By 9:02pm, it's hard to hide the frustration of a day gone wrong.
This particular day, I got off to a late start, fielded multiple phone calls and texts each hour, had to run errands that afternoon, and felt like I was spinning in eight different directions without crossing a single task off my to-do list!
As much as I would rather wallow in self-pity, blame everyone else, and fuel my emotions with a bowl of chocolate peanut butter ice cream (Turkey Hill, please), my analytical brain can't help but contemplate what went wrong and why my day didn't go as planned.
In other words,
Are there practical things I can do differently to prevent this from happening again?
Even though I may not do all of the following habits every day (overachiever I am, but perfect, no), I'm less likely to experience the day I described above as long as I practice most of them. In fact, whenever I implement these 10 best practices, my day runs so much smoother, and I feel way more productive than before!
So if you've ever had a day that can only be summed up with the word “UGH!”…there is hope!
These ten powerful habits will keep your day running smoothly, help you learn how to transform your life, and minimize any possible mishaps along the way. (A few habits may even surprise you!)
1. Write out your to-do list the night before
Mornings can be stressful! (Amen?)
Take away some of the stress by creating your to-do list the night before. Not only will you feel ready to start working right away (because you already know what to do!), you also establish a definitive end to your current day and can relax, knowing that tomorrow's list will be there to tackle…tomorrow.
I personally spend 10 minutes before bed going over the tasks I didn't finish that day, and I migrate them to my next day's to-do list in my bullet journal using a time-blocking method I'll explain more about in #7!
2. Get Enough Sleep
While writing out tomorrow's to-do list is great way to clear your mind before bed, I would argue that the most important thing that helps set any day up for success is getting enough sleep the night before. It's also often one of the first things to go when life gets busy!
But a good night's rest makes all the difference between a “stumble through everything in a fog” type of day and one where you have energy, clarity, and focus. Your body craves this time to renew itself. Plus, you won't need as much concealer to cover up the lasting effects of night gone wrong. 😉
Have trouble falling asleep? Try one of these 11 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight.
3. Make the bed
Knock this simple, one-minute task off your list the moment you wake up and you'll instantly feel like all is right with the world and you can tackle anything you set your mind to.
Okay, maybe not to that extent, but you'll be ready to tackle anything with a neatly made bed jumpstarting your day! In fact, make this part of your morning routine so you don't have to even think about doing it anymore—you'll just do it.
Speaking of which…
4. Create a morning routine
The difference between a day that starts with a morning routine and a day that doesn't proves how effective a morning routine really is. Without it, I'm toast. With it, I create a foundational support system that helps everything else fall into place and helps me have a productive day.
The first thing to ask yourself when creating a morning routine, is WHY do you want to do it? Those WHY's will carry you through and motivate you to crawl out of bed each morning.
I share more about my own morning routine (including my WHY!) HERE.
Start Your Day Right
5. Look presentable
I'm not saying you can't be productive in your pajamas or workout clothes, but if you're like me, you'll be even more productive if you get dressed, do your hair, and put on a little makeup.
Here's why: looking your best helps you be more confident about yourself and your abilities, which means you'll be inspired to tackle your to-do list rather than tempted by the thought of scrolling through social media or watching “just one episode” on Netflix.
I know it sounds crazy, but it totally works. (Even if you just put on a little mascara and lip gloss!).
6. Do the most important things first
Brian Tracy recommends you tackle the hardest things first in his popular book, Eat That Frog, but I disagree.
You should actually do the most important things first. And sometimes, that is the hardest task on your list! But when you make this distinction, you switch your focus to your priorities versus what feels urgent but isn't necessarily important.
No matter how many tasks land on my to-do list each day, I prioritize just 1-2. In fact, I trick myself into accomplishing more tasks by only giving myself those to complete because 1-2 feels much more doable, and I'm ready to take on more when I have a couple wins under my belt.
Bottom Line: Accomplishment fuels motivation!
7. Try time blocking
This post goes more in depth about time blocking, but in short, time-blocking means you batch certain tasks at certain times of the day or on certain “themed” days in order to be more efficient and get more done. Basically, you segment your to-do lists.
And it works!
When you know exactly what you need to get done and when you're going to do it, you stop “spinning your wheels” and make actual progress toward that one thing, rather than getting distracted by all the things.
Related: How to Do More in Less Time
8. Resist the urge to multi-task or you won't have a productive day!
Believe it or not, multi-tasking is a myth. And believe me, I understand how frustrating that is for someone who just wants to get more done!
The truth is: our brain can literally only focus on one thing at a time.
That means doubling your efforts by opening another browser tab while you wait for the current one to load (totally guilty!) doesn't help you have a productive day. Clear out the mental clutter (and the physical clutter too!) so you can give 100% of your attention to that one thing and finish what you start.
9. Get Moving
Whether it's a 10-minute walk outside or a 30-minute workout, get your body moving! I'm no biology major, but when your heart-rate increases, it sends a feel-good signal to your brain that motivates you to tackle a task or project right after (even if it doesn't feel too awesome in the moment!).
Even though I hate running, I make myself do it 3x a week because not only do I feel better afterward, I also have more energy.
If you struggle to stay committed to exercise, I suggest getting a Fitbit. It's an investment up front, but it keeps me moving more often than I did before—I want to see my heart rate and steps increase! The device also “buzzes” my wrist when I've been sitting for too long as a reminder to get up and walk around. Sometimes I hate that interruption, but it does work.
10. Do a 10-minute pick-up
Ever since I established a 10-minute evening pick-up routine, my house has continued to stay cleaner and less cluttered than before. It's not always completely clutter-free, but dedicating just 10 minutes a day to putting things back in their place, washing the remaining dishes, and tidying up the living room keeps you in total control.
So how does this relate to productivity?
Because clutter in your physical space translates to clutter in your mind. A clear countertop = a clear head. (And you'll be able to get more done because you'll have more space!)
With these ten habits as a part of your daily routine, the next time 9:02pm rolls around, you won't look back on your day in frustration and wonder how you managed to accomplish so little. Instead, you'll take a proactive approach over a reactive one and stay on track a lot easier than before. You'll have a productive day!
And while they're not miracle workers for a perfect day—life is LIFE!—these habits will set you up for greater success in the long run. So much so, that you'll be ready to create another amazing day again tomorrow!
Let's chat about your day:
What habit helps you keep your day on track?
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