Wouldn’t it be nice to be productive all day? You know, living the hustle life and cranking out magic all day. It’s the dream of many aspiring entrepreneurs, being driven by your motivation and excitement, in theory it sounds awesome! However, the 24/7 hustle is nothing but a highly overrated fairy tale.
Let’s face it, unlike robots, we humans can’t keep on working forever. Even when we’re fuelled by our motivation and burning desire. In fact, overworking can lead to never achieving your dream at all because you will simply burn out. Instead of working your fingers to the bone, you can do the following things to optimize yourself to have the ultimate productive day.
In this article I’m going to teach you:
- To optimize a popular method that you probably use wrong.
- How vital establishing a morning routine is.
- How to get a breakfast that actually keeps you energized all day.
- The importance of taking breaks.
- What you can do during your breaks
- What you can do to finish your successful day
You have probably been using your to-do list wrong.
If you’ve been looking for productivity hacks earlier you have with no doubt stumbled upon the concept of to do lists. There are plenty of ways to maintain a to do list and enough apps claiming to be the holy grail of productivity. However, being productive isn’t exactly about having a to do list or having the right to do list app.
Productivity is a matter of planning. You can have a lot of tasks on your to do list but if you don’t give them a deadline your to-do list is worthless. Without a place and a time these tasks can stay on that list forever. To get the most out of your to do list, use a calendar. It doesn’t really matter whether you use a paper or an app, just pick what works the best for you. I prefer to have a paper to do list but I always make sure to arrange each task into my digital agenda. I use my outlook calendar because it allows me to get notifications on both my laptop and my phone. Unlike other calendar apps that are only limited to giving notifications to my internet browser and phone.
By combining your to do list with an agenda you harness both the power of a to do list and an agenda which keeps you on track so you always know what you have to do.
Make sure to avoid writing down big vague complex tasks. Instead, break up your tasks in small, concrete and digestible tasks. For example, instead of writing down “Make a blogpost for Enthacks” I divide this task into 5 small tasks.
- Step 1: Make notes while researching topic.
- Step 2: Study notes and write outlines.
- Step 3: Write article.
- Step 4: Read article out loud and edit.
- Step 5: Publish and promote on social media.
I usually research and write outlines on day 1, write the article the next morning and edit it in the evening. Just like a bowl with overnight oats I let the information soak into my brain for a night. During the night your brains process what you’ve encountered and learned that day. This allows you to efficiently utilize the information the next morning and make a great article out of it.
This might seem like a lot of work but crafting a great article takes a lot of work. Nothing great comes from mediocre input.
No, you don’t function well on 5 hours of sleep.
The next key to a productive day is sleep. Sleep is pretty much one of the most important aspects of a productive life. These folks that boast about getting just 5 hours of sleep? Soon or later they’ll crash, as you might have read in my last article, 5 hours of sleep is certainly not enough. No one can function properly on just 5 hours per night and it will affect your work. People who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to making mistakes more easily and are generally low on energy. Perhaps you’ll have less time to work when you sleep more but at least you’ll be able to function properly. Delivering great work with 7.5 hours of sleep is better than delivering mediocre work with 5 hours of sleep, can’t disagree on that can you?
Besides, even if you could function on 5 hours of sleep, it would be a waste of time, considering no one can put in 18 hours of work a day without messing up, which brings us to the next point.
Take Enough breaks.
Breaks are life. Breaks might even be the most important aspect of a productive life. When I was in High school I would usually attempt to study for hours. But my teacher taught me to study in shifts of 25 minutes instead. Why? Because your brains work like a sponge, you can soak them with information but at a certain time they’re full. Scientists discovered that after 24 minutes of focus you lose your concentration. So instead of working for a few hours straight, work in shifts of 25 minutes and take 5-minute breaks in between. I usually do 4 shifts with small breaks and then take a bigger break of half an hour.
Apart from the quantity of your breaks, the quality of your breaks is just as important. Working for 4 shifts and then sitting behind your desk scrolling social media isn’t recommendable. Instead go grab a coffee, talk with your colleagues, go for a walk, do the dishes or anything that you can do within 30 minutes. As long as you get away from your desk and any other screens like your smartphone. Because if your work includes staring at screens all day than staring at screens during breaks isn’t any different.
Your healthy breakfast is probably missing something…
You probably already know that starting your day with a healthy breakfast is important. But did you know that your breakfast should also be balanced? Let’s say you grab a banana to eat while driving for breakfast because you’re in a hurry.
The banana is healthy but not a wise choice. Not only is just a banana not enough to keep you going all morning, it’s also an unbalanced breakfast. Banana’s contain carbohydrates and natural sugars. This is healthy, however if you don’t balance the sugar with some healthy fats you’re going to get a sugar crash. Which basically means a short energy peak that ends with you feeling tired within half an hour.
So instead of taking just a banana, slice up your banana in some yoghurt and top it with some walnuts for example. This way you’ll balance sugar and healthy fats and you’ll be less likely to have a sugar crash.
Have a morning routine, the actual holy grail to productivity.
Having a morning routine can ensure you to always have a great day. Instead of waking up at 7 and rushing to work, wake up at 5, do the things you love and take your time. By making sure to do my morning routine I always start my day positive. Starting your day positive can be a lifesaver when school or work isn’t fun. Because thanks to my morning ritual, I’ve already done some things that I love. Knowing exactly what you’re going to do the first 90 minutes of your day is very relaxing. Because you don’t have to make any decisions you’ll be able to save up willpower and energy.
This is why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day. Former President Obama does the same thing “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Unlike what my conservative parents taught me, meditation isn’t a metaphor for summoning the devil nor is it a Buddhist or hippie thing. In fact, in Psalms 4:4 we read “Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” But religion aside, meditation doesn’t have to be religious. Because meditation is a very human thing to do. Scientists figured out that meditation can be very beneficial for any human. It can boost your health, mood, self-control, productivity and even your social life.
Meditation can be done in many forms and in various amounts of time. Even the shortest session of 2 minutes can already make a big difference. I’ve tried many meditation forms and made my own meditation version without mantra’s: I just sit down with a cup of coffee (tea in the morning). I close my eyes and focus on my breathing while enjoying little sips of coffee. This usually lasts no longer than 10 minutes and it helps me to regain my focus.
Try different ways to meditate and figure out what works for you.
Oh and also have an evening routine
We’ve already read about the benefits of a morning routine but having an evening routine is important too. Now this doesn’t have to be a biggie. You could simply end your day by cleaning your desk, planning your next day or writing down some thoughts before you go to bed. But it really helps you to wind down and relax if you have a ritual to end your day. Whether it is writing, planning or cleaning. Just pick something and make sure to do it every day. As it grows as a habit it will help you fall asleep easier because you’ve decided to leave the day where it is instead of taking it with you into bed.
A combination of these keys will help you to use your energy in the best way possible. You don’t have to work 16 hours, hell even 8 hours is not necessary. If you spread your energy well you can get way more things done in less time. Which will leave even more time for other things that you find important like spending time with family or friends or playing that video game that you love.