Some days it feels like it’s you against the world, doesn’t it? You know the kind of day I’m talking about…
You wake up and hit snooze one time too many. You’re out of coffee. You can’t find your keys. You leave the house 10 minutes later than you needed to and then end up behind the slowest driver ever on a one lane road.
While we can’t be 100% on top of our game all day every day, there are several things we can do to set ourselves up to be productive during the workweek – at least most of the time.
Let’s begin with these brain-booster tips and you’ll be off to a great start.
1. Eat breakfast
This may seem like an overused tip, but it’s undeniably true. You don’t have to sit down to a three-course meal but you do need to nourish your body and your brain. Your brain simply doesn’t work when it doesn’t have energy.
Food is energy. If you can’t stomach a big breakfast first thing in the morning, a piece of toast with peanut butter and some fruit will do.
If you have a long commute, bring along a snack for the ride. That way, you’ll be ready to go when you arrive at the office. Or if you work from home, be sure to get your breakfast ready before you start working, so it doesn’t interrupt your flow.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to eat. Your brain will thank you and so will your boss. If you skip that morning meal, your stomach will likely remind you with an embarrassing grumble during an important meeting anyway.
Keep your brain happy (and stress-free) by filling your belly before you get to work.
2. Eat the right foods for your brain
Avocados are good for protecting your brain cells, while blueberries are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So, if you’re going to snack, be sure to stock up your fridge, pantry and desk drawer with some of these super foods.
More super food ideas for you here: 20 Foods To Snack On For Enhanced Productivity
3. Stretch and/or exercise
Stretching does more than just warm up your muscles. It also gets your blood flowing, which is good for your brain. If your body is stiff or achy, it can distract you from getting even the simplest things done.
While stretching is great for your muscles and your brain, even the simplest of exercises can help your brain work even more efficiently.
According to a recent study from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management,
“People who exercised during their workday were 23 percent more productive on those days than they were when they didn’t exercise.”
Get moving even if it’s just a walk around the block or up and down the stairs at lunch. Your body and your brain will benefit. Here are some easy stretches and exercises you can do in even the smallest of spaces:
- Toe touches – Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Bend forward and touch your right hand to your left toe. Stand back up again and bend forward, touching your left hand your right toe. Repeat ten times on each side. You’ll start to warm up and feel the blood flowing throughout your body.
- Squats – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees but not your torso, until your quadriceps are parallel to the floor. Repeat 10 times or more if you feel like it. Your lower body will feel the stretch, and your heart will start to beat a bit faster.
- Quadriceps stretches – Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend your right leg back and grab your right foot with your right hand. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your left side. The back of your thighs will feel a good stretch and you’ll also engage your core muscles for balance, so you’ll feel a stretch in your abdomen as well.
- Shoulder chair stretches – Take your right shoulder and hook it around the back of your chair. Take your left arm and reach over your chest. Lock your left hand in your right hand and reach towards the right side of your body. This is a great stretch for those stuck sitting at a computer all day.
These are just a few examples of exercises that can easily be done in a small office or cubicle.
4. Hold off on checking your email
Emails have a way of creeping into our productivity and holding us back from getting more stuff done. We often feel obligated to answer every email we receive as soon as we get it, which allows our day to control us.
Instead of letting others dictate your workflow, set aside certain times during the day to check email and respond to them.
You’ve seen the mugs, water bottles and t-shirts that say, “But first, coffee.” When it comes to starting your day out right, it’s best not to skip the things that get you motivated or inspired to work.
Do you absolutely need coffee to do your job? Of course not. But if you enjoy it, it’s worth making time for it before you jump into your emails or jump into your project management tool.
Instead of opening your email as soon as you get to your desk, try doing a few alternative things to get yourself in the right frame of mind to be productive. For example, you could:
- Listen to your favorite song.
- Find a daily quote website and check that each day.
- Take three sips of coffee and a bite of your toast.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Finish a task from the day before that you didn’t quite finish.
Any of these activities should make you feel a little more confident before you jump into whatever the day has in store for you.
Let customers, clients and others know what to expect when they email you so they won’t be disappointed when you don’t respond right away.
You’ll get more done and you won’t get overwhelmed with tasks that shouldn’t be a priority anyway.
5. Organize your work area
Some people are more concerned with tidiness than others. Messy people will often tell you that they know exactly where everything is within their mess. But clutter looks bad to your coworkers (and your boss) and also tends to make you less productive.
By keeping things well-organized, it will be easier to move from one task to another and your productivity levels will increase.
The stress (and wasted time) of trying to find misplaced paperwork on a messy desk or among unorganized files can take a toll on your energy levels.
6. Write things down
Not everyone is a list-maker. Some people prefer to use a calendar or to write down tasks on single sheets of paper so they can throw them away once the task is complete. Whatever works for you is fine.
The important thing is to write down your most important tasks so they are fresh in your mind. This way, when other things come up throughout the day (and they will), you’ll have your priority list to fall back on and keep you focused.
7. Get enough sleep
Many people make the mistake of thinking they have to use as many hours in the day as possible to be productive. However, not getting enough sleep has repeatedly been proven to cause us to be less productive.
In fact, studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can actually cause your brain to shrink. That’s the opposite of a brain booster!
We all have those days when we simply can’t fit in the recommended eight hours and that’s okay. But as a rule, don’t skimp on sleep. It will catch up with you later and it won’t help your goal of having a more productive work week.
8. Set realistic goals
Sometimes the only thing standing in our way is that we are overwhelmed by everything we want to accomplish during the workweek. You are human and can only do so much in a day, week, month, etc. Learning to accept that fact is half the battle.
One way to make your workload more manageable is to set goals for yourself that are achievable. By making your goals possible and even easy to reach, you’ll hit them faster, and set yourself for success all week long.
9. Drink plenty of water
It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated during the day, but that’s no excuse. Neglecting to hydrate throughout the day isn’t doing your brain any favors. Just like eating the right foods and keeping your body energized, drinking enough water is equally as important.
Bring your favorite water bottle with you to help you remember and enjoy drinking water. Take a few sips whenever you can – you may find it works even better than coffee!
Sometimes to get better focus, we must take a step back from what we are doing. It may sound counterproductive but by taking your mind off the task at hand for a minute or two, you will often come back to it with better clarity.
Some people are hesitant to meditate or take breaks from their work because they think they will lose their motivation. However, the opposite is often true. Sometimes a pause and a few deep breaths are all you need to get over whatever’s keeping you from being as productive as possible.
Here’s a a 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime.
11. Take scheduled breaks
You can’t work every minute of the day. Well, you can try but you won’t be very productive. Our brains aren’t meant to go full speed all day long.
Schedule breaks in between tasks, projects or after working for a certain amount of time. Set reminders so you don’t forget to take them.
You might think the boss is impressed with your work ethic and they may well be; but you’ll burn yourself out and that’s not good for anyone.
Just like remembering to eat breakfast and get enough sleep, taking breaks – even short ones – are good for your brain, and your productivity levels.
12. Keep your cell phone out of sight
There will be times when you need your phone nearby, especially if you have children or clients/customers who need to get in touch with you on a regular basis. But it’s also okay to set times when you aren’t available.
Setting boundaries – especially when it comes to your phone – is crucial to maximizing productivity. By hiding your phone in a drawer or keeping it in your purse or laptop bag, you effectively minimize its ability to distract you from your work.
13. Choose a quitting time
This one is hard for a lot of people as they often feel that the longer they work, the more they get done. Instead, determine your quitting time from the start. This way, you know exactly how much time you have to dedicate to the tasks you’re working on.
You’re going to have days when your quitting time just isn’t happening and that’s okay. Just aim to quit at your scheduled end time most days and you’ll find that you’re more productive the majority of the time.
Start boosting your brain
Some of these brain-boosting activities are easier than others to commit to and you don’t have to do all of them all the time to stay productive.
If you can commit to incorporating some of these simple tips into your workweek on a regular basis, you’ll see a significant boost in productivity. Plus, you’ll feel a lot better while kicking butt at work!
Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com
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