This is a guest post by Sarah Landrum from Punched Clocks
It’s easy to say that in order to be productive, you just have to “do it.” However, as anyone who’s been productive will tell you, a lot of things can get in the way of work.
For example, you could have health issues, a lack of motivation, a toxic workplace or more. Often, powering through these issues isn’t enough to do the trick.
What can help, however, is a set of good work habits. If you think yours could use some improvement, here are ways to tweak your work life so that it’ll contribute to — rather than hinder — your productivity.
1. Schedule Major Projects During Your “Peak Hours”
Are you most energetic in the morning, afternoon or evening? Whichever it is, block off that time of day for your most difficult, important or time-consuming projects. When you work with your internal clock instead of against it, you’ll get more things done in less time because you’ll be maximizing your energy levels at their peak.
2. Work on One Task at a Time
On the surface, multitasking looks productive. In reality, it puts a massive strain on your cognitive resources, making you more susceptible to mistakes, stress and even memory loss. If possible, limit the number of projects you take on in one day, and give each of them the attention they deserve.
3. Write Things Down
Whether you use an app like EverNote or you prefer the reliable pen-and-paper combo, you should write things down. Not only will this make you less likely to forget the little details, it’ll free up “brain space” for the work that matters. Also, jotting things down by hand helps you learn faster, so do it the old-fashioned way once in a while.
4. Spruce Up Your Workspace
If you think your desk is getting in the way of work, you’re probably right. Consider de-cluttering it, adjusting the lighting or blocking out background noise with headphones. Don’t make your desk too neat either: A touch of clutter here and there can work wonders for your creativity.
5. Eat Right Throughout the Day
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but lunch, dinner and even light snacks matter too. Fill your lunch box with foods that keep energy levels stable such as almonds, avocadoes, leafy vegetables, salad and spinach. Your pancreas — which regulates your blood sugar — will thank you for it.
6. Get Away From Your Desk
Your brain will need breaks to recharge. Aim for at least 90 minutes of focused work and 15 minutes of break time. That way, you can get up every now and then without feeling guilty about the work you leave behind.
7. Use the 20-20-20 Rule
If you can’t leave your desk, be sure to avoid eyestrain at the least. To relieve your eyes whenever they feel dry or painful, look away from your computer every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You can also make your desk more ergonomic by adjusting your chair, your keyboard and the distance between your eyes and the screen.
8. Get a Dose of Laughter
When you allow your funny bone to get tickled, you relieve stress, alleviate pain, boost your immune system and enjoy a ton of other health benefits. It’s okay to watch a funny YouTube video, read a satire news article or listen to comedy podcasts, provided you don’t break any company rules.
9. Add “Deskercises” to Your Daily Routine
Just because your company doesn’t have a gym doesn’t mean you can’t exercise in the office. In fact, there are at least 33 ways to get moving without leaving your desk. As long as you’re not wearing anything too uncomfortable, most of those exercises should be doable.
10. Streamline Your Workflow With Apps
If you have any “easy” tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming (e.g. sorting email), let productivity apps do the heavy-lifting. You can pick from the 20 best ones or you can try out any of the dozens that get pushed out into the market every day. No matter which you pick, the important thing is that it works for you.
11. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
There may be tons of articles on how to sleep better, but most of them say the same thing: Sleep at a fixed time every night. Keep as much light and noise out of your room as possible. Avoid reading, listening to music or doing anything else that stimulates your brain an hour or two before bedtime. If the usual sleep hygiene tips don’t do it for you, consult a doctor. Here is a graphical guide to better sleep.
12. Change Your Routine, One Habit at a Time
It’s tempting to make all these changes at once. After all, the more the merrier, right? Actually, it’s better to tweak your habits one at a time. That way, it’s easier to isolate what works for you — and what doesn’t — and you won’t be overwhelmed by all the new things you have to keep up with.
Often, all it takes to be more productive is a tiny change or two in your daily routine. If you have any thoughts about these tips or you want to share one that hasn’t been listed here, let’s talk in the comments!
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and marketer. She writes about happiness, productivity and career advice on her blog, Punched Clocks. Want more great tips from Sarah? Subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media.