All posts by Jon Bradshaw

8 Morning Routine Hacks to Kick-Start Your Productivity

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Morning Routine Hacks

Morning choices can make or break your day. Should you check your phone or hop in the shower? Should you make coffee or prepare lunch? 

These and many other choices can be paralyzing. And by the time you make a decision, your day is already thrown off kilter. 

If that experience feels familiar, it’s a sign that you need to inject some structure into your mornings. A consistent morning routine is just the thing to set a productive tone for the rest of the day.

Creating a successful routine comes down to two things: picking the right activities, and ensuring you have enough time to tackle them. Here’s how to do it:

1. Wake up Early 

They say the early bird catches the worm. And judging by the fact that many successful people wake up well before the workday begins, there must be some truth in that saying. 

If you get up early, you have time to go about your morning routine without feeling rushed. That sense of peace allows you to do important things like reading the news or practicing self-care — things that usually get sidelined when you’re in a time crunch.

2. Turn on the Light 

Are you having trouble waking up to just your alarm clock? Instead of hitting the snooze button, try using light. Your eyes have light receptors that detect brightness. Light automatically sends your brain a message that it’s time to wake up. 

Try keeping the curtains open and waiting for the sun to rise each morning. If you need help getting up before sunrise, look into wake-up light alarm clocks.

Switching this environmental cue could help change your body’s natural clock. If you’re used to waking up late, it’s an easy way to rewire your brain for early rising. 

3. Avoid Screen Time 

According to an IDC report, 80% of smartphone users check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up. In fact, that’s the last thing you should be doing when you wake up. 

Smartphones are filled with distractions that can keep you in bed longer than you should be. They interfere with your productivity by wasting valuable time.

Keep your phone out of your bedroom. That forces you to get out of bed and start your day before you can look at it. If you find yourself looking at it too frequently during the day, get an app to limit your access to certain apps or lock you out entirely. 

4. Meditate Productively

Try productive meditation in the morning to problem-solve. Cal Newport introduces the concept in his book “Deep Work”: Productive meditation is a way to find solutions to your problems while commuting or doing something physical, such as brushing your teeth. 

When practicing this, focus on the questions that arise from your problems. When you let questions marinate in your mind, answers will naturally bubble up to the surface. The perk of productive meditating is that the solution often comes to you when you least expect it. 

5. Exercise

Experts say that morning is the best time to exercise. An invigorating morning workout boosts your energy levels, starts your metabolism, and burns fat. All of these benefits contribute to a feeling of accomplishment and increased levels of productivity. 

You could do it in your home, go out for a run, or hit the gym before heading to work. Whatever you decide, squeeze at least 15 minutes of activity into your morning.

6. Eat a Healthy Breakfast 

It’s easy to downplay the importance of breakfast, especially when so many breakfast foods are filled with sugar. In addition to skin- and weight-related benefits, a healthy breakfast improves your cognitive performance and gives you the energy you need to be productive. 

Say “no” to pancakes, donuts, and sugary cereals. Build your breakfasts with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

7. Set Daily Goals 

The happy feeling we get from accomplishing goals is priceless. But in order to accomplish goals, we need to be clear on what they are.

The morning is the perfect time to set your goals for the day. Write a realistic list of daily tasks, perhaps while you eat your healthy breakfast. Cross off items as you finish them during the day. 

Break down large tasks into smaller ones. For example, if you’re working on a 100-page business proposal, make it a goal to complete three pages per day, every day. Making steady progress encourages you to keep going when it gets tough.

8. Keep it Simple

There is so much that you can put in your morning routine. Don’t overdo it: Trying to do too much can be just as problematic as doing too little. 

It’s better to do a few things well than doing many things poorly. If you like to journal in the morning, great — but don’t expect to fit in exercise and a call to your mom, too. Keeping your routine simple helps you stay calm and focus on activities that actually matter to you.

Ultimately, your morning routine only needs to work for one person: you. Take what you need and leave the rest. Once you’ve found a routine that works for you, your morning becomes one less thing to worry about.

Why Are Remote Workers More Productive?

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Did you know that, on the average day, 8 million people in the U.S. work remotely? That’s 5.2% of the population.

During the COVID crisis, the number of people working from home may be ten- or twenty-fold greater than the usual figure. But is working in pajamas from the comfort of your home actually productive?

Sure, it’s easy to get distracted by disgruntled pets or your roommate’s blaring music. But studies  show that working from home actually increases productivity. Here’s why:

1. Flexibility 

When you work from home, you have more control over your schedule. If you’re tackling a long-term project, you can dig into it at your own pace. What matters is that you finish by the deadline. 

If you work on a team, it’s important to indicate those preferences on your calendar. Some people work better at the last minute, while others prefer to work ahead. Use time-blocking to tell your team when you’ll be working on each project.

2. Independence  

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Big brother looking over your shoulder all the time makes most people self-conscious. 

While working remote, take advantage of your independence. You don’t have to report to the office, so you can get started working earlier. Your work space can be as messy or as clean as you like. You don’t even have to work at a desk. 

Most importantly, working from home allows you to take breaks on your schedule. Try the Pomodoro Technique. With this technique, you focus intently on one task for 25 minutes or so, followed by a 5 minute break.

3. No commute

You know what it’s like to wake up late: You grab the clothes nearest to you and throw them on. You run out of the house with coffee in hand, heading for a 45 minute commute. By the time you get to work, you realize you forgot your lunch. There’s another half hour gone to find food out.

When you work from home, there’s no commute. All your food is but a room away. And working a little late isn’t a big deal because there’s no rush hour traffic to worry about.

When you save time, you can work on new projects and further your career. Take a free HubSpot course on content marketing. Learn how to code. Read a book on personal development. 

4. More free time

When you work from home, you have more free time. People who have more free time tend to be happier, and happy people are more productive. 

Try scheduling a little fun in the middle of the work day. Watch a TV show, take a walk, or exercise during your lunch break.

If you decide to try time blocking, it’s important to block out your entire day. Relaxation and family time are important, too. Blocking out your entire day might look like this: 

5–6 a.m.: Morning routine 

6–7 a.m.: Eat breakfast

7–7:30 a.m.: Email & social media

7:30–9 a.m.: Deep work

9–9:30 a.m.: Break

9–10 a.m.: Conference call meeting

10 a.m.–Noon: Lunch and exercise

Noon–1 p.m.: Lunch

1–1:30 p.m.: Email

1:30–2:30 p.m.: Remote team meeting 

2:30–3:30 p.m.: Available for phone calls 

3:30–4 p.m.: Email

4–5 p.m.: Personal development

5–9 p.m.: Quality time with friends & family

9–10 p.m.: Wind down for bed

5. No Office Distractions

With remote work, you can say goodbye to office distractions. You don’t have to worry about your deskmate asking you every question under the sun when a deadline is looming. Your work friend won’t randomly stop by to chat. You won’t freak out when the break room is out of your favorite coffee.

Fewer distractions means more productivity. But it’s still important to be an effective remote team member

  • Keeping up to date with company culture
  • Looking into coworking memberships 
  • Keeping communication simple 
  • Complimenting your coworkers  
  • Keeping information security front of mind 

Not every worker is more productive while remote, but many are. It’s all about choices: Choose to use saved time to better yourself. Keep distractions out of your home office. Enjoy — but be responsible with — your flexibility and independence.


9 Tips to Have a Productive Meeting Every Time

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Without warning, your manager calls a status update meeting. You groan, put your stuff down, and shuffle off to the conference room.

The meeting starts off well, but then it goes down a rabbit hole. Your manager can’t seem to follow the agenda and keeps going on tangents. On top of that, you have a deadline to meet in an hour. That’s when you start questioning why this meeting was called in the first place. 

In the U.S., unproductive meetings cost an estimated $399 billion each year. They not only waste money but also irritate team members and slow the pace of work.

Making meetings productive and efficient is a business imperative. Here are some ways to make the most of every work meeting:

1. Finish Priorities Ahead of Time 

During a meeting, you shouldn’t be worried about the time you have to complete your tasks. Make it a point to finish your priorities beforehand so you can focus on the conversation.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to get ahead. With the method, you focus deeply on one task for any amount of time you like — often 5, 20, or 45 minutes. During that time, you do nothing but the task you set out for yourself. That means no checking Facebook or updating Twitter. After that time is over, take a short break before repeating the cycle.

2. Make an Agenda 

It’s easy to get off task when you don’t have a guide to keep you on track. Make an agenda before for your meeting, circulate it to your team members, and stick to it. That way, everyone knows what to expect.

When you make an agenda, think about what action items need to be accomplished. For example, if your meeting is supposed to discuss yearly marketing goals, make a list of them and cross off goals as they’re discussed. 

3. Start and End on Time 

Delaying a meeting’s start time can completely throw off your agenda. Begin on time to show your team that you respect their schedules. 

By starting on time, you communicate that everything will go according to plan. At the same time, you set an expectation of punctuality for attendees. 

Be sure, too, to end the meeting at a predetermined time. By limiting meeting length, you push yourself to be efficient. You might find that a meeting you thought would take an hour only required 30 minutes. 

4. Cap Attendance 

Meetings can be unproductive when people are invited who don’t need to be there. Address this issue by capping attendance based on the topic to be discussed.

If the meeting is about client service best practices, ask only your client services staff to attend. If you’re discussing engineering goals for a new software launch, invite just your engineers, project manager, and product owner.

5. Don’t Require Attendance 

One of the most annoying aspects of meetings is required attendance, especially for those who have deadlines coming up. It’s better to let people off the hook who can better serve the company elsewhere. 

An efficient way to indicate that you opt out is to set your calendar availability accordingly. You and others who opt out should ask for a recording of the meeting and, if appropriate, provide feedback via email.

To optimize your calendar availability:  

  • Make sure your availability matches that of your company.
  • Choose your own “no meetings” hours.
  • Decide who can view your availability.
  • Merge your personal and professional calendars.
  • Give people a heads up about exceptions.

6. Schedule Breaks 

If you plan on holding a meeting longer than an hour, schedule a break in between. A good break refreshes your mind and helps you restore your attention.

Grab some coffee or a snack. Meditate for a few minutes. Use the bathroom, or get a drink. You’ll come back refreshed and ready for the second half of the meeting. 

7. Make it Fun

Who says meetings have to be boring? You could host a roundtable brainstorm session to motivate your team of writers. A roundtable brainstorm is when everyone sits in a circle and spits out whatever comes to mind. This helps people get their creative juices flowing. 

Or, you could make every weekly meeting themed and encourage employees to dress up. Perhaps this Thursday’s meeting is a Hawaiian theme. Employees could wear luau gear and develop an agenda with luau vocabulary. Fun activities create engagement, which boosts focus and productivity. 

8. Participate 

You get more value from meetings when you have a voice. Make your voice heard during meetings, even when it feels difficult. 

Some ways to participate during meetings include taking notes, contributing to discussions, and picking your battles. It’s also important not to dominate the conversation. Soften your objections so they’re taken in stride. 

9. Follow Up Afterward

After meetings, it’s common for people to have additional concerns. Keep this in check by sending out a post-meeting follow-up message.

At the end of the meeting, take five minutes to recap the discussion in an email. If there’s a lot to discuss and just a few people who need to hear it, schedule a follow-up meeting. These are perfect for talking through project briefs or delegating tasks.

The truth is, a huge number of business meetings are wastes of time. Be thoughtful with who you invite, stick to the script, and don’t be late. Meetings can be productive, but only if you put in the effort.

Why Scheduling Software Is Critical for Modern Companies

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Today’s workers have a wide range of priorities competing for their attention. Clever ways of setting your calendar can certainly help. But meetings, deadlines, and minutiae can overwhelm even the most organized among us. 

With more firms concerned with employee engagement and work-life balance, initiatives like compressed working weeks, flexible schedules, and remote work make the juggling act all the more complex. 

Fortunately, there are tools designed to help. If you’re trying to create a more productive work environment, scheduling software can be the answer. Here’s why modern companies invest in it:

1. Keeping everyone on the same page

Scheduling software cuts down on human error and improves the flow of communication. Switching to a centralized scheduling system lets team members ditch their messy manual methods of trying to keep a handle on where resources are.

With a digital scheduling solution, everyone in your organization can log into a dashboard and, at a glance, see what’s going on. With remote work on the rise, having the ability to sync employees across time zones and geographies is critical — another key benefit that scheduling tools provide. 

What’s more, a software system automates reminders. Should a meeting time change, it can notify staff of changes. This lightens team members’ mental load, and it decreases the amount of time wasted by missed meetings or canceled appointments. 

2. Driving efficiency 

Whatever the size of your team, keeping things running smoothly can be tough. There is almost always room to increase efficiency. 

With a mobile-optimized tool, you and your employees can check and create new appointments on the go. Analytics features can tell you which people you’re meeting with most. The “what gets measured, gets managed” adage is as true today as it was when Peter Drucker wrote it. 

Team members, not just leaders, need scheduling data to minimize fatigue. Fatigue impacts nearly 40% of U.S. workers and costs employers billions in lost productivity.

3. Enabling prioritization

One of the benefits of using a scheduling system is the ability to define and track priorities. This allows you to focus on those tasks that are more important or have near-term deadlines.

Labeling systems are a simple but effective solution. Labeling lets other team members know what’s important and encourages them to row in the same direction. 

A digital prioritization system also minimizes errors. Trying to keep track of things mentally can make you feel like you’re buried beneath a mountain of work with not enough time to get it all done. The more you stress, the further your quality of work is likely to fall. 

4. Creating a competitive advantage

Scheduling tools don’t sell products, but they can help you solve a lot of related problems. This includes internal issues as well as customer-facing problems.

Start with the customer experience. Nearly a third of customers say that they would leave a current service provider if a competitor offered online scheduling. This is particularly true of service companies, such as hair salons, therapists, and mechanics. 

The employee experience also benefits from scheduling software. Say you need to set up a one-on-one conversation with someone on your team. Scheduling software lays out the options, generates notifications, and lets either party switch with a few clicks. 

5. Saving money

Again, a scheduling software can’t stop you from swiping your card, but it can save you money in all sorts of quiet ways. 

Labor is many company’s biggest expense category. Scheduling software can help your team spend more time serving customers and less on things like scheduling meetings and sending time-off requests.

Consider, even implementing scheduling software saves a 100-person team half an hour per person per week, that’s 50 extra working hours. That’s more than a free week of labor. 

Scheduling software is powerful. Don’t underestimate how its small boosts to productivity add up to a big advantage. 

5 Scheduling Software Tips to Get You Ahead in 2020

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Are you frustrated by all the time you spend scheduling appointments? Across a day’s worth of meetings, it may cost you an hour just to get everything on the calendar.

This is a particular challenge for companies that rely on appointments — hair salons, dental offices, massage therapists, and more. Staff and owners need a seamless, reliable way to manage the booking process. 

The right answer is one that’s easy for employees as well as customers to use. At a time when 75% of millennials prefer texting over talking on the phone, online booking tools are increasingly in demand.

The question is, are you getting the most out of yours? Here are five ways to do it:

1. Take advantage of point-of-sale integrations

Many scheduling software tools are designed to integrate with PayPal or other payment processors, but a lot of users do not know it. This feature can be handy for any small business that spends a lot of time chasing clients with invoices.

With this type of integration, you can request upfront payment for services, which saves your staff time and gives your revenue a boost. This can also be a strategy for delivering better customer experiences. 

By having embedded payment options directly in an appointment scheduling tool, you fundamentally make things easier. 

Consider this scenario: After a purchase is complete, a customer’s credit card is automatically charged the proper amount and a receipt emailed to them. It’s just like Uber — no fumbling around with cash or waiting for confirmation.

2. Communicate your policies clearly

Customers want to know what they’re signing up for before they do business. If you don’t list your prices and rules on your site or in your appointment confirmation email, you give people more reason to hesitate and ask questions. 

It’s particularly important to give upfront prices, including fees for late cancellations and no-shows. This reduces the need to explain anything and encourages customers to do their homework ahead of time.

Depending on your business, taking a small deposit may also make sense in the event a client cancels. If this is the case, you can get customers to enter a credit card number when they book and inform them that they’ll be charged in certain situations, such as canceling less than 24 hours in advance.

3. Use automation to reduce wait times

Scheduling software gives you a high degree of control over your calendar. It lets you do things like set “never ever” hours and manage how your availability is displayed. But perhaps most importantly, it allows you to automatically inform others of changes. 

Taking advantage of this creates time efficiencies for both you and your customers. If you’re charging customers for being late or not showing up, it’s not fair to expect them to endure excessive wait times or last-minute changes.

In the case that you’re running late, there are simple notification features that allow you to keep customers in the loop. That way, you can stop a missed meeting from snowballing into a sour customer experience. 

4. Sync it all

If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “I don’t want to use yet another app.” There are so many tools out there that learning to use a new one — even one designed to make life easier — is stressful. 

The good news is that scheduling software is simple, intuitive, and can be synced to most major desktop, mobile, and cloud-based calendaring solutions. Because it works with Outlook, Google, and iCal and more, changes made in the appointment tool will appear on your — and if you want, your customers’ — digital calendars.

Additional useful features include a client list and email integration. Together, these capabilities make it easier for business leaders to build and stay in touch with a large mailing list. The ability to capture emails is valuable, given how exceptionally well this channel gets consumers’ attention.

5. Make the most of the data at your disposal

Many scheduling tools feature reporting capabilities, helping you get insight into your company’s performance, behavior trends, and customer base. More leaders than you’d expect leave this data on the table.

Don’t ignore what you’re paying for. These reports can be exported in a variety of formats for further analysis in spreadsheets and other analytics tools. 

With a greater understanding of your customers, you can better tailor your content and the look of your calendar to those you serve. This can be as simple as adding a custom logo or color scheme, changing a style of speaking or tone, or adjusting the frequency of contact. But it can be as complex as cohort analyses and account-based marketing.

When you take the time to set up your scheduling software properly, you’ll elevate your customer experience and save yourself time. In doing so, you’ll make not just your life easier, but also that of your clients and team members. And surely that’s worth getting to know a new tool. 

Break These 4 Bad Habits to Boost Your Productivity

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It’s hard not to admire Bill Gates. A billionaire, philanthropist, and founder of Microsoft, Gates has achieved more than most people ever will. There are a variety of reasons for his success, but one that often gets overlooked is meticulous time management. 

We all have the same number of hours each day. So why do successful people get so much done while others struggle with a basic to-do list? 

Bill Gates is an outlier, and it’s unlikely that most of us could take his approach and expect similar results. But for the average person, learning the basics like how to optimize your day or how to break big tasks down into manageable bites can make a big difference. 

This is well and good, but perhaps the most important thing is not what you do but what you don’t do

More than half the battle is avoiding pitfalls. There are tons of things that limit our productivity, but attempting to change seventeen habits at once is overwhelming. Better to take a few at a time:

1. Repetitive checking 

It takes the average person 15 minutes of focus before they can fully engage in a task. Once past the 15-minute mark, it’s possible to get into a flow — an energized state with focused attention. Research shows that people in a flow state are five times more productive than they otherwise would be.

Repetitively checking your devices kills flow. When it comes to habitual phone-checking, everyone has their drug of choice. Many get pulled into Facebook’s vortex, some can’t stop refreshing their email inboxes, while others always seem to find themselves back on Twitter. 

Smartphones have created conditions where most of us live in a perpetual state of distraction. Worst of all, many of these services and apps are designed to take advantage of our psychological weaknesses and encourage compulsive usage. 

Collectively, we need to fight back by identifying triggers (stress, unoccupied moments, etc.) and using lockout mechanisms that help curb repetitive checking. As Tristan Harris, director of the Center for Humane Technology, puts it: “We need to build firewalls around our attention.” 

2. Multitasking

Multitasking is a productivity black hole. You may think you’re more productive by doing a bunch of things at once, but you’re fooling yourself. 

The human brain might be good at switching between tasks, but in the process, it loses focus, creativity, and productivity. The dangerous thing is that multitasking feels productive when it isn’t. As Latin writer Publilius Syrus once said, “to do two things at once is to do neither.”

Many people claim to be good multitaskers, but the fact is that only 2% of people can do it well. For the remainder of us, the solution is to single-task ruthlessly. When multiple things pull on our attention, we have to prioritize. 

3. Putting things off

Procrastination is a human tendency. About 20% of adults have regular bouts of procrastination. Putting things off is generally a big productivity suck. 

A common trap people fall into in the office is to avoid difficult or intimidating tasks first thing in the morning. We have a finite amount of mental energy, and as we use up this energy, our decision-making, and productivity decline. This is referred to as “decision fatigue.” 

When you put off tough tasks, you save them for when you’re potentially at your worst. Strive to tackle your biggest tasks when your mind is fresh. 

This requires motivation, which is fickle. It’s better to cultivate discipline. Be disciplined and take your biggest tasks head-on every morning. 

4. Not getting enough sleep

A good night’s sleep is critical to maintaining good health. Without good health, it’s tough to be productive in any meaningful sense. This may seem obvious, but it is worth mentioning because, according to the CDC, one in three adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep. 

Research has shown that getting five hours or less of sleep several nights in a row affects a person much like alcohol consumption. Being under-rested leads to a partially impaired state where you’ll be more likely to make mistakes, have more headaches, and be more prone to distraction. 

Practicing better sleep hygiene may be the surest path to more productive days. This can take many forms, but a good place to start is sticking to schedule. 

When planning your day, take into account your circadian rhythms, which might mean sleeping at different times. Creating a sleep ritual, limiting screen time before bed, lowering temperatures in your bedroom, napping during the day if it suits you, and limiting caffeine intake are all also good ideas.  

These habits may seem minor, but they add up. Most boil down to a choice between immediate gratification and delayed gratification. With a little intention and discipline, you can live more productive lives and get more of what you want.

Spring Clean Your Schedule: 4 Steps to Greater Productivity

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Modern life is hectic. If you’re not careful, it can become a whirlwind of appointments, notifications, and deadlines. In this state of disorganization, it’s easy to push aside some of your basic needs. 

Working some of these basics back into your schedule is a good place to start, but it should be part of a broader picture of resetting your priorities. And there’s no time like the spring to get that done. 

Truly prioritizing allows you to tidy up your schedule, reorganize your days, and, ultimately, achieve more in life. It’s not complicated, but it does require a little effort.

Create a master list

We have different priorities. There are daily tasks that need attention, targets to hit for the week, and things that need to get accomplished within a month. 

The tricky part is that these competing demands rarely line up, and it’s all too easy to focus on what’s most urgent or right in front of you while ignoring the long-term items. To get a handle on these tasks, you need to get everything down in one place.

Step one is to make a master list — a document, app, or a good old piece of paper where all of your tasks are listed. 

This is in keeping with productivity consultant David Allen’s “Get Things Done” methodology, which emphasizes getting your to-dos out of your head in a systematized way that you can refer to later. This frees your mind of any distractions that might stop you from working efficiently. It also creates a foundation for step two. 

Separate your “shoulds” from your “musts”

As self-development author Brian Tracey says, “there’s never enough time to do everything, but there’s always enough time to do the most important thing.” 

With your master list neatly laid out, you can step back and review it in terms of what you should do as opposed to things you must do. What’s the difference? 

Well, shoulds are habits, behaviors, and ideas that come from other people. These pesky shoulds permeate your brain, and they come from social conditioning, the people you follow on Linkedin, the ads you saw last week, etc. 

On the other hand, musts are the habits, behaviors, and ideas that originate from a sense of what’s important to you. These things are deeply personal, and they have to get done to achieve big goals and to become the best version of yourself. 

The problem is that people often confuse shoulds with musts. Without intentionality, we tend to get overwhelmed by the former and put the latter off. For example, scheduling downtime to do things that make you happy is a must, but the nearly endless stream of shoulds can detract from that. 

When you say “yes” to things on your schedule, make sure they aren’t at the expense of the bigger, more important, long-term items. In doing so, you can reprioritize your schedule to revolve around what matters and reduce the amount of time spent on trivial tasks. 

Clean up your physical environment

Starting a fresh schedule this spring would be incomplete without cleaning up your physical surroundings. Clutter builds up over time, and taking care of the spaces you inhabit on a daily basis can do wonders for your productivity.

Be sure to clean up your office desk this spring. Get rid of the unnecessary documents and trinkets you’ve collected over the last year. Tidy up your home so you aren’t constantly trying to squeeze chores into your schedule.

Decluttering reduces anxiety and gives you a feeling of self-efficacy that can translate to your daily tasks. Do not neglect your physical environment when you are revamping your schedule. 

Build supportive habits & structures

If you’re going to spend the time and energy to clean up your schedule and to refocus on your musts, you need a plan to support these changes.

There are a variety of ways you can approach this. Here are a few:

  • Develop a proactive morning routine
  • Tackle the most difficult things first 
  • Control how your availability is displayed
  • Spend time each evening planning the next day 
  • Practice the art of saying “no” 
  • Keep your workspace clutter-free 
  • Remember the sunk cost fallacy 

Doing these things matter because you are only as good as your habit systems. In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear puts it this way: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” 

Everyone thinks they know what’s important to them, but many still get swamped by the minutiae of life. The response is simple: Stop and list it all out. Prioritize ruthlessly, declutter, and then build habits to support your desired schedule.

Multitasking Kills Productivity: 5 Ways to Fight Back

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Wake Up, Listen Up: 7 Podcasts to Kickstart Your Day

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, there are always temptations to do more.  

While you’re trying to finish a proposal, your phone buzzes with text messages. Your kids can’t seem to stay focused on homework while you’re trying to finish dinner.

Try to get it all done at once, and you’ll struggle to accomplish much of anything. The reason? Your brain wasn’t built to multitask: Just 2.5% of people can multitask effectively.

Where does that leave the remaining 97.5% of us? In need of new ways to optimize our productivity. 

Multitasking alternatives

Instead of stretching yourself thin on multiple tasks, try training your focus on just one at a time. Here’s how to do it:

1. Get ahead of distractions.

There are so many distractions around us: notifications on our phone, the talkative coworker in the cube next to us, political news blaring from the television.

Before sitting down to work, get your workspace right. Shut off the notifications on your digital devices. Buy noise-cancelling headphones so your coworkers’ conversations don’t implode your brain. Ask the kids to go play outside. 


Every time you lose your focus, it feels impossible to attain again. Context switching, which is what our brain does when during a distraction, can cut your productivity by 80%. Keep it to a minimum. 


2. Chunk your time.

How long can you work on one task? An hour? 30 minutes? Maybe just 10 minutes?

If you can’t seem to focus on just one thing, break down big tasks into manageable, similar pieces. If you’re doing research for a proposal you’re writing, perhaps research one topic for 10 minutes and then move to the next. This approach minimizes context switching while keeping the mind interested in the larger task that needs to get done.


Time blocking is another smart approach. Split up your day into 15-minute blocks of time. Make sure you schedule something for every block, even if it’s just hanging out with the kids. Remember, relaxation time is valuable, too. 

3. Categorize tasks by effort.

If you pool together answering emails and putting together a marketing report into one category, you’re going to be in trouble. Those tasks require drastically different amounts of mental energy.

Answering emails is something you can do without using a lot of brain power. Composing a report is something you should sit down in a quiet room for a few hours to do. 


When time-blocking your schedule, arrange tasks by how challenging they are for you. Work on your most mentally taxing tasks when you’re fresh and have the most energy. Reserve your laid back tasks, like responding to emails, when you’re lower on energy. 

4. Schedule something that focuses you. 

In his book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller suggests using tasks that create focus as nodes for your schedule. What’s that one thing that, if you did it, would make your day more productive?


Think about it. Maybe it’s only checking your phone after you get your important tasks done in the morning. Perhaps it’s going to the gym every evening so that you start the next day with a good night’s sleep. When you schedule a priority that restores your focus, it’s easier to fight the frantic feeling that encourages multitasking. 

5. Keep your workspace clean.

Did you know that there is a direct correlation between productivity and clutter? If you want to avoid the pull to multitask, having a clean work space can make a major difference.

Start with the easy things. Studies show that paper is the No. 1 source of workplace clutter. Throw it away, or better yet, recycle it. Then organize the rest of your desk: Are there pens laying around? What about coasters or coffee cups?

Chaos begets chaos. When your desk area is clean, you’ll feel mentally cleaner as well.
stay productive. 

Behind all these tips is a single theme: mindfulness. When you’re aware of yourself and your surroundings, you can give full attention to one task at a time. Be present whether you’re typing an email, eating lunch, or watching the kids. Focus on one thing, and forget the rest until it’s time to tackle them. 

How to Hack Productivity Into Your Schedule

By | Scheduling | No Comments
8 Pieces of Productivity Tech to Add to Your Arsenal in 2020

We show up at work planning to be productive, but too often, our plans are thwarted by pointless meetings. Before we know it, the workday is half over, and we don’t have much to show for it. 

For many workers, productivity growth has stalled. Despite technological advances that should be increasing the economic outputs of hours worked, The New York Times reports that Americans’ recent output of work is growing slower than it has since the early 1980s. 

As frustrating as the situation seems, there are steps you can implement to take control of your own schedule:

Know your tendencies.

Like with most things, knowing yourself is the first step in optimizing your schedule. Your tendencies are a great place to start.

Habit expert Gretchen Rubin has a four tendencies quiz to help you understand how you respond to expectations. You can use this knowledge to figure out what aspects of your schedule to prioritize.

Obligers need external expectations in order to follow through with a goal. If this sounds like you, consider prioritizing the tasks that have accountability measures in place.  

If you like to question everything and prefer facts to opinions, you are a questioner. You’d have to understand the reasoning behind certain tasks before you add them to your schedule.

If you naturally go against rules, you’re known as a rebel. As a rebel, it’s essential to align your productivity goals with your identity. In this case, prioritize the tasks that match your personality, and you will be more productive.  

Finally, if you’re an upholder, you meet outer and inner expectations and love to have goals spelled out. You would probably benefit from creating a schedule that emphasizes your most detailed tasks.

Work when it works best for you.

Many self-help books preach the importance of working on important tasks early in the day. But if you hate mornings, why force yourself to be productive at that time? 

Different people have different circadian rhythms, which influence their energy levels throughout the day. Some people are naturally larks, which means they focus best in the morning. Others are naturally owls, and they focus best in the evening. 

We can’t all be morning people. Align your schedule with times that match your specific needs. This way, you won’t be playing catch-up on all your tasks. 

Having a nighttime routine.

According to the CDC, a third of adults in the United States do not get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. This can lead to all kinds of complications, including diabetes, obesity, and stroke. 

Not getting enough sleep also affects your ability to concentrate. Because sleep has so much bearing on your productivity, the process you go through to get a good night’s rest might as well be part of your work schedule. 

Create a nighttime routine that includes setting a consistent bedtime, meditating before bed, and avoiding large meals as well as screen time before sleeping. Getting enough sleep makes you more alert when you need to be. 

Have an emergency time fund.

In the same way that you might have an emergency fund for rainy days, do the same with your schedule. Having an emergency time fund means working ahead even when it isn’t necessary. If you know that you need to get a proposal done by the end of the week, for example, tackling it on Tuesday might let you take a long lunch with a friend. 

Having a time emergency fund ensures that you are prepared when the unexpected happens, such as when a meeting comes out of nowhere, when a family member gets sick, or when you have to take off from work for a minor fever. Working ahead keeps your schedule on track. 

Keep it simple.

Trying to fix all your scheduling problems at once can be overwhelming and unrealistic. If you want to make your schedule productive, start small. That way, you can keep it up. 

How much change you can handle at once is up to you. For some people, they might only want to focus on three goals a day, while others can consistently handle six.

The most essential part of working new goals into your schedule is that you stick with it. If you can be consistent with even the smallest of habits, then it will add up over time and become something significant. 

Making the most of your working hours is difficult because there are so many tasks to accomplish, and distractions are sure to happen. But taking these steps will put you in the position to execute even in the busiest times.

7 Steps to Make Meetings More Productive

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Leader meeting with employees

Meetings are notorious wastes of time. Although half the battle is calling only meetings that make sense, the rest is a matter of making the meetings you do hold productive. 

According to a Clarizen/Harris Poll survey, the average U.S. worker spends 4.5 hours in general status meetings every week. Employees spend an extra 4.6 hours every week preparing for those meetings.

Ten hours per week per employee is a serious time investment. Add in all the other meetings your team holds, and you had better make sure they’re productive.

Making Meetings Productive

Making meetings productive is about planning ahead, being focused in the meeting itself, and closing with clear action steps. Here’s how to do it:

1. Finish important tasks ahead of time.

One of the reasons that meetings are burdensome is because people do not plan ahead. Being in the right headspace for meetings is key.

Start with schedule arrangement. Use time blocking to ensure you aren’t trying to get other things done during the meeting time. With time blocking, you set aside a specific chunk of time to finish a particular task. For example, you might dedicate an hour to doing nothing but writing a request for proposals. This means no checking your social media or picking up random phone calls. 

2. Make a priority list.

If you want to get the most out of a meeting you’re required to attend, make a priority list. What goals do you want to accomplish by attending this meeting? To get opinions on a new partnership? To determine a new sales strategy? Jot that down, and bring it to the meeting.

This is a great way to keep meetings focused. At the beginning of the meeting, tell the group what you want to get out of the meeting. Ask others to briefly share their own goals for the conversation as well. If it gets off track, look down at your list and steer things back.

3. Participate.

Plans are great, but if you want to accomplish your goals at a meeting, then you have to throw your hat in the ring. If you just sit there like a stone, don’t expect others to think about your priorities for you. 

If you don’t understand what deadline your boss is speaking about, then speak up. If you’re convinced that you’ll forget a newly scheduled appointment with your client, write it down in the notes. 

4. Limit meeting time and attendees.

Do you want to get the most out of your meetings? Limit the time and attendees to what is necessary. The reason some meetings go on for hours is because they involve people who shouldn’t be present.

If the meeting is focused around marketing department priorities, only have marketing folks there. If you’re talking about a patent, then the legal team should be involved. If you’re attending a status meeting for a small department, anything more than one hour is overkill. 

5. Stay focused.

Meetings may not take intense focus, but you should still be engaged in them. If you spend every second of the meeting checking your email, then you won’t come away with anything valuable.

How do you stay focused during meetings? By realizing that the more attention you give to them, the more meaningful they will be. 

Here are some tips to stay focused during meetings

  • Listen to music, meditate, or otherwise relax before the meeting.
  • Be positive.
  • Keep your priority list handy.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.
  • Actively listen and ask questions.

6. Make suggestions.

If you’re spending time in a meeting, you should be contributing to it. If your coworker recommends that you should lead the next social media campaign, ask further questions. Why does she think you should lead the campaign? What are the goals for the campaign? 

Build on those ideas. Perhaps there’s a secondary goal you see as valuable. Maybe you could jointly lead the campaign. When in doubt, adopt improv comedy’s “yes, and…” technique.

7. End with action steps.

Many people complain that meetings accomplish nothing. Don’t just sit there and talk; make a plan. Here are some tips:

To end on an actionable note:

    • Suggest next steps: Who will do what, by when, how, and why? Every action step needs a clear reason. 
    • Get it in writing: Without a written record, the action steps may not be followed. 
  • Ask for final thoughts: Someone else may want to get a suggestion in before the meeting ends. 


  • Thank everyone for their time: If people feel appreciated, they’ll be that much more willing to work on the agreed action steps. 

It’s All About Goals

When you have a goal to work toward and stick to it, you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time. That, in a nutshell, is how you make more of your meetings.

Meetings may always be a drag, but they don’t have to be soul sucking. Some simple hacks like planning, participating, and focusing can go a long way. 

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