Chances are you have a to-do list that stretches longer than a roll of toilet paper. But if you want to get more done and feel better while doing it, try these tips:
1. Get a good night’s sleep.
This is a biggie. Sleep is essential to our productivity and health. Still, many of us tend to push beyond the point of exhaustion to get it all done. This not only leads to late bedtimes, but also more mistakes, a loss of focus, burnout, accidents, illness, and other things that thwart our productivity.
Research by Cherie Mah et al. at Stanford University shows that people who are well-rested perform better, have faster reactions, and better working memory than those who are tired. Want to get more done during the day? Then make sleep a priority — even if it means taking a nap.
2. Give up self-criticism for self-compassion.
Many of us grow up believing that hard-driving self-criticism will motivate us to get more done. Not so. A more forgiving, compassionate approach is linked to goal mastery and a lesser fear of failure, both of which can boost productivity, says Kristin Neff, PhD, a compassion researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.
3. Stop multi-tasking.
No matter what you think, you do better when you focus on one thing rather than many, says Russell Poldrack, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neurobiology at the University of Texas at Austin. Multi-tasking can make us tired and that limits our productivity. So put down the cell phone while making your daughter’s lunch. Take on one thing at a time and you’ll make fewer mistakes.
4. Be decisive.
We make dozens of decisions each day. That can deplete our self-control, slow us down, and cause us to make poor choices, according to researcher Kathleen Vohs. Keep it simple. When you are faced with lots of choices — whether a variety of drinks at the coffee shop or too many cereals on the shelf — stick with the variety you usually go with. This will save time and self-control for the things that matter.
5. Define your essentials and do those.
Not everything is essential. We’ve all got to take care of business, but there aren’t many things that absolutely have to be done today. Texting is not essential. Vacuuming is not essential — at least not every day. Do what you must, but get clear that not everything is a must-do. Once you’ve finished an essential task, take time to do something you’re passionate about and you’ll feel energized and more productive during the rest of your day.
6. Schedule time for your passion.
Living with passion and purpose is essential if you want to live a happier, healthier life. Reserve at least 15 minutes a day for something that feels good or inspires your passion. Passion often leads us to purpose and meaning. This adds to our longevity and vitality. All that good energy propels us to get more done.
Mah, C. D., Mah, K. E., Kezirian, E. J., & Dement, W. C. (2011). The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep, 34(7), 943–950.
Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R.F., Schmeichel, B. J., Twenge, J.M.; Nelson, N.M., Tice, D. M. (2008). Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: A limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 94(5), 883-898.
Hill, P.L., & Turiano, N.A. (2014). Purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood. Psychological Science, Vol 25(7), 1482-6.
Woman waking photo available from Shutterstock