Most of us work long hours: 40, 50 or even 60 hours each week. But chances are, given distractions like online entertainment, office snacking habits and ill-designed time management, we’re only churning out high-quality work a portion of each day.
Here are four practical steps to incorporate into any morning routine to optimize your time at the office and maintain productivity all day long:
1. Get 7 minutes of exercise.
Yep, not 10—just seven. Why? It’s short enough that it won’t impact the rest of your morning routine and long enough to shake off any residual sluggishness from the night before—including that extra glass of wine.
There are endless fitness routines to turn to, but the one I like best is called the 7 Minute Workout (and yes, there’s an app for that). In just seven minutes, it works all major muscle groups with 12 total exercises.
2. Start your day out green.
Sure, we’ve all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s pretty easy to reach for a bagel, bowl of cereal, egg sandwich or cup of yogurt to get your metabolism going.
While all of these options are fine choices once in a while, you’ll be shocked at the morning lift you can get from a green smoothie.
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I go quick and easy, blending (for about a minute): one apple, one banana, one orange, a handful of spinach, half of a cucumber, any juice or coconut water on hand, a few cubes of ice and some flax seed. It’s cheap, easy and energizing.
3. Pick 3 wins for the day.
While you’re waiting for that smoothie to blend, get ahead of the evening’s conversation with your significant other—you know, the one that starts, “How was your day?”
Decide on the three things that you’d like to accomplish in the next 12 hours in order for you to feel like the day was a success. Sure, not every day will be an epic win, but strategizing in this way will help to move the ball forward.
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4. Block your calendar to achieve those wins.
One of the most common mistakes people make at the office is not turning to-do lists into time-bound, effective project lists. I’ve found that people who have mastered this hack are far more likely to deliver tasks on time.
It’s simple: For each of the big things on your list, block off the amount of time on your calendar that you estimate the task might take — and then add 33% more time just to be sure.
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If a project is multi-day or has dependencies, break it up into digestible chunks. Use one block to plan and a second or third block to accomplish.
This simple method will help hold you accountable and immediately help you refocus on the tasks you’ve prioritized when you do get distracted. Too often, we let one distraction steamroll an entire morning — now you don’t have to let that client email derail you from your winning plan for the day.
Then: Power up after lunch.
Take the 15 minutes right after lunch to refocus on the day—a kind of professional meditation. Get away from your computer, turn it off, go sit in a conference room and determine what you have on tap for the rest of the day.
Think about how the list you set in the morning is shaping up. Are you ahead of schedule? Behind schedule? You’ll find that these 15 minutes help you identify how you got derailed, what’s causing you distractions and help you to rediscover a rhythm to be productive all day long.
Give this simple formula a try for a week and I think you’ll be pleased with the results.