Want to be more productive? Do these 5 things, according to experts.

WRAL Digital Solutions Blog Productivity

With much of the world working remotely right now, employees around the world are figuring out how to manage their day-to-day business operations from home. Ideally, we would all have state-of-the-art home offices to check things off our to-do lists but the reality is, we are working in all types of spaces while juggling kids and other responsibilities.

In times like these, you may find your productivity waning. Whatever the reason may be, there are ways to get your productivity back on track.

We interviewed three local experts who recently took part in WRAL’s Here to Help business virtual conference series: Dorena Kohrs, a Feng Shui expert and space designer; Barbara Hemphill, a productivity and organizing expert; and Traci Philips, an executive leadership and performance coach. (You can register for the next webinar here.)

These women lent their advice on how mindset, space design, and habits can play a role in how to accomplish your work and enjoy your life. If you want to be more productive, consider the following tips.

1. Establish a morning routine

Research shows that successful people typically adhere to a habitual morning routine that jumpstarts their day. Benjamin Franklin was rumored to begin his day every morning at 5 a.m. and 2012 science-backed study published by the American Psychological Association, revealed that participants who self-identified as “morning people” reported feeling “happier and healthier than night owls.”

A morning routine can follow a simple formula that includes some form physical exercise or movement, a healthful breakfast, and a mindfulness practice. This routine doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, you could go on a 20-minute walk, make a green smoothie and then do 10 minutes of journaling — the goal isn’t to add more to your plate, but instead, to create a positive start to your day.

2. Set an intention for the day

Along those same lines, setting an intention for the day can make all the difference in your productivity. After all, a goal without a plan is “nothing more than wishful thinking.”

Maybe your intention is to finish a report, meet a writing deadline, or get your work inbox to zero. Or perhaps it’s getting in 10,000 steps, making dinner, or hanging a piece of art. Whatever you decide you want to accomplish by the end of the day, setting the intention to get it done is a great way to calibrate your focus.

“State your intention verbally or in writing for the day,” said Kohrs. “In Feng Shui, we often say where intention goes, energy flows. Perhaps this is a note on your desk calendar or a post-it on your computer.”

3. Let go of mental and physical clutter

Clutter is defined as anything you don’t love, need or use. Kohrs said that it can also be anything that brings down your energy and negatively impacts your productivity. Sometimes it’s obvious — piles of paper, books you don’t read, old manuals that are out-of-date, or too much furniture in a small space.

Hemphill emphasized that clutter means different things to different people.

One simple way to identify your clutter is to ask the question, ‘Does this (physical item, digital doc, idea, relationship, etc.) help me accomplish my work or enjoy my life?’ If your answer is ‘not really’, it’s clutter, and you can’t afford it,” said Hemphill.

Philips said that “clutter” can also take the form of limiting belief systems and habits that can impact a person’s mood or productive actions.

As Marie Kondo famously said, if it doesn’t “spark joy” the item or relationship is taking up too much unnecessary physical and mental space. Letting it go will allow you to have more room — literally and figuratively — to accomplish the things that you want to.

4. Create a dedicated work space

As mentioned, it would be ideal if we all had private, in-home offices with all the bells and whistles of our regular workplaces. While this is the reality for some, not everyone has this luxury. The key to productivity while working from home, especially if you’re a full-time remote employee, is creating a dedicated work space that is conducive to productivity.

“When a home office is not possible, designating an ‘official’ work spot is important. Otherwise, it becomes tempting to bounce all over your home with your laptop. This can feel ungrounded and like there is little separation between your personal and professional lives. It also increases the probability of multi-tasking which can reduce productivity by as much as 40%,” said Kohrs. “If you don’t have a home office, be creative. You can take a larger room and rearrange furniture to separate the room into two separate spaces. You can also designate the kitchen table or the dining room table as your workspace. However, if this area is also functioning as an eating space, then be sure to unpack and pack up your work related items at the start and finish of each day. This can be done by having a basket or rolling cart with drawers to store your items during non-work hours.”

For those living in studios or smaller apartments, it can be even trickier to carve out a work station, but Kohrs offered the following recommendation.

“If your workspace is in an area that serves two purposes, then it’s important to create a division of space. Although it’s not recommended to have your workspace in your bedroom, sometimes it’s the best or only option,” said Kohrs. “In such cases, having a decorative screen that separates your bed from your desk will help create necessary division in your mind between working and sleeping, so you won’t want to sleep when it’s time to work and you won’t want to work when it’s time to sleep.”

Additionally, Hemphill offered the following process to create a productive work space if you don’t have access to a home office:

  • First, ask yourself what you specifically need to do in your home office and when.
  • Identify your obstacles.  What is preventing, or might, prevent your success?
  • Take inventory of your resources. What potential spaces are available in your home? What tools do you already have?
  • Design and execute your plan.

5. Plan breaks

It’s unrealistic to expect to be productive for eight straight hours — we’re humans, not machines. Taking breaks is key when it comes to productivity.

Allow yourself to take at least 30 minutes to an hour for lunch in the middle of the day. This mid-day break will help you recharge and come back to your work refreshed. Additionally, sprinkle in smaller breaks throughout the day after extended periods of work. This can be a 10-minute walk to stretch your legs, a 5-minute social media break, or taking the time to chat with a friend.

“The research of looking at the ‘ultradian rhythms’ of humans — natural times of great energy and productivity potential and periods during which we routinely go into rest and recuperation, is really telling. Planning our work cycles in alignment with these rhythms can have us working with nature, thus making it easier to be productive and in the flow with our body’s own systems of work and rest,” said Philips. “Research shows that humans can focus for no more than 90-120 minutes at a time, after which we require a 20-30 minute complete break. Setting high performance or focus projects around this work cycle can lead to much greater productivity, as well as energy and creativity.”

Hemphill noted that the most important thing above all else when it comes to productivity, is figuring out what works for you.

A common question people ask is, ‘What should I do to be more productive?’ That’s the wrong question. A more effective question is, ‘What will I do to be more productive?’ There are many ways to reach the same goal — the key is to choose tools and strategies that fit your personality,” she said.