I’m a big fan of lists, especially when they’re not just lofty advice. I want to be able to put things into practice tomorrow, so I’ve been taking a few notes throughout my day of things that have really helped me focus.
The following productivity and focus tips will help you create an ideal creative space, both physically and mentally. Some are focused on the craft of writing, but can be applied to any practice.
My Personal Favorite Productivity Tips:
Getting Ready for Work
- Once you wake up, squeeze some fresh lemon into a glass of cold water and drink. It’s a great way to hydrate and wake your body up, and has multiple health benefits to boost. Really tired? Splash some extra cold water on your face.
- Another quick morning pickup? Do your age in pushups. Start on your knees if you want, split up the amount, or just do squats. You can do them while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew (or skip that coffee—trust me and keep reading).
- Don’t skip on breakfast. You’re literally “breaking the fast” from the night before. Here’s a few healthy ideas to get you started.
- Use Google Maps to check your commute and get automatic updates. They recently added Waze into their app, a community-based traffic indicator that works by just having the app open and tracking user commute times.
- Added bonus? Use Google Now cards and the all-knowing Google will tell you if traffic is really bad that morning and suggest alternate routes. Your phone will also alert you if you’re heading towards any traffic accidents so you can take a different route. I, for one, welcome our tech overlords.
- When you get to work, park as far away as possible. For all the sitting you’re about to do, you can use all the walking you can squeeze in.
- Speaking of walking, use the app Moves to track your daily activity (mostly walking, let’s be honest). Your exercise goal? 10,000 steps per day. Park further away, trust me.
Throughout the Day
- Once you settle in, write out the top 5 things you want to accomplish today. You remember more when you write things down.
- Really feeling the caffeine? Write down the first 2 steps to accomplish each task, whether it’s sending a quick email or gathering assets—just make them actionable.
- Assess your day. Are there any meetings that can be replaced with a quick phone call, solution-oriented email or walk over to their desk (remember your activity tracking)?
- For every task, use the 2 minute rule: If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now. If not, write it down/flag it, OR defer it to others when appropriate.
- Now, get that cup of coffee. In the morning (8-9 am), our bodies naturally produce cortisol, or naturally caffeniate. The best time to have coffee is actually between 9:30 am-11:00 am. But, don’t ask if I follow this rule.
- Based on your day, see if you can set 90 minutes dedicated to a specific project. Anything more isn’t productive. Ideally, it would be less with more walking breaks outside.
- In fact, talking walks outside actually boosts your ability to generate creative ideas, not to mention that you’re not sitting (the new “smoking” of health risks) and staring at a screen.
- If you’re using Outlook at work, take advantage of the “Work Offline” option. You can access your mail items, but you won’t be interrupted with new mail notifications. Trust me, you can go for an hour or two without email. If it’s really critical, they’ll find a way to get a hold of you.
- Similarly, the newer version of Word (and other programs like OmmWriter) have a “Focus” function, where it blocks all other windows and makes your writing full-screen. No distractions, just focus. I love it.
- Music. Some love it while working, some don’t. It definitely helps to have a pair of good headphones if you work in an open office environment. I have Spotify Premium and have created some lyric-less music mixes, since I can’t write copy while hearing lyrics. They also offer “Genres and Moods” playlists, which have all kinds of wordless music. I also recommend classical, which can “significantly help to focus the mind.”
- Nature lover? This site lets you create ambient soundscapes with natural sounds like babbling brooks, light rain, or coffee shop conversation. You can mix the sound levels of each layer to create your perfect mix.
- Check your written “To Do” list—did you get something done that you didn’t have on the list? Write it down, then check it off. It’s those mini-accomplishments that help to keep you motivated.
- Learn to love Siri. It’s super easy to add a calendar appointment or reminder (the only time I use Siri).
- Keep your desk area clean and minimal. When it’s organized, you’ll feel organized and motivated to work. And yes, that applies to your inbox and computer desktop.
- Add a plant or two to your desk. They reduce toxins in the air, create a calming atmosphere, reduce stress and increase productivity.
- If you need a quick break without leaving your desk, venture over to calm.com. Enough said.
- DO leave your desk for lunch, even if it’s just in the break room with a magazine. Fresh air is even better. Our creativity and flow thrives on new experiences, even if they’re small.
- When browsing the internet, use Pocket to bookmark articles you can’t finish before your next meeting. It syncs across all devices, so starting where you left off is a breeze.
- “Oh shoot, I gotta call Jeff.” “Man, I really need a haircut.” “I should follow up with the plumber about that quote.” Get those nagging thoughts out of your head and it’ll allow you to focus much better. I love Evernote for this very reason, among many others. Easily one of my favorite productivity/organization apps.
Creating habits, even if they’re easy like the tips above, takes repetition and motivation. To motivate myself with my goals, specifically my New Year’s Resolutions, I took a screenshot of them and used it as my phone’s wallpaper. Whenever I open my phone, they’re staring back at me, reminding me to accomplish them.
I’ve also heard good things about Lift, an app that helps you reach goals you set, big or small, with small reminders and motivation. I just started using it so we’ll see how that goes.
I hope you enjoyed these tips. Some productivity tips on different blogs were just too lofty for me, so I wanted to create something tangible, easy, and relatable.
I’d greatly appreciate a recommendation if you enjoyed any (or all) of these tips!