Whether you’re an early bird who jumps out of bed before your alarm clock, or more of a night owl whose day doesn’t officially start until that third cup of coffee, we can all use a little push in the morning.
While there’s no one way to organise your work day, and no ‘best fit’ solution for every person, here’s a few tips to help you make the most of your day and achieve optimal productivity and creativity from start to finish.
1. Establish a morning ritual
Developing a morning routine allows you to assert your own authority over the day. Whether you start off with a cup of coffee and yoga, a bit of journaling or an early morning run, starting your day the same way each time not only sends a signal to your brain that it’s game on, but also motivates you to get the ball rolling—even if you don’t feel like it.
2. Plan your schedule around your energy
One of the most common strategies for success involves structuring the day according to your energy levels at different times. That is, by recognising whether you are most productive in the morning, afternoon or evening, and planning your schedule accordingly. Observe how your energy levels shift throughout the day, and carve out focus time during the period you have the most energy. For example, if you find you are more productive in the morning, schedule time to work on important projects then, and spend the afternoon completing tasks that don’t require as much mental acuteness.
3. Keep a to-do list
Very few people can keep all of their tasks in mind as they sort through what needs to be done. To ease the burden on your brain and keep on track, use a notebook, whiteboard or daily planner and create a to-do list of tasks you need to complete during the day. Schedule major activities and meetings in your calendar, and leave room for last minute events or tasks.
It also pays to plan ahead. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day creating your to-do list for the next day. Not only does this reduce your chances of procrastinating, but it also helps you feel more organised, allowing you to dive straight into your work the next morning.
4. Stop multi-tasking
It’s official: multi-tasking doesn’t work. Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London studied over 1,000 workers and found that multitasking with electronic media caused a significant decrease in IQ—as high as 10 points. According to the study, this essentially equates to losing a full night of sleep. So, if you want to maximise your productivity, focus and tick off one task at a time.
5. Block out a time to reply to emails
While it’s important to respond to your emails as quickly as possible, especially if you’re dealing directly with customers and clients who appreciate a quick reply, it’s equally important not to let your emails eat up your day. A McKinsey Global Institute study found the average worker spends 13 hours a week on email, which is almost a quarter of the average working week! If you’re in the position to do so, limit your email review and block out set times to reply to your emails throughout the day.
6. Reward yourself for completing tasks
Identify distractions throughout the day, and use these as incentives to get work done. For example, if you find you are easily distracted by social media, you can say to yourself: “After I finish this report, I’ll give myself five minutes to scroll through my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram page”. This conditions your brain to look as work in smaller chunks of time, making it more manageable and rewarding.
7. Drink water
Dehydration can have some pretty nasty affects including dizziness, sluggishness, confusion, and even fainting, endangering the productivity of your day. Make sure you not only drink a glass of water during your morning ritual, but also incorporate it into your daily routine.
With over 20 years’ experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is one of Australia’s foremost strategic advisers to corporates, not-for-profits and government.