Whether you work alone or as part of a large team, everyone is looking for ways to increase productivity. You’ll feel less stressed and get more done each day. Let’s see just how much you can change in 30 days—you’ll be amazed.
So how do you do it? First, changing any habit takes practice. Doing something one time doesn’t make it part of a new routine. You have to do it repeatedly; make it part of who you are. Here, we’ve got 30 tips to help you be more productive 30 days from now.
You aren’t going to do all of these things at once. Start with one or two, once they are part of your embedded routine, add another change and slowly build until you are feeling like your most productive self. Good luck!
1. Start Every Day With A Plan
Walking into the office aimlessly each day isn’t going to do anything for getting you in the mood to work. You should start each day with a plan of action.
Write out a list first thing of what you want to accomplish today. (Some find it preferable to write the list the night before.) Include tasks that you can knock out efficiently as well as more complex projects.
Be realistic about time. Don’t pack your to-do list if you have a day packed with meetings. You’ll get more done if the list is doable and isn’t intimidating or overwhelming.
2. Get Up Earlier
Why are you always running around with your hair on fire? Solve the feeling of running late by setting your clock a little earlier.
Not everyone is wired to start the day at 5 a.m., but you can probably afford to get up a few minutes earlier. Start by not hitting the snooze button. Get up immediately when the alarm goes off. Those nine extra minutes of interrupted sleep are making you feel groggy (and disrupting the rest of your partner or housemates).
3. Work Up a Sweat
Physical activity can make you more productive and energetic throughout the day, not just during times of exercise. And it’s backed up by science.
Find an activity you like – get on a bike, go for a run or walk, head to the gym – and you’ll reap the rewards of that workout all day long. While there’s some scientific evidence that most people benefit from a morning sweat, you’ll get the brain-boosting benefit no matter when you work out.
Put it on your calendar if you have to.
4. Have a Go-To Typeface (or 10)
One of the biggest design time sucks can be looking for a typeface. For clients that don’t come to you with a type palette, start the design process with a go-to typeface.
Have a solid palette of type families and styles that you can sub in to create a mood or feel for the design without scouring fonts for hours. Most clients can see the nuances between two round sans serif options, start with your go-to options to know if you are on the same page when it comes to type construction and hierarchy.
Then you can scour over type options later down the line (if you have the time or a desire to change typefaces later on).
5. Experiment With Website Builders
You don’t have to start every website project from scratch every time. Consider using a website builder for certain types of projects:
- Personal websites or blogs
- Single-page or simple website builds
- Start-up business websites with small budgets
- Websites with simple ecommerce needs (only a few products)
Here’s another time saver: there are a lot of website builders to choose. Hosting Facts has a roundup and review of the top ten website builder options.
6. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Freelancers: Are you still working on the kitchen table? Or lugging your laptop from coffee shop to coffee shop? You need a dedicated workspace.
Create a space for a home office – or desk area that’s entirely for work, at a minimum – or consider moving into a coworking space. You need somewhere so that when you sit down, you are in work mode. Mixing areas where you eat and work or sleep and work or play with the kids and work leads to distractions. That’s a significant productivity killer.
7. Really Learn How to Use Software and Tools
Are you proficient with the tools you use every day, or do you know just enough to get the job done? Taking a little time to learn the ins and outs of software and tools that you use every day can make you so much more efficient.
Take a class with a certified instructor in your area or invest some time in a set of online tutorials to make the most of the tools at hand. (This small bit of education will also help you determine if you are using the best tools for the job.)
8. Declutter Your Work Space
Clean your desk. Throw away all those takeout containers and empty coffee cups. Pick up and trash papers you don’t need anymore.
Make it the last thing you do each day. You’ll clear all the work product of the day from your desktop, providing closure for complete tasks and giving you an idea of where to pick up again.
You’ll also walk into a clean and organized space each day. Lack of clutter helps people feel settled and focused on the tasks at hand, not concerned about the mess in front of them or what mysteries (or missed deadlines) are piled in all that junk.
9. Use the 5-Minute Email Rule
Email can be one of the most overwhelming parts of your day. It never stops coming. If you feel like your inbox is out of control, try this trick.
- Set aside specific times of day to check email – once every hour or two hours if you can.
- For emails that you can complete the task and respond in 5 minutes, do it now.
- For all other emails, flag them and save them for an email task list later in the day.
10. Invest in a Great Chair
A great chair (or mat or stool for everyone using a standing desk) can keep you comfortable, moving through tasks with ease.
Studies have shown that employees who are comfortable are more productive. If you are constantly shifting in an uncomfortable chair or straining to reach the keyboard because of a workstation that lacks ergonomics, it’s time for a desk revamp. Here’s why it works: You aren’t distracted by things that bother you, giving you more time to focus on work.
11. Keep a List… and Stick to It
Productive leaders throughout time have preached the value of having a to-do list. More important than a to-do list, though, is a realistic to-do list.
Create tasks and deadlines that are attainable. Keep a list on paper that you can see or create a bullet journal (which can boost creativity) or use an app to keep track of your list digitally. The key to how you keep a list is creating something that you’ll actually use and check throughout the day.
A useful checklist can keep you on task and help you prioritize what you should focus on next while providing an idea of how much time you have to devote to specific tasks.
12. Work in 90-Minute Blocks
Create a work cycle. Break tasks into 90-minute working blocks with a 10- to 15-minute break between blocks.
And use those breaks well. Get up, walk around and clear your mind so that you can start each new block of work refreshed and reenergized.
13. Set Aside One Day for Meetings
One of the biggest productivity killers is meetings. People are late – don’t be that person – the topic goes off course, or there’s no real agenda, and you can get stuck with unusual amounts of time between meetings that keep you from getting anything done.
Pick one day a week, or every other week if you can, and stack meetings in one day. Having back-to-back-to-back sessions will ensure that you are on-time and on-topic and you’ll waste less time knowing that day is just for meetings, and the remaining weekdays won’t be sucked dry.
14. Stand During Meetings
While you are thinking about ways to make meetings more efficient, don’t sit down. Standing meetings encourage creativity and help participants focus and get to the point.
Set meetings in a central place and ask that participants leave their phones behind to make the conversations more focused and productive.
15. Set Daily/Monthly/Yearly Goals
You should always work with three tiers of goals in mind: Daily, monthly and yearly.
To be your most productive self, keep these goals in mind as you work. Are you doing things that contribute to these goals? If not, then why are you doing what you are doing?
Every time you find yourself dawdling on social media, ask yourself how it contributes to your goals. You’ll be surprised at how useful this little trick is when it comes to maintaining focus.
16. Work During Peak Hours
Are you an early-bird or night-owl? Saving tough tasks or jobs that need a lot of brain-hours for your peak work hours will help you do the job with more ease because you are working with your natural rhythms.
Sometimes the toughest part is finding out exactly what that time of day is for you and getting the rest of the working world to cooperate with your peak hours.
Once you find your peak hours, talk to your boss about how you can use this time to your advantage. (Freelancers, adjust your work schedules accordingly.)
17. Wear Headphones to Get in the Zone
Whether you want to listen to music while you work or not, wearing headphones to help you get in the zone serves as a signal to others that you are working hard and they should leave you alone.
Seriously. You don’t even have to turn your music on to get uninterrupted work time. (Just don’t tell anyone about your little secret.)
18. Turn Off Notifications During Work Hours
Use do not disturb features at times of day that are opposite of what you might think. Use them during work hours rather than at night to quiet notifications that can distract from what you need to be doing.
Set up multiple “dark” periods throughout the day and allow notifications to come in at a specific time, or just turn notifications off altogether and only check email, social media, and apps with intent.
19. Knock Out Tough Tasks Early
When it comes to big jobs or things you don’t particularly want to do, don’t procrastinate. Do those things first.
You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment if you get challenging tasks out of the way early, paving the way to keep that momentum going throughout the day.
There’s a side effect to knocking out tough tasks as well. Nothing makes a client happier than getting a proof first thing in the morning while they are also fresh. It can lead to better feedback and make clients feel important that you worked on their project first thing and didn’t push it until the end of the day.
20. Farm It Out
There are some things you are good at and others where you are great. Own those jobs.
But for everything else, for any task that you aren’t an expert in, outsource it. Don’t waste time trying to be good at accounting if you are a designer; hire a CPA. Don’t spend hours developing an app if you aren’t great at building for small screens; recruit an app developer.
There’s no shame in asking for help. You’ll be most productive if you spend time working on things you know how to do, and form part of your core skill set.
21. Leave Meaningless Groups Behind
Cut ties with groups, professional organizations and networking meet-ups that aren’t contributing to your overall success.
Too many groups just spin their wheels with loose or ineffectual missions. A local chapter of a national organization isn’t helpful if only six of you show up to meetings and you never do anything more than read an agenda.
Save your time for groups with meaning and people you specifically want to be invested in and work with. Steal back a few hours every month by cutting the dead organizational weight. (Use that time to sneak in a workout or take on a passion project that energizes you.)
22. Invest in UI Kits and Icon Sets
How many times have you redrawn or redownloaded a Facebook icon?
Wait, before you spend an hour adding it on your fingers and toes, just download a kit that you love. Use it every time. A simple set of standard icons can be a lifesaver.
The same is true of many other standard user interface tools. Buttons, arrows, hover effects – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time with so many great options available.
23. Become an Expert
It’s easy to move through the tasks which you know well with ease. For designers and freelancers, this is more than learning software – learn a business or sector.
Learn the language of a business type and the design jobs you do within the sector will be similar in scope and client needs. Build websites for medical offices, gyms or veterinarians. Focus on a niche, and you’ll be able to anticipate the needs of clients, what works and what doesn’t and special considerations in that field. (Clients love when you can plan problems before they become issues.)
You can be an expert in multiple areas. It’s incredible how quickly projects come together for clients that have some similarities. (Just be aware of contract disclosures that can prohibit working with competitors.)
24. Automate Where Possible
There’s no shame in automating as many tasks as possible. And while automation doesn’t mean you can completely neglect these tasks, you don’t have to monitor them quite as much.
- Use invoicing software that keeps track of payments and adds late fees and resends invoices that are past due.
- Schedule social media posts or create a bot to answer common inquiries.
- Create integrated calendars so that everyone is on the same page.
- Save files in the cloud so that team members can access files from anywhere. Add an automatic backup, so you don’t have to worry about losing valuable information.
- Create FAQ documents for clients with upload and download instructions for files so that you don’t have to retype it every time.
- Develop a project proposal/timeline template for quotes.
25. Learn How to Say No
Just say no.
You know a dud task or idea when you hear it. You know those projects or meetings that are just going to suck the time out of your day. Learn to decline these invitations gracefully—and make a point to do it.
26. Create a Filing System
Save files and folders and layers the same way with every project every time. That way you’ll always know where things are and how to find them quickly.
It’s too easy to waste time looking for the thing-you-made-with-that-project because you saved it with an odd file name or in a strange location.
Not sure where to start with filing. Think big and then narrow in:
- Folders by client and year.
- Folders for universal style and design elements by client.
- Folders for each project.
- Folders by deadline.
- File all finished material in a “closed” folder when a project is complete.
27. Foster Client Relationships
Managing expectations, responding to requests efficiently and communicating openly can make happier clients. Happier clients spend less time calling, emailing and demanding information because they feel out of the loop.
When you have a stable relationship with a client, they trust leaving the project in your hands. Less worry means less time spent assuring the client that everything is OK, giving you more time to do the actual work.
At the same time, use clients to help keep you accountable if you struggle with deadlines or meeting goals. Tell them when to expect to hear from you and what update should be available at that time. (This can be great incentive to get things done efficiently and on-time.)
28. Establish Routines for Work and Workflows
The more time you do the same thing, the better (and faster), you will be next time you do it.
Create routines for things you don’t have to think about: How you get to work, how and when you fix your coffee or lunch, etc. Create routines for workflows as well to speed up efficiency.
According to Lifehack, having a routine keeps you focused by forcing you to think about three things:
- What you want.
- How to get it.
- How to add that activity to your schedule.
29. Sleep a Little More
While the exact amount of sleep required can vary by person and activity level, it’s a pretty well-documented fact that most people don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. Allows yourself a few more minutes kip each night.
And if you can’t find more time for sleep; try to improve the quality of sleep time.
- Avoid screens at bedtime. Turn off your phone, tablet and television.
- Set your alarm for the time you specifically need to get up, don’t assume you will hit the snooze button for an extra 30 minutes.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule and go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on non-workdays.
30. Reward Yourself
Reward yourself for completing tasks, finishing projects or hitting milestones. Even the smallest rewards, such as taking an afternoon walk if you finish everything on the morning to-do list, can encourage productivity.
Just as you have different levels of goals, create different levels of personal rewards so that you are working and being productive because you want to. Nothing can top that level of personal satisfaction, and you know you’ll appreciate the reward.