7 Ways to Have the Most Efficient Day Ever

Do you feel like constant interruptions and distractions are keeping you from having clear focus at work? If so, you’re not alone! In fact, there’s an entire field of work dedicated to the idea of figuring out how, when, and why humans are most productive. As much as we wish we could have more hours in our days, when it all boils down, we all have just 24 short hours to work with. With that in mind, it’s essential that we use our time wisely and figure out how to best use those hours to maximize our efficiency. If you’re balancing a busy schedule and want to get more done in less time, here are 7 researched-backed ways to have a more efficient day (and no, it doesn’t involve drinking copious amounts of caffeine):

Use time blocking to organize your day.

Instead of bouncing back and forth between half-finished tasks, take the time to schedule your day out in advance and in one-hour chunks. Using advanced time blocking enables you to (1) set your schedule according to the goals and tasks that you need to complete for the coming day and (2) keeps you from having to ask yourself the question, ‘What should I do next?’ Expert time blockers will even schedule in time to check and respond to emails every 2 or so hours, which will keep you from losing focus every time you inbox is pinged. ;-)

Make sure to schedule anything that you’re prioritizing for the day.

This includes leisure time, workout time, lunch time, reading time, and anything else that you need to make sure happens during your day. If you want it to get done, don’t leave it off of your schedule!

Nix the notifications.

There’s nothing worse than being deeply engrossed in your work (finally), only to get pulled out of your productivity sweet spot by an intrusive notification. Whether it be an email, an iMessage, a Tweet, or an upcoming event, you need to shut ‘em all down if you really want to get your work done without interruption. On that note, if you think you might be a little too addicted to social media, there are Chrome extensions (such as Nanny) that will allow you to block time-wasting websites during specific periods of time so that you can work uninterrupted.

Be realistic about your goals for the day.

The worst thing you can do for yourself is set yourself up for failure before the day has even begun. Any goals that you have for the day, though they should be specific, should also be realistic. If you’ve set aside an hour to plan the upcoming month’s editorial calendar for your blog, it’s particularly unrealistic to push yourself to have every single blog post completely planned out by the end of the hour. Instead, it’d be better to aim to have your topics, authors, and publishing dates selected before the hour is up. This way, not only did you actually achieve the task at hand, but you don’t feel stressed out by the fact that you “failed” to complete your lofty goal before the self-imposed deadline.

Schedule deep work at your most efficient time of the day.

If you know when you tend to be most productive during the day, the best thing you can do for yourself is schedule your most important work during that time. For example, I’m a definite morning powerhouse, which means that I love to come into the office and start working on blog posts right away, giving me plenty of time to capitalize on my ease of focus from 8–11AM. Conversely, I tend to be the least focused and sluggish around 3–4PM, which means that’s the perfect time for me to step out for the gym (time permitting) or a trip to the closest coffee shop.

Don’t forget to take plenty of breaks!

According to a study done at Cornell, people who work in no more than 52-minute spurts, followed by a 17-minute break, are far more productive than those who try to work for both less and more than 52 minutes at a time:

“Telling people to focus for 52 consecutive minutes and then to immediately abandon their desks for exactly 1,020 seconds might strike you as goofy advice. But this isn’t the first observational study to show that short breaks correlate with higher productivity. In 1999, Cornell University’s Ergonomics Research Laboratory used a computer program to remind workers to take short breaks. The project concluded that “workers receiving the alerts [reminding them to stop working] were 13 percent more accurate on average in their work than coworkers who were not reminded.”

Although we might not all be able to follow the exact timing listed in this study, the underlying findings are important: spend 30–60 minutes in head-down, intense work, but always take a break before you dive back in. Whether you do 30 minutes on and 2 minutes off, 90 minutes on and 10 minutes off, or a schedule of your own concoction, building in breaks is a great way to have a more productive work day.

It’s not enough to just take a “break.”

If you find yourself taking a “break” from work (AKA a break that doesn’t actually involve giving your mind a chance to reset), it might be time to get serious about how you spend your downtime. Instead of browsing Facebook for 5 minutes or checking your email, commit to actually getting up and walking around. You might even considering going to the bathroom, grabbing some water, or chatting with a coworker — all of which are activities that, if done during a break time, won’t disrupt you while you’re hard at work. If you need a reminder to stand up every once in a while, invest in an App or device that will send you perfectly-timed “time to move” notifications. If you have a Fitbit, Jawbone Up or Apple Watch, you can easily set your device to vibrate every 20–30 minutes for a standing break. Otherwise, there are plenty of computer Apps, programs, and Chrome extensions available that work the exact same way. A few favorites are: StandApp and Stand Up!

Now that you’ve read through our favorite tips and tricks, do you have any of your own tips for having a super productive work day?

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Marissa Vessels is the Marketing Operations Coordinator for MerusCase, a cloud-based legal practice management system. Check out her blog to read more law firm tips, tricks, and strategy you can actually use: news.meruscase.com

Originally published at news.meruscase.com on August 14, 2015.

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