Have you ever wound down from a frightfully busy day only to realize that you didn’t really achieve anything? When that happens, set your to-do list aside. Getting things done isn’t so much about staying busy as it is about making your efforts count. Here are six tips to help you achieve more productive days.
1. Make sure you’re well-rested.
The human brain does some of its most astonishing work while we’re snoozing away. Sleep-deprived people have trouble paying attention, learning new things, forming memories, and prioritizing their thoughts. Where productivity is concerned, the value of quality sleep can’t be overstated.
2. Make the most of your mornings.
There is mounting evidence that the brain is better equipped to cope with difficult or stressful tasks in the morning. In one study, workers performed far better on stress tests two hours after waking than they did 10 hours into the day. That’s because cortisone levels are at their highest in the morning.
Cortisone keeps blood pressure and blood sugar levels in check. It keeps you clearheaded when you have to make quick decisions or solve thorny issues. You might not be at your best socially in the morning but put the hard stuff first on your to-do list.
Email and social media are necessary evils nowadays, but keep them in their place. Designate two or three blocks of time per day — say, 30 minutes each — for deleting or responding to messages. Stick to the schedule, and never close your inbox until you’ve taken some kind of action on each item.
4. Take frequent breaks.
Breaks are essential to productivity as well as to physical and emotional health. A brief pause for stretching, walking, meditating, or catching up with a friend provides a much-needed refresher. Hitting the reset button throughout the day also gives your brain a chance to organize random thoughts and ideas. Sparks of creativity and “aha” moments often follow a well-deserved break.
5. Eat light to feel right.
By now, we all know that eating healthy is crucial to just about every aspect of our existence. However, it’s tough to resist a bacon cheeseburger or fried chicken sandwich when you’re starving and don’t have a better plan in place.
The body converts everything we eat to glucose. Glucose keeps our brains alert and boosts energy. Greasy fried foods, carbs, and sodas release glucose at lightning speed. You’ll enjoy the initial rush, but you’ll be slumped over and needing a nap in no time.
Instead, snack on fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Salmon, boiled eggs, salads, lentils, and avocadoes are smart options for lunch. Even coffee and dark chocolate boost energy and brainpower.
6. Outsource whatever you don’t absolutely have to do yourself.
Finally, make a list of things that only you can do. Then, look into delegating or outsourcing everything else. Your time is best spent on clients, new products, and plans to grow your business. Outsource day-to-day tasks such as marketing, IT, and bookkeeping to people who are better at them than you are.
Whatever you do, remember that less is more. Pare down your to-do list to fewer tasks that matter more.