As working from home becomes more common, studies by Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, and others consistently show that at-home workers are more productive than their office-bound counterparts. One theory as to why home-based workers are more productive has to do with their ability to set a flexible schedule for themselves, working with their own natural energy rhythms.

By working when you naturally have more energy, focus, and alertness, you’re setting yourself up to be a more productive professional. Not everyone has the luxury of working from home or setting their own schedule, but try these tips no matter your work situation to be more productive every day.

1) Pay attention to your natural rhythms.

Are you a morning person, or do you not fully wake up until after 10am? Do you find yourself getting sleepy after lunch, or is that when you have the most energy? Everyone’s natural resting and active cycles are different, so pay attention to yours and plot your work schedule accordingly.

2) Block your most productive times.

If you know that you get more work done in the first three hours of your workday than in the last six, block your morning schedule to be free from meetings or interruptions so you can take full advantage of all that extra energy and focus.

3) Outline your to-do list.

A to-do list isn’t very useful if the tasks are big and require several steps to be completed. Instead of writing one big task like, “Send company newsletter,” break that task down into bits and pieces. Just like you were taught to take notes in middle school, your to-do list should look something like this:

I. Send company newsletter
a. Ask Larry for earnings numbers
b. Write article on employee of the month
c. Finish calendar of events

Instead of being overwhelmed at the thought of completing one giant project, your outline makes your tasks seem much more manageable and keeps you on pace.

4) Set reminders to get up and move.

Your brain can only concentrate on a given task or tasks for about 60-90 minutes before tiring out. To reinvigorate it, set a calendar reminder to get out of your chair every hour or two and move around. Walk to the restroom, stand up and stretch, step outside for a few deep breaths of fresh air. Your brain will thank you for the break, and you’ll return to your desk with a new bank of energy and focus.

Check out these 21 Counter-Intuitive Break Ideas to Boost Your Productivity at Work.

5) Friday afternoons are for advanced planning.

If you work a traditional schedule, then every Friday afternoon should be devoted to taking stock of your week’s worth of work, and setting goals for next week. These goals become the basis of the outline mentioned above. If, like many people, you find yourself spending Friday afternoons surfing the web and counting down to quitting time, take 30 minutes to an hour of your busy schedule and set yourself up for success next week.

Featured photo credit:  factory workers working in the office via Shutterstock

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