One of my biggest challenges with working from home is staying focused and completing every task on time. After all, home is where my TV, phone, kitchen, and cats are — it's not exactly set up with productivity in mind. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible to get things done. Fortunately, there are many practical, productive tips to help anyone reach their goals, whether they work from home or in an office.
Here are 15 productivity hacks to keep you focused so you can achieve your goals.
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Exercise in the morning.
- Take time to free-write.
- Plan the day ahead of time.
- Take regular breaks.
- Set a single goal for the day.
- Don't be afraid to say 'No.'
- Wake up early.
- Schedule some self-care.
- Create deadlines.
- Work in short bursts.
- Have a dedicated workspace.
- Avoid multitasking.
- Work near natural light.
Best Productivity Hacks for a Successful Day
Here are some great productivity hacks that will set your day up for success.
1. Eat breakfast every day.
Breakfast gives your body the energy it needs to stay alert and focused. Skipping breakfast can result in feeling sluggish in the morning, and you will likely have difficulty concentrating. According to the Harvard Business Review, food (or lack thereof) affects our cognitive performance and decision-making.
"Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert," psychologist Ron Friedman said. "When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused, and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach."
Pro-Tip: Try meal-prepping your breakfast the night before. Overnight oats and yogurt parfaits are easy to make ahead and grab when you're on the go.
2. Exercise in the morning.
Thirty minutes of regular exercise can boost one's overall energy, so it makes sense you'll be more productive during the day after a morning workout. According to Healthline, exercise helps oxygen and nutrients travel to your heart and lungs, which improves your cardiovascular system, stamina, and endurance.
Pro-Tip: Don't overwork yourself. Too much exercise can result in injury, fatigue, depression, and anxiety, according to Everyday Health. Stick to 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week, to be safe.
3. Take time to free-write.
You don't have to be a skilled writer to reap the benefits of free writing. Free writing in the morning or before bed can help organize your thoughts, boost creativity, and relieve stress. Writing can also improve your communication skills, making you a more effective leader.
Pro-Tip: Dedicate about 30 minutes to an hour of free writing every morning or every evening. And remember, no one needs to see what you write. So, don't stress about the quality.
4. Plan the day ahead of time.
Write down a detailed plan of your day either the night before or in the morning. Include all your tasks for the day, the order in which you'll complete them, and the time you'll need on each assignment. Having a schedule will keep you on track and lessen the chance of drifting away from your duties or wasting time — because you'll know what you need to do and when you'll need to do it.
Pro-Tip: Get in the habit of keeping and updating a daily planner or calendar. Or make a daily to-do list in the notes app of your phone.
5. Take regular breaks.
It's easy to get so invested in work that you skip lunch or focus to the point of exhaustion. Make sure to schedule moments to step away from your tasks and unwind. Permitting yourself to relax will help clear your mind and return to work with a more precise focus.
Pro-Tip: During those breaks, you can eat lunch, walk, stretch, read a book, meditate, or chat with friends. Make sure your activities leave you feeling refreshed and ready to work when the break is over.
6. Set a single goal for the day.
Think of one goal you want or need to accomplish for the day, and break that goal down into multiple tasks. Allot a certain amount of time to each task. Doing so will help you stay focused and ensure your tasks align with your vision.
Pro-Tip: Always ensure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. In other words — establish SMART goals.
7. Don't be afraid to say 'No.'
Setting boundaries is a major key to productivity. Understandably, you may want to be helpful whenever you can, but you won't be able to get things done if you're constantly taking on requests from others. So learn to say 'no' to last-minute requests, impromptu phone calls, and inconvenient plans so you can stay on track.
Pro-Tip: If you have a shareable digital calendar, like Google Calendar, mark off specific days and times you're unavailable for meetings or requests and share it with your colleagues.
8. Wake up early.
You can achieve a lot by simply waking up early in the morning. An early start will give you time to eat a good breakfast, work out, shower, and gear up for the day ahead. You may even complete your tasks earlier, allowing more free time in the evening.
Pro-Tip: If you're not used to waking up early, try easing yourself into the habit. Try going to bed and waking up 20 minutes earlier each day until you've reached your goal time. For example, if you usually wake up at 8:30 a.m. but want to start waking up at 6:30 a.m.— set your alarm for 8:10 a.m. on the first day, then 7:50 a.m. the next morning. Keep setting your alarm earlier and earlier each day until you reach 6:30 a.m.
9. Schedule some self-care.
One of the biggest enemies of productivity is burnout, and the best way to avoid burnout is to make time for self-care. Examples of self-care include:
- Reading your favorite book
- Creating a relaxing nighttime routine before bed
- Going for a walk
Pro-Tip: Try to fit self-care activities into your daily routine so that you'll always have something to look forward to.
10. Create deadlines.
You never want to spend too much time on a task, so it's essential to give yourself a specific amount of time to complete something and a day and time it needs to be done. Doing so will provide a healthy sense of urgency and help you properly manage your time.
Pro-Tip: Audit your time to see how long specific tasks take to complete so that you can create realistic and manageable deadlines.
Productivity Hacks at Work
These hacks will help you stay focused at work.
11. Work in short bursts.
It's hard to stay focused on the same thing for a long time, so make things easier on yourself by working in short bursts. For example, the Pomodoro method is a popular technique for boosting productivity. The Pomodoro method consists of working in 25-minute increments with 5-minute breaks in between each session.
Pro-Tip: If the Pomodoro method doesn't seem to work for you, try adjusting the time increments and breaks to something you're comfortable with.
12. Have a dedicated workspace.
This hack is especially useful if you're working from home or remotely. Create a space that has all the tools you need to be productive and is only used for work. So, avoid having your dedicated workspace in your bedroom or an area used for recreation. You'll need a space that you can leave once you're done with work for the day.
Pro-Tip: Some homes are filled with too many distractions for workspace, so don't be afraid to find areas outside the house to work, such as your local library, shared office space, or coffee shop.
13. Avoid multitasking.
There's a misconception that multitasking is a great way to finish multiple tasks quickly because you're working on various things at once. But in reality, only 2.5% of people can multitask effectively. That's because the human brain can most focus on one task at a time, according to most recent studies.
When we try to multitask, our brains are just bouncing back and forth between different tasks, which can slow performance and result in more mistakes.
Pro-Tip: Group similar tasks together and complete them one-by-one, instead of simultaneously. By grouping similar duties, your mind can quickly shift its focus to the next job on your list.
14. Work near natural light.
Most recent studies show that natural light is key to boosting productivity. One study found that workers in office environments with optimized natural lights reported an 84% drop in symptoms like eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision. These symptoms are common with prolonged usage of a computer or devices at work — which can hinder productivity.
In other words, natural sunlight contributes to a more comfortable environment. And when you feel better, you'll likely work better, too.
Pro-Tip: Try setting up your workspace near a window or sunny area.
15. Forget about perfectionism.
Focus on getting the job done right rather than perfectly because nothing is ever truly perfect. I'll never forget when I was a journalist and spent too much time writing an article for work. I spent so much time trying to make it "perfect" that I missed my deadline. You should always take pride in your work, but you should also know when to move on to the next thing.
Pro-Tip: Create a short list of things a task must have to be considered complete. Once you check off everything on the list, move on to the next task — even if the first one isn't perfect but still checks every box.
When all else fails, the most significant hack to productivity is patience. There will be days when things don't go as planned, and you don't achieve everything on your to-do list. On those days, be patient with yourself and remember that tomorrow is another opportunity to do better.