What if I told you that a simple morning routine improved my productivity by 300%? Of course, everyone is different, but there is powerful research out there showing that daily rituals can lead to improvements in a number of areas of life. While you might understand this intuitively, here are some points to consider:
• Following a ritual before a deadline or public speaking appearance can help lower anxiety
• Rituals can help prepare you to take on challenging tasks
• If you want to make a change and have it stick, rituals can help reinforce this desired behavior
If you have your own company, work as a freelancer, are active in the tech startup space or just want to improve how your days go, here are the top 15 daily rituals that can help you experience your own productivity gains.
1. Stick to a Simple Morning Routine
Before I start working, I give special attention to the mental, spiritual, physical and emotional areas of my life. Importantly, I have a designated time limit for each session. Here’s how my routine goes:
- Wake up and head straight to the gym
- 20 minutes: Weights
- 20 minutes: Treadmill
- A warm shower that I end with 20 seconds of cold water
- 30 minutes: Writing
- 30 minutes: Clearing out email inbox and setting up the tasks for each of my work sessions in the day
- 20 minutes: Meditation
- 30 minutes: Udemy Lessons
Once this routine is finished, I start my first Work Session of 60 minutes. Then I’ll do my first Book Reading session of 30 minutes, followed by another work session.
Having a routine like this might sound insane to some but is necessary if you truly want to cover every facet of life from work and personal development.
2. Set Mini Goals
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by large projects or even just daily tasks. Setting mini goals breaks the tasks into more manageable pieces. You can use different approaches such as a word limit, a time limit or limiting yourself to one small part of a project for that day. As you accomplish each mini goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that can help keep you motivated to complete the project as a whole.
Remember: We tend to lose focus and become demotivated when we’re not seeing results of the work we’re doing.
This concept can be applied to anybody in any situation. Whether your goal is to lose weight or make more money, specifying limits to your work and diversifying your time into different parts will allow you to take procrastination out of the picture by having set routines and set tasks in those routines.
I personally break everything I do into sessions. Each session has a specific task and time limit. This keeps me focused and productive.
3. Keep Hydrated
You might think that drinking water is so ingrained in your life that you don’t need to make a daily ritual of it. However, most adults probably aren’t getting enough water. Staying hydrated is key to keeping your body’s systems, including your brain, heart, and muscles, operating properly. If you don’t have enough fluid in your system, you could become weak, dizzy or confused, and you definitely won’t be working up to your potential. Set a goal for how much water you want to drink every day and make sure you drink up.
I include meditation in my morning routine, but you can meditate at any time of the day. Meditation is becoming more popular in western society, but there may be some confusion around its benefits. Research has shown that it can help:
- Improve focus
- Improve memory and learning
- Improve decision making
- Reduce stress, anxiety and other triggers that can hinder performance
5. Eat Healthy and Balanced Meals
This suggestion is important for your physical health, but it can also boost your productivity. Everyone’s body is different and there are endless types of diets and food plans to follow. One thing we can agree on is the need to properly fuel our bodies. With proper and regular nutrition, you can avoid sugar or caffeine spikes and crashes that can interrupt your productivity.
If you find you don’t have time to make healthy meals throughout the day, you can fix this with a little meal prep on your off days. Also, in the case where you are working non-stop on an important deadline, make sure you have healthy, fresh and energizing snacks on hand, so you don’t reach for the chips, candy or soda.
6. Make Time for Enjoyment
You know what they say about ‘all work and no play.’ Beyond the risk of becoming dull, working non-stop could make you less productive. It seems counterintuitive. However, long stretches of work are more likely to leave you feeling burned out and not performing your best. If you take time in between work sessions to have a little fun, you’ll be more energized for your next task.
Enjoyment looks different for everyone. Maybe it’s jumping around or singing a song or building Legos. Doing something active has the added benefit of giving you a boost of endorphins to get you charged up for the next work session. Be sure to set a time limit for the fun – ex: 5 minutes – so that you don’t lose momentum in your work.
7. Remember Your Why
While you may have your company’s vision in mind or embedded in your email signature, it’s helpful to have a formal process in place for remembering your “why” every day. It’s easy to get bogged down in the mundane or overwhelmed by the monumental but taking time to actively think about the big picture can help get you excited about work again.
You can use a simple visualization exercise to picture your goals, the steps you’re taking to achieve them and what it will be like when you are successful.
8. Focus on Single Task at Hand
For many years, productivity gurus espoused the importance of multi-tasking. Now, we know better. Multi-tasking is actually terrible for productivity and results. A study from Stanford showed that multitaskers perform worse when it comes to memory, attention spans and the ability to switch from task to task.
Even without this scientific research, I have found for myself that multi-tasking just doesn’t work. That’s why for each “session” in my day, there are only 2 rules I abide by.
- I don’t have to Write / Watch / Work / Read — I just have to DO the task
- I can’t do anything else
These rules ensure I perform the best I can on each task, and it makes it easier for me to switch to a new task.
9. Write a To Do List
Improving productivity requires a bit of organization and prioritization. To Do lists or project management software such as Trello, Asana or Basecamp can help get you started. These lists allow you to list everything you need to get done and prioritize tasks based on importance. This can help make sure you don’t overlook or forget anything. If you work with a team, you can use the project management software to assign tasks to others, send follow-ups and record progress.
Putting things down in writing or in an application help get the information out of your brain and remove the stress that you might forget an important item.
10. Exercise Regularly
If you don’t put exercise into your morning routine, make sure you set aside a specific time for physical activity. Not only does it keep your body in top physical shape and help avoid illnesses, but physical exercise also helps the brain. Studies have shown that exercise can help with memory and thinking. It can also indirect support the brain by lowering stress and improving mood.
Its recommended that you exercise for 20 minutes most days of the week, but the optimal amount of exercise will depend on your body and habits.
11. Clean Work Space at End of Day
An organized workspace can support an organized mind. If you take a few minutes at the end of every workday to get prepared for the next day, you’re more likely to be productive the next day. Part of this process should include cleaning your space. Remove any cups, go through paperwork or notes you’ve made throughout the day and keep only those that are important, put away chargers, update your to-do lists and other organizational software, etc.
It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it will make it easier for you to get right to work the next day and to stay on top of everything you have to do.
12. Separate Work and Personal Lives
This point may be a bit contentious for people starting companies whose whole lives become about their companies. Some successful startups such as Warby Parker even made it part of their ethos early on to make sure their company considered both work and personal lives since the founders were giving so much of themselves to the company. However, it can actually boost productivity if you have a break between work and personal lives.
Sometimes it feels like you’ll be able to solve a complicated problem or get all of your work done if you just stay at the office or in front of your computer a little longer. However, taking a break and enjoying your personal life can help you recharge for the next day. It also gives your brain a break and often this is when solutions can appear. Consider the number of times good ideas came to you in the shower.
13. Connect with Others
We, humans, are social creatures. With the rise of fully remote teams and the gig economy, more and more workers are working on our own, with our only companion being our laptop. In these circumstances, it’s important to make time in your day to connect with others.
If you are part of a fully distributed team, tools like Slack are great for connecting with colleagues. In addition to messaging, try to find time for voice or video calls. During team check-ins, take a few minutes to talk about non-work topics. It can bring teams closer together.
If you work on your own, consider joining a co-working space or at least working in a coffee shop so you can interact with others in a similar situation. Conversation and human connection are important so you don’t risk becoming isolated and depressed, which could affect the quality of your work.
14. Let Your Eyes Rest
Between smartphones, tablets and laptops, it is possible to spend more hours staring at a screen than not. This screen time can strain your eyes, so it’s important to give yourself time to rest. While blue-light filtering glasses can help, stepping away from your screens completely is even better.
One way to prevent eye strain is to follow the “20-20-20 rule” developed by California optometrist, Dr. Jeff Anshel. He recommends that after every 20 minutes spent in front of a screen, you stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This break allows your eyes to refocus. Similarly, you could close your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to help refresh your eyes.
These tips can help avoid eye fatigue, headaches, sore, burning, watery or itchy eyes. You need your eyes to be in top shape, so you don’t lose time to recovering from eye problems.
15. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can impact your productivity significantly. Research has shown that lack of sleep can throw off your cognitive performance. This impacts things like concentration, creativity, decision making, memory, response times and more. Without the proper amount of sleep, you’re more likely to make mistakes, finish your work in a sub-par manner and communicate poorly.
Eight hours of sleep is recommended for most adults. If you’re a parent or business owner, this may seem impossible. However, getting as much high-quality sleep as possible is important for the success of your company and general well-being in life.