A Step-by-Step Guide to Having an Incredibly Efficient Day

From morning to night, optimize your day for productivity.

A couple of weeks ago, we shared 7 Highly Productive Habits of Famous People, many of which centered around different activities during certain parts of the day. Taking those valuable pieces of advice into account, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on how to have a more efficient day. There are many small changes you can integrate into each 24-hours that will help you become more productive, balanced, healthy and prepared to take on the challenges you face during the morning, afternoon, or evening.

For this advice to be truly effective, it’s essential to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Your circadian rhythms have a profound effect on your cognitive abilities, and therefore, your productivity. Many studies show, in fact, that circadian rhythms influence your “performance on intellectual tasks during morning hours, whereas perceptual-motor tasks fare better in the afternoon and evening.” Keeping that in mind, we hope that these tips help you get more out of your day and help you achieve your most important goals!

Morning in the city

Before leaving for work:

  • Hold off on the coffee: It may be easier said than done, but you should wait at least 45 minutes after you wake up before you have your first cup of coffee. This is because your cortisol (“the stress hormone”) levels peak approximately 30 to 45 minutes after you wake up, meaning that you don’t need that caffeine immediately because you’ve already got natural energy running through your body.

On your commute:

  • Quickly clean your inbox: Do a quick filter of your inbox so that you’re ready to hit the ground running when you arrive to your office: delete unnecessary emails, and file away emails you’ll read or take action on later (pro tip: download CloudMagic and link it to your Todoist account so that you can convert those mobile emails into tasks).
  • Know the news: Catch up on the most important news of the day with capsule services like Need 2 Know and the Daily Beast. Do a quick review of the New York Times author Patrick LaForge’s Breaking News Twitter list and file away any articles to read later with these Todoist + Pocket IFTTT recipes.
  • What to dos? Revise your day’s to do list with either the ‘Today’ view in Todoist or by reading your Daily Digest email so that you know which “frog” to eat first when you sit down at your desk.

taxi cars

At your desk:

  • Block off time for your 3 MITs: According to this Entrepreneur article, people who assign a designated timeframe for their most important things (MITs) are more likely to deliver on-time. Additionally, science shows that willpower is highest during the morning, so we suggest blocking off three one-hour sections in your calendar for the three most important things you need to do during the day. In fact, according to cognitive psychologist Ronald T. Kellogg, there are several studies that show that “working for one to three hours at a time, then taking a break before resuming, is most conducive to productivity, not only for writers but also for athletes and professional musicians.” Pro tip: This is the perfect way to get started using the Pomodoro productivity method.
  • Grab a cup of Joe: Now is the best time to go for that cup of coffee. The most physically and mentally optimal time of day for coffee is from 9:30am to 11:30am after your cortisol levels start to dip after their early morning high.

Desk coffee

Midday:

  • Lunch break– a must: Avoid chowing down at your desk– fork in one hand, the other trying to type– at all costs. Your brain and body both require a midday break to refresh and refuel. For a healthy and delicious lunch, our friends at Lifehacker recommend the following foods that are for great productivity: fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, blueberries, whole grains, raw carrots, and dark chocolate for a moderate dessert.
  • Get your exercise: Twitter founder, Evan Williams (and hundreds of other high profile characters like Kant, Dickens, and Darwin) takes the middle of the day to go to the gym. He says: “My focus is usually great first thing in the morning, so going to the gym first is a trade off of very productive time. Instead, I’ve started going mid-morning or late afternoon.
  • Review your day: Take 10-15 minutes to review what you’ve done during the morning and what you’ll need to do during the afternoon. Make a clear list of your tasks and order them according to their importance.

A more productive Lunch

4:00pm:

  • Have a snack: Barbara Mendez, a nutritionist and Inc. Contributor based in New York City, emphasizes this specific time of day because people can go up to 7-8 hours between lunch and dinner without eating– entirely too long. A healthy, balanced snack (find some suggestions here) at 4:00pm will reduce the urge to overeat at dinner time, which is something that will seriously affect your sleep cycle.

Before leaving work:

  • Organize your workspace: Taking time to organize your desk before you leave for the day will be a big help for your productivity the next day. Forbes author Jacqueline Smith says: “Ideally, you’d clear whatever you can out the night before so you can have a fresh start before you even turn on your computer in the morning.

Before bed:

  • Start a “shutdown” routine: Schedule your Do Not Disturb feature on your phone to turn on at the same time each day (ideally, two or more hours before you fall asleep). Get into “shutdown mode” by going for a walk, taking time to cook dinner, doing a hobby, meditating, or tucking your kids in with a bedtime story.
  • Prepare for tomorrow: Take a page out of President Obama’s book and reduce decision fatigue by preparing tomorrow’s outfit and breakfast and/or lunch before you go to bed. Be even more efficient by checking your calendar and planning your outfit accordingly– say, if you have an important meeting, or will be working on-the-go.
  • Ask yourself one question: Benjamin Franklin is famous for recording his daily successes and frustrations, an exercise that has become popular among today’s entrepreneurs. Most notably, Franklin always asked himself: “What good have I done today?” It’s a recommendable example to follow and is something that will help you reflect on your daily achievements.
  • Turn down the thermostat: Finally, make sure your bedroom is a bit chilled before falling asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees.”

What daily routines would you suggest to other readers? How do you optimize your 24 hours for a more efficient day? Let us know in the comments!