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Top 8 Productivity Tips for Work and Life

Juggling our busy schedules can be tough. Here are some tips you can begin using right away to improve your productivity and give you more time for the things you love.

February 03, 2023 | Madison Foster

Aerial view of a group of people (with only arms shown) in business attire circled around calendars, schedules, and office supplies.

Ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Whether at work or home, we’ve all had that overwhelming feeling.

Here’s a list of tips and tricks you can use to boost productivity and get the most out of your day.

1. Identify your most productive time of day

Have you ever been asked if you’re a morning person or a night owl? Well, it turns out the answer is actually backed by science. While it’s important to get your body on a routine that fits your lifestyle and start the day at a decent time, everyone’s internal clock is wired differently.

It can be helpful to discover when your body, and more importantly your mind, are naturally most productive and take advantage.

If you have the flexibility to work early in the morning or late at night, that may be best for you. If you need to work within the confines of a traditional eight-hour workday, that might mean saving certain tasks until the afternoon post-lunch break or completing them first thing in the morning. It just depends on the times of day you’re at your best. Working a job with an overnight shift might mean learning a unique routine that works for you.

For your home life, try adding routines like online bill pay during this peak time to make sure you’re really getting stuff done.

2. Do the hardest thing first

There’s nothing like making it to the end of your workday just to realize you still have your longest, most arduous task left to do. Instead, knock out your hardest or least favorite item first.

Not only does this make the rest of the day seem easier, it gives you great momentum early on to help you barrel through the rest of your to-do list for the day.

On the other hand, if you truly feel unable to take on difficult tasks before the others, try the opposite. Build a slow and steady momentum by tackling a series of easier tasks throughout the day that progressively get more difficult or time-consuming.

By working through the rest of your daily responsibilities and getting them done first, it may make the larger one you’ve put off until later seem a little more doable towards the end of your day. Just make sure when you tell yourself you will do it later that you actually get to it and aren’t sucked into a nasty cycle of procrastination.

3. Time your tasks

A life hack that can help you in a variety of situations from running errands to vacuuming your living room to tackling a work chore is to time your tasks. A sink-load full of dishes can seem daunting, but timing how long it takes you to hand wash them or unload the dishwasher and realizing it only took 15 minutes of your day can be a game changer for next time.

Many times, we overestimate how long things really take us to do or we add time with distractions throughout. By timing them, you can rewire your brain to recall how long recurring tasks really take and be more motivated to knock them out in no time instead of putting them off.

4. Take breaks

It may seem counterproductive on the surface, but taking breaks throughout the day can significantly improve your productivity.

Whether that means going to a different room or location to eat a meal, getting up and stretching your legs for a couple minutes each hour, or sitting in your vehicle listening to your favorite music, your body needs to periodically recharge.

Not only are breaks beneficial for your physical and mental health, but you can return to your tasks with a new burst of energy and motivation and that may help your day not seem quite so long.

5. Take time off

Along the same lines of taking breaks, take time off! Many of us are guilty of reaching the end of the year and realizing we hardly took any days off.

Taking vacations and even sporadic mental health days is crucial to your overall well-being and greatly improves productivity. Not only that, but taking time off and creating a healthy work-life balance can reduce burnout and improve job satisfaction.

A good rule of thumb is to leave yourself enough time in your paid time off (PTO) bank that you can have a realistic cushion if you or a family member were to get sick or have a short-term emergency - and use the rest. This is especially true if your workplace doesn’t let you roll your PTO into the next year.

Furthermore, when you set boundaries during this away time, stick to them! Set an out-of-office voicemail or email reply and be realistic and honest about if or when you plan to check these while you’re away. If you are constantly checking on work while you’re gone, it probably won’t feel like much of a vacation and typically defeats the purpose.

A true emergency at work that falls on your role with no one else to help? You should probably do what you can to help if it can be solved reasonably quickly. An email that can easily be addressed by someone else or isn’t time-sensitive? Leave it. You can get to it when you come back or let someone else on your team handle it.

If all that vacation talk has you ready to start saving for your next destination, don’t hesitate!

6. Learn to say no

This can be tough for all the people-pleasers out there - but learn to say no. Regardless of your industry and whether you work from home or on-location somewhere, it’s important to set appropriate boundaries with your manager and co-workers.

This doesn’t mean it’s okay to be lazy or dishonest, but if your plate is already overloaded, it doesn’t do you or anyone else any favors to take on more.

In addition to saying no, try surrounding yourself with people comfortable with open and honest dialogue. Being able to tell your manager you really need to leave an hour or two early on occasion for a mental refresh or telling your spouse you’re feeling overwhelmed with household chores can make all the difference in lifting the burden. This also helps you build an invaluable support system in different areas of your life.

While this one may be hard for many, you also don’t have to be available at all times. In today’s Digital Age, it’s easier than ever to be sucked into a cycle of being available 24/7 and expecting others to do the same.

Remember that it’s okay to unplug or take time for yourself without distractions when appropriate. This is a tip you can definitely apply to your personal life as well.

7. Put tasks on your calendar

This is especially helpful for work in industries that utilize an online shared calendar. By putting tasks on your calendar, it holds you accountable and helps keep you organized with reminders. Not only that, but it also shows others you are busy during those time frames and makes you less likely to be bothered with unimportant distractions or requests.

If you’re someone that struggles taking breaks and know you’ll be available at a certain time, block that time off for your break as well. This gives you an extra push to take the break and makes you less likely to just work through that time instead.

Shared calendar apps are also super helpful for managing busy family schedules. There are several free options out there, so stay on top of things easier by just managing one calendar for all.

8. Limit distractions

This probably seems obvious, but limiting your distractions throughout the day is arguably the toughest one of all. It doesn’t take much for a task that would otherwise take 20 minutes to turn into an hour.

When tackling a project or working on something on your to-do list, try to commit to staying off your phone and don’t check emails, social media, or anything else that makes it easier for your mind to wander.

It may not seem like much at the time, but the cost of checking your phone in the middle of working on something else is actually quite high – think upwards of 40%. Not only is your mind taken away during the actual distraction, but time is also added when your brain has to switch back over to your original task at hand.

Between work, family, things around the house, and all the other responsibilities that come with life, it can be a challenge to balance it all. Try some of these tips and see the difference they can quickly make in your daily life!

OMB and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decision.

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