What’s one change I can make to my routine today that will help increase my productivity in the long run?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Manage Time Spent on Emails
Take control of your inbox by designating a specific time to check your email. It can be a never-ending process, and responding to each one as it comes may hinder your productivity throughout the day. During your scheduled time(s), read and respond to your messages. Then while you’re working on other projects, mute your alerts or utilize an email pausing tool to stay focused.
2. Take 20 Minutes to Plan Your Day
Taking just 20 minutes each day to plan out your daily priorities will have a major impact on productivity in the long run. I spend time alone every morning planning out my day and the top tasks that must be completed for that day. Block out time for each task, cut larger tasks into smaller daily tasks and stick to your plan as much as possible when disruptions occur.
3. Categorize Tasks
Start using a handwritten to-do list. Make yours with three categories in mind: One for things that have to get done that day, a second for items that need you attention but can wait and a third for minor stuff you can knock out on slower days. Your productivity will be sure to improve.
4. Wake Up an Hour Earlier
Waking up an hour earlier than usual is an easy change to your routine that has maximum benefit. It’s a great time to get a head start on your day and enjoy some peace and quiet while getting work done.
5. Automate Personal Tasks
We employ a ton of software and tools to streamline our work, but few among us think to apply those same practices to our personal lives. Use technology to simplify how you do things in your personal life, too. This will save you minutes each day, which can add up to hours each month. Subscribe to a food-delivery service to save time on grocery shopping. Buy a robot vacuum to automate that chore.
6. Figure Out Your Prime Time
Identify when you are the most productive and focus on the tasks that are the highest priority during that time. To do so, eliminate distractions — such as calls and email — and instead use the time you are at your mental best to accomplish your most important tasks.
7. Track Where Your Time Is Being Spent
If you don’t know where every minute of your time is going, you’re probably not as productive as you could be. Take a couple of weeks and track your time in 10-minute increments. This will help you discover where you’re wasting time so that you can focus on areas that help you meet your strategic initiatives and the other important things in life, like family and friends.
8. Turn Off Your Phone
Turning off my phone or putting it on airplane mode during the day has increased my productivity dramatically. Any important calls are usually scheduled, thus leaving my phone as a drain on my time. Picking it up leads me to listen to unimportant voicemails, answer social texts and waste time on unproductive apps and social media.
9. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
It’s easy to forget that food is our fuel. We tend to eat what’s fast and cheap, and it’s often crap for our bodies. If we want to be as productive as possible we need to eat nutritious foods. The first easy step to take is snacking on nutrient-dense items like berries, raw veggies and nuts/seeds throughout the day. Small snacks keep us energized, so productivity can increase.
10. Visit the Gym Daily
Even if you can only squeeze in 30 minutes, hit the gym every morning. Health benefits aside, you will have much more energy throughout the day. When the mid-day “hitting a brick wall” is eliminated, you start to power through each day, hammering out tasks from start to finish. Over time, this one little change will have the largest impact on your overall productivity.
11. Set Deadlines for Tasks
Give every task on your to-do list a deadline. A due date, even an artificial one, will help spur you to action. Plus, when you look at your task list in due date order, it helps you see what is coming up that you may need to start working on now.
12. Learn to Decompress
Too much productivity advice is focused on how to do more. Turning it on is an important piece of the puzzle, but turning it off is key too. Sports psychologists understand the importance of athlete’s ability to recharge efficiently. Practice the art of taking short breaks, focusing on your breath and feeling your adrenaline levels lower, before diving back into work with a renewed energy.