We all have habits that help us work more productively. These rituals can act as a road map, helping you stay focused and keeping you on track throughout your day. The more time and effort you save, the more productive you will be.
Your workday rituals consist of your habits, routine and schedule. They either help you to work smarter or hinder your productivity. By adopting these eight daily rituals, you will enable yourself to stay hyper-focused and productive all day long.
1. Determine your optimal wake-up time and bedtime
There is no magical one-size-fits-all schedule that will suit everyone. Some of us are early risers who relish the morning hours. Others of us are night owls who find our creativity sparks when the rest of the world has gone to sleep.
Most of us have a predetermined wake-up time based on our commitments and responsibilities, the needs of our families and job requirements. In general, most of us need around eight hours of sleep to function at our best. Your sleep routine should take all of this into account.
Set a bedtime that you can consistently keep to on both weekday and weekend nights. This will establish a schedule for your body’s internal clock, so your body knows when to sleep and when to wake. This will improve the quality of your sleep so that you consistently feel rested and able to function at your best.
2. Get moving
A great way to lift the veil of grogginess you feel when you first get up is by moving your body. Likewise, after being cooped up sitting at your desk all day, getting out for an afternoon stroll or some exercise can help clear your head.
Whether it involves yoga stretches, hitting the treadmill or going for a walk, getting up and moving around is a great way to help your mind focus. In fact, many studies have found that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger and more developed in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.
Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which are key to helping our brains perform better. Ensure your daily ritual includes movement to keep your mind and your body functioning optimally.
3. Launch yourself into your day
Popular motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy advises people to eat their biggest frog first thing in the morning -- meaning that if you start your day with your biggest, most important or most dreaded task, the rest of your day will be easy by comparison. This can be a great way to get yourself going on a difficult project that is hanging over your head.
Unless, of course, the dread of starting your day with a colossal task backfires and makes it even harder to get focused and start working. If that’s the case, start your morning by taking on something important but relatively easy to accomplish.
The idea is to find a way to launch yourself into a productive mindset. If checking off a few boxes on your daily to-do list gets you going, then do that! If you love taking on that big, hairy project first thing so you can get it over with, then by all means have at it!
4. Use self-orienting questions to maintain your focus
Throughout the day, as you feel your concentration slip or find yourself doing meaningless or unimportant tasks to fill time, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the most important thing I could be doing right now?
- How can I get this done faster and more efficiently?
- What’s a better way to undertake this task?
These simple but powerful questions can be used to help you regain your focus and keep your attention where it needs to be. Are you really doing what you need to be doing? If not, what should you be doing? The goal with this is to be more aware of how you’re spending your time and not just letting minutes float by. If you’re taking a break, that’s fine, but make sure you have defined how long your breather is, and know what task you plan to do when you go back to work.
5. Do it now
The only way to get anything done is to do it. It really is that simple, but we often put things off because we’re caught up in doing something else, or we’re focused on some future project. But if there is something that needs to get done now, just do it!
Often, small things will pop up, but we put them off because we’re in the middle of doing something else. If the small thing can be done relatively quickly, then don’t put it off -- simply do it right then.
This prevents procrastination and keeps your to-do list from growing out of control with small tasks that will eventually eat up your whole day. By knocking out these little chores as they crop up, you’ll give yourself more time to focus on the bigger stuff.
6. Build in brain breaks
Our brains are only capable of continuously focusing on something for a certain period of time. By taking short breaks, ideally about once an hour, you give your mind a chance to decompress and relax so it can refocus and concentrate again.
Psychologist Alejandro Lleras found that participants who were given short breaks during 50-minute tasks performed better than those who worked straight through. Lleras found that brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve people’s ability to focus on that task for a prolonged period.
The study examined a phenomenon called “vigilance decrement,” or the decrease in one’s “attentional resources.” This can happen when you start performing poorly on a task you’re having a hard time focusing on. That’s when you should take a short mental break. This allows your brain a chance to deactivate, and when you go back to work, your mind is better able to refocus.
7. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished and how to improve
At the end of the day, take a few minutes for self-reflection. Ask yourself some questions that will help you gauge how well you performed and what you might do better tomorrow. These include:
- What did I accomplish today?
- Did I accomplish everything I set out to, and everything I needed to?
- What did I do well today?
- What mistakes were made?
- What decisions did I make today?
- Why did I make these decisions and not other decisions?
- Were these decisions effective?
The goal is to clearly see how well you’re performing and staying on task. If you do this on a regular basis, you can gauge if you’re making steady progress toward your goals and see what areas you need to work on and strengthen.
8. Prepare for tomorrow
This simple ritual is guaranteed to help improve your productivity tomorrow. Take a few minutes at the end of your workday and clearly spell out to yourself what your goals are for the following day. This is a chance to think through the process of how you will accomplish everything you need to do. Consider these questions:
- What are your highest priorities?
- What tasks must you absolutely get done?
- What setbacks or issues might arise?
- What challenges might keep you from staying focused?
Often, we stay reasonably focused until something unexpected pops up. Perhaps you get a phone call or an email that absorbs your attention. Perhaps you got sucked into a conversation with a co-worker. Think through how to avoid these pitfalls and be prepared for what’s on your plate.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.