Confession: I'm an avid to-do lister. Without my hour-by-hour, ridiculously detailed to-do list, I'm convinced I'd spiral out of control. That's why we've told you about tons of to-do list apps out there to get you on the bandwagon, too.
But the reality is that simply writing down what you have to get done doesn't work for everyone. Some people need more than a list to be productive and, you know, actually check off what's on that list. So here are seven ways to be more productive, sans the bulleted agenda.
(Note: Even if you are a lister, like me, these techniques can benefit you, too!)
1. Wake up earlier.
A wealth of research touts the benefits of waking up early. Beyond making you happier, a 2008 study finds that morning people tend to procrastinate much less than people who have a tendency to hit snooze.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast.
Eating a healthy breakfast not only tastes good, but it also gives you the energy you need to work efficiently. Science has proven time and time again that eating a hearty meal in the morning makes you more productive.
According to a 2014 Harvard Business Review article:
"Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. 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."
3. Hit the gym.
Exercise can significantly impact your productivity. In fact, according to a Briston University study on 200 employees at three organizations, exercise boosts productivity by 21%. Specifically, on workout days, the study participants' scores were 21% higher for concentration on work, 22% higher for completing their work on time, 25% higher for working without unscheduled breaks and 41% higher for feeling motivated to work.
4. Write in a journal.
While you don't need to journal about your responsibilities for the day (we're not talking about to-do lists, here, remember?), you can still take a pen to paper and journal about everything that has nothing to do with your responsibilities for the day — all those things on your mind that are keeping you from concentrating.
In short, journaling is a surefire way to clear the clutter in your head, which, of course, can help you to focus on the tasks you have at hand. And it has a whole host of mental health benefits like relieving stress, keeping you from getting sick, helping to jog your memory and boosting your self-esteem, which can all contribute to increased productivity, as well.
5. Practice self-care.
Point blank: Self-care is important. But we all too often allow ourselves to forgo self-care practices, claiming that we don't have the time. The reality is that, if you can make the time for self-care, you may find that you actually have more time. Why? Self-care can substantially improve your mental health, which can help you to work more efficiently and productively. The more you make time for the seemingly unimportant aspects of your life, like taking a bath or cooking dinner or going for a job or reading a book, the more you'll realize just how important they are and how much they can enhance the other aspects of your life.
Not sure where to get started? Here are some simple self-care ideas.
Meditation is a proven method of keeping mindful and grounded in the present, which, of course, keeps you focused. Studies show that "doing nothing" for 20 minutes a day actually increases your productivity.
According to the Harvard Business Review:
"Research shows that an ability to resist urges will improve your relationships, increase your dependability, and raise your performance. If you can resist your urges, you can make better, more thoughtful decisions. You can be more intentional about what you say and how you say it. You can think about the outcome of your actions before following through on them. Our ability to resist an impulse determines our success in learning a new behavior or changing an old habit. It’s probably the single most important skill for our growth and development."
7. Get adequate sleep.
It's no secret that getting enough sleep is good for you. And beyond keeping you healthy, adequate sleep can also make you more productive. In fact, one study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion finds that, when employees get five or fewer hours of sleep each night, they're generally absent 1.5 times more days (with 1.9 times as much productivity loss) as employees who reported eight hours of sleep per night. Meanwhile, those who report “almost always” feeling tired during the day average about 2.7 times more days absent (with 4.4 times more productivity loss) than employees who report “almost never” feeling tired.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.