Being more productive isn’t about pushing yourself to do more, more, more, in the most efficient way possible. True productivity happens when you take care of yourself, physically and mentally.
Here are 10 ways you can tap into your best self, and get more done in the process.
1. Get a better night’s sleep. There is no “wrong side of the bed” if you’re waking up from a great six to eight hours of rest. Getting into a sleep cycle that follows your natural circadian rhythms is a start. Check out these apps for finding your perfect bedtime, dulling your devices’ disruptive blue light, and logging your sleep schedule.
2. Hold off on the coffee. Stumbling out of bed and directly into a extra large coffee is one of the least productive things you can do for your body. Flooding your system with caffeine as soon as you wake up is counter-intuitive: You’re already getting a dose of the alertness hormone cortisol when you wake up–levels increase by about 50% upon awakening, whether at 5 a.m. or 8. Waiting an hour after you wake up to grab a cup keeps levels steady, and keeps you from yawning in that morning meeting.
3. Get some exercise in. This one’s for your body, but benefits the brain, too. Getting active, even in small doses like a 20-minute walk, streamlines and compacts your brain’s white matter. This makes your brain more efficient, and makes you more able to tackle the day.
4. Take a deep breath. This is more of a struggle than it seems. But even if you hate to meditate, little moments in your daily routine–the walk to the train, stopped at a red light, waiting in line for your drink order–become moments to be savored, not rushed through. Read more insights on meditating for the non-yogis, here.
5. Eat lunch away from your desk. Getting out of the office, or even away from your keyboard, for lunch every day is tough when it feels like you can’t spare the time. that the benefits of taking a break instead of powering through are many.
6. Let go of perfectionism. Start embracing the “good enough” options in your work, rather than trying to meet every goal at the highest level. That doesn’t mean letting quality slide, but letting go of perfectionism that paralyzes progress.
7. Scrutinize your meetings. There are few things that make you mind feel mushy like a meeting you don’t need to be in for three hours. If you’re in a position to question whether you’re needed in the meeting at all, do so–and if your presence is required, try these tips for getting as much done as possible during that time. If all else fails, hide.
8. Stop working late. The occasional 10 to 12 hour days happen. A big project or event can’t be shut down when your clock strikes forty hours. But regularly burning the midnight oil for weeks on end is hurting your ability to stay focused and sharp, and undermining all that hard work you’re putting in.
9. Stop glorifying overwork. The culture of “busy” is an easy trap to fall into. Your best ideas likely happen during downtime; when you’re always on, they never get the chance to formulate. Burnout happens when you’re spinning your wheels and getting nowhere–don’t encourage it in others, either.
10. Put your headphones on. Research shows that music is helpful in doing repetitive tasks, and in drowning out a noisy open office. Send the signal that it’s time to focus with a set of headphones and your favorite ambient noise.
Once you’ve mastered these tips, see if you have what it takes to tackle the most productive day’s roadmap.