42 Productivity Habits to 10x Your Workflow
Turn Productivity Tips into Habits Today
We indulge our obsessions with productivity thinking it is about getting more done. However, as James Clear says in his post The Productivity Guide: Time Management Strategies That Work:
“Let’s define productivity. Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of a person completing a task. We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.”
Productivity is about getting to the things which are truly important. This has been my journey over the last two years. And the more I learn, the more I realize how important productivity is for everyone.
Two years ago, I was absolutely terrible with productivity habits at work.
In that time, something had to change. This, of course, put me in a journey of research, self-discovery, and ultimately a life-changing obsession with productivity.
And today, I share everything I have learned about productivity with anyone who will listen.
Recently, I was asked how many productivity tips, tricks, hacks, and tools do I know. And as I began to think through all of the things I have learned, this list was born. Thanks to a conversation with coworkers, I realized there was a lot to share.
42 Productivity Tips to Help You with Your Work
This is my exhaustive list from my own research, experience, and conversations with others. There are bound to be more tips and tricks, and I hope you will share them after this list.
#1: The 80/20 Rule, A.K.A. The Pareto Principle
This principle has changed the way I do everything. The key: 20% of your effort produces 80% of your output. Learning what your 20% is will help you increase your productivity immediately.
#2: The Pomodoro Technique
I have learned to get more done and take more breaks to keep my mind fresh for long days at the office. What I learned here is basic: the more we work, the more tired our brain gets. If we break up the work into smaller chunks, we can take small breaks to refresh our brains.
#3: The “Two Minute Rule”
This rule has helped me get menial tasks out of the way when they come up. The idea behind David Allen’s rule from his book: Getting Things Done is this: If you can do it in two minutes, complete the tasks. Otherwise, you need to schedule, delegate, or delete the task.
#4: The Eisenhower Matrix
This is useful when trying to understand what work to do, especially when you have a ton of it sitting in front of you. The matrix is set up in four parts like a box: Urgent and Important, Important but not Urgent, Urgent but not Important, and Neither Important or Urgent. These order the work you do and if a task is neither important or urgent, you don’t do it.
#5: Ultradian Rhythms
The idea behind Ultradian Rhythms is based on how our bodies have natural cycles of energy which last anywhere from 90–120 minutes. If we can keep ourselves working within these rhythms we tire less easily and can get more done.
#6: The Big Rocks System
Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says the best way to fill our time is to put the “big rocks” or most important work in our schedule first and then fill the rest with “sand and rebels” or least important work.
#7: Create Goals
If you have goals, SMARTER goals to be more specific, you can be sure to up your gain with the work you do. When we have goals in place for our work, we can focus on achieving them and become more productive along the way.
#8: Get Enough Sleep
This may seem to be counterproductive when it comes to getting things done. However, our bodies NEED seven to nine hours of sleep. When we get enough sleep, we have higher energy levels and can focus for longer periods of time.
#9: Take a Nap
Michael Hyatt has talked a lot about the power of the nap. A quick power nap right after lunch gives you fresh energy for the afternoon. He suggests taking a 30–60-minute nap where you actually lay down with a pillow and blanket and get good sleep. Not all of us can do it, though when I have, it has worked really well.
#10: Drink Plenty of Water
Our bodies are made up mostly of water. The more water we drink the better we tend to feel all around. Water is more helpful for energy over time than coffee, soda or energy drinks. But most people choose the short term gains of riding the caffeine train.
Starting or ending your day with journaling will help you keep everything in perspective. If you are super stressed out by work, it will help you to stop and think about what is good in life. Be thankful, write out what is the most stressful, get these thoughts out of your head.
When the heck am I going to exercise with so much work to do? Try walking for 5, 10, 30 minutes a day. Do it during your lunch break. The physical activity helps stimulate our ability to think creatively and will help you physically feel better. This allows you to do more at work.
#13: Eat Better
When we are stressed with work and have a lot to do, the first thing we will do is order out food. Instead, we should be eating lighter, more vitamin-rich food during the day. Fast food is heavier and will make you tired after a while which will slow you down. So, take advantage of salad mixes and roast chicken from the grocery store.
When we become stressed or are struggling with a problem, we tend to hold our breath. If you learn to breathe through situations, it will help you get plenty of oxygen in your blood to keep you calm and focused. When you are stressed, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. It will help.
#15: Plan Your Day the Night Before
If you want to start your day right, start it the night before. Prepare morning routine, and your startup routine at work the night before so you don’t have to stop and think about it when you get into work. This will make your transitions much easier, especially starting your day.
#16: Create a Morning Routine
What types of things are helpful to start your day off on the right foot? These are the things you should plan out the night before. Start your day off with reading your bible or journaling. Get some exercise and eat a good breakfast. Or like me, make coffee, write, and make my kids breakfast, rush getting ready for work, and leave.
#17: Implement a Startup Routine for Work
I have a series of tasks I complete every morning in an effort to get rid of tedious tasks and to give myself a little momentum to start the day. My typical startup has a lot to do with incoming requests: mail, email, voicemail, and actionable items left for me.
#18: Automate As Much As Possible
If you have a job where you have a lot of the same requests or interactions with people, whether digitally or via hardcopy, you need to do this right away. Keep a digital file or ‘canned’ communication. These ‘canned’ communications will come in handy and cut time in half with it comes time to send that email or letter.
#19: Give Up on the Notion of Multitasking
Trust me, you are not doing two tasks at the same time. What you are really doing is jumping back and forth between tasks and tiring yourself out. It is like circuit training for your brain. Sure it feels productive, but you cannot keep this up for 8 to 10 hours.
#20: Keep a Minimal Task List
You don’t need to write down every task you need to do for a day. You do need to keep on a sticky note 3–5 tasks which will focus you to get the most important things done. This helps you focus on the most important work.
#21: Use Your Calendar
If you are having a hard time making sure you are getting tasks done, maybe you need to schedule it. Or if it is a project which will take your full attention, drop it into your calendar. Use this tool, which we abuse with ‘appointments and meetings’.
#22: Use Your Phone
When someone emails me and I get back to them right away and then get a response back. Instead of going back and forth 10 times, just pick up your phone and get your conversation done in a few minutes instead of 30 minutes of emailing back and forth.
#23: Use Your Email
Want to set up a time to talk with someone or have you left several voicemails with them, shoot them a quick email. Want to delegate a task to someone and provide them with ample instructions? Use your email. Take advantage of your email to save time and distraction.
#24: Use Your Door
Sometimes you need to get really important and difficult work done. You don’t need any distractions coming at you. Whether it is from other people or yourself. Close the door to your office, or put in your earbuds to close the door to your ears. And then get to work.
#25: Use Sticky Notes
Even though my company does almost everything digitally, I have found it incredibly important to just write things down on paper. I find that if I need to remember something for my workflow, adding a quick sticky note to my monitor corrects the behavior every time.
#26: Reduce the Number of Meetings You Attend
I know, this one might be hard. Especially if your meetings are dictated by management. However, if we can reduce our meetings or the time meetings last, then we can actually work on the things we are being paid to do. Find a way out of a meeting which isn’t pertinent to your job or offers to find ways to share information which is being presented in the meeting.
#27: Start Doing Walking Meetings
There are a lot of benefits to walking. And when you can turn a meeting into walking you can get something done too. The more I read about people doing walking meetings the more I see the benefits. Inc.com has a great article about it HERE.
#28: Institute Video Conferencing
We have started doing this with my day job. Our first attempt I think was good, but it encouraged more engagement because everyone can see what each other are doing. Instead of audio conference calls only. It also helps connect teams which work remotely or are spread out.
#29: Set a Time for Meetings and Stick To It
If you say you will meet for 20 minutes, meet for 20 minutes. Don’t make a meeting run longer because you couldn’t get through everything. This helps you be more efficient with what you present and forces you to stay on top of things. Which helps you and the other in the meeting.
#30: Incentivize Your Meeting
Sometimes, to help make sure everyone is on time or engaged, it helps to get everyone coffee. Or bring in bagels or something similar. These little incentives give people a want to be there on time or early which will help with getting things done on time.
#31: Clean Your Desk
I have found my productivity increases when my desk is clean. Yes, we get into projects and tasks which are messy. However, when I clean my desk at night before I go home or pick it up first thing in the morning, I feel ready for the day and less overwhelmed.
#32: Organize Your Desk Drawers
If you have a desk with drawers, this is important for optimal productivity. Not only because it will be nice to see. But when your desk drawers are organized, you know where everything is and never have to spend time searching for any items. This is key to moving through your tasks quickly.
#33: Marie Condo Your Workspace
If it brings joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. When I moved offices, I brought home FIVE boxes of things I had accumulated in my cubicle over five years. I trashed three and a half boxes. I keep the things which bring joy in my workspace. This helps when work gets stressful.
#34: Organize Your File Folders (Hardcopies and Digital)
There is nothing worse than not being able to find a file. Digital or paper. My filing cabinets are all in alphabetical order. Why? Because it is easy to find things. My digital files are by year, then by project. If you keep things in order, you can find them.
#35: Keep One Thing Which Is You
This might seem unusual, but I have found the most productive people in my office have one thing in their workspace which is clearly them. For me, it is Legos. It is good to have something fun things which are about you in your workspace.
#36: Keep Earbuds or Headphones Available
We need to curb our distractions by putting on some music and focusing on our work. People typically know when I am working on something which I don’t want to be disturbed, I put my earbuds in and listen to music.
#37: Sit with Your Back to the Door
I also turn completely away from the entrance to my workspace if I don’t want to be disturbed. This forces people to really get into my space. And most people don’t really want to do this. It creates an uninviting environment, which is OK to do sometimes.
#38: Turn Off Non-Essential Items
Turn your phone off. Close your Outlook Mail. Turn your office messenger to “do not disturb.” Lockout the internet on your computer if you don’t need it. Whatever you need to do to focus, just turn everything else off until your tasks are complete.
#39: Canned Responses for Intruders
If someone decides to tap you on the shoulder when you have earbuds in and back turned, you might need a response if you want to get things done. I use: “I’m in the middle of something, is it quick?” Or “if this will take more than a minute, can we schedule it?” This eliminates intruders trying to take more than a couple of minutes of time.
#40: Go into a Conference Room
And close the door. Very rarely do I ever see anyone break the conference room barrier when someone is working hard on a project. This will help you get away from the regular grind of work and potentially give you increase focus yourself.
#41: Always Be Learning
If there is anything my productivity obsession has taught me, it is to always be learning. There are hundreds of productivity tip lists out there. And sometimes, only a few will actually help you. Others may not be helpful until later in your productivity journey. To become more productive, you need to always be learning.
#42: Productivity is a Path, Not the Goal
This is crucial. Productivity is helping us down the path to create margin and live life outside of our work. While we spend most of our time at work, our lives outside of work need to be stress-free and full of the things which bring us the most joy. The goal isn’t to become more productive to be productive. The goal is to become more productive to live life more fully.
“We often fail to realize, however, that there are certain strategic choices we need to make if we want to maximize our productivity for the long-term.” — James Clear
If there is anything you take away from these tips and tricks, it is to focus on using them over time. I have been on this journey for two years. TWO YEARS. And everything I learn and add to my workflow is done slowly. We cannot add 42 new techniques overnight.
You just won’t stick to them if you do it. However, you can add them one or two at a time. And then turn them into consistent habits. Once we establish a habit of productivity, it is no longer a tip or trick. It is part of your workflow.
I want to encourage you to slowly add some of these into your workflow. And I know, most of you are already using some of these habits today. However, if you really want to increase your productivity, it needs to be done over time. There is not a quick fix.