9 Tried and True Productivity Tips from an Expert

WRITTEN BY Rebecca Norris

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So long, summer Fridays and long weekends jetting from one beach to the next. Summer has come and gone, which means it’s time to jump right back into the swing of things. Now it’s all about designing your most productive schedule to finish the year on a high note. But how exactly does one switch from a laid-back summer mindset to a goal-getting one? That, my friends, is what productivity expert Grace Marshall is here to share. Keep reading for her top productivity tips to skillfully hack your daily routine.

9 Expert-Approved Productivity Tips

Don’t start the day with email

Resist the impulse to automatically dive into your inbox upon waking. “It’s likely to be full of other people’s priorities,” Grace says. “Check in with your priorities for the day first, then check in with everyone else.”

Don’t schedule every minute of the day

Pre-planning is good, but only up to a certain point. “Give yourself a margin to deal with the unplanned (or what I like to call the ‘predictably unpredictable’), and take breaks to recover your energy and keep your attention sharp,” she shares.

Find the timing that works best for you

According to Grace, there’s no single amount of time you should spend on a specific task before taking a break. “The research on this varies,” she says. “The Pomodoro Technique suggests working for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. But some people find longer stretches more useful, especially in deep dive work. In practice, it depends on the person and the task at hand. Pay attention to when you notice your mind wandering, your energy dropping, or your muscles seizing up from sitting too long in one position. Then aim to stop before it reaches that point. Also pay attention to signs of decision fatigue.”

Take regular breaks

Drink water. Move. Eat lunch away from your desk,” Grace suggests. “Mix and match your tasks to your energy and attention levels. If you’re a morning person, for example, use your peak performance time for the tasks that require your best thinking. Save quick, easy wins for when you find yourself in ‘zombie mode.’”

Discover your procrastination style

“We all procrastinate—it’s a very human thing,” Grace says, noting that it’s important to find your procrastination style. “If you love a challenge, set mini targets for yourself and try and beat your personal best. You can also set yourself up in competition with someone else. On the other hand, if you’re likely to avoid big challenges, then trick yourself into working by lowering the stakes. Tackle it in baby steps. Tell yourself you’re not really going to write that article or that presentation; you’re just going to get the file out or make some notes. Or, if you’re a people pleaser, set a deadline in someone else’s world: Tell someone what you’re going to do, and by when, to create some accountability.”

Two women at work delegating tasks and adopting productivity tips

Learn to delegate

“One definition of delegation is letting others do what they can do, so you can do what only you can do,” Grace says. “Delegating things you don’t enjoy doing or don’t have the expertise for is an easy decision to make. Delegating the things you do enjoy doing is harder. The question to ask yourself is, What’s the cost of doing this myself—and is it worth it?

Don’t get hung up on tracking your time

“The problem with tracking time is the tracking itself can become onerous,” Grace points out. “Plus time without attention is completely useless. I find it far more meaningful to review and reflect on my attention, energy levels, and progress with questions such as: What took up most of my attention? How were my energy levels this week? Which tasks did I move forward on? What didn’t get done? Should I change anything next week? What one thing will help me?

Take time to be mindful

“We work with our minds,” Grace says. “As knowledge workers, we create and add value with the thinking we do, ideas we have, and decisions we make. So taking care of our minds is crucial to doing good work—both in terms of practicing mindfulness, as well as being mindful in thinking about the way in which we work rather than just the work that needs to get done.”

Dream big But start small

“Goals need to be meaningful to be motivating,” Grace advises, noting that goals play a big role in productivity. “Actions need to be specific and doable. Be clear on your ‘why’ and go as big and as bold as you’d like. Then work out the next physical actions to move you forward.”

For more productivity tips, check out Grace’s book, How to be Really Productive.

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