Time…it is one of those things we always feel we don’t have enough of and we always wish we had more of, given the busyness of our lives. Yet we are all equal in that sense – everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Why is it though, that some people seem to achieve so much more in the same 24 hours? It comes down to productivity and efficiency. So, to help you make the most of your time, here are a number of tips to ensure you squeeze as much productivity out of your 24 hours.
There are so many reasons why mornings are the best time to exercise (and that comes from someone who isn’t a morning person). The most important reason is that first thing in the morning is your best chance of actually doing it without interruptions and other things getting in the way. No interruptions means it happens. And when it happens you establish a regular habit of exercise. Now add to this the fact that an early workout jump starts your metabolism, boosts your energy, generally leads to you eating a healthier breakfast (the most important meal of the day) and improves your productivity.
Exercise stimulates your brain leading to improvements in energy, clarity, focus and memory. This leads to better decision-making and greater productivity throughout the day. So start the day off with exercise and you’ll feel better, look better, think better and get more done – it’s a win-win-win-win!
Quick tip – Set your alarm NOW and put it out of reach so you have to get out of bed to get to it.
You’ve done your early workout, now it’s time to compound the positive productivity vibe and turn that hot shower to cold! The idea of cold showering has been around since the Romans would move through their warm bath houses before plunging into icy cold water. Cold showers are most commonly associated with athletes where the cold therapy reduces muscle inflammation and aids recovery. But, there is more to it than just pleasure and recovery. A large study found that there was a 54% reduction in sickness absence from work for those who combined exercise with cold showering. They also reported a perceived improvement in energy levels (similar to that of a caffeine hit). Feeling healthy and energized = getting more done!
Quick tip – Have a brief warm shower, then turn the hot water tap off for a thrilling (or not so thrilling J) wake up call.
Studies have linked nutritious, healthy breakfasts containing protein and whole grains to a range of health benefits from improved concentration to a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes. But here’s the dilemma – you are busy and don’t have time, right? Hmmmm, let’s get real. Do you really think that those few extra minutes you gain by skipping breakfast makes a difference to the rest of your day? Well, it does but more so in a negative way. The time you think you saved is squandered by lack of focus and productivity and increased (usually unhealthy) snacking.
Quick tip – Portion and prepare all of your working week breakfasts on Sunday evening. You can gather all ingredients for a smoothie-on-the-go style breakfast or these funky ‘breakfast in a jar’ preps just need a dollop of low fat yoghurt or milk and you’re ready to munch away in less than a minute!
This doesn’t mean check emails! Try listening to an audiobook or podcast. Do some study or catch up on some reading that isn’t too intense. If you can’t live without social media, then use this limited interval as your time for that (to avoid being distracted by social media during your workday). Better still though, disconnect and use this time for some meditation or calming mindfulness before you hit the daily grind, leaving you focused and energised.
Quick tip – Schedule this time in your diary (or on your To-Do list) for something useful.
You want me to do what? It’s counter-intuitive in some ways, but when you open your email first thing in the morning, it tends to rule your day instead of you being in control. So instead of you working on the most important things you need to do whilst your mind is freshest and your body most energetic, you are derailed by all the things your inbox indicates you must do.
How often have you started doing one task only to find yourself distracted with something unrelated or another task? By the end of the day you have started 15 things, completed none and not sure where you’re actually up to with most of them. Studies suggest that it takes an average of 23 minutes to ‘get back into’ a task after you have been distracted. What a waste of time! Try to work on one thing until you’ve finished it.
Quick tip – Block out 30 minutes of distraction free time before you check your emails in order to complete as much of 1 task as you possibly can. (You can put an auto-respond on emails or voicemail to say you will address them or reply at specific times. You have less distractions on your task at hand and people appreciate knowing when they will receive a response).
Don’t mistake being busy with being productive! Take meetings for example. People forget that in most cases, meetings aren’t work and that the ‘actual’ work tends to happen outside of meetings. A day of minimal meetings will see your productivity shoot up! Furthermore, when not in meetings and getting through work, try any of these specific techniques for being as productive as possible. From the ‘Pomodoro’ technique, to the ‘Eat that Frog’ technique, to Parkinson’s Law of Perceived Importance and forced deadlines, to Pareto’s Law and more.
Quick tip – Have less meetings and use some of the above techniques to work efficiently. If you are on a roll, keep going. If you are starting to day-dream or think endlessly about a coffee hit, then get up and go for a brief walk. Getting the blood flowing is a good way to rejuvenate the creative juices and will help you refocus.
Be brutal with yourself and set a cut-off time for when you free yourself from the virtual ‘connectedness’ of work. How can this possibly make you more productive? When you set yourself a deadline, you tend to work to it as opposed to being infinitely available. You will get more done by knowing you no can longer ‘just quickly check…’ whatever it is you think will only take a few minutes. You know in reality it often takes a lot longer, leaving you distracted (and probably annoyed) and unable to work efficiently.
Quick tip – Let your colleagues know that you’re putting this into practice and offer the same courtesy to them, ie. you won’t be sending through late night requests for work.
This should not take more than 15 minutes. In fact, that is an over estimate of time! Keep a note pad or notes on your phone handy throughout the day and jot down things on a ‘to-do’ list. This time should be spent collating what you need AND want to get through the following day. Take time to prioritise your list, so that when you wake in the morning you know exactly what you need to do first. Here’s AirBNB founder Brian Chesky’s method for doing this.
Quick tip – Make sure you include a morning workout on that list! If it’s not possible in the morning then check where else in your day you can make it work. No excuses. Just get it done.
Yes, it sounds weird but forcing yourself to relax will ensure both your body and your brain are ready for rest and rejuvenation which is key to remaining productive. Relaxation can come in any form you please. Try reading, watching tv, a brief evening walk, listen to music or playing with your pet. Having specified ‘down time’ has become a necessity in this constantly plugged-in/ switched-on world. Disconnect with virtual reality and reconnect with being a human.
Quick tip – Recruit a relaxation ‘accountability buddy’. This way you can occasionally check in (or prompt) each other to make sure you are relaxing!
Believe it or not sleep is a time of high productivity. It is when you physically recover and rebuild muscle and when you reset from mental fatigue. The power of sleep in ensuring your efficient physical and mental functioning is often underestimated. And it’s the first thing to suffer in times of stress. Sleep experts at Tuck.com suggest that both lack of sleep and stress have direct links to reduced productivity, occupational injuries and absenteeism. These can be reversed and improved with adequate, quality sleep.
Quick tip – Follow a bedtime routine – the same steps, at the same time each evening. See Top Tips For Getting Sleep Fit for more great ideas on improving sleep quality.