Ah, the age old battle between productivity and procrastination. I have to admit, I’m quite skilled in creating a clever way to avoid boring tasks that need to be done, but at some point even I have to just bear down and do it. There are a few things that tend to help though, so here are my top 10. 

1.) Be healthy. This means you need to eat well, get enough sleep and make sure to make time to exercise regularly. Feeling unproductive can be a vicious cycle; you feel exhausted so you don’t exercise, so you feel even more exhausted. Go for a run in the morning or a swim after work, eat an apple with peanut butter for your midmorning snack and get to bed at a reasonable time. All of this pays off dividends in the end.
2.) Make a list, prioritize it and stick to it! Making a list of everything you need to get done is a great way to jumpstart your productivity. Often, just seeing everything written down and organized (instead of jumbled up in your head) will help you calm down. Put your most urgent and important tasks at the top, and get started. And feel free to use a little secret of mine; write down a few things that you have already done and cross them off. Look; you’ve already made some progress!

3.) Make a schedule. That means setting 2 or 3 constant times to check your email. Checking it constantly throughout the day is a huge productivity killer. 

4.) Time each task. Setting a goal for how long you’ll work often makes a task less overwhelming. Think about it; instead of telling yourself, “Okay, I’m going to work for 10 hours today,” say, “I’m going to spend the next 30 minutes working on this spreadsheet.” At the end of the 30 minutes, re-evaluate, and set another timed goal.

5.) Remove distractions. While you may think you work better with the television on, basic psychological principles beg to differ. Your brain has to use energy to focus on each individual thing going on around it, so that background noise is actually taking up valuable energy. It’s the same reason it’s recommended to focus on one specific job rather than multi-tasking.

6.) Think, “Would I miss this?” This is a simple trick to be able to tell if you’re procrastinating or not. If you think about everything you’re trying to do in a day, would you miss the current task you’re working on? If you didn’t get a chance to play that game of solitaire, would your day really suffer for it? Probably not. 

7.) Stay positive. As stressful as you may be, remember, you’re making progress. You have more done now than you did this morning, and you’ll have more done in a few hours than you do right now. 

8.) Do what you love. You really should love what you’re doing, even if it’s not particularly enjoyable at the moment. Make sure you’re thinking big picture; writing that report may be daunting, but it’s going to be putting you one step closer to your dream job, right? And spending hours analyzing statistics may sound dreadful, but if the results could help make a positive difference, isn’t it all worth it? And if you can’t find any enjoyment out of what you are doing, it might be time for a different list of priorities.

9.) Reward Yourself. If you’ve been good at sticking to your to-do list, make sure you reward yourself at the end of the day. Personally, I might choose to watch one of my favorite television programs with a glass of wine, completely undisturbed, meaning no email

10.) Just DO it already. Yes, you have to take the first step! Turn off the television, put your cell phone to the side, get a glass of water, make a list and get going!

What are some tips you have for being productive?