchical system that makes sense. For example:
- Work Files
- Work Files
I sorted the above example by date, but you can do it however you want. You’ll want to create folders within folders to keep everything organized.
Give every file an appropriate name, and put them into appropriately named folders that will be easy for you to remember.
17. Reduce your daily screen time on your phone
My daily screen time used to be ridiculous. (I mean 9 to 12 hours per day!)
You might not even realize the amount of time you spend on your phone every day. But mindless scrolling can be a huge time suck, and it can stifle your productivity.
While you work, try putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. By default, it will mute calls, text messages, and social media notifications. However, you can set it up to allow calls and messages from certain contacts, just in case you need to take an important call.
18. Discover the tools that work best for you
Here are some of my favorite project management tools:
- Trello—Free, but has a premium version. This is one of my favorite project management apps because it’s so versatile. You can organize your projects into boards, lists, and cards. You can also create checklists within the cards. Because Trello has so many features, it takes some time to get used to. However, it’s a powerful tool, and I recommend it for anyone who wants to get seriously organized.
- TeamGantt—Free, but has a premium version. This tool is a Gantt chart creator that’s perfect for people who like to visualize progress on projects. In simple terms, a Gantt chart is a bar chart that creates an illustration of a project schedule. Gantt charts are especially helpful if you’re working on a project that has a lot of moving parts.
- Google Sheets—Free! Although spreadsheets are simple, they can be used for many different projects. I use them to organize lists, data, and passwords.
Everyone is different, but the above tools are the ones I like the most. Try them out and see what you think!
19. If you feel overwhelmed, consider outsourcing some of your tasks
Unless you’re Superwoman or Superman, you can’t do everything yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing some of your tasks. For example, you could hire a housekeeper to clean your home one per week. Or, if you feel overwhelmed by your inbox, you could hire a virtual assistant to respond to your emails.
The key is to figure out which tasks would be appropriate for you to outsource, and then find the right person to manage those tasks for you.
20. Remember that “time is money”
In my opinion, time is one of the most valuable things in the world because you can’t buy it. It’s priceless. You can’t get it back once you’ve used it. The only thing you can do is utilize time wisely.
When I learned the value of time, I realized how crucial it is to use my time intentionally. That’s why I became interested in productivity and time management hacks in the first place. I want to make the most of my life!
Being “intentional” with time doesn’t necessarily mean being productive 24/7. Using time intentionally could also mean hanging out with your family, practicing self-care, or reading a book.
As long as you spend time doing things that will improve your quality of life, you’re on the right track. “Time is money,” so use it judiciously!
What are some of your favorite productivity hacks? Comment below to share your tips!
Samantha Warren is a self-improvement blogger from Florida. She writes about how to be productive, maintain a positive mindset, and make the best of every situation. With her content, she aims to help you achieve personal growth so you can be the star of your own show!